John Lundvik? He is this year’s Eurovision performer for Sweden.
Yes, that’s right.
Who has a very good chance of winning.
Yes, he does.
With those fantastic gospel singers as a background choir.
Yes, but did you know that he also composed the song for England?
Yes, really – would you like to know a bit more about him?
FIRST Story: baby formula
John has an appointment with Andreas Stone Johansson, one of the song writers with whom he often works together, and who is also one of his best friends. They both have children the same age, so the conversation often steers towards the topic of the proper preparation of… baby formula.
(Lundvik has a four year old daughter, Naomi, and a two year old son, Michael.)
Suddenly Andreas begins to play a tune. He turns to John and says: ‘You should take part in the Swedish Song Contest again.’
(That Swedish Song Contest, Melodifestivalen, is the biggest Eurovision qualifying round in all of Europe. Just taking part in this preliminary round often results in having a hit song. Lundvik once wrote a song for another perfomer, but last year he was one of the competitors himself – see inset. There were twenty-eight candidates; he placed third.)
John: ‘No… no… I don’t think I have the nerve to do it again.’
(In an interview he said: ‘I was happy not to have won last year. I don’t think I was mentally prepared for it at the time.’)
Andreas: ‘Okay. But what do you think of this?’
He plays a little more, and together they start working on Too late for love. And after a while it’s suddenly finished, the song is done. Now what? They start jumping up and down, shouting: ‘This is it! This is the one! This is the song!’
In an interview prior to Melodifestivalen he says: ‘With this song? The sky is the limit. I really believe so.’
During his performance he is so happy with the perfect delivery of that final note, that he starts to believe… ‘I might even win.’
Once the high scores start rolling in, though, it becomes a lot to digest. The day after the contest he’s so tired that he tells his wife and children: ‘Daddy is going to take a little nap.’ He woke up after 24 hours.
Second story: This life is better
John was a shy child. He would only perform in front of the mirror – pretending to be Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson. He says: ‘But then I was asked to perform during the annual farewell performances at my school. Obviously, my nerves were killing me, but I did it anyway. I received a standing ovation, which was immensely intense. I’d never felt so much like I belonged somewhere.
Still, the younger John Lundvik mainly makes a name for himself as a runner rather than as a musician. He won eight gold medals and is one of Sweden’s fastest runners on the hundred metres sprint. His personal best is 10.84 seconds.
‘But,’ he says, ‘I’ve always been a musician. I’m way too bubbly to stick to a regimen of healthy food, no alcohol and plenty of sleep. This life is better.’
At the age of twenty-three he resigns from top-class sports and starts to build a career as a song writer. The following story is from around that time:
John has had fifty demo CD’s printed. He delivers them to Jörgen Elofsson, a famous producer and composer (who has, for instance, worked with Britney Spears and Westlife).
Elofsson agrees to see him, but warns: ‘You have one minute, son.’
With shaking hands Lundvik inserts his disc into the CD player.
After thirty seconds the producer asks him: ‘You wrote this?’
‘That is some well-wrapped bad shit.’
Lundvik remains silent.
A few seconds later he says: ‘And who’s singing?’
Lundvik answers: ‘Ehm… I am.’
To which the producer replies: ‘I’ll see you tomorrow at eleven.’
And that’s how Lundvik became the regular demo singer for Jörgen Elofsson.
Third story: The race that changed his life
Underneath every ambition, there is ammunition. In John Lundvik’s life, this had to do with moving to a new country.
Until the age of six, little John and his Swedish parents lived in London. They’d adopted him when he was just one week old. In London he attended a multicultural school full of different cultures and colours.
Once the family moves to Växjö, a small town in the south of Sweden, John suddenly finds himself to be the only child of colour in his entire school. Finding his place there takes time.
In a Swedish television show he spoke about this period in his life: ‘I was six. One day I came home from school, where they’d said something to me that I hadn’t understood. So I asked my parents: “Mom, dad, what does ‘f**ing n**gro’ mean”?’
His parents were shocked and had to have ‘the talk’ with their little Jombo (the pet name his parents call him). John, recently: ‘It was a very special moment. I had never even considered that it could be a bad thing to be different. In London, everyone was different.’
But the turning point didn’t come until a few years later. During the annual school sports day, Lundvik geared up for what he now calls ‘the race that changed my life’: the eighty meter sprint against a few of the worst bullies.
He was wearing shorts and his glasses had been tied together behind his head, so they wouldn’t fall off. ‘In a certain way I ran for my life, but it turned out later that what I actually sprinted for was “relief” – because once I’d crossed the finish line, I was way ahead of everyone else. I had won. That was such an important moment for me. For the first time ever I was best at something. For the first time ever, I was appreciated.’
Several years later the interviewer asks him: ‘Is there one bully that stood out, that you remember better than the others?’
‘No,’ Lundvik replies. ‘It’s as I usually say: “Kill’em with a smile”.’
And he smiles.
This article was translated by Sandra C. Hessels
Sources: Skavlan, Wiwibloggs.