Veronica Maggio

Close to the heart

This year, Sweden's biggest female musician is celebrating her tenth anniversary as an artist. Even as a child, she knew music was her calling.

"I can't actually remember exactly how it all began. I thought it was strange when my classmates discussed what they wanted to be when they grew up. Didn't they know already? Don't you just know what you'll be? I wanted to go to music class already when I was eight years old."

A sudden and dismal downpour oddly interrupts this baking hot summer's day in Stockholm. The heavens rumble and rain whips the air. Throughout Skansen, visitors are huddling under any cover they can find. Veronica Maggio welcomes me into her dressing room at the Solliden venue. She's due to perform at Sing-along at Skansen the following day. I slink in like a drowned rat. "Hi! I'm glad you came despite the rain. I guess it'll be a wet and dirty interview," Veronica smiles, offering hot coffee.

As a child, Veronica could most often be found in front of the record player. 

"I really listened to the music. I could sit listening for hours without doing anything else at the same time. I felt the music." 

Veronica has a Swedish mother and an Italian father, though her parents divorced when she was young. 
"I spent every other weekend dipping into my dad's bookshelves, looking for Italian music with sad strings and even more depressing lyrics." 
Veronica decided she wanted to be a musician early on. "It was an ambition, but also a source of stress. I remember listening to Vanessa Paradis, who made it big as a 14-year-old with Joe le taxi. I thought, 'Is that doable? How will I manage that?'" 
If there was a stage, Veronica was there: talent shows, karaokes, performances… 

As a 14-year-old, Veronica attended Uppsala Music School, but hadn't come any nearer her dream of being a real musician. She comforted herself with the fact that Madonna didn't gain international fame until she was 26.
"I knew that I wanted to work with music, but didn't really know how to realize it. I sang covers and jazz standards. I knew how I wanted to express myself as a vocalist, but no more than that." 
Through word of mouth, Veronica started working on all kinds of projects as a singer. 

"It was only guys, of course. Some had simple home studios where we recorded our music. They sent me from one place to another. 'So-and-so needs a singer for a track.' It was a learning experience and fun, even if it was only at a very basic level. I started to write a little myself, but was always at the beck and call of others. 'Write a chorus for this beat.' 'Can you do anything with these chords?'"
Her breakthrough came in 2006, with the album Vatten och bröd (Water and Bread). Producer Stefan Gräslund wrote the lyrics and music and sought out a female vocalist. Together they sent a demo to Universal Music in Sweden, which resulted in a recording contract. Veronica, then 25 years old, had finally got her big break.

"I wasn't involved in the production or lyrics. It was fun to try something new, as I usually sang in English and always wrote the lyrics myself. This was totally different." 

"Switching to Swedish was a relief, as I didn't have as many Swedish references to influence me. I didn't listen to especially much music in Swedish. I didn't feel like I was imitating anyone." 

The debut single, Dumpa mig (Dump Me), was released in March 2006 and that summer she went on tour. At the 2007 Grammis Awards, Veronica was named Newcomer of the Year and the ball has kept rolling since. 
Veronica continued along the beaten path and started to write her own lyrics in Swedish. Stefan Gräslund, on the other hand, wanted to reach out internationally and switched to English. 
"Up until then, I'd been singing and writing in English. Swedish felt a little nerdy, but struck a chord in other ways. It felt more honest. More close to the heart." 

Veronica was signed by the record company. Since she hadn't written the music, she didn't have a publishing deal. She was offered one and got "a little overconfident". 
"I was unbelievably naive. I took a few of my old English songs with me. When the publishing guy asked what I was expecting and which artists I envisioned, I said 'Kylie Minogue and Britney Spears.' Suffice to say that's not what happened."
She was recommended to continue writing in Swedish. This dented her self-confidence for writing in English, but her Swedish lyrics continued to deliver the goods. Two years later, Veronica released Och vinnaren är… (And the Winner Is), written and recorded together with Oskar Linnros. The single Måndagsbarn (Monday's Child) became Veronica's first to chart abroad.

Her third album, Satan i gatan (Satan in the Street), was released in 2011 and involved collaborations with, among others, Christian Walz, Markus Krunegård, and Carl Wikström Ask. The album went straight in at number one in the Swedish album charts, and all eleven tracks charted as singles. During the first week of its release, Satan i gatan represented 30 percent of all album sales in Sweden. And the first day alone, it reached 1.5 million streams on Spotify. It was a crazy year, with 60 sold-out concerts. 
"It's great to be able to continually step things up. I love performing live and I've had the opportunity to play more and larger gigs." 

Are there any downsides to being one of Sweden's biggest artists?
"I feel that there are more and more expectations and increasing pressure. I'm always being weighed, measured, and observed. Sometimes I get paranoid and think that people want to see me fail. But I'm really happy to be able to do what I do." 
Veronica feels that her job gets better and better.

