Category Archives: Thank You For The Music

I became a fan of Thomas Troelsen in 2007 when his group Private released one of my favourite pop albums, My Secret Lover (hear the singles here). I soon discovered that Thomas was not just the singer but songwriter and producer of the band, and he had been involved in many other brilliant pop songs as well, such as Hot Summer by Monrose and Baby by Melody Club. More recently, Aura Dione’s Geronimo was another favourite Europop discovery of mine which turned out to be Thomas’ work. And if you’re not into Europop, you may still know some of Thomas’ K-Pop productions, as he has worked with Girls Generation and Super Junior among others.

Private have been quiet for a few years, but are now back with a new single Everywhere, and a new album will follow. I spoke to Thomas about what we can expect from the new music, and about his experiences of writing and producing for other artists. Here’s what he had to say…

If you could produce the next single for any artist in the world, who would you choose?

Metallica! I’ve been a fan of the group since I was 8 years old. I have all their albums and EPs, and they got me listening to Misfits, which is also one of my favourite groups.

Which of the songs you’ve worked on do you think should have been more successful?

I was a bit disappointed with the way My Secret Lover turned out in the UK. The Spencer & Hill remix went #1 on Music Week, and both the Diplo and Egyptian Lover remixes were well-received, but the original version didn’t really have much impact. But overall, I never spend time being disappointed or wishing that things be different.

You’ve worked with many K-Pop acts – what is it like hearing your songs translated into a language you don’t understand?

I had my first cuts in Asia in 2008, and I must admit it took some time to adapt to the market as a writer and producer. At first, I felt that the translations turned my songs in a wrong direction, but now when I write and produce for the K-Pop market, I use it as a force to create new and futuristic sounds. I always try and imagine what pop music would sound like in the year 3075 and use the language that I don’t understand as another sci-fi element.

Your regular collaborator Remee was a judge on The X Factor in Denmark – would you ever consider judging a TV talent show yourself?

No, and they stopped asking me. I was merely helping out my friend Remee back in 2009, and I will never do it again. I really don’t like the Danish edition of the show. The lack of talent is insane and the show is not even about music if you ask me! However, I think that the US edition is extremely good — I’m really impressed with the show that they all put on.

What can we expect from the new album by your band, Private?

Some of the songs are more indie, some urban, and some funk sounding, but all with a more updated sound than my previous album.

Are you ever torn between keeping a song for yourself and giving it away to another artist?

No, I don’t really feel that personally connected to the songs I write for others, and it’s quite funny how the artists who sing my songs connect deeply with their emotion. However, I have a very strong connection with the songs that I have written for Private and Superheroes (below). Basically, I think that it’s all about singing. Even when I sing a Smokey Robinson song on my vacation I feel like it’s mine, you know?

You wrote the 2008 German Eurovison entry, but would you ever consider entering the contest as an artist?

I don’t think I ever will. I would consider doing it if I felt it was a straight competition, like competing on the charts, but usually songs that enter the competition are rarely any good and would seldom work in the “real world.” My song at Eurovision with No Angels did extremely well outside the competition but didn’t even come close to a nice entry at the show.

Can you recommend any up-and-coming pop artists you have been working with recently?

I did an amazing song with Fabio Lendrum called Head Out The Water coming out this month, and I have a great song coming out with Robert Koch early next year called Happy People.

Thanks for the very interesting answers, Thomas! Click here to find out more about Private and keep up to date with Thomas’ latest news.

Hannah Robinson is one of the best writers in the UK when it comes to electro-pop with an emphasis on the pop. She worked on the legendary Come and Get It album by Rachel Stevens and wrote some of my favourite tracks by Annie, Ladyhawke, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Jamelia and Dannii Minogue. In addition she’s worked with big names such as Kylie, Sugababes and even has a track, Lolita, on the Lana Del Rey album!

I chatted to Hannah about the British music scene, the artists she’s working with and the inspiration for her brilliant pop songs…


Who do you think are the best pop writers and producers in the UK at the moment?

I’m a huge Cathy Dennis fan, I’ve followed her for ever and I always look forward to hearing her new releases. I always find myself saying “I wish I’d written that!” She’s an amazing pop writer. Her tracks always manage to appeal to such a wide audience. Also Sia is another topliner I’m admiring at the moment, although she’s Australian not British!

Stuart Price is a great producer. I can’t wait to hear the new Jaques Lu Cont album. I find his music really exciting and in your face.

Richard X is someone I work with all the time. He’s always ahead of the game with his ideas and productions. I enjoy working with Rich a lot.

Are there any songs you’ve written which you think should have been more successful?

I honestly don’t think about it in that way. If I did I’d probably go mad. Each song has its own destiny I guess.

Which artist would you most like to write a song for in the future?

Anyone new and fresh with bags of character. I’m always looking for the next exciting thing. I remember when I met Lana for the first time I could see she had a unique vibe about her. You never know for certain what will happen but it really worked out for her, she deserves it.

If I could work with an established artist it would have to be Robyn. She has a great pop vocal and her tracks always sound really fresh and modern. Her lyrics tend to be quirky and heart felt at the same time. Always very cool.

