Anderz Wrethov and Gabriel Alares on Melodifestivalen, Song-Writing, and the Music Industry (Interview)

Composers Anderz Wrethov and Gabriel Alares are no strangers to Melodifestivalen and the Eurovision scene. Wrethov has written on eleven entries in Melodifestivalen, including his two for this year (Jasmine Kara's "Gravity" and Alice Svensson's "Running with Lions"), as well as the third-place finisher in Eurovision 2009, "Always" by Arash. Alares has composed Eurovision entries for Russian, Moldovan, and Norwegian contestants and has written both the 2016 and 2017 Melodifestivalen entries for Krista Siegfrids.

Though many of their songs have ended up in these song contests, not all of their songs are written with that being the end-game. Still, they express a great appreciation for what these shows offer to the people that tune in. "It's a great opportunity to have your song out and have that kind of impact to so many people, to watch and judge if it's good or not," says Wrethov. "Also you can make a lot of different types of music which I think is a very cool thing to do as a songwriter. You don't have to just do one type of sound or one type of artist because here it's so diverse with so many types of artists and genres as well. I like that, I think that's really cool and fun. From Hasse Andersson to Samir & Viktor, for me it's fun."

"I agree," says Alares. "I think it's wonderful that we have Melodifestivalen. The whole thing itself is the whole country's party, so to speak. Everyone is welcome."

"Melodifestivalen in Sweden is like our Super Bowl in music. I think Sweden is on top of the national finals because we have a long tradition with Melodifestivalen of course and also the development of the music. First you had this schlager music in the 1980's and there was only one type of artist that wanted to be in Mello. Then it changed so much that it's been a music festival. A lot of different types of music and styles, to make that so wide and great in so many ways, it's amazing."

The first entry Anderz Wrethov has for 2017 is Jasmine Kara's "Gravity," a song they wrote together. "Last year I was thinking of Jasmine Kara. I didn't know her but I've seen for quite a long time, on television, she's been around. I really loved her voice and thought she was a great artist. We met this summer at a session. First we wrote one song that felt really great. It was more like an uplifting, powerful, light pop song. We saw each other again and we wrote this song, "Gravity". Everything came very fast, it was a couple of hours with a piano and singing. She's really passionate and really emotional with her type of songwriting and the way she is as a person. So she's really inspiring for me as a producer and songwriter as well."

Alares has nothing but praise to offer about Krista Siegfrids, whom he not only wrote on songs for but also sings as one of the backing vocalists during her performance. "She's such a dream to work with, she's lovely. We did the song last year. It took off with her wanting a follow-up to that song. There were talks about making an EP or some compilation of songs in Swedish. We just did that very quick. I think we did it last summer. We just made it very quick, we were all very overworked at the time. It was the first one we really tried out just to feel if it was the right sound because obviously it's very different to the one we wrote for her last year. It's a bit more modern and it builds up to the chorus but then it's not really like a banger of a chorus that I probably maybe usually do, it's more laid-back production-wise. We just fooled around with stuff. She just came to love that song so much, she fell in love with it instantly. She was around in Stockholm writing with other people just to find a bunch of songs. Obviously you can always hit [the] jackpot with someone else. She got good feedback from people back home in Finland. Apparently SVT loved the song when they sent it in. It got chosen."

Wrethov also has an entry in week four, Alice's "Running with Lions", which opens with the sound of actual lions roaring. "It's a little like the same as Jasmine. I was thinking of Alice already last year because she's been in my mind and I really love her vocals. Great singer, like Jasmine, fantastic. That song started up with good friends of mine, we were writing a song, I had this idea that we were gonna write a song for Alice. So we had a verse and an idea of a chorus, then Alice came down to Malmö and she liked it very much and was really excited about it. So we finished up the song, recorded vocals, also very fast like Jasmine's song. So actually it's the demo vocals that we saved for it. It was so good, same as Jasmine. The first takes we did was there, it was perfect. It's a powerful song, "Running with Lions", with some orchestral things in there."

Alares reveals that he also had an interest in writing for Alice. "It's a funny thing with Alice, I thought we had written a song for her this year. I also had her in mind very much because I [remembered] her vocals and I heard she was maybe going to enter the contest. I had so [many] songs to finish at that time but then I just bumped into her on the label. We had never met but I knew who she was and she knew who I was so we just started to chat by the coffee machine. I just got very blown away by her attitude. She's a winner. I was very inspired by how she talked about this. She was like, 'I want a song that I can win the whole thing [with]." I like that attitude so I was very inspired. I called a friend, Jimmy Jansson, and I said, 'We have to try to write a song for Alice because I think she is a really cool girl and she sings very well.' So we did and we got great feedback and I thought, 'Yeah, this is gonna be a banger!' and then, 'Oh no, we chose Wrethov's song.'"

Being that Alares has written for Russian artists competing in Eurovision and Wrethov has written for artists spanning numerous countries as well, we felt it important to ask about their thoughts on the common practice of viewers projecting feelings related to political leaders and policies onto artists. "It's a big question, obviously," begins Alares. "In these competitions that we've been writing for, it's a bit of a shame because I know from having been in the inner circle I have seen that [it] has effected the artist. They're just there because they're amazing performers. They love to sing. They're born in Russia but they're still people that want to express something and tell the world something, just as an artist from Norway or Spain. They had no intention of singing [or] doing propaganda for any political statements. That's my take. Sometimes it gets a little bit mixed up. The poor girls that sang for Russia in Copenhagen, they were booed out. That's very strange and we also got boos in the arena, or maybe it was the semi-final, I don't remember, really. It's just an amazing artist that happens to be from a certain country."

"This competition is about the song and the love, to have a party around the globe or Europe," adds Wrethov. "It shouldn't have anything to do with that type of things. We are musicians, artists, and writers."

"All artists share the same dream, to express and to touch people's hearts," says Alares.

Watch our full interview with Anderz Wrethov and Gabriel Alares here:


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