"It's more fun to write now, less forced and less random. I've learned what triggers my inspiration. I really enjoy immersing myself in words and melodies. In the beginning, I saw it more as a job. I forced myself to stay up all night and laid on the kitchen floor suffering from angst. 'Maybe things will work better if I drink a bottle of wine?' It was more forced back then…" 

"It's more enjoyable now. My approach is a sort of ordered chaos. Many people have called me results-oriented and that's probably true, even though I wouldn't say so myself. I don't get up at seven thirty every morning and write, but if I've set a goal then I have trouble letting go. I'm a bit like a terrier. For me, it really is 'a real job'. After ten years, I know better, find it easier to get inspired, and am better at having music as my profession."
One way to make music creation more enjoyable is to collaborate with different people. 

"It's a way to channel your inspiration and boost your energy. I've still got that nomadic behavior from my studio days, when I drifted from one project to another, doing various short stints. I need others to help me move forwards. In some ways, I'm like a parasite. I need to collaborate!"  

In recent times, Veronica has collaborated with Niki & The Dove and Maja Francis, among others. 
"It's been such great fun. We hit an impasse at one point, so we took a break and went out instead. When I was younger, I was harder on myself. Now I know that creativity comes when it comes. You can't force it."
Together with Maja Francis, she's evened the score on her old English numbers. 

"I remembered myself as a terribly bad songwriter in English, but Maja and I are friends and she asked me for help. We wrote some new material together with Petter Winnberg, whom we both love. It was magical and just so natural and from the heart. It feels good to have evened the score!"

As a lyricist, Veronica often conjures up vivid scenes. She's inspired by mental images. 
"Ideas can pop up when I'm sitting in a darkened cinema or traveling, or if I hear particular sounds, such as a synthesizer that's reminiscent of a rainy night. When I drift away. Ever since I was little, I've felt as though I have a camera in my forehead. I've always seen everything from the outside in a way. I'm an observer." 

How does being an observer fit in with being a superstar who plays all the biggest venues?
"As an artist, you really are an observer – even if you're the center of attention. It's like being an animal at the zoo. I don't think the animals feel like the main attraction. I long for a connection; that's what I strive for. To be present in someone's headphones. To during a performance get that magical feeling that we're all one." 

Songwriters Veronica likes
Nina Persson. She always writes beautiful lyrics and melodies.
Säkert! Annika Norlin's Swedish alter ego. 
And I have to say Simon & Garfunkel. I like how they set the scene in their songs. They have a story to tell rather than lyrics that rhyme. It's almost cinematic. I used to think about translating their lyrics into Swedish.                      
Stockholm Olympic Stadium
In August, Veronica Maggio became one of the first female artists to sell out Stockholm Olympic Stadium, or Stadion as it's known colloquially. "It was a mixture of horror and delight. I'll never forget that night. The hours felt like minutes and everything was like a dream. It was a magical evening. As soon as I left the stage, I wanted to go back out and do it all again." 

The album Den första är alltid gratis
"The latest album shows more vulnerability and honesty than the previous ones. I like when it's nighttime, it's hectic, and things are happening, but it doesn't always have to be under the neon lights of a club. I'm especially pleased that the new album isn't so much 'I take life lightly'." 

Veronica Maggio and Spotify have evolved together. She's the most streamed Swedish female artist ever. She reached this position already back in 2011, with 133 million streams. Satan i gatan was the first Swedish album to generate more money from streaming than physical sales. On the first day alone, it reached 1.5 million streams.

As a 20-year-old, Veronica was frustrated that her music career hadn't taken off, so she started reading journalism at the School of Journalism in Stockholm. 
"I wanted to do something meaningful of the fact that I liked words and to write. I thought it'd be interesting to meet people and tell their stories. But already in high school, my media studies teacher said, 'Veronica, you'd best stick to fiction. You have trouble keeping to the truth.' I always wanted to make things more colorful and dramatic than they maybe were." Veronica dropped out of the course, but is keen to write something more substantial. 

"Song lyrics are so compressed. Sometimes I really want to add another verse. But it doesn't work musically to write ten verses… A few days ago, I actually googled about creative writing courses… Regardless of whether it's a lyric, a novel, a short story, or a film, they all come down to the same thing: capturing someone's attention with that first sentence and then holding it until the last." 

Veronica is well versed in making up stories. Her 5-year-old son Bosse expects at least one made-up story a day. 
"If I'd written them all down, I'd have a book of children's stories by now!"

Veronica Maggio                                          
Age: 35
Family: Boyfriend Klas and son Bosse, 5
Lives in: Stockholm
Background: Has released the albums Vatten och bröd (Water and Bread, 2006), Och vinnaren är… (And the Winner Is, 2008), Satan i gatan (Satan in the Street, 2011), and Handen i fickan fast jag bryr mig (Hand in My Pocket Though I Do Care, 2013). Has won several Swedish Grammis and, among other awards, P3's Golden Microphone for Best Live Act. 
Current: The new album Den första är alltid gratis (The First One Is Always Free).

Artists in Veronica's headphones
I Break Horses
Rita Pavone
The National
Electric Youth
Niki & The Dove
Elliott Smith

Veronica Maggio and STIM
Works registered with STIM: 78
First registered work: 2006

Most radio plays:
Hey brother (Avicii)
Välkommen in
Sergels torg
Jag kommer
17 år
Hela huset