Have you worked with any artists recently that you think we should be looking out for in 2012?

I’ve just done some stuff with a Swedish girl duo called Icona Pop. They were a lot of fun to work with. When they sing together their voices blend perfectly creating a really unique sound.

Currently I’m working with a new signing called Chloe. She’s only 17 years old but has the most phenomenal voice, she’s one to look out for I reckon.

Soon I’m gonna be doing some tracks with a guy called Esther, his stuff is nuts, I love it. It’s all quite early days and in development, but again I think he’ll be doing great things this year or the next.

Have any of your songs ended up being released by a different artist than they were originally intended for?

I’ll sometimes write something with someone in mind and by the end of the song I’ll think maybe it’s for someone else after all. Method of Modern Love began its journey as a Kylie pitch and then St Etienne heard it and wanted to cut it. I love St Etienne so I was really happy they wanted to do it.

On occasion you’ll get more than one artist wanting to record the same track. Both Geri and Rachel Stevens wanted to perform Some Girls so the final decision came down to myself and the producer Richard X. We thought it was perfect for Rachel.

Do you more often look to current hits or old favourites for inspiration?

Absolutely anything can be inspiring to me, music old and new, a riff, a story in the news. I’ll write songs about people I know and events that took place, but I always try and do so with a contemporary twist. People are singing about the same stuff now as they did 30 or 40 years ago just with a modern approach.

Are your song lyrics more often based on your own life, that of the artist or an imaginary person?

If I’m working with an artist I like the story and the personality of the song to mainly come from them. They’re going to want to be able to relate to what they’re singing about to give a really great performance and sound like they mean it. Sometimes I’ll come into sessions with ideas, choruses or concepts which are usually universal ideas that pretty much anyone can relate to just incase we need a starting point.

Do you have any tips for aspiring songwriters looking for their big break?

Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook enable anyone to get their music heard and promote live gigs to the masses, so this is a great place to start. If you’re good you’ll stand out and people will take notice. Don’t be afraid to approach people in the business, be a pest and never give up. If you have a talent mixed with ambition and enthusiasm someone will eventually pick up on you and represent you in some way, whether it’s management or a deal. Those three attributes mixed together are infectious, people can’t help but wanna be involved, I see it all the time.

Find out more about Hannah on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Like many European writers and producers, Toby Gad moved to the US to reach more opportunities and he must be glad he did. I first heard of him when he wrote the brilliant hits Damn I Think I Love You and Happy for K-Otic and Sita from Holland’s Starmaker (similar to Fame Academy) TV show. But it was a few years later he had his big breakthrough hit Big Girls Don’t Cry by Fergie, after which every major female artist wanted a track by Toby on their next release.

Toby went on to write the song he may be best remembered for, If I Were A Boy by Beyoncé, as well as hits for Pixie Lott, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, JLS and Nicole Scherzinger. Read on to find out what happened when he had Beyoncé in his studio and why he’s so excited for The Veronicas’ next album…

You’ve set up your own publishing company and record label in the past few years, would you like to run a major label in the future as writers like LA Reid and Amanda Ghost have done, or would you prefer making music to remain your main focus?

With the start of our new label I’m now venturing into the A&R terrain and I hope 2012 will be our year. We have four artists on the roster, Chelsea Williams (Kite/Interscope), Susan Justice (Kite/Capitol), Jordan Jansen (Kite/TBA) and Jessica Jarrell (below) (Kite/TBA). I have contributed a lot of writing and production on these albums, but I have also for the first time had the experience to let other writers and producers do songs with our artists with songs that are competing with my songs on their albums. Of course the better songs win and I can’t chose songs just because I am involved.

I haven’t really thought about working for a major just yet but I guess it’s not going to be too different from what I’m now doing with Kite. My heart is still in the writing process but I’m starting to see the bigger picture and I am enjoying that, too.

Do you think it’s more important for songwriters to carve out a niche for themselves with a certain distinct sound which they become known for, or to be adaptable to whatever the record labels are looking for?

I think a balance of both is really important. Artists often do have a vision of what their sound is and not only does it make the result better if the songs have the personality of the artist, regardless of the sound of the producer, but it can also provide a lot of fresh inspiration. Generally I love to listen to the artists and help the artists make their favorite record.

But on the other hand it is also good if a producer has a sound he is known for, I guess that attributes to a producer’s courage to venture into new territory and hopefully get successful with a sound that is different from what everyone else is doing. When I think of Timbaland, Rodney or Luke I do think of a certain sound.

I hope that people don’t just remember me for my slow songs like Big Girls Don’t Cry, Skyscraper or If I Were A Boy. I also had quite a few uptempo singles like Untouched (Veronicas), Don’t Hold Your Breath (Nicole Scherzinger) or A Year Without Rain (Selena Gomez) or even I Do (Colbie Caillat).

Have you ever been in the studio with an artist who surprised you with their vocal or songwriting talent?

All the time. Most artists I chose to work with amaze me in one way or another and I feel obliged to do my best when I am in the presence of great talent.

Do you have any funny stories about things that have happened while writing or recording with famous artists?

