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Monday, 12 September 2016

GarconJon meets Max Bergstrom

The creative strength of London is built on it's acceptance of all cultures from around the world. I like to believe we're unified by an appreciation of differences and it's this value that I see in Swedish musician Max Bergstrom. In his presence, his peaceful approach to life is palpable and as we shot around his neighbourhood, I saw a man who is settled and at home in East London.

I first met Max in 2014 when I photographed him for a campaign and instantly knew I wanted to find out more about the songwriter. It may have taken 24 months and 10 inches of hair growth but we've finally been able to reconnect, talking about his writing process, love and of course Brexit.

In a collaboration with Boden,  Max is dressed in a few of the brand's essential items styled by Mr Kieron Watts. 25 years ago Johnnie Boden sat at his kitchen table and founded the company with just eight pieces of menswear. To celebrate this birthday, they've gone back to the drawing board and re-created eight classic pieces to represent the timeless menswear that no man should be without today.

Find music from Max and his band Little White Things at Their latest single ‘Corner Of’ is soon to be released on Chess Club Records. See more from the Boden collection at

Max Bergstrom, Musician

Describe yourself in five words. Ambitious, creative, hard-working, a little insecure but very loving.

What’s your star sign? Gemini.

Where are you from originally? I grew up in Kalmar, Sweden. Just outside actually, in a village with less than 2000 people. It a lovely place as a child as everyone knows everyone. I moved away when I was 16 to play football and to study and by that point I was ready to leave and explore the world.

I didn't know you were a sportsman, as well as a musician. How did that transition come about? I got accepted to a youth academy where we practised almost every day alongside our studies and got to travel to Barcelona to play against different teams. After the 3 year commitment I realised that it wasn’t really for me. Music has always been my main passion and so moved to Oslo when I was 20, worked there and then went travelling around south east Asia. On return, I met a guy named John, started playing music together and decided to build a studio. We formed a band called Walking with Elephants with a pianist called Jacob and started to play mostly folky-pop. We started to get a bit of attention and decided to move to London as bands like Mumford & Sons were taking off at the time so it was the place to be. Just as we were about to sign a record deal, our singer got cold feet and decided to move back home but Jacob and I decided to stay.

Are you happy with that decision? I couldn’t be happier. I decided to delve into music more and applied to study at Goldsmiths University, pulling together a portfolio of lyrics and creative writing. Thankfully, I was accepted and I loved it! I’ve had to take a year out as we’ve been signed with the band and things are a little crazy at the moment. I’d love to go back and finish the course.

What do you like about London? I love the diversity of it and openness here – people are interested in other people. It’s a music Mecca, too. It feels like the heart of Europe.

How did Brexit make you feel? It must be a very strange time to be living in the UK. I've got to say I did get the feeling of being unwanted or like an outsider. That's the first time I've ever felt this in the UK. I know that in London the general feeling is of positivity towards European migrants, but for the majority it seems to not be the case. As an outsider, I can look and the situation and understand that there's a lot of frustration and angry towards the political system currently in place but to me, that was misdirected at the EU. Unfortunately it's happening all across Europe it would seem.

How would you describe your style? Understated Scandi.

We shot you in a few pieces from Boden, do you have a favourite? I loved the grey cashmere jumper, it was super comfortable and easy to wear. The jeans were great, too. It's hard to get a great fit with denim and I thought it instantly fit really well.

Do you have a favourite instrument to play? I’ve always loved guitar. My Dad gave me my first one when I was 12. It only had five strings and it took me a year to realise that guitars should have six. When I did it opened up a whole new musical world to me. I started to learn piano while I was at Goldsmiths and that is such a pleasure to practice. Guitar will always be number one, though.

How did it feel getting into the writing process? I keep a journal and often think it must be such a vulnerable position to expose those thoughts in a song. I’ve always been writing poems which is why a creative writing course at Goldsmiths felt like the right thing to do. It was great to work in other forms outside of lyrics and melodies. I do agree though, it can be a very vulnerable position to be in.

What do you do to let go? Do you get drunk? Look back at old diary entries? Writing in a studio with other people you completely trust is so invaluable. I've been writing with the band for while now and I think we've reached a point where we're really able to let ourselves be true to the song. When you’re all within the same four walls working on something collaborative and you’re reaching your end result – that’s all I need.

The songs that stick with me longest are one's with words that speak to my experience. There's so much subject matter that we can all relate to like heartbreak but it's putting it in a context that feels so personal. Do you have a lyric from another artist which really resonates with you? When I was 16, I was engaged to a girl for four years. Young, I know. I’ve always loved Bob Dylan and the song Don’t Think Twice always reminds of me of that time, so I got the lyric Don’t think twice It’s alright on my ribcage. If you asked me now I probably wouldn't get a quote tattooed on my ribs but at the same time I’m very happy I’ve got it there. It’s my favourite song.

Is your writing style influenced by the artists you're drawn to? Definitely. I think you always follow in the footsteps who you like. I haven’t quite figured out what my voice and my style is yet but what I like at a specific time definitely influences what I produce.

How many times have you been in love? I feel like I fall in love every day! I love being in love. I guess I’ve only properly been in love three times, once when I was too young to know what love was, once with one who didn’t love me back and now, with my girlfriend Krystyna.

What does love feel like to you? Love for me is this warm, comforting and reassuring feeling that sort of diminishes all other feelings and puts everything in perspective — all problems or doubts that you may have had before seems so small. If you’ve got someone you love and who loves you you’ll be fine.

How do you find peace? Ever since I was little I’ve been fascinated by the stars. I love looking up at the night sky and think about the universe. I find it so relaxing and it always brings back so many great memories. When you go to Scandinavia and look up it’s like someone turned on the switch. When I was younger I always tried to count the stars. Without success unfortunately. Another quick escape for me has for a long time been the music. I sit down with my guitar, or the piano, I start playing some notes and forget about what’s around me for a while. The only way that has changed lately is that I now feel the pressure to create something when I pick up an instrument, it’s not as relaxing anymore. Perhaps you feel the same way with your photography?

If you were to give your 18 year old self a piece of advice, what would it be? Work less on things you don’t like. I feel like I've spent too much on my energy working in jobs I don't enjoy and don't contribute to my end goal.

Leave us with some words of wisdom. Don’t worry too much. There’s no point. All things must pass.