Ulf Elfving: Agnetha Fältskog - it feels special to meet you - for an interview. There aren't that many who gets to do that.
Agnetha Fältskog: <laughs> No, only a few. But it has to do with the fact that I am a little bit private and think I want to stay away from it bit.
UE: But this time it didn't work.
AF: <laughs> No, it's difficult to resist you, you know.
UE: Thanks for that. Do you remeber the first time we talked to each other?
AF: Yes, I do. It must have been, well, you were the very first one I spoke with, it was in 1967...
UE: ... the first one you spoke with from the media.
AF: Yes, I should say that. I had just done the first recordings then and I entered number 3 on Svensktoppen. It was something very big for me as a 17 year old to start that way out of nothing. And then I remember that when you called, my heart was beating a little bit faster.
UE: I called from Svensktoppen.
AF: Yes, I could hardly believe it. And that feeling remains. It was something very big to end up there with my own song, the first thing that happened, it was fantastic.
UE: It was your dad who answered the phone when I called and asked if I could speak with you, and I could. Do you remember anything of the conversation?
AF: Yes, I remember how we kept talking, I had my dialect, and you asked if I had any idols within the music world and I said "yes, Anita Lindblom, Gunnar Wiklund" and so on, so I remember it very, very well. And I was very happy.
UE: It was 46 years ago and it was all about you and this song:
<plays "Jag var så kär">
UE: Well, Agnetha, 46 years ago. What did you think about life back then and what became of it?
AF: That was a lot right away. <laughs> I was very naive, I wrote many songs, a lot of lyrics that were very naive as well. But it's like that when you're so young. My life revolved around the fact that I wanted to become a singer. I felt it was the one thing I really wanted to do. I felt I could compose, both write music and lyrics. I had studied playing the piano so there was a lot of music inside of me.
UE: And one noticed that already when... well, how old were you when you composed "Två små troll"?
AF: "Två små troll", it was the very first one. I was only 5 years old then.
UE: And how does it go? You have to sing it a bit.
<Agnetha sings a couple of lines>
AF: I felt I could compose this on the piano and realized that I can probably compose songs. It began very early. And back then I didn't even have my own piano, so I walked upstairs and used our neighbor's piano, where we lived. It was very nice of them.
UE: When did you get your own?
AF: I got one a few years later, when I was 8 or 9.
UE: But you had plans for a career in music somwhere in the back of your head?
AF: I was hoping for that. I listened to a lot of music and I have very vivid memories of when I got my first record player. It was a yellow one which had speakers in the lid so you put it up. And I received to singles. One of them was Bobby Vinton's "Mr Lonely" and the other one was one with Ann-Margret, "Bye Bye Birdie" and "Take All The Kisses". I could hardly believe it was true when I played and heard them. I knew them all by heart and then it continued with Connie Francis and all those idols I had. Many songs with Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield and Tom Jones, well, it's a long list.
UE: And so you were at home listening and singing and composing and dreaming. But how were you discovered?
AF: I sang with a band when I was 15, Bernt Enghardts, and we toured throughout Sweden and played dancing music.
UE: How did they find you?
AF: Well, before me, they had had a singer whose name was Agneta and she quit. They had printed posters so they were looking for a singer. They didn't look for someone who had the same name but it was a plus that I had the same name so all they had to do was to put an "h" in the name, well actually, I hadn't started with that, it was when I released my first record that I wanted Agnetha with an h, I wasn't born with that spelling.
UE: You were 15 years, out and about performing and at the same time you worked in a telephone exchange.
AF: Yes, at a car dealer.
UE: I was going to ask how did you have the energy to do all that, but you didn't, you collapsed.
AF: I collapsed or fainted, because we were out very late at night, we played in other parts of Småland and we got back at 2-3 o'clock at night and I had to get up at 7 and I couldn't do that in the long run. So then I fainted at work and then my mother said that now you have to make a choice. Either you continue to work as a normal person or you keep singing. The decision wasn't difficult, I wanted to keep singing.
UE: And 48 years after that collapse, one can say you made the right decision.
