Interview: Melodifestivalen 2021’s Anton Ewald On His Entry ‘New Religion,’ New Music, and Life in Miami

We had the absolute pleasure of chatting to Anton Ewald in the run up to his appearance at Melodifestivalen 2021. Anton will be returning to the contest on the 13th of February in semi-final two with his song New Religion. Anton told us what we can expect from his performance from the song to staging and outfits, as well as giving us some details about his new EP, his musical alter-ego Kim Wolfgang, life in Miami, and his Melfest and Eurovision favourites. Thanks for taking the time to chat Anton!

Watch the interview above or read below. You can connect with Anton on his social channels:

Instagram / Kim Wolfgang

Culture Fix: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I’m guessing you’re pretty busy at the moment with the run-up to Melfest?

Anton: Most definitely! It’s crazy right now to be honest with you. I live in Miami, so it has been crazy since I got back to Sweden two months ago. Jet lag? Forget about it. It’s just been work! The first week was fine, I didn’t get any jet lag and then week two – it was like a slap in the face! I was destroyed since the second week.

CF: How was life in Miami?

Technically I still live there, I still have my apartment. It was great, I absolutely love Miami, to be honest with you. I love the people, the food, the ambience, just the vibe in the general, I love the beach obviously. I live right next to the beach. For us Europeans, it feels like you’re living in a tourist resort which is weird but it’s amazing.

CF: Did you miss Sweden at all?

Anton: Oh yeah, most definitely. It’s pretty lonely over there. I don’t have a lot of friends, I don’t know a lot of people – although it’s not that hard to get to know someone in Miami cause literally anyone will start talking to you, then all of a sudden you’re at a dinner. But I don’t have a lot of close friends; all my friends are from Sweden and my family, they all live in Sweden. So it is a little lonely – but what I miss is my friends, family and of course I love the food in Miami, but I really missed Swedish food as well. It’s just different on your palette.

CF: You’re back at Melfest after seven years. That’s so exciting! Do you feel like you know what to expect by returning or are you nervous?

Anton: I’m not nervous yet. This is what people don’t see, we walk up on stage and we stand there in the dark. We have our in-ears which make us able to hear ourselves when we sing because in big arenas you can’t just have a microphone and depend on monitors or speakers as the sound just bounces everywhere. You’d sing out of key, you’d sing off beat. In your in ears it sounds like *click click click click* and then your song starts and at that moment… you’re taking a shit! That’s when I get nervous! Up until that moment I’m pretty calm and I try to stay calm on purpose. I try breathing exercises to keep my cool because if you go up there full of adrenaline it is going to go to shit. You’re going to be too excited and when you get too excited the register in your voice gets heightened so it is harder to singer lower parts and you punch way too hard in the high parts because you’re so hyped. In those four clicks, oh my god, it is like the first time you’ve ever done it – it’s like the first time you’ve ever sing in front of an audience ever.

CF: This year it will be so different with no live studio audience. Do you think that will calm the nerves or make things feel a little stranger?

Anton: I think a little bit of both. I think it will calm the nerves, but it will also be a challenge in a way because a live audience helps motivate you. You get excited, you see thousands of people. The smallest one you can do in Sweden is 10,000 people in the arena. That gets you hyped – you see all these faces just ready for you to give them a show. That helps bring out that little extra push.

CF: As an artist what is that speaks to you about Melodifestivalen and makes you want to be a part of it?

Anton: Good question! I don’t know if anyone has ever asked me that one before. Well it’s the biggest thing we have in Sweden – the biggest thing you can be a part of as a singer, where most people will see you at one specific time. We have millions of TV viewers as well as thousands in the arena. It’s a great opportunity to showcase new music and new artists. It’s so much fun to be honest with you; I’m so happy and grateful that I get to be part of it again because it’s such a joyful experience. Yeah there is a lot of stress and you get nervous, but it is so much fun to be a part of.

In my opinion I make it harder than what it should be myself. I’m part of everything. I don’t go there with just a song that I’m going to stand there and sing – not that there is anything wrong with that. Since I like to put on a show, I like to dance and choreograph my own shows. I set the cameras how I want them to pick up certain steps and from what angle – I’m so involved in everything, but that’s all on myself because I enjoy doing that. I’m not complaining nor am I saying that it’s better to do that, but I have a background as a dancer and choreographer so I’m very used to that and I like to feel that I’m in control everything – however then you end up doing more.

CF: It must be nice to sit back after and think that you have crafted this all. It’s quite special.

Anton: Especially this year. The previous two times I have competed I didn’t write the song, but this year I’ve not only written the song but I’ve also produced the song. Literally 2021 Anton Ewald is all Anton Ewald!

CF: Thinking of your entry New Religion, is it sonically massively different to Natural and Begging?

Yes they are sonically different however, the energy of the song is the same. The joy and groove and the rhythms and the energy are kind of the same. That sound was very popular back then so I didn’t bring that sound with me, but I hope people will still recognise the excitement and energy and joy in the song. What I can tell you about the song is that it is an up-tempo song, I will be dancing. There are a lot of great grooves and rhythms. It is electronic but it is also all very organic. On the song I’m actually playing guitar and bass, mixed with electronic elements and drums. It’s a lot of fun! It’s very epic in moments, very intimate in other moments.

