Q & A with Joakim Ramstedt
Amateur Lyric Contest Entrant
Your band, Slowburn, is based in Gothenburg, Sweden, but is influenced by Americana and Southern rock music. Discuss.
I have been hooked on American music since childhood. My old man listened a lot to guys like Clark Terry, Jimmy Smith, Clifton Cheniér and Oscar Peterson, so that was what I also grew up listening to. In my teens I also listened to a lot to rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Van Halen. I guess it’s that mix of the blues, bluegrass, country and rock that has formed the Slowburn sound.
The song “Katrina” was written from the point-of-view of someone born in Louisiana who witnessed the hurricane. How did you tap into that mindset to write this song?
I followed the news about that hurricane and I remember actually crying when I saw what it did to that beautiful city and its people. I have never witnessed such a storm, but I know what it feels like to lose everything. That’s why I could put myself in these people’s shoes and feel their pain. The song is also about the love of the piece of land you call home. That place you carry with you wherever you go in life. I guess the feeling is the same whether you’re born in Louisiana or Ostersund, Sweden.
One interesting thing about “Katrina” is that it has both an historical and personal perspective. Do you find yourself gravitating to one or the other, or often trying to bridge the two?
I don’t write in a third-person perspective very often. Katrina is kind of special that way. My songs often tend to be my first person view of the world and the way I feel about what’s happening in it. I have a strong urge to speak up about the injustice and intolerance that is dominating our planet. Since I am not a good speaker, I use my music and my lyrics to try make the world a bit more loving and a bit less scared and intolerant. If I succeed with that in even a very small way, I will die happy.
Describe your process for writing-does a lyrical idea come first or melody? How long does it take to flesh out?
It most often starts with an idea for a lyric. It might be a subject worth writing about, or just a cool phrase that I pick up from somewhere that I can build around. Then I need to find the right music or melody. So when I write the actual song, the music and the lyrics always gets written simultaneously. It usually takes me about 1-2 hours to get the first draft on paper. After that I do the sandpapering, changing bits and pieces until I’m satisfied.
Which songwriter has been a major inspiration on your own writing, musically and/or lyrically. How? What is it about his/her writing that you’re drawn to?
ZZ Top has been a big influence musically. I could mention lots and lots of others too of course, but since there isn’t enough room I won’t even start. When it comes to lyrics I am a great admirer of Steve Earle for one. He is writing everything from angry protest songs to beautiful songs about love. All with the same poetic brilliance. His lyrics touch my heart. Take “It Doesn’t Get Any Lonelier Than This” for example. That is the best description of how it feels when your heart gets broken that I have ever heard.
What type of songwriting “equipment” do you find useful?
I use my guitar when I write. Once it’s finished, I sometimes fool around with drum samples, bass and harmonies in CubaseSX3 to get new ideas and angles of approach. After that I sometimes end up with a different song than the one I started with. Sometimes I take the new song straight to the band instead and let the guys make their parts themselves. I find both methods quite interesting and rewarding. I have only been writing my own music for a few years so there is still time to find the ultimate method I guess.
Is there a particular topic/subject you haven’t yet written a song about, but would like to?
Yes. My next song will be about a kid loosing his/her father after a separation. I am also thinking about doing a video to go with it and putting it on YouTube. Sweden should be ashamed of how they ignore the UN convention of children’s rights. It clearly states that children have the right to both parents after a separation. As a father that for three years fought in vain to see his daughter more than 4 days a month I know first hand that the discrimination is real.
Who would you name as your Top 5 favorite songwriters, living or deceased?
Oh man…that is a tough one. But OK, without ranking them and with my sincerest apologies to all the others that would deserve to be on the list, I would have to say:
Lennon /McCartney (does that count as one or two?)
-compiled by Davis Inman