AF: Yes I think so, don't you?
UE: It's been a fantastic life.
AF: Yes, I have to agree. I had no clue at the beginning how huge ABBA would become. To this day, I don't think any of us fully understand it.
<plays The Well Pennies "All My Loving">
UE: The Well Pennies with the old Beatles-favorite "All My Loving". We're meeting Agnetha Fältskog and the Christmas tree is glittering and the ginger bread cookies are laying here on a line and the coffee is warm and tastes good. Can you feel the Christmas spirit? There are two days left until Christmas Eve.
AF: Yes, of course I do. You can't avoid that. It seems to start a bit too early sometimes but it's wonderful. You just have to go with the flow. I think I many people experience a lot of stress.
UE: Do you?
AF: No, not right now. I try to enjoy it. But of course throughout the years I have felt it, that I have to buy all the Christmas gifts.
UE: Have you bought them all yet?
AF: Yes, most of them, I think. Yes, I have.
UE: What have you bought for your grandchildren? They're not listening right now.'
AF: I won't tell.
UE: Is it a secret?
AF: No, but you have to try to find something good for them. They're different ages so you have to really think what you should buy.
UE: What do you yourself want for Christmas?
UE: Nothing? You mean you have everything?
AF: No, I don't mean that. I am quite restrained when it comes to Christmas, sometimes it can get a bit too excessive. The most important thing, which may not often happen, is that you get to be together, that you also think about others. And that you try to relax as much as possible, enjoy the holiday.
UE: How will you celebrate Christmas? A large gathering with friends and family?
AF: It varies from year to year. It will be very quiet this year. They go to different places. They are grown up now, my children, they do their own things.
UE: We heard a Beatles song, The Well Pennies "All My Loving". You must have met The Beatles?
AF: Well, I didn't meet all of them, we met Paul McCartney in their studio one time when we were in London and it was very nice. We went downstairs into the studio and he was very nice and interesting person.
UE: It is a big thing having met The Beatles, and you didn't expect that in Jönköping with Berndt Enghardt's orchestra when you were discovered by them?
AF: They probably didn't exist then...
UE: No they didn't. But that you would meet such famous people.
AF: No, I didn't have a clue how things would become, you don't know how your life will be, thank god.
UE: After a while you met Björn, Benny and Frida. How did you meet?
AF: Well, it was in a natural way. Frida and I began as solo singers, she sang more jazz influenced songs and I sang my own songs, more towards pop and we were in the same TV-program, well, not the same program, it was called Studio 8. So we appeared/started out around the same time. And the same time Frida had met Benny, and Benny and Björn had met each other. And Björn and I met in a Jules Sylvain-TV-program which we were making. So we met in a natural way.
UE: And then there were collaborations, different group names, and there were ABBA, there was love and there were Melodi-festivals and "Ring Ring" which didn't win and then there was "Waterloo".
AF: I was quite happy that we didn't win because I was heavily pregnant.
UE: Yes! That as well.
AF: We ended up in third place. I was very happy for that, that year. And then we made up for it the following year. I managed to combine both marriage, give birth, world success during these 10-12 years we worked, and divorce. It was all in one, so to say, during those years.
UE: How did you cope with all of that?
AF: I can say it wasn't easy. It wasn't easy to leave home to travel. And also their dad was away, both of us left them. But we made sure they had a really good life at home and we weren't away for as much as you might have thought. I made sure that if we were away for 2 weeks, we would stay at home at least for 2 weeks. But I know there were difficult periods when I felt that can I really handle this or should I quit? How are we going to solve this? Then I said we have to be at home for as long as we've been away to start with, and then stay at home for even longer.
UE: Were you thinking about quitting several times?
AF: No, I never considered it, but it was something I could think of to cope, so that everybody would understand, how difficult it was. We were the only ones with toddlers. The others, both in the band and Benny & Frida had no children together, so they have later understood what a difficult period it was.
UE: Last night on Swedish Television we watched a British documentary about you, and then they mentioned the divorce a lot and the break up of ABBA. I just want to ask: How did it feel to fall in love, get married and then get divorced in front of the whole world?
