Erik Hassle is only 25 but he has been in the game long enough to know when it is time to take a break to reevaluate life, work, and relationships. After a two-year hiatus and time back home in Sweden, Hassle is back in Los Angeles and back in the booth working on his new album. This time around he says he feels more comfortable in the studio and has found his stride. His new sound is a dark departure from the music he made in the past. His writing reflects on the time he spent in Stockholm and London, the full spectrum of a relationship and how he eased himself into another one—all the trials and tribulations of being a male in his mid-twenties.
On his single “Talk About It,” which will be released on November 5, Hassle touches on the hardships of being in a relationship with someone that means everything to you. Hassle’s voice is heartfelt and soulful with a few characteristics that are reminiscent of early Prince. He prides himself on taking his life experiences and channeling them into lyrics that his listeners can identify with.
We were able to catch up with him while he drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for his first trip to Sin City.
Why did you take time off from making music?
Well, I never really stopped making music but I decided to stay in Stockholm for a while, I really just took a break from leaving Stockholm. I stayed in Sweden for almost two years, I needed the time to catch up with myself. I started doing all of this when I was so young and life as an artist can feel a little bit isolated and I just felt a little bit like I needed to take care of my life, love, and relationships. I just needed to take it easy for a little while but I was writing all the time.
After a while I was longing to come back to the states. About a year ago I had a meeting with my manager in Stockholm while I was working on some music and he told me that I should just drop everything and buy a plane ticket to L.A. and see where it takes me. So I booked a flight just for a week and I don’t know but everything that I experienced those two years in Stockholm left me with a lot to say. I came into quite a creative flow while I was there that first week and I ended up staying for three months and then I went back to [Sweden] to pick up some more of my clothes. Then people started hearing the music I was making and I decided to stay in Los Angeles.
What did you learn about yourself while you were taking your break?
I learned the most while I was writing music this last year actually. Without knowing it myself I was kind of taking notes of my life, in a way, through these songs. In the beginning when I was writing I had this perspective of myself, I was looking at a person that was living life and making his mistakes trying to cope with love. I am kind of a junkie for writing, it is like my own therapy. I think I was carrying a lot of things when I came here that I was able to get out in my songs.
I have always been a big soul fan. I have always appreciated the vocals in soul music. I think this time around I started writing a lot more lyrically and when I had lyrics or a theme then I started creating the music. When I spent two years in Stockholm I was able to get closer to a more soulful direction in my music. I think that I needed to get some time to live life so that I could collect things to write about. I wanted to write naked lyrics that were social and realistic.
I have so much material now that I am going to use on my album. The songs cover the start of a relationship, the relationship as it goes on, the end of the relationship, the verge of a new relationship and the time in between. They are mostly dark… I have been writing things in the moment rather than looking back.
It is like drugs, when you reach that high and you feel like everything is okay. What happened before or after that does not matter anymore. It just feels good to get it out.
Does writing about your experiences help you move on?
I think it makes it easier because I have an attraction to creating something. I get inspired by everything that happens—both horrible and fantastic experiences. You need to hit the lows to get high and the other way around. For me, making a song that feels true to what I want to say in all aspects from how the chords go with the lyrics and how the melody pushes the write emotion—that feeling makes everything feel right in that moment. It is like drugs, when you reach that high and you feel like everything is okay. What happened before or after that does not matter anymore. It just feels good to get it out.
Who is the song “Talk About It” about?
It is about a girl that was not treating a friend of mine very well. That is where the idea came from, it was a little bit of a ‘little red corvette’ situation where he just had a feeling that he was not the only ducky, so to speak. I think this girl managed to make everyone very attached to her. I think she got a rush from playing that high-risk game. He was so scared of losing her. He was so upset and sad but he was so afraid of saying anything because the satisfaction that he got from being with her was also very valuable. He was afraid that if he would demand anything from her it would all get fucked up. It was love and a relationship on one woman’s terms. It is never black and white you know? We made a video for that song and it portrays the story from her perspective. Everyone always has their reasons and the video shows what it is like to be her.
So, it is not about something that happened to you?
Well, I can relate to it myself as well. I think I have been close to experiencing that but the idea for the song came from that specific friend since I had to hear him moan about it every single day.
If you were talking to someone that had never heard your music before how would you describe it for them?
I would say that it is… that is actually a good question. I would say that I do soul music and that I am privileged to have found a way to communicate the things that I feel. I see everything in color and I see how the randomness of life can be so beautiful. The easiest answer though is to ask them to listen to it and to see if they feel it.
How is the album coming along?
Well, this experience has been a bit of revelation for me since I am writing on beat. I always used to make my songs from scratch, I was used to writing and producing side by side at the same time. I have so many great producers back home that I have written with in that way but when I got to L.A. I was lucky to get some really good beats from some great producers that I really admire. When I got those tracks the chord and the groove told me what the song should be about then I added my lyrics to it and when those two worlds meet it becomes something that I could never do by myself. It has been so refreshing for me to work like that. It is quite new to me, not being a rapper. Working like that has been so inspiring. The thing about it though, is that you do not always get a full instrumental, it could only be the drums that leads you to an emotion. It forces you to focus, it is so easy to get stuck when you have to do everything yourself.
You mentioned rap music, are you a fan?
Yeah! Absolutely. I love it.
Who are some artists you look up to?
I listen to a lot of music. I look up to anyone that lets you feel their experiences. I get so inspired by everyone from David Bowie to Tupac. I grew up listening to a lot of Motown but I also love modern R&B. I am a big fan of European house music as well like techno and deep house. I listen to everything, shit even classical music. It is so refreshing to hear something good. There is so much music, I know that as an artist I have not had time to listen to everything that I know I should listen to. I think I could spend my whole life finding new music. When I find new music I like to give it some time. I like to go through an artist properly. I did it with Prince, Michael Jackson, Jeff Buckley. I like to give them the time they deserve. I love that I do not know everything.
Tell me about your experiences growing up. Were your parents always supportive of your choice to do music?
Yes, they were really, really supportive. I grew up in the countryside in Sweden. My mom and dad were always interested in music and it has always been something that was always in my life in a way. They are not musicians themselves but their friends are musicians and music was always around me. When I was about eight years old we moved down to a big house and there was a smaller house that was also on the property. They fixed up the house and turned it into a venue for the village. It was a small village, only about 600 people but they started having shows there. It was really nice for a child to grow up around and join in.
My manager found me when I was 17, we met the for the first time at the school I was in. He had heard that there was show for my school and he wanted to see if there was anyone good. He came up to me after and asked me to meet with some of his writers so I went down and we made a song and it felt good. About a month later we made another song and then I got signed by them. That was a long time ago now but that is how I got into it all. I knew that it was what I wanted to do because I felt so comfortable in that environment of being in the studio and making music.
Erik Hassle is currently working on his next full-length album and plans to tour North America in early 2014.