THEAUSSIEWORD.COM catches up with international artist Asbjorn.
How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry?
Hey Brian, thanks for having me!
Well – I remember hearing Spice Girls for the first time and just knowing; this is it!! We lived on the countryside and I would constantly be “walking the dog” but really just dancing and singing along with Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child and Michael Jackson on my walkman. At the same time I grew up with Paul Simon, Angelique Kidjo and all kinds of world music through my parents, who were music teachers. I had a huge fascination of pop culture but was always challenged with new genres, dance styles and instruments. I think that has affected my approach to pop massively; I find the space in between definitions more free, so that’s where I often end up placing myself.
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?
The moments of freedom for myself and my audience. My lyrics are a confrontational, melancholic and reflective space but the music is all about body; I always dance my way to the productions. Sometimes when I play shows, it feels like we’re this huge group of people confronting shit and letting it go at the same time, like it’s some kind of group-party-dance-therapy.
What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish?
I want to contribute to creating a more open definition of masculinity and femininity. A lot of kids grow up feeling wrong in their identity and I believe we could change that by having broader representation in the mainstream.
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?
I’m going on a big school tour in a couple of weeks, playing shows for teenagers as well as talking to them about gender identity in pop culture. It’s one of the most hardcore but also incredibly giving experiences I could imagine; I cry pretty much everyday on the tourbus cos I feel like I’m actually making a difference in a face-to-face way. Some of these teenagers go from absolute skepticism to acceptance within the hour. It’s a big honor and responsibility.
Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music?
“Be Human” is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written, if not THE favorite. It questions all the archetypical ideas of gender but allows me to dance the doubt away. It was written as a poem – or maybe even more as a diary entry, actually – and is very much a tribute to my fans who’ve always written their stories to me through-out my career. I wanted us to have a song celebrating the fact that we don’t and probably won’t ever fit in completely.
Give us an insight into your creative process. What gets you writing songs?
Often it’s other peoples art; a song that gives me a feeling of belonging. A line from a book that shakes me in my beliefs. Or when a friend says something so vulnerable and honest that could only be said between us in complete trust; I want my pop songs to be like a friend you confide in.
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
Honestly, I don’t even understand some of the songs from my own first two albums! Yet. Maybe I will as an old man? Hidden messages from my youth. I used to draw a lot of inspiration from my dreams and tapped into this quite abstract trail of thought, whereas now I’m in a very not-abstract fase. I’m sure there’s still a lot of hidden things, but on this album I’ve tried to write as direct and confrontational as I am in my personal life.
Success, what is the secret to it?
Not worrying about what other people see as succesful is a brilliant start. Sometimes success is writing a song, sometimes it’s selling out a venue, sometimes it’s just getting up in the morning. You define it, that’s the secret.
What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
One of the greatest experiences of my career was touring China and realizing that my music had traveled across continents and created a community without my knowledge. Also every time I write a song that distills a particular feeling that was alien to me before. Or when I receive a letter from a fan, telling me that my music has helped them through something. That really just gets me every time. I know how that feels and how much it has meant for me, feeling that an artist is cheering on me even though they don’t even know I exist.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
I believe I’ve been taught to be a man by women, both musically and personally. I’ve always related to their fight for the right to define their own identity, instead of following the ideal created by men. Growing up I was shaped by Grace Jones, Madonna, Destiny’s Child – these days my heroes are Robyn, Christine & The Queens, Caroline Polachek and many others. Bowie, Prince, Jagger and Mercury always spoke to me identity-wise but not as much musically, so Michael Jackson is pretty much my only long-lasting big male icon.
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
I’ve been writing so so so much during this weird period on earth, so next album – or whatever format it’s gonna be – is pretty much done.
The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself a few years?
Maybe the album format will become such an abstract concept, that I will be considered a sort of installation artist, forcing people to listen to a 45-minute-narrative, while the outside worlds attentionspan has reduced the averagelength of an pop song to 45 seconds.
What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?
I love creating music and dancing to it with my audience. These two energies are so incredibly powerful and urges me to be completely present, otherwise it just doesn’t work. I hate that I sometimes become self-absorbed.
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
The internet has enabled the possibility of music traveling far and wide from one day to the next in today’s industry. I love that. But there’s also a risk that we never know of the greatest artists of our time, because they are not interested in making art and marketing themselves to please algorithms. Or that the pressure of being a public persona as much as a creator is simply to heavy. Both those elements definitely affect me and I think most artists try to navigate that these days.
Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.
Josef Salvat, Kylie and Troye Sivan are some of my favorite artists period.
Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list?
I do but I’d love to do it more. Planningtorock, ARY and Charli XCX is currently my Top 3.
What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Turn off your phone and make music <3
A message for your fans.
I can’t believe you stuck around all these years! I’d have stopped a million times if it weren’t for your support. You generously share your life-stories and struggles with me, inspire me and make me feel part of a bigger “we”.
Any last words?
So sorry about the rant, Brian – and thank you for having me.