AF: Well, it's nothing you wish for. When you get married and have children it's very sad to fail and it was very special in our case because we had these small children together and it wasn't easy, but that's what happened. We couldn't stay together. And then when the same thing happened to Benny and Frida it was a bit of a catastrophe. What people don't know or think of is that we continued for several years after that. So that wasn't the reason why we quit. It was more that we were "ripe", we didn't want to become "overripe". We had also said that when we felt it wasn't fun anymore to sing together, then we would quit because then things won't turn out good. And then we felt that it was over, we don't have the energy, it doesn't sound the same anymore. Now I'm talking about the music, not our divorces. Something happened then, it felt a bit heavy on the last album we made.
UE: Still you were in the middle of a successful world career.
AF: But it was enough in a way. And there were several years at a high pace. We did quite a lot.
UE: And everyone in the group felt the same way?
AF: Not in a way that we all agreed and said "now we'll quit". It just happened.
UE: Who closed the store? Was it you?
AF: No, but I think I was very much blamed for it. "It was probably Agnetha who didn't want to continue". But then you haven't thought of that I had worked with it for 10-12 years. And I think we felt we had to change somehow. We didn't have much more to give then.
UE: You say the blame was put on you. Listen to this one and maybe you'll understand why.
<plays "The Winner Takes It All">
UE: "The Winner Takes It All". Is it about your divorce?
AF: I guess you could say that. But you should ask Björn, he and Benny wrote the music, and Björn wrote the lyrics and I sang it after our divorce. And then it doesn't have to be exactly the same way as the song is. It could be that some things are personally experienced, it could be that Björn has written about himself, maybe 50% about him and 50% about me, a mixture I would say. It is incredibly strong.
UE: But which feelings did you sing?
AF: It was a tragic period for both Björn and I. It was strong to record it. The strongest I've ever done because both of us were sad and you can hear that in the song. But it's incredibly good, that song.
<plays Tina Turner "The Best">
UE: We're meeting Agnetha Fältskog, two days before Christmas eve. "The Best". Well, Agnetha, your best memory, it must be difficult to choose after everything, but do you have a favorite memory?
AF: Well, a lot of fun things happened. Every now and then we had a good laugh. What I'm thinking of now was a mini musical which we did in one of the concerts, it was caled "The Girl With The Golden Hair". Frida and I wore wigs, our own hair underneath put up in a tuft of hair. And everything had to go so fast and this time the hair pins weren't attached as good on Frida's wig and we danced and jerked our heads and Frida's wig fell off. She stood there with her tuft of hair and it was quite funny. But she quickly put her wig back on again and continued.
UE: You had a lot of fun together. A lot has been said about the relationship between you and Frida, that it was frosty between the two of you, that you competed with each other. Björn said in this documentary last night that sometimes it was said that "Now Agnetha has sung lead on two songs, now it's my turn". What was it like?
AF: It wasn't Frida and I who decided who would sing the songs, it was the guys who did that.
UE: But the relationship, was it frosty sometimes?
AF: We were so incredibly different, I think we're more alike today. Our personalities were different, we had different qualities.
UE: Did you ever argue with each other?
AF: No we didn't argue that much, it was more irritations because we were tired, it was a bit inhuman, we had lot to do, there were time changes, different hotels, and sometimes you didn't know where you were. But what hasn't been said is that we helped each other a lot on stage. Sometimes one of us had a cold and had to work with a fever, and then we helped each other, so the one who wasn't sick worked a bit harder. Such positive things haven't been mentioned as much, it's more that they try to create something they imagine it would be like.
UE: Another myth is that you are like Garbo, completely impossible to get near. You're furious with that image?
AF: Yes I think it's a bit sad that it gets that way. If you're not the same as others... It should be completely voluntary that if you want to show your home and if you want to talk about everything, then you should do that. If you don't want to, if you're a bit more private, if you, which I think is important, want to keep a part to yourself, then you should be respected for that. Then I think it is a lot of fun to spend time and mingle as well, go into the city and have some fun.
