Swedish-born Andreas Oberg has been known as the one of the remarkable guitar players of today, with a strong reputation here in Japan. He has played with many legendary musicians, especially in jazz and also runs his own website “Andreas Guitar Universe” an online based guitar school. This time we had a interview with him about his background, his new song writing career since 2011, and his US home, LA.
—- Could you tell us your musical background ?
A.Ö.: I started playing classical guitar when I was 7 years old. In Sweden when you are 7 or 8 years old everyone gets to do a half an hour a week with a music teacher of your choice at school. When I was 12 I had a guitar teacher who played jazz/blues and fusion so I started playing electric guitar and improvising. I got inspired to come up with my own melodies. When I was 15 I started music education in Stockholm. When I was 18 I started studying at the Royal Music Academy in Stockholm. After that I started playing professionally and toured around the world, both with my own music and with other artist.
—- Who was the first artist you played with?
A.Ö.: When I was 18 years old I got to play with well know Swedish artists with Viktoria Tolstoy and Svante Thuresson. My European career started when I got a record deal with a Norwegian record label. I had the opportunity to do gigs in France, England, Germany and many other countries. Then I started playing more acoustic guitar, mainly inspired by Django Reinhardt. In 2006 I started doing gigs in America, got a record deal with Resonance Records and I signed with a manager named Joe Donofrio who was also representing guitar legend Pat Martino. At this point my music was a cross over of Jazz, Funk, Soul and some Latin/Brazilian stuff.
I’ve played on many different albums in America. One of these albums with a big band called Resonance Big Band won a Grammy in the US for best instrumental arrangement. I also wanna mention another album I really like with myself, Harvey Mason, Pat Martino and many famous musicians called “Gettin’ Blazed”.
Together with a US company called Artist Works I started my own website Andreas’ Guitar Universe where I teach guitar online since 2009. I have lots of students from all over the world in a variety of styles.
LA is my base now in America and I also spend time in Sweden.
—- Do you teach guitar online only?
A.Ö.: Yes online. Sometimes I teach master classes for 20 or 30 guitarist in LA at Musicians Institute in Hollywood. I don’t really have time for private lessons, especially now when im doing writing sessions almost every day.
—- What artists have you worked with?
A.Ö.: I’ve had the pleasure of playing with many great musicians: Les Paul, Eros Ramazzotti,Toots Thielemans, legendary pianist Hank Jones, Barbara Handricks the opera singer etc.
—- Why did you start your song writer career?
A.Ö.: My song writer career started 3 years ago when I was asked to make a song for a TV commercial. That started playing it alot on Swedish television and I realized this is a good opportunity to make money because you don’t have to tour all the time and you can get royalties for airplay.
After that I started working with Universal Music, making instrumental music for their sound banks. Many different song writers contribute and when companies need new music for their commercials, they pick a songs out of the sound bank.
Around 2 and a half years ago I did a song with my very good friend Andreas Carlson. After that he inspired me to start writing more so I really started focusing on writing music and also doing lyrics. I don’t produce beats but I like doing chords, harmonies, melodies, and lyrics. Lately I haven’t been doing that many live gigs but I’ve been writing hundreds of songs. I’ve worked in Sweden, America and many different camps in Europe, so now I’m glad to be here in Japan working with Hide Nakamura, Pop Axis and Sound Graphics.
—- In songwriting do you usually work as a top liner?
A.Ö.: I would say its 33.333333% haha. Sometimes I just make the chords and the track and I send it to someone else to do the top line, sometimes I get a track and then I make only the top line melody and lyrics. Other times I write it from scratch doing the chords, melody and lyrics.
—- Do you have a team for making tracks?
A.Ö.: I have people I work with for instance the Swedish producers Niclas Kings and Sebastian Thott. We sit down together and we come up with the chords and they program the drums and the beat.
Through my years playing guitar professionally I’ve gotten to know many great producers in the music industry. Then when I started writing it was natural to start writing with them because they were friends with mine.
Some of my current co writers are Erik Lidbom, Drew Ryan Scott, Andreas Carlsson just to mention a few.
—- What was the trigger for writing Asian pop music?
A.Ö.: I like that you can do a lot of nice harmonies and chord progressions. You aren’t restricted to one key, you can switch keys and go wherever you want with the harmonies. Western music of today is very production oriented. In Japan its more about the actual song even though good production also plays a role. Since I’ve done a lot of Jazz/Soul inspired music, I like chords and harmonies.
Sometimes I write for the Swedish market if its something I believe in and I like. Recently I’ve worked with artists like Danny Saucedo and Andreas Weise. I did 5 songs on Weise’s last album, its doing very well and reached spot number two on the Swedish album chart.
—- What have you learned about writing for the Japanese market?
A.Ö.: You learn more and more every time you work with Japanese writers and producers. You learn about the form/structure and how to build it . Even though I don’t know the language I somehow learn the sound and the flow of it. What rhythms and syllables that would work. It becomes more and more natural the more I do it.
In Japanese music you need more syllables and longer forms for the lyrics to have substance just because of the art of the Japanese language.
In Western music you can do longer notes and shorter choruses, but in Japanese you wouldn’t be able to tell a story within a short number of bars.
—- How is the co-writing session going so far?
A.Ö.: Very inspiring.This week I worked with Daichi, Her0ism, Kanata,Youwhich, Jeff Miyahara, Youth Case etc. I’ve done 9 songs in 6 days. It’s been very inspiring.
—- You are usually travelling between LA and Stockholm for co-writing sessions, are your songs affected by the atmosphere in each country?
A.Ö.: Its hard to say what affects it. In Sweden we have a Swedish sound/heritage…Abba, Max Martin etc. Japan has its own soul and heritage. When you are co-writing you can combine the best of Scandinavian/Swedish melodies with Japanese melancholy and harmony.
—- LA is a very creative place?
A.Ö.: There’s always people who wants to work in LA. I’ve been lucky to work with good people: Melanie Fontana (who is signed to David Foster), Ludwig Goransson (who’s had massive success w film/tv scoring), Andreas Carlsson of course who is also one of my best friends and Jonah Nilson, the incredible singer/keyboardist from Dirty Loops. Sometimes we have guests/friends from Sweden coming over. It’s inspiring because each and everyone has their own dreams and ambitions. It’s not like Miami where everybody’s having vacation and stay on the beach. It’s a very positive atmosphere in LA, but the city can be dangerous because many people get lost and caught up with drugs and alcohol. Its easy to get lonely in LA because everybody’s focused on their own careers. But if you have good friends you know who to trust, then you’ll have a lot of good opportunities. The weather is nice too, you wake up in the morning and feel inspired to do stuff.
—- What is your current main project?
A.Ö.: I’m putting a lot of time into getting songs cut in Asia. I’ve also been working w a famous female artist in USA. I’ve had the pleasure to write a song with Dirty Loops, a band managed by Andreas Carlsson. They’re going to be huge I think.
Dirty Loops is a trio of w electric bass, keys, drums and vocals. They have close to 15 million views on Youtube without releasing any official material yet. Now they are working on their own original songs for the debut album.
Its nice to be part of a project from the beginning because they are super talented.
—- Advice for young Japanese song writers?
A.Ö.: Its good to listen to a lot of different music. Find your own style. Find some stuff from one style and some stuff from another style and then you can blend it and make it your own. It’s important to find a personality and make sure each song sounds like your own. Try to be original as much as possible. Believe in your own stuff and sooner or later if you keep doing it suddenly you will have momentum and things will happen. It takes time though, i’m still learning to be patient haha.