Swedish singer-songwriter/producer Andreas Moe has made a name for himself working with Avicii, John de Sohn, Tiesto, Cheat Codes, Omi, and Sabrina Carpenter, among others—but he’s also carved out a successful career with his own solo work, releasing five EPs and one full-length album. On January 22, he’ll add to that list with his latest single, the pulsating, uplifting “Holding On” (from his next EP, which is set for release in the spring).
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Calling from his home in Stockholm, Moe explains the difference between writing for himself as opposed to doing it for other artists: “When I write for other people, I normally put on my songwriter hat and I can be someone else for a second. I don’t have to involve too much of my own heart and feelings and emotions and experiences,” he says. “But writing for me, it has to be right and I can’t force it. When it comes, it comes.”
As it turned out, “Holding On” required Moe to remain patient—for years. “I’d had the chorus as a voice memo on my phone for over two and a half years,” he says. “For some reason, I couldn’t find the right verse that felt good enough. But then I sat down with a friend of mine, Hanna Stenson, and I showed her this chorus.” Stenson worked with him on verse ideas—and this time, he says, “It just felt right. We just jammed the verses and merged it together with the chorus. It was like, ‘This is great!’”
Looking back on the way “Holding On” evolved, Moe says, “It was weird how you can overanalyze and brood on something for years, and then over a couple of minutes or an hour, it’s there and it feels perfect.”
Although he’s willing to wait for the right elements to emerge for a song, Moe says that is actually a rather atypical situation for him. “Normally, I’m kind of quick writing music,” he says. For his usual songwriting process, “It just comes to me. I write it on my guitar, normally. I love playing the guitar; it’s my main instrument. So when I pick up the guitar and play, I always come up with a riff or a chord progression that I really like. That really inspires me. Lyrics are the last bit that I put in there.”
As he wrote the lyrics for “Holding On,” Moe says, “I was thinking about the things that we hold onto without really having to. I always over-analyze. I hold on to the smallest things. So it’s basically about holding onto things that we know are not good for us.”
Although Moe has focused on songwriting throughout his career, he first gained fame as a singer when he performed the lead vocal on Avicii’s 2011 song “Fade into Darkness.” The single charted in a half dozen countries and helped put Moe on the musical map. That experience, he says, “was so amazing in every way.”
Also in 2011, Moe worked with Swedish producer John de Sohn. “I got to be involved in his journey because we decided to write a song. It was the beginning of his career and the beginning of my career and we wrote “Long Time,” and that song became a thing in the U.S. and in Europe.” Moe says they remain great friends.
Before those high-profile collaborations, though, Moe was working to establish himself as a singer-songwriter. Starting when he was twenty years old, “I used to go to London [for] a week a month for almost three years, and I had so many sessions. I worked with random people every day, and it was amazing but also very frustrating because it was very rarely that I found somebody that I could really feel like we had a chemistry and we could really write something great.
“I learned that it’s important to have your own crew, so I don’t really do much random songwriting anymore,” Moe says. “I found my team of people that I really enjoy writing with. It’s really not all about music—it’s so personal, as well. It’s so much about what you talk about during lunch or how you get along and stuff like that.”
Moe released his debut EP, Collecting Sunlight, in 2012, and he’s gone on to release four more EPs, each critically acclaimed (the most recent one, Maybe It’s All We Dreamed Of, came out in 2017). In 2015, he released a full-length studio album, Before the Rumble Comes. Moe thinks his work has been well-received because he always strives for authenticity.
“Since I’m trying to be genuine and real and trustworthy, whether it’s the lyrics or the chords or the production, I’d like to thank that translates into the music,” Moe says. “I’d like to think that the audience gets it and that they think, ‘Okay, this is him, this is real,’ and they believe it.”
Moe began expressing himself as a musician when he was growing up in a suburb of Stockholm. He remembers the moment that music became a crucial part of his life: “When I was twelve [years old], my dad took down his old Les Paul [guitar] from the attic. It was so dusty you couldn’t see the Gibson brand on it. It was a mess! At that age, I wanted to be an ice hockey player —but as soon as I laid my hands on that guitar, I couldn’t let it go. I was just obsessed.” From there, he set about mastering several instruments and studying legendary artists such as Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Bruce Springsteen.
Moe’s mastery of the both performing and the songwriting craft is evident in “Holding On,” with its encouraging message and uplifting vibe. “It’s hopeful,” Moe says of the track. With it, he says, he wants to encourage listeners: “We need to move on and we need to break free.” Given the restrictive times everyone is enduring lately, this track might be just the empowering message everyone needs to keep persevering.
Photo by by Alma Bengtsson