AN INTERVIEW WITH MEGA-HIT SONGWRITER ALBI ALBERTSSON

By Paris365 on March 23, 2015

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Genre

J-pop
K-Pop
C-Pop

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Whether you're a fan of K-Pop, J-Pop or C-Pop, chances are you've heard songs written by Albi Albertsson. As you'll see below, he's written for plenty of A-listers, including massive artists like Girls' Generation, Shinee, Arashi, Show Luo and Koda Kumi. K-Pop doesn't get any bigger than Girls' Generation, does it? Likewise, Koda Kumi is one of Japan's biggest megastars. Clearly, Albi knows what he's doing and he does it very well. Recently, I discovered that he was on Facebook and sent him a friend request. I was very happy when he approved it. The next thing I knew, I asked him to do an interview and he said yes. I hope you'll enjoy reading it!

MM: Where were you born?  Where do you currently reside?

AA: I was born in the south of Germany. Nowadays I’m based in Berlin but I’m traveling around the world 50% of the year. I really like Tokyo right now, so I’ve been here for the last 3 months.

MM: How old were you when you wrote your first song?

AA: I was 6 years old when I wrote my first short piece for violin.

MM: Did you ever aspire to be a singer/songwriter or was writing for others always your ultimate goal?

AA: I wanted to become a rockstar when I was 17. I almost signed with Sony Music, but didn’t go through with it. Definitely the right decision. Performing and creating are two very different things with two very different energies. I like creating.

MM: Was pop the first style of music you wrote?

AA: The first piece I wrote for the violin was a Gavotte, which according to Wikipedia classifies as “French folk dance”, so I guess it was Folk. 

MM: When was the first time you heard music in an Asian language?  Do you recall what song or artist it was?

AA: I used to visit Japan as a kid once a year. It was probably one of the Anime themes on TV.

MM: Could you tell us some of the artists you've written for? Could you tell us which songs you wrote for them?

AA: Korean:
Girls Generation: Divine, Indestructible
EXO: Machine, Two Moons, Hurt, Exodus
VIXX: On and on, B.O.D.Y., Beautiful Killer, Time Machine
Shinee: Lucky Star
Girls Generation TTS: EYES
TVXQ: Beside
ZE:A: Phoenix
Afterschool: Ms. Independent

Japanese:
Arashi: Face Down
KAT-TUN: Lock on, Spirit, Kirarito, Soldier
E-Girls: Diamond Only, ASAP
Happiness: Juicy Love, EIEN
J-Soul Brothers: Spark
Kumi Koda: Winner Girls
Misia: Aio Shiru Sekai
Dream: Unbelievable
Chris Hart: Startline
Kouichi Doumoto: Deepness

Taiwanese:
Show Luo: Bounce, Tarantula

MM: How did you come to be a songwriter in the Asian market?  Did you have a really good agent submitting stuff or did you start sending songs to labels yourself, etc?

AA: I started out writing for German and European artists. One day my manager sent my myspace page (yes, those days!) to one of the Japanese publishers he met in Finland. It had music on it that I had produced prior to getting into the music industry. Not knowing anything about the industry, I just wrote and produced whatever the hell I thought great music was supposed to sound like. The German publishers all said they were great songs but didn’t know what to do with them. The Japanese publisher said: this sounds like the future of J-Pop.

MM: K-Pop, J-Pop and C-Pop/M-Pop all have their own distinct sound.  Even without knowing the languages, I can usually tell where a song is from within twenty seconds of listening to it.  Do you think about the type of song it's going to be when writing? 

AA: Yes, from the begnning, always. 

MM: Of all these different types of Asian pop music, is there one type that you like writing for more than the others?

AA: There are always some things that excite me more than others but I like variety.

MM: Have you ever written and produced an entire album for any artists?  If so, who?

AA: This is way back, but I produced a band called Haudegen in Germany. We did an entire record and it was quite early in my career, so very exciting. These days I just started working with a new artists I want to develop on my own.