When I recorded Beyoncé and we had some time to chat, I asked her at one point if she had won any Grammies (I know this is a really stupid question) and she answered something that sounded to me like “none”. I was like, really, none? and she said, “no, niiine”. It was her southern accent that sounded that way. She was very sweet, driven and smart, a real powerhouse. I hope I can work with her again.

Some of your big hits were originally recorded by less well-known artists, before being given to major stars. Do you think it’s important for the original artist to get first dibs on the song, or is it more important for the song to reach as many listeners and connect with as many people as possible?

I love it when the artists write the songs they sing but sometimes an artist can also take a song they didn’t write to another level and make it their own. I feel both Beyoncé and Reba McEntyre brought a lot of personality to If I Were A Boy. I loved BC Jean’s original version as well, but B turned this rock song into an urban/pop song and Reba made it a country song. I love it when a song transcends genres.

Do you usually write new songs with a particular artist in mind?

Most of the time I write with artists for their record, but sometimes those songs end up on other artists’ records, depending on the circumstances. I feel it’s more inspiring to write with the person who is going to sing and perform the song.

Which new artists have you worked with recently that you think we’ll be hearing a lot more of in the future?

I am very proud of the four artists on my label, Chelsea Williams, Jessica Jarrell, Susan Justice and Jordan Jansen (above).

How do you think the music industry in Germany compares to the US?

I left Germany 13 years ago, it’s been such a long time. I have completely lost touch with the German market so I can’t really give you a good answer. I do a lot in the UK market, though.

Which of your songs do you think was overlooked by the public and deserved to be a bigger hit?

I feel the entire second Veronicas album should have been more successful in the US. I did 9 songs on the album and we had 5 hit singles in Australia but only one in the US. Songs like This Love and This Is How It Feels should have been singles I feel. We are now wrapping up the third Veronicas album and I am very excited about the record. We have written for almost three years on this, on and off, and have gone through so many A&R changes but I think it’s a great team now and I hope that this will be their best record yet.

What do you think music will sound like in 2012?

You know what I hope for!

And on that mysterious note, thank you Toby! Find out more about him and his work on his official website.

For the latest in my series of interviews with great pop songwriters and producers, I got the chance to ask a few questions to one of my all time favourites. Alexander Bard is well known in his home of Sweden and by pop fans around the world as a member of the groups Army of Lovers, BWO and now Gravitonas. He also co-wrote and co-produced the first two Alcazar albums and has written hits for top Swedish pop acts including Amy Diamond, Lili & Susie and even ABBA’s Agnetha Faltskog. Here’s what Alexander had to say about the Swedish pop scene, being a talent show judge, Lady Gaga and more…

1. After your experience as a judge on Idol in Sweden, would you recommend other songwriters/producers to get involved in TV talent shows and would you do it again?

To be honest, since the vast majority of songwriters and producers actually don’t cut it well on TV, I would not make a general recommendation for songwriters and producers to go on TV in the first place. I guess I was on Idol as much as an artist, meaning I have previous experience with eating cameras for lunch, but otherwise the whole thing is down to whether to you are good at and enjoy doing TV. And TV is just a very different medium from music. Being on TV will not make you a better (or a worse) songwriter, but it will consume a lot of time and energy, so it’s just up to you what you prioritize in life. I’m happy Andreas and the other guys in Gravitonas are hard workers on their own, otherwise I wouldn’t have had the time to do Idol. And no, I’m not doing any other music TV formats, Idol is king. Although I just co-wrote a song that has ended up on the Swedish version of The Voice. Although that decision was beyond my control. I blame my publisher for that, haha.

2. Have you ever been asked to submit songs for British or American pop acts to record?

All the time. But I prefer to work with Scandinavian artists since I believe they deserve more international recognition and American and UK artists have so many Scandinavians who write and produce for them anyway. Max Martin, Jorgen Elofsson, Red One, Anders Bagge, Stargate, Bloodshy & Avant, and so many others, they all do the main songwriting for UK and American artists so well, so why would I step into their arena too? Somebody has to mentally stay in Stockholm and explore Scandinavian artistic talent too. Having said this, I should add though that Gravitonas do write a lot of songs for Asian artists. Andreas and Ben from Gravitonas for example wrote the Christmas no. 1 single in Japan this winter. And we co-write right now with Fredrik Hult who has had 23 no. 1 hits in Japan and is “the Max Martin of The East”. So Gravitonas have a permanent studio and apartment in Tokyo now.

3. Do you agree with Brian Higgins (Xenomania) that everyone can write at least one great pop song or should songwriting be left to the professionals?

I must offer friendly disagreement with Higgins. No, very few people actually have the talent to write great hooky and emotional pop songs. I believe Higgins says that merely to get more popular (who wouldn’t want to think of themselves as musically talented) but the truth is rather different and I prefer to stay with the facts and the hard truth. It’s unfortunately left to the chosen few to be talented songwriters. Genetically chosen few.

4. Who do you think are the best pop writers and producers in the world right now?

Since we are all constantly hired by just about everybody, I guess the Scandinavians dominate more than ever. But from the UK horizon, Paul Epworth has also done an amazing job lately, especially as he has had such great success with artists as varied as Adele, Foster The People, and Florence & The Machine. Epworth is the new rock mogul, the new Brian Eno.

