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From ‘Gunga-Jimmy’ to Record Breaking Jimmy Jansson Written by on March 6, 2020

Ben Robertson catches up with Jimmy Jansson to talk about how his career shifted from being a sing-a-long teen idol to becoming one of the hottest names on the Swedish songwriting scene.

It all started at 13 years of old. In the largely rural county of Värmland in west Sweden three boys ended up in the same class at school. One of them was Robin Lennart Fredriksson. He’s now a Grammy award winning producer out in L.A. working with Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift. Another of them is a grammy winner of his own, Robert Norberg, who now plays bass for Blender, the winner of the Swedish grammy for best Dansband last year.

And then there was Jimmy Jansson. He’d already been in a band called ZlipZ, where he ended up as the singer as nobody else wanted to, but his bandmates were put into a different class at school. Together they made The Poets, and they started playing cover music – rock music, and getting gigs from town to town.

Once their time in school finished Robin jumped off The Poets bandwagon, but a new drummer came in and The Poets were gaining popularity in the dansband forums of small town Sweden. Eventually a connection was made. Thomas G:Son had written a song for the newly expanded Melodifestivalen that was jumping from 10 songs on one night to 32 songs in six separate programmes. He had sent the song to Warner Chappell publishers to find the right band to front it.

The Poets opened their Melodifestivalen heat with the song ’What Difference Does It Make?’ – a pop/rock track that has all the edge of the Busted/McFly era from the turn of the century. As debutants the band performed well, 3rd place in their heat and defeated in Andra Chansen by Melodifestivalen veterans Jan Johansen and Barbados. It was enough to lead these teenagers on tour around Sweden for the whole next year, before Jimmy decided it was time to go back and finish school.

From Frontman To Soloist

School didn’t last long. Soon after returning to Värmland Jimmy received a phone call from Bert Karlsson. Bert was one of the 48 inaugural members of Melodifestivalen’s Hall of Fame, famed for being the man behind the Mariann Grammofon record company, responsible for 14 Melodifestivalen winners including most notably Carola. His big project back then was Fame Factory, filling the space that Pop Idol had in other countries before that franchise came to Sweden in 2004.

Fame Factory was hugely successful for Jimmy as the beginnings of a solo career. He finished 4th place and earned 250,000 kr (around £20,000) just from competing in the competition. Yet there was more, and a return to Melodifestivalen in 2005 and making the final directly. He was one of four acts including Alcazar, Linda Bengtzing and eventual winner Martin Stenmarck to perform songs by the songwriting team of  Edberger, Fransson, Larsson and Lundgren, and a 6th place finish was zero embarassment.

Vi Kan Gunga’ became synonymous with Jimmy Jansson. It was youthful, loud, impactful and somewhat rebellious in a squeaky clean family entertainment sort of way. That six place in Melodifestivalen was quickly overshadowed with it becoming the number one single in Sweden and quickly followed up by an album that hit number 3 the following month.

The same routine didn’t work out as successfully two years later. Still a popular star, Jimmy Jansson co-wrote with Thomas G:Son the song ’Amanda’ and had another attempt to represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest. But The Ark were too strong to defeat in the heat and Sanna Nielsen won their duel in Andra Chansen leaving Jimmy without a place in the final.

Jimmy Jansson was now 24 years old. The diagonally swept over hairstyle was dropping out of fashion and so too was Jimmy Jansson. This was a man who had just become a father, wanting to spend time with his family, and feeling he ’was too old for that kind of music’.

He took a break from the artist world and never returned.

A ‘Dark Dip’ In His Career

The plan was to take a break from the artist career and move into songwriting. This wasn’t a big leap into the unknown. Since his Poets days writing songs has been part of Jimmy Jansson, but he wanted to take it to the next level. At recording studios he often find it hard to actually express what changes and tweaks he wants to his music, but the young Jimmy didn’t have the tools or skills to do that himself.

Yet Jimmy Jansson the songwriter couldn’t get work. Melodifestivalen had put this label on him. He was marked as somebody who could do kids music, and big artists doubted if ’Gunga-Jimmy’ could write the mature song they wanted.’ Without work, Jimmy Jansson left Stockholm and returned to his family home.

However there was something there waiting for him That 250 000 kr prize money wasn’t used as a house deposit or fizzled away on the rock star lifestyle, but he used it to turn his parent’s garage into a fully fledged recording studio. Returning wasn’t the plan, and Jimmy describes this time as ’a very dark dip’ in his career.

He found a job, but as a welder rather than a musician, working with his father. He planned to work for 12 months just to earn enough money to give capital city living one more shot. His free time was spent teaching himself how to master song production at the top levels required to make it in the Swedish music scene.

One year later he was back in hustle and bustle of the capital city.

No Longer An Artist

Nowadays Jimmy Jansson describes himself as much as a producer than a songwriter, even though he sees producing as ’sometimes harder than writing songs because of the technical things you have to learn’.

The newly skilled up Jimmy did get breaks eventually – within this bubble he reached Melodifestivalen twice as a songwriter in 2014 and the same year was the producer for two of the entry’s in Lilla Melodifestivalen and the title track ‘Unbelievable’ for Idol winner Lisa Ajax. Doors were finally opening up, with Jimmy’s attention to detail and love of catchy hooks coming through. The following year he even was the lead producer on a title track for the first time, the now infamous ’Hello Hi’ by then Melodifestivalen debutants Dolly Style.

