Peter Moren has been performing songs since he was a 10-year-old in the small Swedish village of Vika, learning to compose music in English by listening to British rock and covering Bob Dylan at pizza parlours. Despite the undeniable success of his primary band (Peter, Bjorn, and John) Moren’s first recorded solo effort is an introspective album about doubts and failures. As he himself explains, "Flaws and mistakes are much more interesting, both personally and professionally." Entitled The Last Tycoon, after the Elia Kazan film, Moren alludes to the similarities between the current state of music–the "end of an era"–and the era depicted in the Kazan film, when "talkies" were replacing silent movies. While the album tackles such serious concepts, it still comes across as a sweet pop album, filled with Beatlesque melodies and certain charm.
How do you feel about lyrics in music? Are they the focal point? Are they a distraction?
Sometimes it’s nice to listen to instrumental music, of course. But when it comes to pop songwriting I would say that they are 90% the focal point. Not that they always have to be deep or meaningful. They can just be rhythmical and sound good, but they gel the whole thing together.
Do you draw inspiration from fiction, films, music? Do you often write autobiographically?
I draw inspiration from pretty much everything that is going on around me, including the things you mentioned. Often a song starts for me with an inspiring line or a title, which I might have gotten from a book, film, record, or exhibition. But when I actually write the whole thing, I always reach back to myself and my personal experiences; most of the songs are about that. But the things I go through, most people go through, so I think it communicates.
What is your approach to translating recorded songs to the live setting?
I like to change it around and play with it. Maybe play a soft song louder or a loud song softer. Add or lose textures. I find it boring when concerts are like the records. Live, it should be more loose and playful.
What music did you grow up listening to? Do you feel that your sound now incorporates the music of your upbringing, or denounces it?
First, my daddy’s records like Electric Light Orchestra, ABBA, Elvis Presley, and the Bee Gees, and current pop like A-Ha and The Housemartins. Then I got heavily into the Beatles, Beach Boys, Byrds, Kinks, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon. I like more music now than ever in different genres, but I still feel I have closeness to my roots, basically classic pop songwriting.
Was there a particular album that made you first consider becoming a musician?
There was a TV show with the Swedish king of rock ‘n’ roll, a sort of Swedish Elvis, called Jerry Williams. His guitarist looked so cool that it made me want to play guitar.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Writing better and better songs every day. But mostly trying to learn from my mistakes in the personal field and becoming a better human being, friend, and boyfriend.
How did where you grew up influence your exposure to music and your tastes in music?
I grew up in the ’80s, way out in the countryside in Sweden, a small village. There wasn’t much exposure to music, apart from local heavy metal bands and folk music, radio, and TV. My parents weren’t heavily into buying records, and I didn’t have big brothers or sisters whose taste influenced me. But I think by being bored by the surroundings, I got more heavily into finding music I liked and amused myself and learned through listening closely to it, over and over. There weren’t proper record stores in that area, so I had to shop on vacations.
Is the concept of "the album" important, or are you more invested in songs as individual experiences?
I like the idea of putting songs together in a certain order, with a package of artwork and lyrics. I think you lose something when you just download individual songs. Or at least lose some of the artist’s ideas. But maybe that’s just my own vanity. I never think about concepts when I write songs, though. I just write.
Are you a proponent of music theory education and vocal training, or do you believe artists should just do their thing?
Training can be good, like the ability to write scores and arrangements. I wish I could do that. But when it comes to singing I almost always think training gets in the way of natural expression. I like it pure. But I could be wrong.
Is there anything about music as a business and industry that is off-putting to you?
Almost everything about it. As Elvis Costello said, "I wanna bite the hand that feeds me."
What have you always wanted to do, but haven’t yet?
Do a children’s music record in Swedish, and have kids.
What are three things that you love?
My girlfriend, my guitar, and lots of food.
What makes you unhappy?
The environmental situation, and stupid right-wing politicans in Sweden privatizing everything to make a profit, including the caretaking of the elderly, schools, and medication. On a more shallow note: being hungry.
What recent albums or artists are you enjoying?
My friend Tobias Fröberg’s new album (Turn Heads), Vampire Weekend, Cass McCombs, Anna Järvinen, Papercuts, and lots more.
Visit Peter Moren at MySpace.
Identity Theory’s recommended listening: "My Match" and "Le Petit Couer " by Peter Moren