Agnetha Fältskog, 28. One of the four in ABBA. Right now her and the other ABBA-members’ latest album “Voulez-Vous” are on turntables around the world.
Agnetha entered the business already as a 17-year old. “Jag var så kär” was the name of the song and entered at number three on Svensktoppen. And then things just started to happen.
Here Agnetha speaks openheartedly about her life as a woman and rock star, about the tours and about the audience. And about the worst concert so far…
Have you also heard the rumors that you and Frida are going to start your own career and end ABBA?
-Yes, but that’s completely inaccurate. We’re trying to keep ABBA together instead.
No plans for a solo career yourself?
-Eventually there’ll be one when ABBA quits. On our next tour we’re going to present ourselves more as individuals.
-Frida likes to dance and I write songs. Maybe it would be fun to do something on my own.
The last LP you made was “Elva kvinnor i ett hus”. You yourself wrote the songs (except for S.O.S.) together with Bosse Carlgren. How did you divide the work?
Prefers writing in English
-I compose the melody and then I write English lyrics. Bosse writes a Swedish version of the lyrics.
So you prefer writing in English?
-Yes, it feels better that way. I don’t know why. It feels more natural.
You still write songs on your own?
-Yes, if I have the time. ABBA takes quite a lot of time, the family as well. But I still write. There will be a new LP with me released on which I’ve written a new song. It’s a collection, “Tio år med Agnetha”.
Wasn’t that supposed to have been released last year?
-Yes, but it was delayed since the ABBA-record was delayed. It will be finished this summer instead. The name of the new song is “När du tar mig i din famn”. I wrote it in English but recorded it in Swedish like the other songs.
When ABBA ends someday in the future, will you continue recording songs in Swedish?
-If I would make an LP as a solo artist and sang on it in Swedish. Then the other audience wouldn’t be able to listen to it. Furthermore, it feels better to sing in English.
Do you have time to compose?
-When I’m on tour with ABBA then I don’t have any free time at all. Then we travel every day and in the evening there’s a two-hour show. And then you can’t go to sleep because you’re so tense. You go out to eat and you don’t go to bed until late. You can’t go to bed and sleep like a log.
How long time do you prepare yourself before a show?
-About 2-3 hours. Then I need things around me to be peaceful and quiet. Then you have to prepare yourself by keeping in shape. To run in the woods or something similar.
So you need to be in good shape like an athlete?
-Yes you do. But you aren’t always.
Isn’t it difficult to get on stage sometimes?
-Yes, if you have personal problems, then it can be difficult to concentrate. You may be sick or not feeling well and you notice that. At least I think so. I don’t know if the audience notices it.
The toughest show
What was your toughest show?
-In Malmö Folkets Park. I had had a fever over 39,5 degrees for two days and I had been on antibiotics so I felt exhausted.
-Five minutes before the show I still hadn’t put on makeup. I was crying. It was the worst experience I’ve had. But you can’t disappoint the audience. They had showed up to listen to ABBA.
-Maybe it’s not a good idea to get on stage with a fever but you have to. You can’t just cancel.
How do you prepare in advance for a big show like this?
-We’ll begin rehearsing in May. Then we have time off in June and July and then we rehearse all of August and a large part of September. On September 15 our USA tour begins and on October 19 we’ll be in Gothenburg and in Stockholm the day after.
How carefully do you rehearse? Is there room for improvisations in ABBA?
-We never have a choreography we have to follow. It doesn’t get monotone then. Something’s always happening.
But ABBA is always criticized for being too perfect, monotone and commercial. According to the criticism ABBA is a sound machine. Did you care about that criticism?
-No, not particularly. You learn, otherwise it would break you if you took everything that had been written personally. Of course, it doesn’t feel good if they write something negative but in a way it’s easy to reject it now.
Why was ABBA so criticized?
-The Swedish jealousy. Often people forget that it’s a lot of hard work behind this.
-They think you can be lazy and lots of money starts pouring in. But it’s not like that. Those people don’t know and they have no idea how much hard work it takes.
High demands on ABBA
There are a lot of high demands on ABBA these days. Each show, each record has to be better than the previous one. Do you feel that way?
-At least different, and that’s difficult as well.
And how does this job work when you’re a single parent at the same time?
-It’s difficult. Unfortunately, it’s a big disadvantage with this job.
Do you bring the children when you go touring?
-No, only when we’re in London. It’s for a week and then the children can stay there too. It won’t work if we have to travel each day.
Who do you think ABBA’s audience is?
-I think we have quite a broad audience. There’s a gap between 17 and 25 year olds I think. According to some survey.
-But we know we’re popular. We sell records and there’s a demand for us.
What do you want to highlight when it comes to ABBA?
-We work with feelings. We also communicate with lyrics. Many of the lyrics on Voulez-Vous are very personal. And because of that it feels a bit unfair to be accused of being machines. I don’t see us that way. A lot of things happen emotionally on stage and in the studio and in private. And you notice that listening to the records.
Is there even such a thing as a private life when you’re one of ABBA?
-Sure, quite a lot actually.
Avoids the tabloids
But the tabloids write something new every week?
-The magazines write articles without asking us, without us being a part of it, and then it can get wrong. I oppose that by not reading tabloids.
-But you can’t do anything about it.
Do problems in your private life affect the quality of the records?
-Yes, I wonder if the album came out better because of it. But what happened was for the best and it’s over now. But those who thought ABBA would end after the divorce, they’re wrong. We work better than ever now.
How much of Agnetha Fältskog is there left after all these years with ABBA? You don’t answer the phone saying ABBA instead of Agnetha?
-No, I don’t. You’re constantly reminded of it. I myself may forget about it. But at home I never listen to our records or watch cassettes of us.
-I may listen to what we’ve done sometime to see how it sounds but not more than that.
You don’t play your old songs?
-No. The other day someone told me I had made the song “10 mil kvar till Korpilombolo”. I haven’t actually listened to it since I recorded it. It’s fantastic that someone noticed it.
-But I still write. If I have the time I sit down by the piano. But I don’t have the time. Benny and Björn write the songs for ABBA and there’s nothing wrong with those songs. Quite the opposite.
-Voulez-Vous our best one
So you like Voulez-Vous?
-Yes, it’s the best one we’ve made. I understand why many thought “The Album” – the last one – was too difficult. That mini musical we had worked well on stage but not so good on an album.
And there will be a new LP with ABBA next year?
-I hope so. Björn and Benny have already begun working on it. If you take a break it’s harder to get started again.
By Lasse Hallgren