5. Some journalists have suggested that Lady Gaga or her team took inspiration from Army of Lovers. Do you think this is true?

I would be very surprised it that was not true. But good for her, because in that case she and Desi and Franco and her other stylists and directors have great taste. And Army Of Lovers in turn of course took great inspiration from others before us. As things should be.

6. Which up and coming Swedish artists should we be watching out for in 2012?

The whole new dance scene, the generation following Swedish House Mafia, is taking off now with Avicii the obvious leader of the pack. But there are loads of amazing talents behind Avicii too, with Gravitonas working a lot with for example Adam Rickfors and Per QX. Very inspiring since these guys both take the energy from dancefloors around the world and the Scandiavian knack for writing strong and emotional melodies with them into their music.

7. What do you think was the best era of pop music in history?

I always think the best time is now or rather in the near future. Otherwise this question is the “eternal James Bond question”, which era you love the most depends on when you grew up, when you were young, what you listened to first when you acquired a musical taste to begin with. But I hope to be above and beyond that sort of reasoning, since I think believing that your own genearation is the best amounts to generationism, which in my world is as pathetic and untrue as racism. No generation is superior (or inferior) compared to any other. So look ahead for even better music, always.

8. And finally the all important question (for me anyway!): Will we ever get another album from BWO?

Gravitonas are doing just fine so it doesn’t look that way. I’m very proud of what we achieved with BWO and I count Martin and Marina among my best and closest friends, but I do Gravitonas now and Gravitonas is about who I am today. BWO was about who I was then, a person who no longer exists. Each project has its time. It’s always a good time to move on. I enjoy making music with Andreas and our crew so much, so why would I look elsewhere?

Click here to find out more about Alexander and Gravitonas.

I’m always interested in who the artists I follow are working with on their new music, and recently a name I’ve been hearing more and more is Autumn Rowe. Since penning Alexis Jordan’s breakthrough hit Happiness, she’s been snapped up to work with all the exciting new urban-pop talent, including many of the UK’s most exciting new female artists. Cher Lloyd, Tanya Lacey and Rita Ora have all been in the studio with Autumn recently, and she’s likely to be featured heavily in the credits for Estelle’s forthcoming album (which, believe it or not, is only her third!). I managed to get in touch with Autumn and asked for her thoughts on female songwriters, UK artists and of course what it’s like to work with my X Factor fave, Cher Lloyd…

When writing for Alexis Jordan was it your aim to create a distinct sound that would make her stand out from other female r&b singers around at the moment?

Actually it wasn’t. When I sit down to write a song, I focus on the song and emotion I’m feeling as I’m writing it. If it’s a great enough song, I believe it will eventually find a home.

How did the idea come about to sample Deadmau5 in the song Happiness?

Daniel Poku, who is my publisher (Steller Music) gave me the original Brazil track from Deadmau5 and asked me to see what I could do with it. I cut it up with engineer Rudy Jones and focussed on the format of the track first, before I even thought about a song over it. Once I was happy with the format I wrote Happiness. I was in the booth having such a great vibe and I asked Rudy to bring me the top of the track and I did the hmm hmm hmm part, and then stacked the harmonies and it just felt right. The inspiration is African influenced, believe it or not.

As you are an artist yourself, have you ever considered keeping any of the songs you have written for other singers to release yourself?

A lot of the time, I write for myself and those are the songs that come out the best, and I give them away. I did a song with Estelle called Spinning for her new album, and that was initially for myself. I notice when I write from a very personal viewpoint, artists can relate to the songs more easily. Sometimes I fall in love with a record, but the focus at the moment is me as a writer so I’m happy to give my songs away.

Recently you’ve been working with lots of British singers – how do you think the UK music talent compares to that of the US?

Anyone that knows anything about me knows I LOVE THE UK!!!! I love the people, artists, producers, creative energy – just everything. I think UK music is a bit more experimental and the US is a little behind sometimes. I’m attracted to the tracks most people dont want to touch – the less commercial sounding, the better. I love taking a track that you can’t hear on the radio and making it into a hit.

Cher Lloyd was by far my favourite on X Factor this year. Can you give us any gossip on what she’s like to work with?

My girl Cher is amazing. I was her first writer to work with and I have to be honest, she is a natural. It was quite amazing to see her work so quickly in the recording booth. She is very easy to work with and is a true artist. She knows what she wants and who she is, and I love this about her.

What do you think about the fact that it is more often men who write songs for female artists to sing? Are you proud to be representing female songwriters?

There are definitely a lot of male songwriters, but I think the women are holding it down as well. I am very proud to represent women in any way. I think it’s important we work hard and have a voice for other women. Who can say how we feel better than us?

How does the music scene in New York differ from the other US cities such as LA where a lot of mainstream chart music is made?

Well I’m a born and raised New Yorker so I always prefer NY over LA. There are a lot more projects and everyone seems to be working from LA. I’m blessed to be signed to Stargate, who are NY based and to always find projects to do here.

Which other up and coming artists have you worked with recently who you think we should look out for in 2011?

