Lukas Graham on his new album and 7 Years (Later): “It’s the song that changed my life”

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Lukas Graham recently unveiled his long-awaited full length album 4 (The Pink Album) via Warner, and having spoke to the Copenhagen native about his 2020 track Share That Love at the height of the pandemic, Headliner thought it the perfect opportunity to catch up with him about the new record, getting sober, and his refreshed perspective on songwriting.

The world was a very different place when Headliner first interviewed frontman Lukas Forchhammer nearly three years ago, and a lot has changed in the talented vocalist and multi-instrumentalists life since.

Coming out of the global pandemic, and since starting a family of his own, he made the decision to go clean and sober, which, besides becoming a parent, marked the best decision he has made in his adult life so far.

Realising that his habits had changed simply from social settings to pursuing them alone, he decided to make a change for the better. Two years and four months later, his addiction has shifted to more wellness-centric activities: “I just came from a swim in the ocean, which was a fairly invigorating experience,” he says. Headliner feels cold just thinking about it…

This decision to put a greater focus on his family and own personal wellbeing, he says, has undoubtedly helped spark the next phase of his musical journey. Now, he is back in the right headspace and has rediscovered his songwriting flow.

“This album has been on the way for four and a half years,” Forchhammer tells Headliner. “It's as if me getting clean brought me back to the old school way of writing songs like I was doing before. It's an album I needed to release for myself, and I'm very proud of it. I’m getting back to songwriting, touring, and basically my job as I like it. I'm really looking forward to what's going to come up next in my creative process, because when I handed in the album so that we could print vinyl in the summer, I was on a roll – I just kept writing songs that I felt were so good, but I couldn't put them on the album!”

Forchhammer grew up in the commune of Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark – 34 acres of army base that was squatted in 1971. Born on a couch in a house without a bathroom or toilet until he was the age of six, he was exposed to his father’s “immaculate” record and CD collection from a young age.

A self-confessed album boy – and one who is very much involved with his tight-knit local community – every year he still partakes in Christmas for the Christmas-less, an initiative that sees him cook meals for all the local volunteers during the festive period.

“My dad got me into it,” he recalls fondly. “We bring the whole PA down and select something like 50 vinyls so that I can make a playlist, which is always great fun. When I'm at home doing my thing though, I always put on full-length albums.”

I love the exchange of energy that happens when an audience sings along to something they love.

Speaking of which, 4 (The Pink Album) sees Forchhammer reflecting on many aspects of his life, and ultimately represents everything he’s been working towards on his journey of self-discovery.

“After my father died a little more than 10 years ago, I became a very autobiographical songwriter, so to speak,” he reveals. “A lot of it I guess is rap music inspired – I write about the things I do, and the life I live and the experiences I go through. I've written about my father's death, about travelling all over the world, and now I'm writing about having my kids and getting clean and sober.”

Never Change, one of the album’s beautiful piano ballads, talks about wanting the love in a relationship not to change despite its struggles:

“Usually when I talk to my younger friends about relationship issues and they ask, ‘why is it so tough?’ I say, the real work isn't at your work, the real work is at home. You go to work, then you go play, but then you go home and you work your ass off to make sure your relationships work.”

Despite working on a lot of the album tracks during the pandemic, Forchhammer reveals that the only song on the record that was written exclusively over Zoom is Say Forever, an energetic guitar-driven anthem that he finished with Scottish songwriter Dave Gibson, who he previously collaborated with on Share That Love.

“I didn't really enjoy writing over Zoom, so I actually went to London to write with some people there, which was amazing,” he says. “Phil Cook, Joe Kearns, Nina Nesbitt – we had a wonderful time and wrote three songs together, one of which is the opener on the album, Stay Above. It was amazing just getting to know more songwriters, because my guys – the original collaborators of my music – were stuck in L.A. I think there's more songwriters and producers on this album than there's ever been, because I usually work with one team to finish my projects. So it was a very different creative process for me this time.”

Returning to his songwriting roots, one variable that didn’t change this time around was the location at which he wrote and recorded the majority of the album – the same rehearsal space just 10 minutes from his house where he crafted all his earlier projects. For Forchhammer, it made sense to return to a familiar environment to get the creative juices flowing again.

“I think it is what it is,” he proposes. “I like writing lyrics on the road or at home. I ordered some gear that I missed working with from the States – a few compressors and a microphone and basically redid the studio space that I used to work out of, which was a very nice, natural decision for me. I never really stopped working there – I had just stopped working there as much, and now I've made it into a space where I can bring in songwriters and producers from around the world and work from there without really needing anything else.”

Incredibly, it's been seven years now since Forchhammer released 7 Years, his now iconic pop anthem that catapulted him to stardom and topped the singles charts in a number of territories worldwide.

Last year saw him release a spine-tingling live version of the track, 7 Years (Later), so how was it to revisit his biggest hit, and to see how much the fans still love it?

“It's the song that changed my life, so I also love it!” he admits with a chuckle. “I have a very dogmatic approach to releasing songs in that I don't want to put out songs that I don't want to sing. I'll always bring new material on stage, and sometimes perform an unreleased song or a cover once in a while. I love performing, and the exchange of energy that happens when an audience sings along to something they love.”

With a tour of Scandinavia and Northern Europe about to kick off at the time of interview, Forchhammer’s excitement to get back out on the road with his band occasionally bubbles over:

“Just to be getting on a tour bus next week with my guys is going to be amazing, and hopefully getting back to something that resembles normality. Last year we did six big shows in Denmark – one of which where we recorded 7 Years (Later) – but the last time we were on a tour bus with a band and crew was November 2019 in the US. We’ve got a new bass player, guitarist and piano guy; the only original members of the band are me and the drummer Mr. Lovestick, so we’re going to get out there and build a great bond between the five of us.

“People always ask me, ‘why didn't you move to L.A. or New York?’ And then I say, well, my songs don't come from L.A. – my songs come from here. I think I need a bit of real life in my songs, because realness is what I like. I drop my daughter off at the same school where a lot of my friends drop their kids off, and that's it. I think they deserve a normal life even though dad has an extraordinary job.”

4 (The Pink Album) is available to buy and stream on all platforms now.

Listen to the full interview with Lukas Graham on Headliner Radio, here: