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Anders Holst: A musical journey from Malmö to the Big Apple

Anders Holst, a Swedish jazz singer based in New York, talks to contributor Oliver Gee about his new album, his upbringing in Southern Sweden, and his unusual journey into the world of music.

Anders Holst: A musical journey from Malmö to the Big Apple

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.

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MUSIC

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.

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