Q&A: SWEDEN'S OLA
Wed, 26 September 2012
Ola Nils HŚkan Svensson - known simply as Ola - has topped the Swedish charts with seven gold and platinum-selling singles. Surprisingly, his career had a rather sporty start; he earned his living as a first division football player before turning to music.
His decision paid off and he was soon one of the finalists in Swedish Idol 2005, before being offered a recording contract. This 26-year-old Swedish Grammy nominated artist is now stepping out onto the world stage - kicking off his global domination with the international smash hit All Over The World.
Ola is clearly aware of the power of the gays and part of his plan seems to be to woo us over to his side. And, with those Nordic good looks and his catchy tunes, who are we to resist? He'll be in South Africa in October performing briefly on the stage at Joburg Pride and then putting on a full show at the Fireman's Ball Pride after party that same night.
While he says he's straight, there's plenty of speculation about his own sexuality. Ola talks to Mambaonline about the rumours and his career.
Did you always have a passion for music when you were growing up?
Yes, music has always been a big part of my life, even though when I was younger my biggest passion was to play football. But music has always been a natural way for me to express myself.
What made you decide to give up football for music?
I got a deal offer with Universal music. At that time I had a mentally sick football trainer so it was actually a pretty easy choice. And I had also felt for a long time that music was what I was supposed to do.
Were you always confident that you'd make it in the entertainment world?
You can never be sure of anything and of course I had both doubts and worries but once I set my heart on something and have made my mind up on what I want to do I wonīt give up that easy.
Who has inspired you over the years?
When growing up I was very inspired by my grandfather who I sang with all the time. People that go their own way in whatever they do generally inspire me. [Swedish artists] Robyn and Miike Snow are some of those, I think.
Whoís your favourite pop diva: Mariah, Madonna, Janet, or someone else?
Actually I donít think I have any favourite pop divas. Maybe Whitney HoustonÖ
How much did competing in Idol help with your success?
I went to the Idol audition just for fun, never thinking that I would go all the way to the finals or a build a career. Idol gave me, of course, a lot of attention but itís always what you do after the show that will decide the future.
Sweden has produced so many amazing pop acts over the years (Abba, Ace of Base, Roxette, Robyn). Why do you think Swedish people are so good at making pop music?
I have got this question a lot and I actually donít knowÖ Maybe itís because we have public music schools and that gives a lot of kids the chance to start, with an instrument for example.
What's been the highlight of your career so far?
There are a lot of moments in my career that are special to me. When I heard one of my first songs on the radio for the first time - that was a Ďsickí feeling.
Or when I got my first award. But I guess that the feeling I have today when Iím making my upcoming album, with the artistic freedom I got after starting my own record company, is absolutely one of the biggest highlights. I donít think that Iíve ever been this inspired in my whole life.
All Over The World has been a hit in SA, but have you been here before?
No, this will be my first time in South Africa.
What are you most looking forward to during your visit?
To seeing as much as possible of the country and to meet people. And of course, it will be Ďsickí to get up on stage in SA. Hopefully the audience will have a good time.
What made you decide to perform at our gay Pride after party? Do you support the philosophy of being proudly gay?
I definitely do! I have performed at Pride here in Stockholm as well and the thing with gay people is that they are always very supportive and they really know how to party. So when I got the request it was an easy decision.
Sweden and South Africa are two of the eleven countries in the world to have legalised gay marriage. Do you support same-sex marriage rights?
I donít think that marriage has anything to do with your sex preference. Itís about love and then it canít be wrong whether youíre the same sex or not. So, of course, I support same-sex marriage.
Thereís a lot of speculation about your sexuality. How do you deal with that?
I love speculation, so keep it up! Thatís a part of what I do. If thereís speculation, Iíve succeeded.
What is your romantic life like? Are you in a relationship or single?
Iím single, and I feel good about that at the moment.
Does it bother you that being a success means that your private life is up for scrutiny by the media and the public?
Yes, sometimes it does, but at the same time this is a part of my life that I in some way have chosen. My family and friends have not so Iíll always try to keep them out of it.
Does being in the public eye make it difficult having a relationship?
I think it definitely can, but at the same time you can always make your own decision about how much you want to be private or not.
Youíve worked with big-time songwriters, so how personal are your songs? Do they reflect your own life and experiences?
There are a lot of people that think that pop music canít be personal, deep and real but I donít think thatís true at all. Iíve been extremely involved in the whole process, from lyrics to which guitar we should use, and so on. Iím a control freak in many ways.
I canít sing anything that doesnít mean something to me. So, yes, every single song reflects some kind of experience Iíve had or seen. Some of them are deep, some are not. It doesnít have to be deep to be true. And I can see that the older I get the more things I have to get out my system and into my songs.
How would you like to grow as a musician and performer?
You can always get better in everything. I think itís about never stopping to want to get better. I want to put constant energy in the direction of learning and developing. For example, at the moment Iīm trying to improve my guitar playing. The feeling you get when you see that you have improved in something is crazy.
What kind of message do you want your music to have?
I want to inspire through my music and through my way of doing things: That anything is possible, that itís a beautiful thing to go your own way and to follow your dreams. If my music can make people feel something, whether itís joy, sadness, or influence people to reflect, I think Iíve succeeded.
What do you want to say to your South African fans ahead of your show?
Iím really looking forward to seeing you all in South Africa. And still I canít believe that there are people on the other side of the planet that are listening to my music!
Boxers or briefs: Boxers
Fruit or chocolate: Chocolate
New York or London: New York
Pizza or burger: Pizza
Champagne or whiskey: Whiskey
Dogs or cats: Dogs
Beach or the mountains: Beach
Books or magazines: Magazines
Drag or Halloween: Halloween
Nightclubbing or eating out: Have to choose both
Real fur or Faux: None of them
Facebook or Twitter: Both
Shaving or trimming: Shaving
Catch Ola performing live at the Firemanís Ball Joburg Pride after party on Saturday 6 October at Rivonia Junction Basement, from 9 p.m. till late. Get your tickets from R120 at www.ticketspace.co.za. Get more info on the Fireman's Ball here.