Arms around the world
Singer-songwriter’s Jens Lekman is a bit unsure about his ‘Heartache Kid’ tag, but there’s one thing he knows for certain – love does make the world go round. The happy Swede talks to LAUREN MURPHY
OFTEN, LATE at night, Jens Lekman opens the laptop that he carries with him around the world, reads an email sent to him by a complete stranger – perhaps one telling him about a problem, or a secret that they need to liberate – and sends a few kind words in reply. He calls it “smalltalk” on his website; “You can always write to me,” the blurb reads. “Only personal matters. I read all and respond to most.”
A “Dear Jens” column?
The Swedish singer-songwriter seems an unusual agony uncle, but those familiar with his music and confessional lyrical style won’t be surprised to know that he is a songwriter who thrives on human connections and relationships.
“People tend to like having that communication and dialogue with me,” he says. “For very egotistic reasons, I see it as a writing exercise; as a way to force myself to develop my thoughts and realise what it is I’m writing, and why I’m writing it. But also, there’s a feeling that it makes you a little less lonely at the end of the night. I sit down at these hours and log on and reply to a few emails; it makes me happy.
“There’s something about communicating with strangers; it’s so fascinating. I feel that, when people are writing to me, they’re telling me things they would never tell their friends or closest family, because they know they would maybe be judged by them, or it would affect their friendship. There’s an honesty in talking to a stranger, I think.”
The dry-witted, deadpan but eminently likeable Lekman has built his career on the foundations of honesty, becoming somewhat synonymous with songs about love and all of its glorious and not-so-glorious trappings.
Although he claims that “The Heartache Kid” is not a label that he’s completely comfortable with, his latest album, I Know What Love Isn’t, doesn’t really help his cause, especially with song titles such as She Just Don’t Want to Be With You Anymore.
Still, although the album was written in the wake of a failed relationship, he’s says that his third studio record is not necessarily a “break-up” album but more about “the period of time after a break-up”. Does he worry about being perceived as a writer of sad love songs, and nothing else?
“I dunno,” he says after a pause. “I feel like this is the first time I’ve written an album that has some sort of cohesiveness to it; some kind of effort to bind the songs together. Having said that, looking back on my albums now, I’m starting to see these golden threads running through the albums. Looking back on Night Falls Over Kortedala , for example – I think of that album as an album about friendship, mainly, with songs like A Postcard to Nina, or singing to my best friend, Lisa. They were all central pieces [to the album], and they were songs about nonromantic friendship. So I don’t really feel like all my songs are about heartbreak. And in any case, 95 per cent of all songs are about heartbreak – so what’s the problem?”