The non-selfie-posting Ulrik Munther

Tonight musician Ulrik Munther is having a showcase at Södra teatern in Stockholm, where he will be premiering his new single Nån Gång. Radar had a chat with him a while back about his upcoming album, transitioning and the collaboration with Jonas Gardell.

Following the success of winning Melody Grand Prix Nordic, then fifteen-year-old Ulrik Munther quickly rose to fame. With millions of views on YouTube and a documentary series on SVT, Ulrik has had an eventful few years since his teenage debut. During an appearance in a TV-special, Ulrik Munther came in contact with Jonas Gardell and the two have gone into collaboration for his upcoming album. With the new album and the lead role in Magnus von Horns upcoming ”Efterskalv”. Ulrik has a lot going for him. Still, the tail of being a blond cutesy-eyed teenaged pop idol is a hard one to shake.

Radar met up with Ulrik to talk about the transition he currently is going through. Becoming a pop star at the age of fifteen, we’re not sure what to expect, for all we know we’re meeting up with a slightly blonder Justin Bieber.

The facilities of Ulriks management are hard to locate on purpose. ”Or else, there’s gonna be fans here all the time” says the twenty-something assistant, when we walk over weirdly placed catwalk covered in fake fur. Ulrik gives a very down-to-earth impression when we sit down to have a talk about Miley Cyrus, gratitude and new beginnings.

What are you up to right now?
– My days are kind of slow. I haven’t really made any public appearances for about a year and half, it’s been a conscious move. Now it’s mostly promotion for the new album that’s coming up in the beginning of next year. I think this album is a bit more conceptual than prior albums, but I don’t know. Nobody really listens to albums anymore, do they? I don’t know how the release is gonna be, if we’ll divide it into two separate albums or not.

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Photo by Pauline Suzor

Who are ”we” in this case?
– I’ve realized that I usually think about the music and what I do as a project, and generally talk about it as we. It’s me, my producer, my manager and Jonas Gardell who wrote all the lyrics. Since I don’t make all the calls I usually say we to include everyone.

But on this album you wrote all the music yourself?
– I did, and then me and the producer Elias, made all the arrangements. On my first album I was sixteen. And even tough I’d written some songs, I wasn’t really that good of a songwriter. So we worked in a team of five people, which was great. I got to develop and learned a lot. After Melodifestivalen 2012, a lot of songwriters wanted to do stuff for the upcoming album, which made it into this giant web of writers. Naturally, each songwriter wanted to write the hit. And, you know every song won’t be the hit, but tried to be, which made the album kind of incoherent.

How did your collaboration with Jonas Gardell come about?
– It started out with a TV-special where I did a cover on one of his songs and we kind of hit it of. I sent him a demo and asked if he wanted to write the lyrics to a song of mine. And when that worked out, we started sending things back and forth. I’d send him music and he’d send me lyrics.

It’s not like we’ve been drinking wine and philosophized on life, as I’d like to say

– It’s not like we’ve been drinking wine and philosophized on life, as I’d like to say, that would have sound so much better then that we’ve been emailing. But we’ve met up a number of times for lunch. He had free rein over the lyrics and I was in control over the music. And I think that’s one of the reasons the collaboration worked out so well. Because if you’re to much up in each others courts, you both have to compromise and then none of you are gonna be satisfied. He is incredibly bright so I’ve learned a lot about writing and on his thoughts and experiences.

It’s kind of ballsy of you to send a request for lyrics to Jonas Gardell,
– Sure, but he was very positive when we did the TV-thing, and we talked about how great it would be to do something more. I can’t speak for him, but I think he enjoyed to get to write these lyrics. He’s in a different age and a different stage right now and the lyrics might not fit him to preform, but he’s also been twenty. He’s been so great about it and really excited.

– I feel like the songs on this album is something else, cause all of the songs aren’t a hit, I’m not sure any of the songs is a hit. But they’re all great songs with great lyrics. I really felt that I got to work on the songs. And it’s been great to be able to feel that I’ve written the music. Previously there has been co-writers on all my songs, but there’s been like 40 professional songwriters too. So the listeners tend to go ”yeah that guy didn’t do the main part of the songwriting”, and I don’t blame them. I guess in a way it’s been important to prove myself on this album. People might think It’s bad, but it’s my bad.

