April , 1992
By Lisa L. Rollins
Roxette Joins the ‘Joyride’
Worldwide commercial success, in the words of Rosette lead-vocalist Marie Fredriksson, "is what you do to it."
Well, sort of. But on second thought, the Swedish-born singer— sounding a tad impatient with herself— asks , "Oh, how do you say it in English?"
"It is what you make it," maybe?
"Yeah, that's it exactly," she answered, sounding a bit relieved.
That being the case, Roxette— the biggest hit-making act to come out of Sweden since ABBA — has made the most of its musical appeal, with a string of top—five pop singles that includes "She's Got The Look," "Dressed For Success," "Dangerous," "Listen To Your Heart," "It Must Have Been Love," "Fading Like A Flower" and "Joyride," as proof.
Formed in early 1986 by Fredriksson, 32, and songwriter-guitarist Per Gessle, 33, Roxette released Look Sharp!, its first E.M.I. album for U.S. consumption, in 1989. But not before an American exchange student, who picked up the disc in Sweden, made it back to the States and passed it along to his hometown radio station via cassette tape.
"Well, yeah, that's one story," agreed Fredriksson in a recent interview, regarding the group's overnight overseas fame. "It was a fan who bought the album ... and went up to KWB in Minneapolis, but the hero is the program director (Brad Phillips) at the radio station who started to play 'The Look," and he mailed cassettes to other radio stations."
In short, the catchy tune took off, making "The Look" a massive radio hit and Roxette's first No. 1 single in the U.S. — never mind that the band's now multi-platinum Look Sharp! disc wasn't yet available for purchase in America.
The group's quick success in the States caught the act off-guard, but only for a moment.
"When we started, we wanted to reach Europe, because America is such a big country and it (would) take a long time (to find success in America)," remarked the platinum-blond vocalist. "I mean, you have to tour a lot here, and it's easier (to find commercial success) in Europe. But America was the first country we had a No.1 in, so when it happens here, it happens everywhere."
JAM: We've all heard the story about the exchange student who passed your Look Sharp! record along in the States, but it was a good thing he did that, since you were planning to release the album here, anyway , on your own time?
Marie Fredriksson - I think that , maybe, it (radio success) happened faster for us, but at the same time it started in Europe, so I think that sooner or later it would have happened here.
JAM: Is this your first American tour? (The band is touring behind Joyride, Roxette's second LP in the U.S.)
This is our first American tour, yes.
JAM: What do you think of the experience so far?
So far, it's just great. Both in Canada and here it's sold out everywhere, and people are crazy and they know all the songs. They sing along. And "It Must Have Been Love" is a fantastic song. They know it all, and I think if you compare to Europe, the audience here is a little bit older and they're maybe a little bit wilder (laughs).
JAM: I heard U.S. fans sing worse than the music fans in other countries.
(Laughs) No, no , not yesterday, when we were playing in Philadelphia. They sang really, really good.
JAM: Well, I hope that's the case, but a lot of American bands tell me the Japanese crowds sing best.
Oh yeah? Well, it doesn't matter as long as you're happy.
JAM: I read that you recorded three solo albums in Sweden. Is that correct?
Yeah, that's true. It was more laid back. I really like music like Joni Mitchell, Ricky Lee Jones, more like that. And everything was in Swedish, so that's why we started Roxette, Per and myself, because we wanted to do something in English and try to reach other countries. There aren't many people who understand Swedish, so that was very different from the work I do solo. If you know "Watercolours In The Rain," it's a song on the Joyride album, it's more like what I was doing before.
JAM: Do you still record solo projects on the side?
Yeah, I have already done one in Swedish. Hopefully , I am going to release it in Sweden later this year, but I'm only going to release it at home. I still write a lot in Swedish, and I think it's very important to take care of your roots and your language.
JAM: Do you still record solo projects on the side?
Yeah, I have already done one in Swedish. Hopefully , I am going to release it in Sweden later this year, but I'm going to release it at home. I still write a lot in Swedish, and I think it's very important to take care of your roots and your language.
JAM How do you and Per write together since he does the songwriting in English?