UE: When was the last time you went out?
AF: It wasn't that long ago. I have been out and about a lot the last year and a half while I've been working on this album. I've been twice to London, I've done a lot of interviews and television.
UE: An album which we will talk more about in the next half hour after the local news.
UE: Agnetha Fältskog, who today lives a life... who has made a comeback, a new album but at the same time walks around her property relaxing quite a lot. You live a quiet life?
AF: Yes, that's correct. But it hasn't been that quiet these past few years when I have been working on the new album, but otherwise I try to. I am quite sensitive towards stress. I think there are a lot of stressful things in life nowadays, in the traffic, many loud strong noises. It might have to do with me getting older. There's noise coming from all directions and it's a bit difficult for me. I am so happy that we can live where we live on our farm with animals around us and nature. It's a necessity to hear the sound of the sea and things like that sometimes.
UE: What kind of animals do you have? A lot of horses?
AF: We have horses, many horses, and we have a cat and we have... I have two dogs.
UE: Guard dogs?
AF: <laughs> Yes you could call them that.
UE: Well, I saw them, they were small. They didn't look like guard dogs.
AF: <laughs> But there are big dogs on the farm as well, who guard. There are a few.
UE: It may be a good thing to mention that.
AF: Exactly. And many horse people have dogs as well, so there are quite a few around sometimes. The two I have are a pug and a Prazsky Krysarik
UE: What was the name of it?
AF: Prazsky Krysarik. It's a Czechoslovakian rat dog. He's quite small.
UE: Not much bigger than a rat, well, maybe a bit bigger.
AF: A little bit bigger than a rat but a tough breed.
UE: How do you feel about animals? You love animals?
AF: I love animals. I think they're very nice. I don't ride horses myself but I have horses around me all the time. And I think they're wonderful animals. I watch them arrange within their group, who decides. And dogs are really fantastic. I have lived with dogs ever since I was a teenager.
UE: If you were to analyze on an amateur level, what do the animals mean to you as a human being?
AF: They mean a lot. It is through them I get balance in my life.
AF: I can't explain it, but it feels good to come home when you've been away for a while and they wag their tails, they're always happy, they depend on me. I think it's very important that you have someone who depends on you, that is good for you and you can give them so much and they give so much back to you in return.
UE: In one of the few interviews you've done in the past couple of years, you said that you could imagine working with animals as a volunteer. How?
AF: Yes, I said that, you have to be careful with what you say, but you can't keep from saying things either. <laughs> I said at an occasion that when I get even older later, I possibly could work a bit as a volunteer for for example Hundstallet, places where they take care of dogs without homes. But I shouldn't promise too much, but it's something I possibly could do someday. Maybe. I'm not saying I'm going to do it. It must feel good to work with that, to feel that you're making an effort.
UE: You're greeted by the animals when you come home and it's wonderful. How is the courtship from two-legged beings then? Is it as intense as it used to be? Do you receive a lot of letters? Do they send flowers?
AF: <smiling> Now it became a bit private. Now he takes the opportunity. Of course I receive letters. I have received many letters throughout the years. Not only from nice people. There's a mixture. But I have received many nice letters. Maybe it's not an answer to your question. It's still an answer.
UE: Not only nice letters?
AF: No, I receive some other letters as well, it has happened throughout the years, many unwell people who write. It is of course very sad but it can feel uncomfortable and taken as a threat.
UE: You had a stalker who followed you for many many years. When something like that happens and when you receive those kind of letters, even if a majority of them aren't, maybe you get burned and afraid of falling in love. What's your view on that?
AF: No, I wouldn't say that. I still think I'm quite open when it comes to meeting new people overall. And then you have to try to see..., we also have a security company that helps us. You have to be a bit careful, you learn, you have eyes in the back of your head. You learn to analyze people as well.
<plays Peter Cetera "Only Heaven Knows">
UE: Peter Cetera, and this Peter Cetera, Agnetha Fältskog, you have worked with. He produced an album with you and sang a duet on it many years ago, and it was during an earlier solo career. Now you have started a new, but in between it has been silent for 10 years. That your parents passed away 1994 and 1996, was that the reason you retired or what happened?
