I started performing on stage as a 13-year-old at various youth centers in the Stockholm area. Being on stage really laid the foundation for my music interest. I don’t have a musical background and had almost no musical influences during my childhood; I found and nurtured my own interest in music and formed an identity from just being on stage. Even though it wasn’t until I was 18 that I actually started to like my own music, making music has been central in my life. Until then, I had struggled with escape behavior that took the shape of various negative actions. For me, my life turned when I started to escape into music instead of going into destructive patterns.
We are launching Unlimited – a flexible pricing plan to suit every artist’s creative process. Unlimited allows you to release as many tracks as you want for a fixed price, from $4.99/month. We got the chance to talk more about creativity with Record Union artist Queff.
Tell us what a typical day looks like. (Working during night hours, juggling with another job on the side, early morning walks? What is crucial for you and your creativity?)
I create as often as I can. I continuously try to reflect and think in different formulations and phrasings, which has always been very important. To paint pictures using words is crucial for me and the music that I listen to. Being driven by words and a clear narrative, instrumental music has often been tough to grasp for me.
My creative process works best after I’ve put my kids to bed and cleared off all the “must-do’s” or when I’m out walking my dog. During the day, I work as a social secretary in issues related to substance abuse, and so I am constantly reminded of where and what I come from and how grateful I must be. Being where I am today and reaching out through my music to people who have been struggling with the same issues as me makes me feel motivated and blessed.
What inspires you the most?
An inspiring beat can evoke so many emotions within me. I’m also inspired by well-articulated writers. Kitchen sink realism and escapism are my keywords. There is something so incredibly beautiful and real about the grey everyday life, and it excites me when others find a way to put it into words.
My music revolves almost exclusively around memories and fragments from my past life. I’m constantly challenged in wanting to try to paint as descriptive pictures as possible. The challenge is to formulate texts based on my own past without making it too personal. When you get the listeners to apply my words to their own lives and their own situations – even though it is very personal to me – and the listener manages to paint his own picture in his or her mind… Having that kind of connection with my listeners and evoking those emotions inspires me a lot.
What does creative freedom mean to you?
Creative freedom is everything to me. I find it hard to get others’ opinions about my writing. When someone says “Do this” or “Do that” – that really provokes me. Creating is very personal to me, and that’s why I don’t want anyone else to adjust or change my work. Of course, I’ve received input and comments on my work, which in the end has made the final product better, but it’s still very important for me to own the entire process and the tonality.
As we know, working with creativity rarely goes in a straight line. What is your creative process like?
Whenever I get a creative impulse, my process is usually relatively straightforward. I write until it stops, and when that happens, I take a break or continue another day. Often, when I have finished writing a verse, and I’ve gone through it over and over in my head, fixing all the details and nuances, I find it very hard to return to it later and change it. In that sense, I’d rather close projects and move on to the next verse or song than return to an old text and change it over again.
What do you find challenging about being an independent artist?
I come from a background where we had to push music down people’s throats for them to even consider listening. When I grew up with hip hop, it was a subculture. I found new friends from within the community, and my entire network of contacts is based on the fact that we shared the love for this subculture. Today, hip hop has become the most popular genre among youths and plays a huge part in contemporary culture.
It’s like night and day from how it was during my upbringing, and I’m happy for everyone who grows up with this culture now. What I’m most grateful for is having managed to build a reasonably loyal and steady listener base. I also take pride in having done and accomplished “all of this” on my own. On the other hand, it is a big challenge because you often do not reach people outside this circle. You are also often excluded from contexts where you might have really “deserved” to be mentioned and get credit.
Do you have any tips and tricks when feeling stuck in your work? (For example, have you ever had writer’s block, and if so, what did you do to get through it?)
It has happened that several months have passed without me being able to formulate a single phrase that makes sense. It’s incredibly frustrating. My advice is to not stress about it. Let it take time, dare to rest in that feeling, and never feel hindered by the fact that you must perform. You don’t have to. You must not create for anyone else but yourself. Once you stop doing that, you’ll lose your authenticity and, in the long run, what must be the core of why you create.
So, when you’re finally getting the creativity flowing, how do you know when a track is done? And how do you feel when you release it for others to listen?
Historically, I’m used to creating music and not releasing it until long afterward. In recent years, with Jack Moy’s help, I have learned not to get stuck in one song so much. When a song is finished, it is ready. Release it as soon as possible. There is no value in getting tired of your own music before it is even released. Releasing music is hugely liberating for me. There are so many hours behind every word, meaning, detail and nuance that when a listener feels and expresses that the music has evoked a feeling, every second of self-doubt and worry feels worth it. Because you doubt yourself as an artist. But, it’s essential to stick to creating for your own sake and no one else’s.
Last but not least, what’s your next step? Do you have any projects in the pipeline?
Last year, Jack Moy and I released the EP 545V. We will soon release a new single and see what happens with that project. I haven’t worked as a solo artist over the last 10 years, so it’s inspiring and motivating to create based on these premises. I have projects underway with others and will hopefully release something together with Mächy & DJ Large during the year. In addition to this, I have already had the time to record a few songs in 2021. The future looks bright; it’s more fun than ever to create – so you will not get rid of me! MMD4EVER!