CF: Can you elaborate slightly on some of the themes behind the song?

Anton: It has nothing to do with religion, nothing. It is about the magic, love and chemistry that are created when two scarred hearts come together and collide. It’s a metaphor for that love. We all have baggage: I have baggage, you have baggage, and the next person you meet is going to have their fair share of traumas that have shaped them. When you meet a person you have to deal with their issues, just as they have to deal with your issues.

CF: Begging and Natural hold up so well, so I’m really excited to see the third part of your Melfest journey.

Anton: I’m excited too and I really hope that you guys and the viewers really enjoy. No matter how it goes I will have a tonne of fun in my three minutes. I’m going to do my best and give it my all no matter what happens.

CF: Do you think New Religion could see the launch of a new EP or album?

Anton: I’m actually going to release a new EP shortly after Melodifestivalen. I just decided how many tracks the EP was going to have! I think it’s about five songs, excluding New Religion – so in total six. It might be seven? I think it will be a minimum of six at least. I’m also working on a different music project in America which I’ll also be releasing this year. Just not now, I’m just focussing on Melodifestivalen, but maybe Summer-ish. For that project I go under the name Kim Wolfgang – so Kim is my middle name and Wolfgang comes from my Great Great Grandpa – that was his surname. I didn’t want to just make up a name that was disconnected from me. Check out my social media there will be links to everything. It has nothing to do with Anton Ewald – but I love that project just as much as I love doing the Anton Ewald stuff. Like Diplo, he’s doing three different artist projects: Major Lazer, Silk City and Diplo but it’s all him. I’m very broad and able to do a lot of musically – and I enjoy doing a lot. I can do a lot of different music genres and work with different elements. It’s just a way for me to express extra creativity.

CF: Would you say Kim Wolfgang is more R&B flavoured?

Anton: I would say that. It’s very American and in America urban music is what is popular – more popular than pop right now. It’s more towards darker R&B. It’s a lot of electric guitars and heavy basses, knocking drums and pretty falsettos.

CF: Going back to New Religion, can you give me any teasers about the choreography or staging?

Anton: There will be me and two dancers – just like Begging. It is the same dancers as in Begging – Robin and Daniel, actually Robin helped me choreograph the show. Hopefully it will be reminiscent of Begging but also 2.0. It’s so exhausting! I am dying every rehearsal. Two and a half minutes in, I cannot breathe anymore – the last chorus is just pure will. I thought Begging was exhausted – and you can hear me at the end – but that doesn’t compare to this, I’m dead. I will literally be giving it my all! Reminiscent of Begging but also hopefully a progression from that – that’s what I hope the audience will get out of that.

Begging, 2013

CF: Have you thought about outfits?

Anton: So actually my Mum has made me the outfits for all three of us. It’s all handmade. It sounds cooler than what it actually is when I say it like this, but I’ve never seen it in Melodifestivalen before. It’s nothing crazy though; not like we’re glowing or shooting lasers out of our eyes. Just the craft that it is made with, I’ve never seen before. It’s not an art form that is done a lot in Sweden. It is the UK though! Hopefully you guys will see all the hard work and hours that have gone into it. I can give you a hint! It’s currently in men’s fashion, coming Fall/Winter. It’s getting extremely popular in men’s clothing in these brands that none of us can afford [laughs].

CF: We have to talk about the iconic mirror-effect jacket from Natural!

So you might be reminded of that jacket with the new jacket. That was basically just glued on glass – it was very costumey. This year it’s not costumey – it looks like a designer item. The glass jacket was super dope too, but that was just glass glued on a leather jacket. The glass wasn’t sharp, I wanted it to be real glass but real glass would be way too heavy. We had to sew a certain jacket from a leather jacket that I did have, we had to sew these glass looking material on it for it to stay on. It was sharp; don’t get me wrong, I cut myself on it! It wasn’t effective as real glass would be. It didn’t really shine like real glass would.

Natural, 2014

CF: Thinking more generally about Melfest, are there any songs that you think deserve a bit more love – whether your own or maybe other people’s?

Anton: [Thinking] What was their name!? That was my favourite song that year! I think it was when I competed with Begging or the year after with Natural? It was this rock band. Here’s the thing, I will listen to anything –all different types of genre, a good song is a good song in my opinion. It could be country to EDM. It could be folk music. I’m not married to a genre of music. It was a rock song! They said something about “Lion” in the chorus. They started in cages and they had masks on. The song was so good and the chorus was phenomenal. [Remembers] Outtrigger! [Sings] Echoes! The song was called Echoes. I would also say the year Loreen was competing with My Heart is Refusing Me. What a great song! I’m sad that it didn’t do better – but then she came back and took the whole thing with Euphoria. Also a phenomenal song!

CF: Do you have any all time favourite Eurovision acts?

Anton: I’m being impartial as mine as always the Swedes! I loved Euphoria – that was unbeatable in my opinion. It won so I wasn’t the only one that agreed. To me that was just a monster on its own – an unstoppable force. Roger Pontare had a song that was like a Viking anthem – When Spirits Are Calling My Name. These are two acts are my all time favourites.

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