ABOVE: ERIK HASSLE. PHOTO BY SANTIAGO FELIPE
Erik Hassle is a 26-year-old singer-songwriter with an intense, haunting voice. He’s had a number of successful singles on the charts in the U.K. and Europe, in particular “Hurtful” and “Don’t Bring Flowers.” He toured the U.K. with Mika in 2010. Hassle is also the songwriter for “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” which he penned for pop divas Shakira and Rihanna; its sexually charged music video has more than 260,000,000 views on YouTube. Hassle, originally from Sweden, is currently living in Los Angeles and seems to be enjoying his new lush environment—though at times he misses the cold weather and change of seasons. That’s clear evidence that Hassle is idiosyncratic and a young man who marches to the beat of his own drum. Of course, he’s also a tall, sultry ginger. His independence is displayed in the music video we’re pleased to premiere below, “Ready For You,” which is Hassle’s paean to nature and contemplation. His self-professed aesthetic is minimalism and simplicity—unlike the usual music video pyrotechnics, the video features the back of Hassle’s head in profile as he gazes off into the Californian sunset.
GERRY VISCO: Erik, you’re in Los Angeles right now?
ERIK HASSLE: Yes, I’m in L.A. right now, rehearsing.
VISCO: So is that where you live or are you just staying right now?
HASSLE: I actually live here. I’ve been here for one and a half years, but mentally, I’m here as a guest. That’s what makes it so much fun.
VISCO: You’re going on tour now?
HASSLE: The plan is to go out and record a little of my EP, just as a taste of my forthcoming album, but I’m having my first performance in years this Friday, here in L.A. It’s just a two-song show; it’s going be a lot of fun.
VISCO: Where are you going to be performing—what venue?
HASSLE: At a nightclub called Teddy’s.
VISCO: When are you coming to New York?
HASSLE: I was in New York recently working for a week, but I think I’ll probably be coming back at the end of May.
VISCO: You have these two songs that you’re doing videos for, but do you have a sense of the timetable for your forthcoming album?
HASSLE: It’s hard to tell, but I think we’ll be going with the single in September, and then see the response. I think the plan is to get the album out early next year.
VISCO: What would you say the theme is? Is it different from your usual music? How would you describe it?
HASSLE: I think that the EP shows some of the sides of where I am now with my music, living here. I’ve been doing music for a long time but in different environments. Here in L.A. I’ve had my first experience of discovering myself as a creator. Musically, it’s much more in a soul direction that I’ve always been in love with. What I’m doing now is my take on soul.
VISCO: It seemed like the videos have that feel to them, very soulful but also peaceful, like you’re focusing inwards.
HASSLE: It’s like music as therapy.
VISCO: What’s it been like living in L.A. for the last year and a half?
HASSLE: L.A. has been really inspiring towards me for the last one and a half years. There is a lot going on here now. I’ve been here before, when I was younger, but I’ve never had this feeling about it. There are a lot of creative things bubbling in the atmosphere. It’s so far away from everything else, which makes it a strange, exotic city. When you want to discover yourself, I think this is a good place to be. You don’t feel like you are in a real place and I think that can be very good for making music or art.
VISCO: Have you built up a Los Angeles network of people?
HASSLE: I know a lot of people here. I go out a lot to shows. Stockholm is a really small city, but I’m starting to get the kind of the same feeling in L.A. You see the same people around, doing the same things as you, and it’s comforting, it’s nice.
VISCO: Do you have a partner now, a relationship of some sort?
HASSLE: No, I don’t.
VISCO: Well, you alluded to something like that in your Vogue interview, talking about different relationships that you went through.
VISCO: But you’re meeting good people, you’re making good friends?
HASSLE: I’m trying to have balance. I’ve been with the same Swedish label, and they are like family. It’s TEN, a small independent label called with some good Swedish acts trying to get their music heard over here. We take care of each other since we are all trying to do the same thing. It’s been a smooth re-introduction to L.A. It’s a good feeling, like we’re in this together.
VISCO: How did writing this song for Shakira and Rihanna come about?
HASSLE: I always go in very emotionally when I’m doing music. Sad or happy, I’m always into it. I have a hard time writing for other people, writing with someone else in mind. I’ve done a lot of songs this year, and I’ve had a lot of things to say. That song was just one of many songs that went out on its trip and ended up there. That’s great, though, I’m happy about it.
VISCO: When did you start playing music professionally?
HASSLE: I was 17, still in school, and my manager saw me in school and then we hooked up and after that, I went straight into making music.
VISCO: Are you mainly a singer, or do you play instruments too?
HASSLE: I’m definitely a singer, but I play. I write music too, but it’s all coming from the same source. I have never learned an instrument any other way than by myself.
VISCO: When you perform, do you have a band with you, or how do you do that?
HASSLE: I’m going to start off with an amazing musician/producer/DJ, who is taking a big responsibility, he is like a one-man band who follows me and produces the songs with me live. I will have maybe three backup singers too. In the beginning, it’s always a struggle for a band to have everything they want on tour, but you can have fun with it in minimal set ups combined with the success we are hoping to have.
VISCO: Would you say the musical taste is different in Sweden from here?
HASSLE: Of course America and Europe are getting closer to each other. In the U.S. you’ve always had hip-hop, the blues, soul, and rock. For the last decade, there has always been a lot of electronic music in Europe. When I was just at Coachella, I noticed how the music they play there has become electronic, techno, deep house—you know, more European—so I think it’s more similar than before.
VISCO: What kind of person are you?
HASSLE: I was brought up with a lot of love in my family, and I’ve always been supported. My family has always protected me in a sort of manic way.
VISCO: And have you written all the songs for your new album yet, or are you still in the process?
HASSLE: I never stopped writing. They keep coming, you know. But I could be done. Whenever we decide to make that short list, the songs are there.
VISCO: I read that this is your debut album, but didn’t you do some albums back in Sweden?
HASSLE: Yes, I released my first album when I was 18 in Sweden, and I got signed in the U.S. and the UK, so I lived there for a while and toured over here. I was really young and it was a rough introduction to gather some strength and come back with more wisdom.
VISCO: It seems like you did well in the UK, you had several successful releases there.
HASSLE: Yeah it was really good during the first year.
VISCO: So you were a bit precocious in that way?
VISCO: It says also that you used to play football, right?
HASSLE: Yeah, that’s true.
VISCO: Do you still play?
HASSLE: No, I watch it more than I do it. But I love it. Football is still a meditation for me.
VISCO: Is that real football or soccer?
HASSLE: Soccer, we don’t have American football in Sweden.
VISCO: You were inspired by performers such as Wilson Pickett and David Bowie. Anything you want to say about that?
HASSLE: I stumbled into soul music at a very young age. It had something that really spoke to me. Nowadays it’s not only American gospel or soul music, it’s whenever somebody decides to do music in a way that’s honest and passionate. I got into the Motown songs. It had to do with where I come from—we don’t really have that where I come from, the sense of mystery and the pain. Sweden has been a wealthy and happy country for some time now. I think I got really drawn to that.
VISCO: What do you miss about Sweden, though, now that you’re in the states?
HASSLE: I miss my family, of course, but I miss the summers. They’re beautiful. People go nuts when the spring comes. They try to make the most out of every sunny day and people start using the outside environment as their party and that’s a beautiful thing. I think I’ll be going back for a month or so during the summer.
VISCO: How about the videos? They’re both very contemplative and lovely, but anything you want to say about them in terms of the theme?
HASSLE: It’s a very simple way for me with the EP, so I decided to do videos with the images that for me portrayed the songs. Very minimalistic in terms of what happens. It looks a lot like a still picture.