It’s been a little over seven years since Erik Hassle – perhaps better known around these parts as my Swedish Ginger Bae – first stole my heart with his stunning and underappreciated 2009 debut Hassle, which was later released as Pieces in U.S in 2010. In the years since, Erik has smartly and carefully curated a space for himself in the pop music arena.
As a songwriter, Erik‘s had a hand in crafting some superb pop releases over the past few years, including Shakira and Rihanna‘s “Can’t Remember To Forget You,” Icona Pop‘s “Emergency,” and most recently, “Cruel” by Snakehips and Zayn Malik – and he’s still writing for others (more on that later).
As a singer in his own right, he’s supplied us with a number of high quality Swede-esque, soul-pop solo tracks: From the glorious stuff of his debut Pieces – “Hurtful” and “Don’t Bring Flowers” – to We Dance standout “Stay” to 2014’s Somebody’s Party EP, the prequel to his latest full-length album Innocence Lost, available everywhere today (January 27).
The 12-track collection – including the previously released “No Words” and “If Your Man Only Knew,” Somebody”s Party EP cuts “Pathetic,” “Talk About It” (feat. Vic Mensa) and “Innocence Lost (feat. Tinashe),” as well as his Gorgon City cut from their debut Sirens, “FTPA” – is a impressively sophisticated set of intimate and emotional, moody (and sometimes devastating) pop gems, brimming with smooth-sailing grooves of thumping electro-R&B.
Below, Erik opens up to us about the meaning of Innocence Lost, the recording process, songwriting, and plans for the rest of 2017.
Jon ALi: Why give the album the title Innocence Lost? What does it mean to you?
Erik Hassle: The title is called ‘Innocence Lost‘ because the title felt like it represented the whole album in the best way. The songs on the album are stories of my encounter with Los Angeles when I first decided to move there and leave Sweden behind four years ago.
Jon ALi: There is a lot going on lyrically in this group of songs. Were the feelings on this project in hindsight or were they feelings that you went through over a long period of time?
Erik Hassle: When I started working on these songs, I did it together with a Swedish songwriter, artist and producer named Daniel Ledinsky who became one of my best friends. We were gonna work for a couple of days when I had just come to L.A. and decided to not put any thought in what we were writing about. Instead we just decided to write unconditionally. It was later, after a couple of weeks, that I realized that I had been writing about my own life and my own feelings. After that, I realized that I was gonna sing the songs myself. In the process though, I was not thinking about that at all — so there really wasn’t any plan before we started writing.
Jon ALi: How was the recording process and who else did you work with this time around?
Erik Hassle: I wrote most of the songs with Daniel. When we were new to the city we got in a room with a couple of amazing producers, so it’s like different producers on almost every song. Some of them were Dave Sitek, John Hill, Al Chucks, SOHN and Swedish producers Sikow and also Grizzly. It was a pretty mashed up recording process. It was my first time in the city and I tried to meet new people, so the album kinda turned out like a debut album in a way because it’s from different adventures from a new city.
Jon ALi: What was the best part about making this album for you?
Erik Hassle: I went to L.A. with my crew from Sweden that I had been working with for years already. The best part of everything was to build a new kind of home and place in L.A. together with my friends and all the amazing people I got to meet during this process.
Jon ALi: Were there any songs you recorded that made you think, “I can’t release this” or “I can’t believe I’m releasing this”?
Erik Hassle: I didn’t really ever have a song that I wrote that I thought ‘oh my god, I cant believe that I am releasing this!’. But there have been a couple of songs that I’ve been a part of writing that have been unreal. One of the first one that I wrote that got picked up by another artist was a duet with Rihanna and Shakira, called “Can’t Remember To Forget You“. Daniel and I wrote the song at the same time as we wrote my new album and that was huge, I mean unreal. But we wrote a song called “Happy Idiot” that turned up as the first single for TV On The Radio‘s previous album and that was… yeah, I cant believe that til this day still.
Jon ALi: What unreleased song from Innocence Lost are you most excited for people to hear?
Erik Hassle: “Silver & Gold” because it’s my favorite. “No Words” has already been released but it’s also one of my favorites.
Jon ALi: You collaborate more so than ever on this project? Tinashe, Vic Mensa and Gorgon City. How was it collaborating with them and is there anyone else you would’ve liked to have had on the album that didn’t make the cut?
Erik Hassle: I actually haven’t thought about anyone that I would have liked to collaborate with that didn’t make it on the new album. But I am really happy about the collaborations that are on there, they came along kind of differently. Tinashe and I are signed to the same record label, RCA, and we were both up-and-coming at the same time. We took a day in the studio to sing on eachother’s stuff basically and “Innocence Lost” was a song I had thought about being a duet. She liked it and made the song better than it was before and did it amazingly. Vic Mensa wasn’t through me, that collaboration happened while I was releasing my EP. My label was looking for different types of features and remixes to release together with a song. I’m still so grateful that Vic wanted to do a verse on “Talk About It“. We didn’t meet until afterwards, but “Talk About It” wouldn’t be the same without that verse. There is so much more to tell in the story than just what the song was before Vic Mensa featured on it. He really fulfilled the song in a way and took it to the next level.
Jon ALi: You’ve written a lot of songs, presumably, that were meant for you and ended up going to other people. Are there any songs you wished you kept for yourself? Are you still writing for others?
Erik Hassle: I don’t really have any songs that I wish that I kept for myself, but I can say that at the time “Can’t Remember To Forget You” was about to be released, I thought about doing the song myself.
Jon ALi: Are you still writing for others?
Erik Hassle: Yes, I am still writing for others and I’m trying to stay busy and write as much as possible. It’s a good break from your own world to get out of your head and just write for others. It’s actually something I really appreciate – to help somebody or be a part of creating a vision together with somebody else and collaborate. So it’s fun, really fun to write for other people.
Jon ALi: Do you want to still be doing this in five years? Do you have different ambitions?
Erik Hassle: I don’t know, I think so. But five years from now, I might develop into another genre of what I’m doing as far as being a writer/artist. Maybe sign other artists or something. But I feel like I wanna keep being a music person because I have been doing this my whole life, and I have so many relationships in this choice of a career. It feels like I’m a part of something and I wouldn’t wanna change that.
Jon ALi: What are you most looking forward to in the next year?
Erik Hassle: Unfortunately, there have been so many bad things happening in the world so you gotta stay really positive in these times and maybe spend your time getting excited about less important stuff. Like football for example in the next year, which is something I am very fond of. So what I’m looking forward to is that; maybe Manchester United could be in the Premier League next year. That would be a good thing. Maybe I wanna get a dog too, something to look forward to. And then finally, after a long time waiting to release this album, it’s a super nice feeling to have it out.
Jon ALi: Do you plan to tour with this album?
Erik Hassle: I haven’t got any tours or shows planned at the moment actually since I’m currently back in Sweden, but we’ll see what happens. I would love to tour.
Jon ALi: Will we be getting any more visuals from you for this album?
Erik Hassle: I am actually putting together a video as we speak for a single that I put out recently called “Missing You” that’s on the new album, so there will be a video for that one. And probably more visuals for forthcoming songs from the album. Hope you like them!