We have known each other for so long, and it's (songwriting) easy for him. He knows exactly what I like and what I like to sing, and sometimes we write together musically. I mean, it's very easy to work together because we have known each for so many, many years. What I mean to say is that I think it's very hard to write in English, so that's why Per is writing all the English lyrics. But I can do something in Swedish, and if we fell it's a good lyric, he translatts, but it's very seldom that happens. He writes in English from the beginning, and he's done that since he was a teen-ager, so he's very, very good.
JAM Does the band do any writing on the road?
We write sometimes on the road, but it is seldom that you are alone, and there are always a lot of people around you and you're always traveling, so when you have a day off at your hotel, you just want to sleep or relax. So I think that it's best to be at home, in Stockholm, and then you have to really concentrate on one thing.
JAM: Since you are superstars at home, can you go out in public without being mobbed on the streets?
Well, yeah, it's OK in Stockholm where we live, because people at home are so used to us and we've been in business for 10 years. Swedens know us well, they leave us alone and have a lot of respect for us. They are all very proud of what we are doing, and they leave us alone, because they really want us to stay in Sweden. So, so far it's OK. I really love my country, so I think that we are going to stay there.
JAM: You had the No.1 records and radio airplay in America before you ever came here, but did it take this tour and seeing firsthand for it to sink in?
It's the same everywhere , not just here. You understand it first when you see it, of course, and feel so many warm feelings. I mean, you get so much energy, and it's a fantastic feeling. I really wish that everyone could feel how I feel when I'm onstage, because it's something very, very special.
JAM: I know groupies are a universal thing, but did it surprise you that you had them here, too?
(Laughs) Well, it's everywhere. It's the same everywhere, but we don't have groupies in that way , because our audience is very wide, everything from teenagers to 65-year-old ladies. Everything! Our audience, the people we have met, all of them are so nice and so cool. I mean, it's no big deal. Since yesterday, we met two guys who have followed us everywhere. I don't know how many shows they have seen, and they are so nice, so we took pictures with them. They are just really, really big fans and love our music, and that's OK. And then, of course, you have people who hang around the hotel and try to call up to your room, but most of them are around because they love our music so much.
JAM: It's surprising how many people still think you and Per are a couple.
(Laughs) Many think that we are a couple, but we are not. That's the only thing.
JAM: Do you find it hard to maintain personal relationships with your level of success?
Well, it's OK, I mean I have my boyfriend and Per has his girlfriend. She is also working with us and traveling with us everywhere. My boyfriend is a musician working at home, but it's OK. Of course, it takes time sometimes to see each other, but you learn to live with it. I mean, this tow is over in August and then we are home again to record a new album, so it goes up and down, but it's OK. And then I have friends who come and visit me on the tour, so when I'm longing for home I phone them (and say), "Come now. You have to come now!" [laughs]
JAM: If Roxette hadn't scored so big commercially, do you think you and Per would still be performing together, since you both had very successful careers before this project?
Yeah, I think so, because we both have so much fun together. Us, our band and our producer are like a big family. We love to experiment a lot, and love to tow. And yeah, I think .. we'd be working together still.
JAM: You are noted as being perfectionists in the studio does that make it difficult to reproduce your sound live since the conditions are very different from that of a studio?
No, it's not hard, it's just that some of the songs are arranged totally different live. It's no big deal at all. It's very easy to play the songs live and some of them we just do totally acoustic. We try to treat every song very personally.
JAM: You mentioned Roxette has already started work on a new album, can you tell me about that?
Well, yeah, we have started to write some new songs, and hopefully when this tour is finished we will begin to write some more stuff and start recording at the beginning of next year. But it's a little bit too early to talk about, because it's all too new right now.
JAM: Do you feel video or just the fact you've had great songs has helped your success in America most?
Very important. Of course, MTV has a big impact, but I think first of all, it's radio. I mean, the song must be really good. You have such special formats, and so many, and we're not used to that at all. We don't have that at home. Some stations just don't play our music because it's too much guitar or too much dance, so it's really weird. At home, on one radio station you can listen to Paula Abdul, Led Zeppelin, and classical music on the same channel, so it's very different.
JAM: I heard Per's guitar picks say "don't bore us, get to the chorus." Is that true?
Yeah, that's true [laughs]. He's weird.