Ulrik Munther
Photo by Pauline Suzor

Are you afraid of not being taken seriously?
– What has been highlighted isn’t really my musical abilities. The focus has rather been that I’ve been regarded as a cute teen idol. But sure, you always want what you can’t get. In my job, a lot of attention is better than none at all. My history of being a teen idol hasn’t been all bad but sure, I’ve been affected by being placed in that kind of box. The feeling of compromising what you really wanna’ do. I’m not sure how many people are gonna appreciate the new album. But I don’t really feel obligated to please people in the same way anymore. I do it because I think it’s good.

– When people treat you like a pop idol, you sort of become that person even more. And I have no contempt for the pop idol, I have everything to thank for that. But I’ve always felt uncomfortable, posting selfies and taking up all the space. I think it’s been a good thing that I haven’t done anything official in a year and a half.

Ulrik Munther
Photo by Pauline Suzor

Talking about transition, do you have any thoughts on doing a Miley Cyrus?
– Well if you wanna break out of laid out pattern, you have to do something radical, and Miley Cyrus is a great example. But perhaps she did more of a physical change and a change of attitude rather than a musical change. I’ve tried to change more musically. Not trying to make a hit song. Being more naked and narrative.

– When it’s to big a difference between the person you are and the way you’re perceived, it’s struggling. Hopefully, after releasing this, it’s going to sync.

Are you afraid of loosing your fanbase?
– Well they are the reason I’ve stuck around. I feel a lot of gratitude and I’m not gonna disregard them. But in a way I feel more like this is my new thing, you are all welcome, even though I might not sound the same. I’m not that worried that my regular fans will leave me, and if they do. They probably do it for a reason.

So how do you stick out and end up in a forum where you feel you belong?
– In one way, I don’t mind any forum as long as it is somewhere I feel like I’m doing my thing. But to find an audience you have to try and get into places where people listen. And that’s hard, coming from where I do. I think there are a lot of people who think that because I’ve been a pop idol, I’m not cool enough. Hopefully you get an honest chance and the album will be perceived on it’s own terms. I don’t wanna apologize for anything I’ve done and I’m not embarrassed. But I’m still aware of how that is perceived and right now I’m kind of past that phase.

So you don’t have any plans on make a tattoo on your dick and dyeing your hair?
– Ha, no big plans. Even though I’ve been in a lot of contexts that have been less credible, I don’t really feel like I’ve been that cheesy. Everything I’ve done up to this point has led me to do this great album with Jonas Gardell. And sure, there’s gonna be new obstacles when you wanna move on but I feel like it’s a new chapter. I’m in a totally different place than I was two years ago.

Well the public image of you is that you’re like sixteen.
– Sure. And I think people changes individually. I have friends who haven’t changed at all since they were sixteen. But to me the last five years have had such a great impact on my life and this entire thing has happened, which made me grow as a person. So naturally it’s a annoying when people assume that you’re still fifteen.

Is there a dark side to your personality?
– Sure, but it never gets to show. I’m so enormously privileged and had a unnecessarily good childhood. I’ve not really dealt with any death or darkness in my life, which is scary. In a few years something horrible is gonna will happen, and I’m not gonna be able to handle it what so ever. Perhaps I miss something dark and tend to look for it in music. I want to be a part of that feeling. I’m usually drawn to melancholy vibes. I want it to have some darkness and for it to feel heavy and dark. I remembered stepping of stage after my second try in Melodifestivalen. I had just sung ’Tell the world I’m here’. A semi-house song with not that much depth and felt that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. It went good and it was a lot of fun, but it made me feel like a needed a different approach.

I don’t wanna rob people of their misery, but I need to borrow it from time to time

– I think we’re all have a need to get to be angry and sad. And everybody need to ventilate these different emotions. I need to be sad and angry even though I might not have anything to be sad and angry about. Other people may experience pain a hundred times worse than mine, but I mean feelings are always relative. I don’t want to rob people of their misery, but I need to borrow it from time to time. I also want to feel some darkness. I tried putting up a wardrobe with my girlfriend yesterday and it made me furious. The shelves didn’t really work out so I got to scream a lot. I’m usually very calm and moderate but I guess that the darkest I get.

Do you have a driver’s license?
– No

I think you’d be a good car-screamer
– Well, we’ll have to wait and se. There were some scenes while shooting the movie, where I really got to blow of some steam. That was really comforting, just shouting and throwing stuff around. When do you ever get to do that? Still it’s kind of uncomfortable to when there’s that much people watching. And when you have to do it ten times.

You’ve released a beast that’s going to twerk your way to darkness.
– Exactly.

Photos by Pauline Suzor