I just wrapped up some sessions with Sony UK artist Tanya Lacey, and I’m also working on this young talent 13 year old Brianna Terhune, and of course myself!

Recently I’d been seeing Lucas Secon’s name more and more frequently in the sleeve notes of my favourite new albums, but it wasn’t until I visited his Wikipedia page that I realised quite how many amazing songs this guy has written. He’s nearing the RedOne/Max Martin levels of consistency! He started out in the 90s as a singer himself, which led to this jolly music video, but when that avenue didn’t work out he took to writing for others. He started off working with minor acts like Boom! and Tyler James, but the aceness was there from the start. He even contributed to one of the early 2000s’ greatest Europop non-hits, It’s Your Duty by Lene Nystrom!

Over the past few years, Lucas has moved gradually into the big leagues with recent clients incluing Bieber, Britney and Kylie. He’s based in the UK but has previously lived in New York and Denmark, which has helped him make waves in all three territories. His recent triumphs have included Heart Vacancy by The Wanted, Black Box by Stan Walker and my current most played single, Resuscitate Me by September. It’s no surprise that the stand-out songs on JLS and Alien Beat Club’s latest albums turned out to be Lucas’ work, and he’s even managed to make me like a Travie McCoy song! He’s currently writing for the forthcoming albums of acts such as Soundgirl and Alexandra Burke, and I can’t wait to hear what he’ll come up with.

Here’s what happened when I got the chance to give him a little pop quiz…

A lot of your songs have been released by different artists in different territories – do you let the artists know that their songs will be shared in this way?
Only three times have my songs been released by different artists and they all know about it. Out of courtesy to the labels/artists you do that. Also in some cases,they hear a hit and wanna adapt it to a foreign language group in Asia a la Tohoshinki (below), in which case the new version ended up more successful than first release – so the more the merrier!!

As you are both a writer and producer, do you get annoyed when songs you have written are not produced in the way you would have liked?
I do write and produce and I try to stay involved in all aspects as a measure of quality control and originality. Occasionally I have been let down if I’ve just written, so I stay part of production as I’ve got a vision for the record sonically. Sometimes ‘name’ mixers can screw up your records big time. The labels are chasing hits so they don’t stop to think whether that mixer actually fits the record as long as he has chart prescence. Your ears are the best mixer – fuck what anyone says.

Are there any songs you have worked on which you think deserved more success than they achieved?
All of them!!! Haha! I’m happy with the success of quite a few of my records but want them all as big as possible. Sometimes a poor video or poor marketing can screw up a record too. The Travie Mccoy record Need You and Sean Kingston’s Face Drop deserve more in my biased opinion off the top of my head.

Do you think it is more important for songwriters and producers to adapt to the changing trends of the charts or to develop their own unique individual style?
I think you have to understand what’s going on but being successful many times means totally standing out compared to what’s out. You should have identity and personality in music – it’s a reflection of ourselves.

As you have lived in the UK, Denmark and New York, which country’s music scene do you feel is most vibrant and exciting to be a part of?
All locations have their own vibrancy that inspires something: Denmark’s relative tranquility, the UK’s melting pot and NY’s intense urge to compete and make it at any price.

What would you say to people who think that music isn’t as real or genuine when the artist hasn’t written it themselves?
Neither Frank Sinatra nor Aretha Franklin wrote their own songs but were masters at adapting songs and making them their own. If everyone wrote I’d be jobless so thank god they don’t! Haha!

Electropop has been the dominant pop style over the past few years – do you think this will last into 2011 and if not what do you predict will be its successor?
Electropop was the latest in the cyclical nature of music to get a revisit. Rock is gonna make a comeback as bands always follow a more manufactured period.

And on that unhappy note (it seems inevitable rock will soon be back, but let’s hold it off as long as possible I say!), thanks very much to Lucas for answering my questions. Fingers crossed he’s got some great pop-rock tracks up his sleeve to get us through the dark days ahead!

As any regular readers of this blog will know, I’m quite obsessed with songwriters. My ultimate favourites tend to be Swedes like Max Martin and RedOne, but there are a few excellent writers based in the UK and as Xenomania haven’t been on top form lately it’s given Fraser T Smith the chance to creep up and make a play for their crown.

Fraser first got into the industry thanks to Craig David, who he wrote songs (such as the ridiculously underrated World Filled With Love) and played guitar for in the early 2000s. He was even caught up in controversy when Craig’s American label refused to let Fraser play guitar with Craig as he is white and may “alienate black music fans”. Back in the UK, Fraser began working with many of the biggest names in UK urban music, such as Kano and Plan B. However, it was only when I noticed that Fraser had been involved in 2 of my favourite songs at the start of 2009 (Broken Strings by James Morrison and Strong Again by N-Dubz) that I became aware of him and since then I have been following everything he’s done.

From that moment on, Fraser’s name has gotten bigger and bigger as he has become a ‘must have’ for the credits of any new pop album. If there’s any proof that Taio Cruz is the new (more poptastic) Craig David, it’s that Fraser has worked closely with Taio over the past few years. He has credits on much of his best work, as well as many of the songs for other popstars which are generally accredited to Taio, such as Stand Up by Cheryl Cole and Keep her by JLS. In 2010 Fraser has been involved in some of the biggest R&B-pop hits, such as Until You Were Gone by Chipmunk and In My System by Tinchy Stryder, as well as Tinchy and Taio’s forthcoming single Second Chance.

