The Neo Interview!

  • Reading time:16 mins read
  • Post category:Interviews


This year’s Melodifestivalen was undoubtedly the year of the exciting debutante! It’s always a struggle to compete when you’re new, especially against seasoned professionals that have been doing it for years. But it’s even more of a struggle to be noticed if you’ve also got so many other new faces and voices competing too. How do you stand out?! Well, quite simply, if your song and performance are both of a mindblowing standard, then you’ll certainly manage to be seen and heard! And Neo certainly had both song and performance on his side. In week 4, ‘Human Frontier’ thrust itself upon a contest that was already weary by the time the 4th heat had come around, woke everybody up with its frantic, energetic, synth laden, OTT BPM intro, and positively captivated a nation thanks to Neo’s impressively flawless performance of it. Every camera angle was met with a smile, every choreographed dance move was completed accurately, and most importantly, every vocal was delivered perfectly. A confidence that betrayed his inexperience.

As a result, whilst his competitors battle for supremacy on the singles chart, Neo has gone one further and secured a top 10 new entry in the much more important album chart this week. Sweden obviously sees this guy as more than just the one hit. And they’re right of course. The ‘Human Frontier’ album is a re-issue of his ‘One’ album which was released last year. An album of uptempo pop tracks with catchy melodies and wonderful sounds. In the last 12 months, the album and its songs have secured him a lot of attention on the worldwide blogosphere, and they’ve also earned him two nominations in the 2010 scandipop awards (a fact which in turn earned scandipop a mention at this year’s Melodifestivalen, during Neo’s intro!). And now that he’s finally blowing up in Sweden, other countries are wanting several pieces of him too, and the album is set to be released in lots of other territories in the coming months (Neo talks more about that below). So before he gets too big, and whilst he’s still based in Stockholm, we wanted to meet up with him to chat to him about pretty much everything. And he agreed. And here’s what was said……..

But first, here’s THAT performance again!

scandipop: So Neo, the last few months have probably been a bit hectic for you, to put it lightly! Have you got your sanity back yet?!

Neo: No, ha ha! It’s weird, for the first few days after the second chance round…’re out of the competition, but the competition is still going on, and you’re involved in it somehow anyway. It’s a really weird feeling that you’re in this bubble all of the time. And during that week the bubble starts to pop. And you both enjoy it because you can see the results of your work, and you panic because you’re worried that everything is over! So it’s weird. But I’m starting to feel sane again!

scandipop: And did you fully expect Melodifestivalen to be the circus that it is? Or were even you shocked?

Neo: I was shocked. I thought it was a circus anyway, before my week, the Malmo week. But when it came to my week I was shocked! When it came to Saturday night after the show, I started to feel so unwell because the week had been so hectic for me, to an extent which I hadn’t expected. And since I went to andra chansen, I had two weeks of it. Being in Aftonbladet and Expressen every day for two weeks! So I didn’t expect that no. And then to get the pressure as well from the betting lists! That was also weird.

scandipop: Yeah I remember seeing the betting lists that week actually. The clips of the heat 4 songs had been made available online, and the betting lists had put you, an artist who hadn’t even performed their song yet, down as being more likely to win the competition than some acts that had already qualified to the final, like Ola! So that must have been a lot of pressure on you.

Neo: Exactly. I didn’t feel too much pressure, but you always have it at the back of your head, and you’re always thinking about what they say. So in the case of the andra chansen week, you’re standing there against Kalle Moraeus and you think that you’re safe……but, ha ha, obviously you’re not!

scandipop: It was your first year in the contest. And you were placed in heat 4, which was quite a tough heat. But you managed to qualify to andra chansen which was good! But what were your expectations before that night? As a first timer.

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Neo: Well again, with the betting lists at the back of my mind, of course I was hoping that I was going to finish in the top 5 on the night. It’s like the angel and the devil on each shoulder. The angel is telling you that you should be modest and just hope for the best. And then the devil is telling you that you’re safe! But before the betting lists came out, I really was’t expecting anything at all. I was just hoping not to come last! But then…..

scandipop: …….by hearing Py Backman’s song, you realised that wasn’t going to happen?

Neo: ha ha, yes!

scandipop: And then what were your expectations going into andra chansen?

Neo: For andra chansen I didn’t really know what to expect. Of course I was aiming for Globen, but after my heat I realised that as a newcomer it was quite an achievement to have made it to the second chance! So all I was thinking about was to perhaps change a few elements of the performance to make it a better performance. Because andra chansen is so hard to guess. Firstly there are so many good songs, Pauline, Alcazar, Pain of Salvation, were all of my favourites. And Kalle Moraeus was one of my favourites too, it’s such a beautiful song! And you’re duelling, so it’s harder to guess. I think it would have been easier to guess if you were just competing against everyone. I don’t like the duelling thing.

scandipop: Yeah I don’t like the duelling thing either. The thing about it is that often, people aren’t voting for their favourite song, but rather voting against their least favourite artist. It’s alright for a new artist like yourself, but if you’ve been going for some time and have built up a fanbase, you’ve often got a lot of people that resent you as well, and who might find it fun to vote against you. I think that’s where Carola came undone in 2008, and BWO in 2009.

Neo: Yes. That is why it was such a surprise that Pernilla got through. That’s the same thing, she’s very popular, but she has a lot of people that don’t like her too.

scandipop: Would you enter again?

Neo: Yes of course! But with the right song.

scandipop: So you enjoyed it?

