Anders Holst is no stranger to change. A one-time corporate big-shot in Stockholm, Holst threw it all in at the age of 45 for the microphone, the audience, and the silky harmonies of smooth jazz.
Now, 10 years on, Holst is celebrating the release of his third studio album, "SoHo Suite", and tells The Local about the long road from rural Malmö to the bright lights of the Big Apple.
“I've had music throughout my life.” Holst explains. “I wrote my first song aged 11. Music has been an integral part of everything. But instead of following that path, I chose to study at the Stockholm School of Economics, aiming for a corporate career.”
“As the years passed, I grew tired of the profession, and realized there was more to accomplish in life. I had to find the passion, the voice, the music.”
He made the jump from his role as a partner of a leading consulting firm in Stockholm to singing contemporary adult music and running his own independent music label – Unheard of Music.
“Often, it’s the other way around,” he laughs. “People give up on the music industry and try to find a real job. I did the opposite.”
Holst found the ‘musical voice inside’ and decided to listen to it, leaving Sweden for New York in 1998. He nurtured the idea of taking up music for a further five years before taking the plunge.
This choice (and this voice) has since spawned three albums - "Five" (2004), "Romantika" (2009) and this year's "SoHo Suite" - as well as a nomination for The American Smooth Jazz Awards in the category of International Male Vocalist of the Year. NBC even dubbed him "The Sting of Stockholm".
Holst explains his latest genre-spanning album pays homage to his New York neighborhood, and takes inspiration from the stories of everyday life, romance and the soul. And it’s not only the vocalist who comes from Sweden.
Collaborators on the album include Grammy award winner Magnus Lindgren, Ulf Johansson arranged strings and horns, Goran Kajfeš was on the trumpet, and Per Johansson played saxophone and flute. The musical director was Mat Byström and Arla Suurna was the producer.
Holst himself says the album isn't bound by one specific genre, although critics have described it as somewhere between smooth jazz and ambient pop. The songs have widely varying influences, from Bruce Springsteen and Roy Orbison to Swedish choral music. The Czech National Symphony Orchestra even provides the strings in one song.
Perhaps such exploration within the music is exactly what one could expect from a man who has made a life out of challenging chance and embracing change.
Despite living in the United States and building his career there, Holst attributes his interest in singing to the abundance of music in Sweden.
“Quincy Jones once said that of all the nations, he found Sweden to be the most musical. I have to agree. Statistically, Sweden has the most choirs per capita in the world. Music is inherited in the Swedish soul.”
“Mix this with all the Swedish traditional events which are steeped in song, and it’s easy to see what he means… it makes you proud to be a Swede!”
Holst even honed his craft with a Swedish choir for a year in the days when he divided his time between Sweden and the States, and resonations of this "körsång" style can be found within the album as well.
“On top of all this, people have access to music in Sweden. There are music schools in Sweden just as there are sports schools, economic schools. If someone wanted to follow such a path, the door is open,” he said.
Holst is currently concentrating his efforts on his latest album and is focusing his attention on the American market, although plans to include Sweden are not far off.
“We're looking at heading over in August or September to give "SoHo Suite" another mini-release. In the meantime, we're working on the momentum of the project in New York, playing smaller venues, generating interest, increasing the fan-base.”
With "SoHo Suite" only just out of the bag, Holst is already planning his next project.
“A friend of mine runs the Dominion down on Lafayette. I’d love to use the theatre to record some live music. Maybe an album of covers."
The playing field is wide when you have your own independent label, and Holst is well aware that he is in control of his destiny.
“The only thing that limits what you can do with music is your imagination. There is definitely an element of the entrepreneurial here,” he adds. “I feel right at home.”
For your chance to win a copy of Anders Holst’s latest CD, SoHo Suite, simply send us an email naming your favourite Anders Holst song and seek to become the first to match The Local editor's choice.