AF: Of course things that happen in your private life affect you and like we said earlier, life goes up and down, so it was a very difficult period. But I thought when I made "My Colouring Book" that it would be my last. And it easily gets that way when you have done as much as I have, you feel that this is probably the last one. But it didn't turn out that way because Jörgen Elofsson and Peter Nordahl contacted me and wanted to play a few songs. They came to my house and when I heard these first three songs they had composed, I felt "wow, I would be stupid if I don't do this" because it was a real challenge.
UE: Was it that easy to get you back out of hiding again?
AF: No, it wasn't easy. I said I wanted to think about it. But at the same time I felt I was so tempted. And it's this studio work that attracts me, it's that part I really enjoy.
UE: You really love it.
AF: I have said it's my second home and it really feels that way. I feel at home in the studio and I feel that's where I really can do my best.
UE: Compared to being on stage then. How's your stage fright? Has it been as tough as believed?
AF: Yes, it is tough. It is tough to go out there in front of the stage, in front of what feels like a whole country, a large audience.
UE: How does ut feel then?
AF: It's tough. It's very difficult. The worst is premieres but then you get used to it, it becomes a routine. But there's still some tension the whole time, it isn't easy to walk in. I think everybody, almost everybody, have some kind of anxiety, worry or tension. It is tough for us and actors in this business where you have to perform.
UE: Now you're performing again, you've made a comeback, you've been on stage once in London, in spite of everything.
AF: Yes, I did the duet with Gary Barlow.
UE: Gary Barlow who's on the album. Was it as nervous now as before?
AF: Yes it was, absolutely. But this was for a good cause, it was Children In Need, it felt very good to do a charity thing.
UE: Will there be more new albums?
AF: <laughs> I won't say anything, then I haven't said anything.
UE: Apparently there are thoughts of it.
AF: I am easily tempted.
UE: What type of album would you release the next time then?
AF: No, I don't dare to talk about such a thing. I can say that it wasn't so easy to record this one because I didn't know if my voice was still there. It didn't at first, I think. Now I have very big demands on myself. But I took some singing lessons.
UE: How many?
AF: I only needed one going through.
AF: I got back the support of my stomach which is needed, otherwise you use your voice too much and it doesn't turn out good. I easily got back into how it was done.
UE: Wonderful. In expectation of next album, which I interpret is coming eventually...
AF: No... <laughs>
UE: ... we'll listen to the latest one, not the last one, "When You Really Loved Someone".
<plays Agnetha's "When You Really Loved Someone">
UE: Agnetha Fältskog's comeback, "When You Really Loved Someone". Well you said you were a bit worried and nervous if your voice was good enough, how it would go, but it went really good. It has sold gold already.
AF: Yes, things have gone very well and I'm very grateful for that. It has sold gold in Sweden, England, Australien and Germany, I think. That's not a bad start.
UE: No, I have to congratulate you. You were in London not too long ago and you had to go by plane. Your famous fear of flying, how is it?
AF: I got some help with it, I went to a therapist and I think it has improved. It goes in the right direction. But I will never get completely over it but I manage it quite well now.
UE: What is the therapy like, is it like in "Sällskapsresan" (a Swedish comedy from 1980 and in one scene the main character goes to a therapist to cure his fear of flying. Claes' note), "I can fly"?
AF: Yes, something like that. No, but you talk to someone who is very experienced and I got some very good help. I don't think you get cured, if you're suffering from this, you continue to do so. But I also learned to think in a different way, to try to change the way you react, that you try to think positive instead and how safe everything is. But then there are those thoughts.
UE: Fear of flying, stage fright... do you have or have you had other fears?
AF: Well, we probably shouldn't talk about that here.
UE: But all of us are afraid of something.
AF: But I don't want to be remembered as someone who was very afraid of everything, because it's not like that. I think I'm quite normal. I learn more and more and it goes in the right direction. You also change when you get older.