Neo: Yes I enjoyed it. The first week, like I said, was really hectic. And I can’t say that I enjoyed the first week. But the second week I enjoyed. And now when you see the results of your work and you see what you have done. Next time I will be able to be more in the situation. I don’t want to enter again just for the sake of it. If I get a good song and feel like ”this is the song”, then I’ll do it. And maybe it’s good to wait a while first.

scandipop: Oh of course yes, you shouldn’t do it too often, because artists that do, often feel a backlash.

Neo: Yes exactly. So you should really take your time and think about it really carefully. Many of the songwriters are talking about it already and starting to think about it, but I have a lot of time to think about it. And for me, success isn’t even the main thing. I was happy that when I did the rehearsals, I got a lot of good comments and feedback in the press from the critics. That for me is almost worth more, when you get a good reputation in the business…..

scandipop: ……from people who are always so critical.

Neo: Exactly. That for me is the greatest reward.

scandipop: And this was the first year that you’ve entered. Had you actually submitted songs before? Or was it the first year you submitted songs too?

Neo: Yes. We sent almost the whole album last year. It had just been completed, and then Melodifestivalen came up and we thought ”let’s try”! So we tried that and we got 1 song on the top 100 list, and a great response from Christer Bjorkman. He was very interested, but he said that I was just too new! And then this year we sent in 3 songs, and all of them ended up on the top 100. But in the end, ‘Human Frontier’ was the right song I think.  It’s more me, and it’s more like what I’ve done so far, the rest of the album. Because you know the Star Pilots song, ‘I’m Alive’? Well that was me singing it when it was submitted to Melodifestivalen this year. But I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with the Star Pilots, that’s not me. It wouldn’t have suited my style really.

scandipop: So if that had have qualified, would it have been Star Pilots featuring Neo?

Neo: Well that’s what we talked about really. I wouldn’t have wanted it to be just Star Pilots, because I wouldn’t want people to think that I’m a new member of that band. And I didn’t want to do a featuring thing either, I just wanted to do the solo thing.

scandipop: Yeah I think the best thing happened in the end.

Neo: Yes, me too.

scandipop: So….your profile has gone through the roof in Sweden now. Do you feel any different walking through the streets of Sweden now that so many more people know who you are?

Neo: The first week people recognised me, and I noticed that they were watching me, but now it’s back to normal!

scandipop: No it’s not! I noticed a few people looking at you when you came in here!

Neo: Oh! Well then perhaps I’m getting used to it, ha ha!

scandipop: This week, your album ‘Human Frontier’ entered at number 9 in the Swedish album charts. It’s a re-issue of your debut album ‘One’. But what happened with ‘One’ originally? Was it ever properly released in Sweden, did it chart? Because you had one hit single in December 2008, and then nothing until now. What happened in between then, release wise?

Neo: Well, then we released the single ‘Flower Power Supergirl’ as well. But in Sweden it’s really hard to be a newcomer. Especially when you do this kind of uptempo plastic pop! So you really need Melodifestivalen or Idol. So it didn’t really get a chance. Lots of radio stations and television stations were interested, and saying ”oh it’s really good and we really like it, but it’s not known yet”. But then how will it get known if they don’t play it?!?! And then abroad I’ve got a lot of deals ready to go. In Russia they’re very interested, and in the UK too. But the record labels and the music industry in general is going downhill, and everyone’s scared to invest in new artists, especially international artists. And so we were waiting and waiting. But now it’s really nice because now it’s taken off in Sweden, and now that we have waited so long, we can say that no – we aren’t waiting any longer, so do it now, or we’re going to another label. And then with Warner we have deals in place in around 40 countries. Japan….China is actually releasing the album…..this week I think……Australia, Germany….

scandipop: How about the rest of Scandinavia?

Neo: I’m not sure about Iceland and Finland, but yes in Norway and Denmark.

scandipop: And the UK?

Neo: Hopefully soon. Warner have three months from now to release it whilst it’s hot. Otherwise, we’ll go elsewhere! But I hope so. I’m very curious about the UK.

scandipop: They really should make a go of it in the UK. I think it could work there. There’s nobody else doing that kind of music there at the moment. Although you’re probably tired of Mika comparisons already, and you may get a lot of comparisons there, seeing as how he’s been so popular there.

Neo: Yeah, now I understand the Mika comparisons more than I did before. He had a concert here at the weekend and I saw pictures from it. And now I realise I should have looked more at Mika before I entered Melodifestivalen. Because now I realise…the clothes! I didn’t realise that he does that gentric style. I didn’t know that. And if I had known that, then I would have gone in a totally different direction.

scandipop: I’m glad you didn’t though, because I thought that the look you had really suited you.

Neo: I did too! But I’m tired of being compared to Mika now, ha ha! I like his music and I like him as an artist. It’s just that people think I’m copying him.

scandipop: It’s unfair really. The only similarities are the falsetto voice and the curly hair!

Neo: Exactly, and Leo Sayer was the first for goodness sake!

scandipop: So when are you going to go into the studio to make new music?

Neo: I’m not sure really. It depends on how things go with this album, what my schedule will be. But I’d like to go in and make new songs soon, in May. I’d actually really like to have a new album ready before the end of the year, since I’ve been working with this album for so long. Obviously I’d like this album to reach the potential I believe it has, but at the same time, I want people to know that I’m still working hard.

scandipop: And finally…..are you going to take any time off to rest now? Because you must be so tired!

Neo: No! You know this past year since ‘One’ was released, everything has taken so much time, that I had a lot of time off to prepare for this. So now, obviously Melodifestivalen was tough, but I’ve got lots of energy now and I just want to do everything. Maybe in August or something I’ll take a vacation!

So there you go……Neo: available in a record store near you soon. In no matter what country you live in, by the looks of it!

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