As British urban music has propelled itself into the mainstream in the last 2 years, Fraser has been there every step of the way. He’s the man of the moment so I was very keen to interview him for my Thank You For The Music feature, and luckily he agreed and gave me some very interesting answers…

You have written songs for artists ranging from Keane to Kano, Kylie to Kesha, but which of your songs would you say represents your personal musical style the best?

I wouldn’t say I have a personal musical style. I try and write and produce for the artist, so as long as it represents what they’re hoping to achieve, I’m happy. I’m excited about Clare Maguire’s forthcoming album though. It’s a hybrid of huge drums, epic strings, and Clare’s unmistakable voice.

How did you feel when you achieved your first US no.1 with long-term collaborator Taio Cruz?

I literally felt on top of the world – it was quite emotional, the fulfilment of a life long dream. I called my wife and manager, Sarah and my Mum and Dad, then went back into the studio to celebrate with my engineers (Beatriz and Izzy), and Ed Drewett, who I was working with at the time. We drank a glass of champagne, and then it was back to work.

Have you had the chance yet to work with any of your personal musical heroes, or if not who would your dream collaboration be with?

I’ve had an amazing couple of years working with a list of heroes, including Cee Lo Green, James Morrison, Damon Albarn and Keane. It’s been incredible. My dream collaboration would be U2 featuring Jay Z.

Are there any artists you have worked with who have surprised you by being more talented songwriters than you had expected?

I usually work with artists who can write, so I’m not usually surprised – but I recently worked with Kylie, and found her to be an amazing singer and writer.

It’s a great time for British ‘urban’ music at the moment but how much of this success do you think is due to collaborating with songwriters such as yourself who are able to reinterpret their music for a more mainstream market?

It’s certainly an amazing time for British Urban music, and I’m really proud to have been a small part in the success. From the outset, there was a certain amount of reinterpretation needed to take music from the street and onto mainstream radio – but now the genre has broken through, it’s become the new pop music and it’s great to see artists such as Roll Deep, Skepta and Tinie Tempah making such great music, and really pushing the envelope.

Have there been any of your songs which you think did not achieve the success that they deserved?

I felt ‘This Is The Girl’ (Kano featuring Craig David) was a big track, but struggled at radio. I remember people telling me that the verses were too hard for radio, and that it was all about the US sounding rappers, like 50 Cent. It’s great that times have changed!!!

I love hearing about songs that were intended for one artist but ended up being recorded by someone very different – has this ever happened with any of your songs?

Taio’s ‘Break Your Heart’ was originally written for Cheryl Cole. We listened to it back, and I told Taio he should keep it for himself. I felt the ‘Heart’ reference was too close to Cheryl’s ‘Heartbreaker’… Taio felt the lyric was a bit cocky for him to carry off – I told him he sounded great on it.

What have you been working on recently which you are especially excited for us to hear?

As I mentioned, I’m really excited about the debut album from Clare Maguire – we’ve written the whole album together, and it’s been an amazing experience. I’ve also written some great tracks recently with Adele, Cee Lo and Liam Bailey.

For more on Fraser check out his official site

You may not have heard of Mattias Lindblom, but you’ve probably heard his music, since it might as well be the law that all self-respecting pop fans own a copy of Rachel Stevens’ second album, Come and Get It. Mattias, with his writing partner Anders Wollbeck, wrote Rachel’s hit Negotiate With Love and the Swedish duo are also behind some of Alcazar’s best songs, such as Chemistry and Celebrate The Night, as well as Nouveau Riche’s hits Hardcore Life and Oh Lord.

Mattias is also the lead singer of his and Anders’ band, Vacuum, who have had hits in Sweden and Eastern Europe. My favourite is the ballad I Breathe, but they have some interesting, dark electro-pop tracks as well, such as They Do It. If you’re a fan of BWO, Universal Poplab or West End Girls, I definitely recommend giving Vacuum a listen. I asked Mattias about the artists he’d worked with so far, who he’d like to collaborate with in the future, and what’s the deal with him and Alexander Bard these days?

You had a UK hit with Negotiate With Love by Rachel Stevens. Are there any other UK acts you’d like to work with?

Rachel Stevens was a great experience for us. We got to see our music on Top of the Pops, CD:UK and all those famous UK TV shows. That was super cool for us at the time. I’ve been into British music since I was a kid. Actually UK music would be the main reason I got into music at all. Adam & The Ants, Depeche Mode, Human League, The Sex Pistols and naturally Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Holly Johnson’s ‘The Power Of Love’ would be my all time favorite song, combining the heartfelt song and lyrics with Trevor Horn’s finest work.

Anders Wollbeck and I are working right now with some British singers. Can’t give that away though so I’ll just throw out a dream collaboration right here. We wrote a song for Garou called Accidental together with UK songwriter Wayne Hector a couple of years back. My dream collaboration would be back writing with Wayne, together with and for two of my fave UK voices, who for this occasion team up as a duet! Artist extraordinaire Bryn Christopher and songwriter, voice extraordinaire Niara Scarlett (Xenomania writer and former member of Mania). Now that would be a day to remember!