MM: Have you co-written any of your songs that we've heard?  Are there certain co-writers who you write with frequently?  If so, who?

AA: Many songs are collaborations with others. I work with writers from all over the world, but these days I mostly write with my own team. I founded my own publishing company MUSSASHI publishing in 2013 and we have a really great team of writers and producers now.

MM: I know you've received some awards.  Could you tell us some of the songs or albums you won awards for and what the awards were?

AA: One of the songs I wrote for Girls Generation just received the “Song of the Year (Download)” award at the 2015 Japan Gold Disc Award. The Girls Generation album I have two songs on also won “Best 3 Album of the year” and another song I did for J-Soul Brothers won “Best Music Video”.
Most of the songs I have released in Asia have very high sales, so most have reached Gold status, Platinum status or even multi-Platinum status. I’ve never counted how many, though.

MM: Do you usually write songs with a specific artist in mind or do you just write whatever comes to mind and then figure out who it would be good for?

AA: I like to know where I’m going.

MM: How often do you produce the songs you've written for artists?  

AA: Not always, but most of the times.

MM: When you submit songs, are they rough demos or do you just go ahead and produce the song and send them a finished product that they just have to add vocals to?

AA: They are finished products with demo vocals on it. 90% of the time the demo will sounds just like the version that is released in the end, only that it has English vocals by a demo singer on it, as I only write English lyrics. When a label decides to take the song, those English lyrics are then replaced by Korean, Japanese or Chinese lyrics and recorded by the artist.

MM: Of all the songs you've written that have been released, which ones were the most difficult to write?  Which ones were the easiest to write?

AA: All songs are always difficult and easy to write at the same time. 
It gets easier to achieve high quality results consistently as you gain more and more experience, but no matter how good you become, you will regularly feel just like you felt when you just started out: frustrated, doubtful, unsure what to do. 
It’s a humbling experience. This is what keeps me in the game. Most things become boring very quickly, songwriting never does.

MM: I know you often write the music and then the artists or other songwriters write the lyrics.  Have you ever been embarrased by the lyrics they've put to one of your songs?  If so, you can choose whether or not to tell us which songs. 

AA: That has never happened to me. Then again I’m not very particular about lyrics. The music part is much more important and this is were sometimes labels modify the songs in a way that is really detrimental to the songs.

MM: Have you had any songs released that you also wrote the lyrics for?

AA: Yes, the last one was “If I told you”, released by Nick Howard, winner of the TV show The Voice Germany. I wrote this song when I was 18 but it was released only about 2 years ago.

MM: Do you prefer writing regular pop songs or ballads?

AA: Both are fun and challenging in their own ways.

MM: How do you approach songwriting?  Do you write on computer, acoustic guitar, etc... Do you play any instruments?

AA: The writing process usually starts out on the Keyboard or digital piano, that is connected to the DAW (computer). I play piano, acoustic and electric guitar, violin, a bit of drums and saxophone. The last three don’t really come into play with songwriting, though.

MM: What software do you use for producing?  

AA: Cubase Pro 8 & lots of VST plugins.

MM: Is there a certain program you'd recommend for aspiring songwriters?

AA: Brain is a great program, also Intuition 2.0 and iGet-Stuff-Done III. No seriously, those are important, not the software you use. But well, if you need to choose, choose Cubase!

MM: How would you recommend a songwriter try to break into the K-Pop market?

AA: Contact me and send me demos!

MM: Have you ever written songs for artists outside of the Asian market?  If so, have any of them been released?  I think a lot of artists here in the States and in Europe could have big hits with your songs.

AA: As mentioned before I used to write a lot for German and European artists. I’ve produced and written for German rock bands like Haudegen or Eisbrecher, a lot of dance stuff like Spencer and Hill, Houserockerz or Michael Mind. Man thinking about all this makes me feel old.

Much thanks to Albi for doing this interview!

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