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Live From The Current Studio

Jens Lekman plays an acoustic set and shares his songwriting approach

Jens Lekman performs in The Current studio
Jens Lekman performs in The Current studioNate Ryan | MPR
  Play Now [20:37]

by Mac Wilson

March 09, 2017

Jens Lekman - Hotwire the Ferris Wheel (Live on The Current)
by MPR
Jens Lekman - Wedding in Finistere (Live on The Current)
by MPR
Jens Lekman - How Can I Tell Him (Live on The Current)
by MPR

Sometimes Jens Lekman's next great song idea is no further than his phone. "When I don't know what to write about," he says, "I usually check my text messages to see what I've sent to friends of mine."

Although not a strictly autobiographical songwriter, Lekman says he sees himself as a character that inhabits the universe of his songs. "In that world, I'm the songwriter Jens Lekman, and I've written these songs and this is my life," he says.

The latest chapter in Lekman's life has seen the release of his new album, Life Will See You Now. Touring in support of the new release, Lekman visited the Twin Cities for a show at the Fine Line Music Café in Minneapolis, but not before he stopped at The Current for a session hosted by Mac Wilson.

In the course of the conversation, Lekman pulled back the curtain on his approach to songwriting. Here are some highlights:

On the origin of the song, "Hotwire the Ferris Wheel":

"I was hanging out with a friend who was going through this tough period. We were just walking by an amusement park and we talked about the possibility of breaking in and hot-wiring the Ferris wheel. And we laughed about that, and my friend felt a little bit better and she said, 'You know, if you're going to write one of your stupid songs about this, can you please not make it a sad song? Because I want it to be a happy song.' This was years ago, but that line just stuck in my head for some reason."

On how he came to collaborate with Tracey Thorn on "Hotwire the Ferris Wheel":

"The producer Ewan Pearson asked, we should get some of those harmonies on it. And he was like, 'Why don't we ask Tracey? She lives around the corner.' And I said, 'We can't bring in Tracey Thorn to do "ooh" and "aah" harmonies. That's like doing the dishes with champagne or something.' So I sent her the song and said, 'Do you think we could do a duet or something?' and she saw a dialogue in the song and rewrote it as a duet."

On how not to write a song:

"Every time I sat down with my guitar [prior to 2015], I was like, 'OK, I'm just going to write a song now. It's going to be the greatest song I've ever written. It's going to be No.1 on all charts, and it's going to be remembered as the greatest song of all time.' When you do that, nothing good comes out because you put so much pressure on yourself."

On where his best ideas come from:

"All my best songs come from jokes. From me sitting down to write like a novelty song or something, and then being sort of touched by the joke or the story that I'm trying to sing, or not finding the punchline because there is no punchline because it's actually kind of a sad story. I write a lot of songs for my friends' birthdays. That's how I get a lot of good tunes, because then I'm also in sort of 'fun mode' when I'm writing."

Listen to the complete in-studio session with Jens Lekman using the audio player above.

Songs Performed

"Hotwire the Ferris Wheel"
"Wedding in Finistère"
"How Can I Tell Him"
All songs from Jens Lekman's 2017 album, Life Will See You Now, available on Secretly Canadian.

Hosted by Mac Wilson
Produced by Derrick Stevens and David Safar
Engineered by Michael DeMark
Visuals by Nate Ryan
Web feature by Luke Taylor


Jens Lekman - official site