For acts such as Cinema Bizarre and Tarja Turunen, you have created a rockier version of your sound. Was this difficult to do?

We wrote ‘I Walk Alone’ (by Tarja Turunen) in the dark of winter in Stockholm. And what could be more natural then to write ‘Put all your angels on the edge. Keep all the roses, I’m not dead’, in winter, close to the north pole? We ended up writing five songs on that album I think, My Winter Storm. I recall writing lyrics in bed, actually scaring myself with the words. It was an intense experience. We’ve been working on her new album ‘What Lies Beneath’ and we can’t wait to hear the result later this year. Tarja is one of those unique musical beings that has created her own space in the world of music. I hope to be part of her musical journey for a long time to come. Besides that, she’s awesome.

Now, Cinema Bizarre. The best song we did for them was a b-side called ‘The Other People’. Big mistake not focusing on that song I feel. What can I say, Strify (the lead singer) is a star in his own right. We left the project during the second album as we felt they were moving in a direction we didn’t like, but I think Strify should get his own TV show!

Do you tend to approach artists with songs you have written, or do they come to you?

It goes both ways. Songs tend to live their own little lives. It’s like they float around for a while and if they’re good enough, they find a home. Sometimes a shack! Sometimes a loving, safe home. Filled with Christmas and good food. Sometimes you get a call saying there’s this new amazing vocal group called The Canadian Tenors who just recorded your song, and before you know it, you’re number 1 on Billboard Classical.

It’s all a great adventure, that’s the way I look at it. Some songs take you to Ibiza and back. Some songs makes it all the way to the top of the charts as far away as in Asia. Some songs put you firmly in your seat riding the subway. It goes up and down. But one thing I can say: if you’re cynical about music, forget about it. If you’re choosing between music and selling cars, go sell cars. I pour every ounce of my heart into music and have done since I was 6 years old. I sang before that, but my professional career started when I was 6. That’s when I knew.

Which artists have you worked with recently who you think could be a big success in the future?

We’ve been working on stuff that I can’t talk about all last year and into 2010. Stuff is cookin’ and bakin’. I could tell you about it, but I’d have to… and other clichés like that! We don’t talk about what we work on until it’s released. That’s the gentlemen we are.

Which are your favorite songs in the charts at the moment?

Well, I think the stuff that Rihanna is putting out is as progressive as it gets right now in the mainstream. I’m excited to see if Die Antwoord (a South African rap group) will have the impact that the hype suggests. Not to compare the two at all. But I do miss great songs a little – songs like ‘Halo’ are few and far between. But I tend not to focus too much on what’s good right now. As a songwriter I’m writing the songs I want to hear, songs that aren’t out there yet. Remember, when a trend’s a trend, it’s basically over.

Have you ever written a song for someone else but loved it so much you kept it for yourself?

Yes. And I feel ashamed about it too.

As part of Vacuum, you worked with my pop hero Alexander Bard. What was he like to work with, and do you still make music with him these days?

Alex was a handful to work with. And to be perfectly honest, so was I. We’re very different as people but I think that was part of the creative magic and also, in a sense, what made Vacuum’s first release quite special. I learned a lot from working with him, Anders and the people around us at the time. Also the situations we found ourselves in as artists, but in the end, I had to follow my heart and us ending the collaboration was the natural thing to do. I see Alex now and again at award shows and functions but we don’t work together now. Not since 1999. He’s a great guy and I think the music industry would be way more dull without his contribution!

Are you working on new music for your band Vacuum at the moment?

At the moment no. We struggle to find time for the band. Mainly because writing and producing is such a pleasure and we like our fingers in that cookie jar. But there’s more to be done. I feel blessed that I can still do shows now and again. It’s so important to me to be able to sing and actually perform music we write. But I’ll tell you one thing. Given the success we’ve had as a band, the shows and amazing fans we’ve enjoyed, every time I walk on stage the last thing I think is: If this is the last show, I’m more than pleased with what I’ve achieved as an artist. That’s the truth. All the dreams I had of being an artist, every single one of them has been fulfilled. From now on, it’s all a bonus. But as a songwriter and producer, I’m not even half-way to achieving all my dreams. I’m enjoying one dream right now, to be able to make music and for a living too!

For more info about Mattias and his work, visit and

It’s been a while since I’ve done a songwriter interview for my Thank You for the Music series, so I decided to get in touch with one of the writers from my new favourite writing/production trio. Tommy Tysper, Gustav ‘Grizzly’ Jonsson and Marcus ‘Mack’ Sepehrmanesh were responsible for Erik Hassle’s album, as well as tracks by VV Brown, Amy Diamond and Ashley Tisdale, among others. I chatted to Tommy (pictured below) about his achievements so far, plans for the future and of course his opinions on entering Eurovision!

You’ve already worked with VV Brown on the brilliant Shark in the Water, but which other UK artists would you like to write for?

