The Swedish singer-songwriter gives us a boatload of soul-searching splendour on his new project, Put Yourself Out There.
To know Ulrik Munther is to love his piercing vocals, to be in awe of his ability to weave immersive stories into his blissful musical offerings, and to appreciate more than a few tongue-in-cheek references here or there. It’d be wrong to call him a ‘rising star’ – the 27-year-old singer-songwriter something of a seasoned professional these days, what with signing to UMG in Sweden in his teens and achieving viral fame with an endearing cover of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” at the same time. The latter is a conquest that only makes us love him even more.
Munther is back this week with his new album, a soft folk-tinged effort peppered with touches of indie and pop that recalls the early work of Bon Iver and Bombay Bicycle Club. Whether it’s reconnecting with his inner child on “Chic C’est la Vie” – a track penned in ode to the honest and mind-bending spirits of today’s youth, or the ethereal charm of, erm, “Big Dick”, Put Yourself Out There is an effort Munther hopes will be the foundation of his new path in life, packed with 14 emotional tunes you’ll definitely need some tissues for.
Munther’s not alone in his feelings of being boxed-in sometimes, a key theme of the project, we mean, we all get that feeling of powerlessness that our old selves still has some control over our life – you know, like when you can’t shake a really embarrassing thing you did once when you were drunk. “I think the world would be a better place, and people would be much happier if we didn’t define ourselves so much by our history, but rather by our willingness and ability to listen, learn and engage,” he says.
We caught up with the introspective artist below, delving into his past year in review, and what we can take from his new project. Take a look below.
Hey Ulrik! We’re almost halfway through the year, how has it been for you so far?
I guess we are. Time flies. It’s been good, under the circumstances. I’ve been pretty busy finishing the album and everything and that definitely has its highs and lows, but overall I’m doing good.
This past year has been crazy, do you think it has affected your creativity?
Definitely. Since I haven’t been able to hang out with friends as much I’ve sought out new ways to entertain myself. I’ve found a lot of new podcasts, albums, films. And in the writing process, I think not being interrupted as much can be very beneficial.
How did you first start your career in music, what is your earliest memory?
I’ve been making music since I can remember. But my career probably started when I was fifteen. I won a televised kids music competition, but before that I played the piano. I Never really learned to read sheet music though. So I had to memorise everything. And during my first performance I totally forgot where I was supposed to stop and the audience/parents had to sit in silence while my piano teacher showed me. It was painful. I think I stopped taking piano lessons shortly after that.
You’ve put out three albums over the years, all hitting top 5 in your home country, how does this make you feel?
I don’t know – I rarely think about it. But it feels good I guess. I think what I’m more proud of is my growth as a writer, and musician. And the fact that I’ve managed to actually make a career doing something I really enjoy (most of the times at least). And I feel very thankful.
Congratulations on your new album Put Your Self Out There why the name and what was the production process like?
Thank you! The title is playing with the cliche phrase “Put yourself out there”. The space between your and self is to emphasise the word self. Cause what is that really? Who am I? How do I see myself? That’s a lot of what I’ve been trying to figure out during this process. How I relate to the world and other people is heavily influenced by how I see myself. I mean, what we identify with shapes our worldview. And I think the better we understand ourselves, the better we can understand the world… I also have a tendency to get stuck in my own head. So it works two ways, haha.
This album signifies a growth and change for you, how do you think it differs from your previous three?
Well. I’m older now. When I released my first two albums, I was seventeen and eighteen years old. Didn’t really have that many stories to tell, haha. Also there were a lot of co-writers. This album is much more personal.
The album take us through a very honest and raw journey, what was it like putting these emotions into your music?
Thanks! Hmm. I’m not sure how to answer that. I’ve been channeling my feelings into my music for as long as I can remember, haha. I think it’s always good to write. I’ve tried to keep a journal many times but I always forget after a couple of days. I guess writing something that others will get to hear makes me feel it’s more important, so I actually do it. And singing is a physical thing so it gets me in my body.
Looking back on the project, what single means the most to you?
Haha – I don’t know. I’m proud of all of them. But “Stay Awake” takes me back to 2014 when I wrote the lyrics. I’d just met the love of my life but I was living on a farm for a movie project, so we only saw each other during the weekends. I smelled like a cow and she fell asleep before me.
Who would you cite as your inspirations?
I’ve listened a lot to Bon Iver, Frank Ocean, Ben Howard, Phoebe Bridgers, Emilie Nicolas, Sufjan Stevens, Joni Mitchell.
But more generally I’m inspired by Charlie Kaufman, Duncan Trussle, Joe Rogan, Ricky Gervais, Ben Sinclair to name a few. My girlfriend is obviously a huge inspiration as well. And working with my producer Johan Eckeborn, and the visual artist and director Simeon Frohm has been very inspiring. I’ve never had so many ideas as these last few years.
Now the project is out there, what’s next for you? What are you most excited for?
Really excited about summer, vaccine, and hugging people. Also, we recently bought a camper van so I’m pretty excited about that. I’m also excited to get out and play but for now that’s not really possible in Sweden. Hopefully it’ll open up soon, otherwise I think I’m gonna record a live album. But I might do that anyway!