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De Zweedse muzikanten en vrienden Mikael Rosengren en Göran Engvall namen recentelijk het besluit een album met AOR nummers op te nemen. Een lang gekoesterde wens van beide heren. Het netwerk werd aangeboord en een keur aan Zweedse collega-musici droegen hun steentje bij. Aan het einde van de rit bleef er een ijzersterk melodieus rockalbum over: ’Higher And Higher’. Beide heren namen uitvoerig en enthousiast de tijd om onze vragen te beantwoorden.

Door: Wim R. | Archiveer onder hardrock / aor

First off, congratulations on a very fine piece of melodic rock with ‘Higher and Higher’, it really blew my mind!
MR: Thank you Wim! So nice to hear! We love to blow minds away! We are really proud and happy to have released ‘Higher And Higher’. But even more happy to realize that so many people really love it!

If I understand correctly the band was put together with as main purpose to record some good old melodic rock you yourself like to hear. How did this come about? And what bands should we think of that have influenced you?
MR: Göran contacted me, asking If I was interested in creating an album full of songs that both him and me love: the melodic hard rock stuff from the eighties. I personally love that era, so I never doubted this could be something special. And – talking about blowing minds away – when Göran first played his demo versions of some of the songs – he blew my mind away … I love bands such as Strangeways, FM, Europe, Treat, Talisman, Journey, Def Leppard etc. And in my other bands Token and Constancia I have written the songs with these influences.

GE: I had been writing pop songs for a while but it got harder and harder to get them published, so I decided to just write some stuff that I really like myself, and put my heart into it rather than just wish for commercial success. And when Mikael and I started to compare notes we really hit it off, starting to write together! I am a big Sykes/Coverdale and Thin Lizzy/Gary Moore fan so a lot of the stuff that came out was of course influenced by this great music.

How did you come up with a name like Heartwind?
MR: Ha ha, that is really funny! Göran, I let you answer this one!

GE: Quite a long story actually… our first name was ‘Vision’ but both record companies we initially talked to just hated it (and there was already a number of other bands with that very name). They asked us to come up with something that would sound closer to the music, and more beautiful, and inspiring. So I just took all of my top favourite hard rock band names throughout history, cut them in half, and let an excel macro match various new combinations for us. And it worked brilliantly, we got a thousand new name suggestions and actually found three or four names that we really liked! Heartwind sealed the deal, as we couldn’t find any other band with this very name, strangely enough. And funny enough, ‘Vision’ took ages to agree upon, but when Heartwind came up, everybody just smiled and said: ‘Yes, that’s the name’. For me Heartwind is about the icy cold wind you can feel when your lover leaves or cheats on you, but it could also be the great warm wind that would surround your heart when you fall in love with a girl or with your new born baby!

In your bio it is stated that you took twelve months to write the material for ‘Higher And Higher, can you tell us something how you approach songwriting? Song by song, mixing ideas and snippets together, do you ask for feedback during the writing process?’ Do the songs come easy?
MR: Yes, we are all busy with millions of things. So the songs could lie down resting to be improved. We shared the foundations of all songs. Half of them come from Görans ideas and demos. Half from me. When we had the foundation and ideas ready, we just sent the song to each other. Then it was finalized. Lucky us, we have a very common taste in what a good song is. And for example, it is extremely important that all songs are potential hits. The melodies are key.

GE: I normally start with an idea of what type of song I want to create. Is this a feel good Van Halen kind of song or is it a Whitesnake type of ballad? Then I try to find (or sometimes borrow) a few chords from a song that I know gets the job done for a great chorus, then work hard to put a great melody on top of that – ideally a melody that you can put a great harmony on top of it. Listen to ‘Your Eyes Cannot Lie for example, the chorus lead melody fits note by note so well with the harmony on top of it, word by word. I just love that stuff. As a songwriter, you just know when you got it right, cause the song starts to write itself. For lyrics, I keep a notepad on my smartphone, full of ideas. I like to find some catchy phrases, things that people would like to shout, sing and scream. Words with meaning rather than just clichés. The Beatles were the masters of this, just look at songs like ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, ‘Strawberry Fields’ or ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, they have such great titles and lyrics. Compared with mediocre stuff like (I won’t mention the artists) ‘I Love You’, ‘ I Need Your Love’ or ‘I Miss You’ songs you tend to forget in 30 seconds. Sometimes we get it wrong, but we always challenge each other to come up with something even better. Someone said that a song is never really finished, it’s just recorded, and that’s very true.

