Canadian makes sweet music for Swedish ears

Sitting in a Stockholm café in the depths of the Swedish winter, Richard Reagh is happy to talk about his music, from the tentative beginnings of a new song to the endless revisions.

His ambition is clear and his focus impressive. With no budget to speak of, he has recorded one of the more interesting albums to come out of Sweden in recent times.

But had he done things the right way round he would probably be talking politics on Canadian public radio right now.

Instead he is working at the check-counter of a Stockholm supermarket and making music at home in his spare time. Just like any teenager. Except he’s 38.

And, besides, he got journalism out of his system a long time ago.

“I worked with current affairs on CBC from the age of 12. I went in there in sixth grade with my school and asked this really cool producer if I could work there.

“I couldn’t believe it when he just told me to put my wishes down on paper and he’d see what he could do,” Reagh told The Local.

The producer came up trumps and the new cub reporter was to spend plenty of time at the station in the years to follow.

“I got some work there and stayed until I was 22. I had a job for life if I wanted it. But there wasn’t enough time to make music, so I left,” said Reagh.

And so a promising career was cast aside to make time for his musical aspirations.

“I must have some form of dyslexia because I’ve really done things backwards,” said Reagh.

He gradually crossed the continent from Halifax in Nova Scotia to Vancouver on the west coast and began settling down to writing songs and selling guitars.

He might still be there now had not a trip to the Grand Canyon led to a chance encounter with a Swedish woman. The pair soon began sending each other postcards and before he knew it he was bringing up a child in Värmdö on the outskirts of Stockholm.

Despite a subsequent break-up, Reagh was determined to stay close to his daughter in Europe’s great white north. He currently lives in a small house just across the yard from his child and her mother.

It is an arrangement that suits him just fine. He gets to see his daughter on a regular basis and can work in his home studio in his spare time. There he recently spent fourteen months putting together a new collection of songs.

The resultant album, ‘Is this the blues I’m singing?’, was released at the end of last year to a warm reception by the Swedish press.

Songs like ‘Color of the birds’, ‘Boo Backe’ and ‘Winter Light’, early versions of which were available on his MySpace page, brought him to the attention of the Swedish electronica cognoscenti.

And Reagh is grateful for their support. They helped him push his songs onto national radio, and many of the country’s top names in the genre have remixed his work. But it is not where he wants to stay.

“Songs are where it’s at. I’ve done all this on a low budget, but I’d really like to hear my songs produced in a big studio. I would be willing to dance with the devil for the sake of the songs.”

Who might that be?

“I don’t know. Max Martin maybe,” said Reagh.

While he is clearly joking about the identity of the dark one, he is serious about his songs.

And as if to cement the move away from “blip-blop electronica”, he now intends touring with just an old-fashioned piano and guitar.

With this new, pared-down approach, there is more than a slight possibility that some old Neil Young comparisons will come rushing back to the surface. But while there is an undeniable similarity to their voices, Reagh prefers to put a different slant on the likeness.

“I think what we most have in common is our inability to hold a band together,” he said.

The first time I saw Richard Reagh play he was backed by two of his co-workers dressed as toffs and playing the maracas. But those times are long gone and he now prefers to go it alone.

Back behind the till at the city centre supermarket, he is dreaming up songs that land on the right side of a Duke Ellington maxim.

“There are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music,” said the jazz composer.

Reagh’s is good, but he is hell bent on making it better.

Richard Reagh will be performing on March 3 @ Mega, Sergelstorg

at 13:00 and 15:00. Entrance free.

Listen to Richard Reagh at MySpace.


What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.