Name: Mads Langer
Current release: Mads Langer's new album Where Oceans Meet is out via Freedom is a State of Mind.
Recommendations: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Novel by Ocean Vuong. Such a powerful novel that shows how poetry can transform tragedy into art.
Poetry And Airplanes by Teitur. Amazing singersongwriter album that ought to be an all time classic all over the world.
If you enjoyed this interview with Mads Langer and would like to find our more about his work, visit his official homepage. You can also find him on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Expressing myself through music has been a fundamental part of my language for as long as I remember. My parents have recordings of me singing my own songs in my own language when I was 18 months old.
I always knew that music was going to be my path in life. It wasn't a decision that I made at a certain time. It was more a realization that I was not gonna be able to pursue any other career even though I’ve always had plenty of other interests.
I am a hyper sensitive person and music has always been my safe place where I was able to express myself and deal with all the stuff that I didn’t know how to put into words.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Jeff Buckley has taught me so much vocally. I don’t really know anything about singing techniques. I never took lessons. Jeff Buckley didn’t sound like he was schooled by anything vocally. He seemed to be connected with his soul and something beyond himself when he was singing. It seems like he shaped the tone and the brilliance of his voice by plugging into the universe the minute he started singing. That really inspired me!
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
It is probably the other way around. My creativity has influenced my identity. Everytime I have felt lost in life I have found the answers in writing songs.
I feel like the importance of having creative spaces in our lives is highly undervalued. I read somewhere that prisoners have more time for creativity than most children in the world. Everyone is so busy being busy that they forget to connect with themselves and room for creativity gets lost in the never ending race. But what race? What is the goal ? We run so fast that we forget to enjoy the view on the extraordinary path that life is.
The essence of being human is the fact that we are creative individuals. It’s not something we become. It’s something we are.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I think my main challenges creatively when I grew up had to do with me trusting myself and believing that it was ok to be different. I am a hypersensitive person so I have struggled with stress and anxiety in my childhood and youth because I didn’t understand why I got stressed out by so many things that my friends didn’t get affected by at all. After realising that I am extra sensitive I have come to understand the importance of taking breaks. It helps a lot.
Now the big challenge is all the noise from all the screens. I didn’t get a smartphone before the age of 22. Social media has taken up so much of our time and now I try to balance things so I have space and times in my life with no screens or other distractions. Do not disturb. I am on creative time 😊
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I’m pretty old school. I decided early in my career to focus on my songwriting and playing skills. So I never became a wizard as an engineer.
I think my biggest inspiration and motivation is the people I work with. I always try to find new people who have a different set of skills than me. That is my way of pushing my sound to places I haven’t been before.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I keep it analogue when it comes to songwriting. I like to write my lyrics by hand and compose the melodies without technology involved. Producing is another thing and when I record my songs I love the fact there are endless libraries of sounds to play around with in the box.
The technology of virtual instruments is such an amazing tool. I can spend entire days surfing around sounds in the search for the perfect ingredient for whatever song I’m working on at that time.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I always prefer collaborating with people face to face. Jamming in the room and communicating via instruments and vocal harmonies is my favourite setting to create new music with other people.
There’s no such thing as meeting someone you’ve never met before in the studio in the morning and by the end of the day you’ve written a song that has changed your life.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Routines don't exist in my life. Not in the ordinary sense at least. But turning off all electronics for at couple of hours spending time with thoughts, lyrics, melodies is something I try to do everyday.
I try to meditate everyday and also doing some sort of physical activity is something I find essential for my overall well being. I need to be fit physically and mentally in order to perform at my best as an artist and as a father, husband, son and friend.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
When I wrote fact-fiction I knew that I had written something special. If I could only chose one of my songs as a favourite that would be my choice. I had been searching for a direction as a songwriter in my entire youth and when I wrote that song I knew that I had found my sound and my path as a songwriter.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Silence and nature are my two biggest teachers as a creative person and in general. Spending time in nature and turning off all screens and electronic devices is a paramount tool for me in my life as an artist. My biggest distractions are the noises from social media and other dopamine stimulating apps on my phone.
I have just deleted all of those apps so I only have them on my iPad. That helps me to only spend time on them when it is necessary.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I think that music is one of the biggest healing forces we have. But it needs to come from the right place and have a healing intention. Music is such a powerful tool to unite people. It is a universal language that everybody can understand. I think it is very important that we don’t let data and algorithms define the way we listen to and create music.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
It really comes down to the intention behind the action.
To me it is a beautiful thing to get inspired by something or someone different from yourself. However you can never take advantage of someone else, discriminate or clame to be the creator of someone else’s work. But there is so much to learn for all of us. And being open and creative when it comes to mixing genres, traditions and sounds with respect and curiosity is something that is deeply rooted in the true nature of creativity and art.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I think all senses are in play when it comes to music. I think most people would agree that you can describe any song by taste, colour, sound, feeling and even smell.
But feeling is obviously the most common sense that coexists with sound. Sound and feeling go together. I write songs from an emotional state of mind and most times the feeling comes before the sound.
All of your senses have a paramount importance when you want to create. I navigate through my senses when I create. Whenever I get the chills over something I’ve written I know that it is right.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I think art and artists have always had and always will have a very important role in the world. Art has the power to start revolutions but it also has the power to unite and heal.
It goes without saying that when you’re dealing with something that powerful you need to treat it with respect, care and love. I do my best to use my platform as an artist to communicate from an honest and loving place. I don’t think you should take on a political role just for the sake of doing it. But I think you have a responsibility to use your platform with care and respect. I think you need to stand up for what you believe in and do your best to make a positive difference in the world whether you’re an artist or not.
You have to be able to think outside the box as an artist. Thinking outside the box brings an important perspective to everything.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Music is an extension of your soul. To me it is a direct link between the human and the divine.