When you wrote the songs for the album, did you do this with a certain voice of vocalist in mind, or did you match the song with the singer on another moment? Did you give vocalists the choice to pick a song that they liked? Did you record songs with more than one vocalist, giving you the freedom to choose on a later moment?
MR: We first wrote the songs with no special vocalist in mind. We felt all the way through that this was going to be a band, and inside our heads a couple of alternatives started to pop up. Soon I asked Germán Pascual, an old friend of mine and a fantastic singer. He had done more metal before, but was immediately interested in doing some AOR. The timing was perfect. I also had Nina Söderquist in mind since years back and I am so pleased to have her onboard too! When we started to test the songs with them, we actually transferred the songs, so it suited them best. The same with Tåve Wanning that do one song on the album. It’s important to always adjust and create the best fit for all.

GE: The process of finding singers was amazing. All the demos had me singing on them, which was alright, but when we heard Nina (Soderquist), Tave (Wanning) and German (Pascual) singing our songs, we just got big smiles on our faces – so much talent and we just loved the way they kind of turned the songs into their own songs. The sexiness of ‘Too Late For Roses’ with Tave, the beauty and power of ‘One Night Away From You’ with Nina and the high notes and edge of ‘Ready For The Moonlight’ with German just blows me away every time I listen to the album.

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Can you elaborate on how you approached or persuaded all that participated on ‘Higher And Higher’? Were there musicians that were not available or that had no interest?
MR: As I mentioned, the artists were popping up in our minds during the process. TrumPeter Svensson was natural to ask since I play with him in Constancia: A good friend and a great drummer! We then engaged my friend, guitarist and producer Fredrik Folkare to mix our album. But he did more than that: He has done some amazing arrangements, adds and also guitars, bass and keyboards. I played with Fredrik in Scudiero. Also Erik Mårtensson is an old friend and great musician, songwriter and producer, so we are very happy that he mastered the album. Martin Hall, our second awesome guitar player is a friend to Germain Pascual and Germain Leth. And talking about Germain, I met him on a rock club and we immediately liked each other. So having him on bass is – as with all our musicians – a true pleasure.

GE: Yeah, the musicians came through pretty quick and very natural, all friends of someone in our team of friends. We did have a few wild ideas for the lead vocals in the early stages though. Leif Sundin from Great King Rat and Matti Alfonsetti from Skintrade, two awesome singers are examples of people that turned us down. Not so much because they didn’t like the music or the offer, they are just so busy and talented people, they got other things going on already that work so well for them.

Knowing that it took you a year to write the album, how long did it take you to record, produce and mix the album? Were all the musicians available in the studio, or do you have some long distance contributions?
MR: We were working approx one half year. But then it sometimes was weeks when we didn’t do anything. We used two different studios and some of the recordings, like for example keyboards, were recorded in my home studio.

GE: We basically used four different studios, one for all the Germain vocals, one for Nina’s vocals, my studio for a lot of the bass, guitar and backing vocals stuff and finally Fredrik Folkare’s studio, where all the final pieces and the mixing were done. Ideally we would have worked more together the whole band at the same time, but it was just not possible with all the busy schedules and travelling that everybody was having at the time.

Are there any plans to perform live with Heartwind?
MR: The 16th of May we had a release party where we played live. A great show! And that really made us hunger for more. So, yes, I really hope we will do some more shows!

Is ‘Higher And Higher’ a one off thing, as you were planning to release an album with the music you like to hear yourself, or will there be a follow up? Is the success of the album important in this decision?
MR: That the album is a success this far, is a true bonus. Thanks everyone for that! I can tell you that during the writing process me and Göran didn’t know exactly what it would end up to, but today it is for sure not a one off thing. We will do more, I am positive! For example, there are ready songs for a follow up written. We are not done, but on our way.

GE: Yes, with all the positive feedback we have gotten, there is no doubt, Heartwind is here to stay! Album #2 is already being written as we speak. And this is just way too much fun to not keep on doing it!

Do you have any other plans now that Heartwind has released its album? What are the members working on beside or after this album?
MR: My band Constancia is not ‘dead’, but I am not sure if we will record a third album. I hope so. Main focus now is Heartwind. The other members have also bands they play in, and this is for sure ok with me and Göran. If the story of Heartwind continues in the same good way, who knows where it will end up to. Hopefully we will have to choose our main band in the future, and that Heartwind will be the one.

GE: I know Martin is working on a great solo piece and German will release something soon with Essence of Sorrow. Nina and Tave have solo careers too and Germain is touring with the Poodles. I guess I am the only one left still with a day job too, hahaha.

This wraps it up for now. Are there things you like to tell our readers, that has not been covered by the above questions?
MR: We are just very happy to experience so much positive reactions. Thank you all who know about us and that listen to our album. I hope to meet as many of you as possible and that our second album will be ready within maximum the same amount of time as we spent on the first album.

GE: We would like to thank everybody who has taken appreciation in our music.. I mean, in the end it’s all about the fans – six months ago we were writing songs in our basement and now we get fan emails from people in Australia, USA, Brazil and all over Europe, it’s is almost hard to believe. Can’t wait to get to album #2 – it will be a killer! Thank you all and stay tuned!

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