Thank you! Some of the ones I’d like to work with are Calvin Harris, Marina & The Diamonds and Amy Winehouse.

Eurovision is a big deal in Sweden – have you ever submitted an entry for Melodifestivalen, or would you consider doing so?

I did it once with a Latino rapper called Mendez. It was fun, but once was enough for me. I’m not really that into it. I think if you want to write a great song that fits for that purpose you need to be dedicated to that like some are, and my focus is on other kinds of projects.

Why do you think Sweden has provided us with so many successful songwriters over the years?

Probably because it’s cold and dark, you stay in the studio and work a lot. If it would have been warm all year long I bet I’d chill out in the sun most of the time! But also, a lot of music from Sweden is very melody-driven and has been for a long while. I think that has influenced Swedish writers and makes us do good pop songs.

Are there any other artists whose whole album you are working on, apart from Erik Hassle?

I’m working on this dance-based project called FireFace, which has taken a lot of my time since we finished Erik Hassle.

Which songwriters inspired you to follow in their footsteps and become a writer yourself?

I listened a lot to Prince when I was growing up. I admired his diversity and skills in writing and productions (earlier stuff though). Max Martin was also a big inspiration. He’s a great writer and made me pursue that career.

Which of the songs you have written are you most proud of?

I’m proud of Shark In the Water and Hurtful… maybe because they’re pretty new and I haven’t got tired of them yet. But I think they’re really good songs.

Do you think it is very important for singers to write their own songs?

Not necessarily. I mean, if you have a really good voice but can’t write, I still think you can become a good artist. As far as I know Elvis didn’t write that much, and he was an awesome artist and singer. Of course it often adds emotions to the song if the lyrics are self experienced, but if you’re a bad writer leave it to somebody who’s good at it.

Can you recommend any up-and-coming Swedish artists who we should be looking out for?

Sophia Somajo, Niki & The Dove, Lykke Li, Vincent, Donkeyboy (Norwegian, almost Swedish!), Dada Life, Dyno, Maskinen…

Thanks Tommy! Some very interesting answers and I especially agree that songwriting should be left to those who are good at it. There must be so many great singers out there who refuse to record other people’s songs and therefore never get the chance to record that song that could make them a superstar. For more info about the production company Tommy is part of, check out

For the second in my series on the best pop songwriters and producers, I present you with the man behind some of the best singles and albums of this decade. Anders Hansson has worked with both Alcazar and BWO throughout their careers, and is the mastermind behind Agnes’ new disco-pop direction. Finally two weeks ago he earned his first ever top 10 UK hit with Release Me by Agnes, and I was so happy for him – at last his genius has been recognised in our clueless country! While some Swedish songwriters’ talents were quickly noticed and called upon to boost the careers of international pop acts, that hasn’t happened with Anders, and since he is known only in Sweden, there is little information about him online, even in Swedish. I’ve never even seen an interview with him before, so I was very excited when he agreed to answer some questions for me.

Which music artists or writers/producers inspired you to get into music?
Chinn & Chapman and Giorgio Moroder were my first heroes. Still love their work. My favourites are ABBA, Bee Gees and ELO as well as Irvin Berlin and George & Ira Gershwin.

Have you ever been in a band yourself?
Oh yes! 🙂

What is it like to work with Alexander Bard? Is he as crazy as his reputation suggests?
Crazier! Haha. We’ve been working together since I can remember and we’re some weird dudes both of us. Love him always <3

Which of the songs you have worked on so far are you most proud of?
You have to stop asking that question as long as the person you ask is still in production. I used to love Oh Mama by Lili & Susie, but now I think I’m better. I don’t know…

Did you know that Release Me by Agnes got to no.3 in the UK charts? What do you think it is about this song which made it such a hit?
Yes, I know. It’s a combination of the song, Agnes, timing. England is where a lot of great music comes from so I’m very proud that the British audience embraces Release Me and Agnes.

Did you suggest to Agnes to change to a more dance-pop style, or was it her own idea?
I did. Didn’t take much persuasion though. I think she was just waiting for someone to pop the pop-question.

Which other R&B artists do you think should reinvent themselves as disco divas?
Bring them all to me! Whitney, Mary J, Toni, Xtina etc etc. Don’t we all love a big disco anthem with these chicks? But being a pop nerd I must say that I looooooove Kylie!

If you could work with any British singer or band, who would you choose?
If Kylie was British (she’s Aussie I know) she would be one. There are so many, I can’t choose… but I love Elton, Pet Shop Boys, Sugababes, Coldplay… the list is too long!

Can you tell us more about the new band you’re working with, Le Kid?
They are one of my life’s joys. Felix and Märta are my producer team and are with me everyday. It’s theirs and Anton’s and Helena’s and Johanna’s band and they will entertain pop junkies like me from now on into the future. They write, produce, play and sing and are just great. And they are for real! It’s Märta who sings the little hook in the beginning of BWO’s next single Rise To The Occasion.

Have you got any other exciting projects in the pipeline?
I constantly work with BWO, Agnes and Alcazar. I have done a crossover album with Malena Ernman which I’m very happy and proud about and a lot of new secret plans are coming up. Keep your ears and eyes open.