Yet Dolly Style, as successful as they are, are still known for their kids music. The time when Jimmy truly shook off his ’Gunga’ history was in 2018. That year he wrote one of the twelve songs that reached the Melodifestivalen final, namely ’Everyday’ by Mendez.

”It went really well and a lot of people said that it was one of the best choruses that I have heard. After that I, I don’t know, it was that point where people realised that a-ha, this guy can write music.”

The year later Jimmy Jansson’s Melodifestivalen career reached another new high, being responsible for one of the biggest hits of the competition, with the Hanna Ferm and LIAMOO duet ’Hold You’ that finished in 3rd place. It was little surprise that Jimmy Jansson was then going to be behind some of this year’s Melodifestivalen tracks. The surprise was that he became a record breaker.

Jimmy Jansson Songs Every Week

In total Jimmy Jansson was responsible for six of this year’s Melodifestivalen songs, beating the previous record held by Thomas G:Son in 2006. That was also six songs, but in a Melodifestivalen field of 32 songs compared to the modern 28.

These songs have been successful. All six of them survived their heats, with three songs going to the final directly. Both ’Vamos Amigos’ and ’Piga & Dräng’ had to compete in a head to head to guarantee his fourth song in the final.  If his final song, Malou Prytz’s ’Ballerina’, had managed to qualify he would have had five songs in the final, which would also have been a new record. Paul Rey’s qualification managed to squash that record from also being broken.

With Jimmy, we talk through each of his six entries. I ask him to tell me the story as to how all of these songs were first born…

Take A Chance‘, by Robin Bengtsson

Written: June 2019, in Palma, Mallorca. At a songwriting camp organised by Danes aimed primarily for Melodi Grand Prix
Song notes: Song started with the bass rhythm. Was written within one hour. Jimmy wrote the ‘Take a chance’ line, British theme written by Marcus Winther-John, who has roots in the UK.
Background: Song started with the idea of bringing two ideas together. ’The Winner Takes It All’ by ABBA and ’So Dope’ by Violet Days

Ballerina‘, by Malou Prytz

Written: May 2019, in Jimmy’s studio.
Song Notes: Jimmy started with the verse in his studio, demo had a more reggae vibe. Jimmy asked Thomas G:Son for advice and together they write the chorus.
Background: Original idea was to write this song for Hanna Ferm.

Vamos Amigos‘, by mendez (ft Alvaro Estrella)

Written: June 2019, started in Jimmy’s studio, Jakke Erixson added the chorus in L.A.
Song Notes: Started with the rap so that Mendez could focus on what he does best. Verse came first and that was written in Sweden.
Background: Song was an order from Universal for Mendez.

Piga & Dräng’ by Drängarna

Written: January 2019 (but not worked on until after the Melfest season), Finished in Jimmy’s studio after the others had written most of the song, with both Jimmy and Robert responsible for production.
Song Notes: Jimmy came in late in the songwriting contest, adding in the ”vi dansar, vi sjunger, till Drängarnas refräng”
Background: Robert, Jimmy’s former band member in the Poets, and Anders, the drummer from Drängarna, had already begun the song.

Winners‘ by Mohombi

Written: August/September ”much later than the others,” Jimmy and Palle Hammarlund worked together in Jimmy’s studio.
Song notes: Track was written with a beat but without melodies. Natural melodies existed in the verse and pre-chorus, Mohombi came in to add the finishing touches.
Background: Before there were lyrics the track was called ’The Winner Track’ – Mohombi liked this theme which eventually became ’Winners’.

‘Brave’ by Hanna Ferm

Written: June/July 2019, at a camp run by Jimmy’s publisher, Capitol Music, primarily for writing songs for Melodifestivalen.
Song notes: Piano hook was the first part of the song written. In the end it took four hours and most of the production is the same as that original session.
Background: Jimmy doesn’t like being ’behind the computer’ at songwriting camps, but felt more safe doing so here as his team had arranged it

What’s most notable from this is that each of these songwriting stories is completely different to each other. There are songwriting camps, inspired beginnings, orders from record labels and even just being asked advice. The latter comes from now having years of skin in the game, when his opinion is one worth seeking – Jimmy Jansson is now deemed a person who knows what SVT want to hear. However the decision about which songs work and which don’t is still one where Jimmy’s heart rules over his head.

”I try to listen to my own heart ’ Do I like this?’ Do I feel this? Is this something I would listen to many times in a row. If I wrote a song today and when I go home I don’t want to listen to it, then that’s not a good song. But if I want to listen to it over and over again then that’s a good sign. ”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIm0x1W58Gw

And that these songs all come from different places is such a positive thing too. Songs in Melodifestivalen don’t just grow on trees, but despite their slick pop exteriors inside their creation there are stories and emotions of genuine songwriter’s crafting their talent. Indeed Jimmy is so happy this year that the public get to see a small glimpse of that – the Melodifestivalen postcards before each song in the heat featured an interview with the songwriters.

That exposure will only help to re-calibrate to Swedes who Jimmy Jansson is – no longer ‘Gunga-Jimmy but ‘Record Breaker Jimmy’ – and I’ll be expecting him in Melodifestivalen for many, many years to come.

About The Author: Ben Robertson

Ben Robertson has attended over twenty Eurovision's, Junior Eurovision's and National Finals for ESC Insight. He uses statistics to explain the Song Contest aims to educate readers about what the Song Contest means to do many different people.

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