UE: How does it feel to get older?
AF: Well, what should I say... it isn't very pleasant. <laughs> But there are certain advantages of course, but it's nothing you can do anything about. I have passed 60 now and I think many things get better in some way. You learn to deal with life, you can give good advice to the younger generation. So I think it's very good.
UE: What is your best advice to the younger generation?
AF: Wow... I would like to tell them to try to slow down, things happen so fast with progress, you try to analyze yourself... Nothing bad about Facebook but you should be a bit careful with private things, I think.
UE: That's what you say when you're a bit older. I agree with you completely. Now we have arrived to your choice of song, everyone who is a guest on this program gets to pick a song. We save it for last.
AF: Thanks. I will. The song I thought of right away was an old Elvis Presly song that I really love, which is called "Ask Me".
<plays Elvis Presley, The Jordanaires "Ask Me">
UE: Agnetha's choice of song, Elvis with "Ask Me". And then I ask you, Agnetha, why this one and why Elvis?
AF: Well, Elvis is Elvis. I am a very romantic person and I love romantic songs. And this one is ingrained in me. I have always thought he has a fantastic voice and charisma considering it was so long ago. So it will be my song of choice.
UE: You said you live a good life today and you have made a lot of money throughout the years. What is luxury for you? What extravagances do you treat yourself to?
AF: Luxury is to be healthy, that's what counts and that I get to sleep. I am incredibly dependent on sleep. If I don't sleep, I don't feel well. Luxury to me is to wake up in the morning and feel "I have slept well, how great". And then we treat ourselves to good houses. Why should you say no to that if you have the possibility to? And luxury is also to spend time at home with your children and grandchildren and my dogs.
UE: But ahead, you were a bit secretive about a new album, I allowed myself to guess that there will be one sooner or later, we won't get to know that yet...
AF: I don't dare to say anything.
UE: You get a lot of inquiries...
AF: Yes, I do.
UE: ...from "Let's Dance" (Swedish version of "Strictly Dancing" in the UK, "Dancing With The Stars" in the US. Claes' note), "Fångarna på fortet" (Swedsh version of the French "Fort Boyard". Claes' note), "Så mycket bättre" (Swedish version of Dutch "De beste zangers van Nederland". Claes' note). Will you ever appear on something like that?
AF: No, I can't handle that, I think. No. I think they're brave who agree to it.
UE: That's where your limit goes.
AF: Yes, they are fantastic programs, very entertaining. I really enjoy watching them.
UE: Yes, I admire those who have the courage.
AF: Yes. I really do.
UE: If you're offered to sing a really good song in Melodifestivalen (Swedish contest where the winner competes in Eurovision Song Contest. Claes' note)...
AF: I have done my share.
UE: It won't happen?
UE: How do you associate with the other members of ABBA today?
AF: We met not too long ago. We sat down to talk and it felt really good and I think we're closer to each other than we ever have been. In some way it has to do with us getting older and we feel very proud of what was in the past, even if we can't understand how it got as big as it has. We are very proud and humble of what we have done.
UE: What was the reason for meeting recently? Anything special happening?
AF: We meet sometimes and it's necessary to sit down and talk sometmes. We have a lot to process and talk about, the past and so on. It feels good.
UE: But you haven't gotten closer to a reunion even though it has been said that you have half-opened the door?
AF: No, I have been very consistent and careful when I have done interviews for this latest album. Sometimes you don't have to say that much, and then it's changed a bit, and then suddenly there is a possibility to re-write it. No, we're laying low.
UE: To talk a little about this documentary that was shown last night, Frida is the only member of ABBA who wasn't a part of it. Why not?
AF: I spoke with Frida about it and she was very sad that wasn't able to participate, she was busy. So that's why.
UE: Is there a disagreement?
AF: <laughs> No, there isn't.
UE: We thank you so much for allowng us to meet you today, two days before Christmas eve. Are you finished with all the Christmas preparations?
AF: Let's hope so. Maybe I have the time for something more. It was very nice to meet you as well after all these years.