In Europe and parts of South America, pop music fans have already been clued into the return of Sweden’s Roxette. Almost 10,000 fans just caught the act live in Buenos Aires earlier this week and the band has sold out shows coming up this spring in similar sized venues everywhere from São Paulo to Capetown. But most Americans remain unaware of the band’s return, largely because the duo had no record label in North America supporting them. Now, with the success of their latest record, Charm School, in Europe, EMI/Capitol will release the new set in the U.S. this summer, Roxette’s manager and EMI have confirmed separately to the Hollywood Reporter.
In addition to releasing Charm School, EMI, via their catalog division will also release a new hits collection (possibly packaged together with Charm School) by July to remind Americans of Roxette’s formidable back catalog of hits.
Long before Robyn charmed her way into the hearts of U.S. pop fans, Marie Fredriksson
and Per Gessle
were riding high at American radio with massive hits that still receive recurrent airplay. Roxette racked up four number one singles in the U.S. and tracks such as "The Look
," "Listen To Your Heart," "It Must Have Been Love" and "Joyride" were staples of late 1980s and early 1990s heard all over Top 40 radio and on MTV. The group has sold more than 70 million albums in their career.
In Europe this year, Roxette have been winning over older fans and bringing in new boosters of the band, thanks to upbeat, anthemic pop songs such as “She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio).”
Germany in particular seems to be taking to the new material, but Roxette have set their sights higher. A Wembley Arena date in London (Nov 15) was just announced and U.S. tour dates may also be released soon. THR
caught up with Roxette’s ringleader Per Gessle.
The Hollywood Reporter: Roxette are back in a big way this year around the world. Why is 2011 the right time for you and Marie?
Per Gessle: Well, this is the time when Marie feels ready to give it a shot. It's all been up to her. She had to be prepared. As you might know, we started late 2009 with 40+ Night of the Proms shows in Europe. A perfect vehicle for Marie to try things out [ed note: Marie was diagnosed with cancer around a decade ago but beat the disease]. You do five songs and share all responsibilities with other artists. Marie felt most encouraged by this and asked me to write a new Roxette album. So most of 2010 was spent writing and recording. Then, later in the year, we did seven complete shows on our own and Marie loved it. And the feedback was overwhelming. So here we are.
THR: You’re well into an ambitious world tour this year, but no U.S. dates yet…will you play America in 2011? Is the U.S. market secondary given your strong fan base in South America, Europe and Russia?
Gessle: No, we still consider the US to be a core market for Roxette. We’re still getting enormous amounts of airplays Stateside. Our catalogue on radio is really strong. Both "Listen to Your Heart" and "It Must Have Been Love" have been played more than four million times and several others have passed the two million mark. The problem we have in the States is that we haven't had proper record company representation for many years.
THR: Was "She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio)" a planned leak before the record was released?
Gessle: No, we are not that smart! But I did expect it to happen. And I think that's cool. It shows that people are interested.
THR: Speaking of “She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio),” it seems to have split fans. Some love it, others are not sure yet. How do you as a songwriter move forward as there are many who want the "old" Roxette to stay the same?
Gessle: I've been writing songs for more than 35 years. If I should listen to the A&R guys, the reporters or the fans I might as well give up. I have to trust my personal instincts and beliefs and do it my own way. With this album we've tried to re-create the classic Rox sound without being too nostalgic. There are certain interesting things happening when Marie and I start to sing together. We love that. But we don't want to repeat ourselves too much.
THR: How do you feel about where fans in Europe and America are now musically? It seems that your brand of pop is suddenly back in style.
Gessle: I'm more than happy. I love this kind of power pop and encourage anyone who wants to start a cool band without getting too much involved with the auto-tuning control on the computer.
THR: You’ve mentioned in the past that EMI haven't always been as supportive as they could have been. Can you elaborate?
Gessle: Hmmm… When Charles Koppelman took over the American company in 1992 more than hundred people got replaced. Those folks who got sacked were the same people who made Roxette happen in 89-90-91 (when we were Top 3 most played act in the world three years in a row). It was devastating for us. We survived because we were huge all over the planet so we concentrated on other markets. But the US-presence disappeared. That's where we are in America today. The record industry has changed so much since then. And EMI has changed. In most territories we have positive communication with them. In other markets they can't spell our names right.
THR: Can you share a bit more about Charm School with U.S. fans who have yet to hear it?
Gessle: Well, we recorded 15-16 tracks, 12 made it to the album. Most of the songs were written for Marie in mind and two of my favorites are sung by her; "No one makes it on her own" and "I'm glad you called". She has that incredible gift to make songs "her own". When you hear them you'll know what I mean. All in all, we're very pleased with the album. It feels strong. It feels now.
During the recording-process I discovered I have changed my style of writing slightly over the years. Pretty interesting, I thought. I went back to my vaults of material and picked up bits and pieces that I liked from the past and re-worked them…so a few songs origin from way back. "Only when I dream" is from ‘98. "In my own way" was written in the early 80's just like the "Sitting on top of the world"-chorus. That's the luxury of getting old!!
THR: Were you or Marie surprised by just how big Roxette were in America at the peak of your popularity here?
Gessle:Yes, of course. The US was the first country to accept us outside of Sweden. Norway came second.
THR: Who produced the new record and where did you record it?
Gessle: It's produced by Clarence Öfwerman and Christoffer Lundquist together with me. Clarence has been with us since Day One in 1986 and Chris has been co-producing my work the last ten years. Together they are lethal but most charming. We used Chris's old barn, The Aerosol Grey Machine, in the very south of Sweden to do the backing tracks and overdubs. Marie's vocals have been recorded in Stockholm where she lives.
THR: What new acts from Sweden or really anywhere else do you think are producing the best music these days? Any current musical crushes?
Gessle: Well, you mentioned Familjen. I really like that album. And I like the Teddybears. I'm in charge of "Nordic Rox", a 3-hour radio show concentrating on Swedish and Scandinavian music. It's broadcasted every Wednesday on The Spectrum-channel on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. So I get to hear a lot of new Swedish stuff. Some of it is very good. On the international scene I like the latest albums from Unkle Bob and Hurts. Playing in the background right now is Nick Lowe. He's a giant.
THR: How is this new material different than your solo work?
Gessle:My Party Crasher album has a certain Roxette vibe to it but my Son of a Plumber album hasn't. The main difference is of course that Marie's the lead singer. And when we work with Roxette we try to "make it sound like Roxette". In the other projects I tend to avoid that. But like I said earlier, I have my style of writing, I have my taste in music and no matter what I do it all comes from the same old love affair I've had with pop music since the mid 60s when I was 6-7 years old.
THR: Closing thoughts?
Gessle: I'm pretty happy with this. It's been a blessing to have had the opportunity to work with Marie again. She's a fighter and one of the most talented people I ever came across. I'm sure a lot of people all over the world will feel the same when they hear the new record.