Petra Wahlgren and Christmas Night

Petra Wahlgren Photo One

As you are reading this, Swedish singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Petra Wahlgren is in the midst of a big holiday season concert tour, Christmas Night, which takes her to most, if not all of Sweden’s cities. It has been a busy year for Wahlgren and her second major tour, as she performed with legendary Swedish Rocker Dan Hylander and David Carlson another highly respected Swedish musician, singer and songwriter. Petra Wahlgren also was in Nashville during the fall of 2016.

 “It is a pure Christmas concert tour. We go around all of Sweden and this year we do twenty-four cities. That is nearly every city in Sweden. I play the violin and do the backup vocals in it. I do some second keyboard and some percussion as well. We have two artists Magnus Carlsson and Jessica Andersson and this is the fourth year (for the tour). Magnus has been one of the artists every year. For Jessica this is her third year I think,” explains Wahlgren.

We digress for a moment to talk about that violin, “I went to Nashville in September and I got myself a five string violin. I am really excited about that, because in past years I have been carrying both the violin and the viola and this year I will just need to bring one instrument, because the five string has the extra lower string, just like the viola (giving it more range). This is like two instruments in one. It is perfect.  I have played it for two gigs, so it is very new. I think it is the same with every musician, the best toy that you can get is a new instrument.”

Petra Whalgren Photo TwoAs for the Christmas Night tour she says, “There are some sketches, but it is mainly a concert. We play twelve songs and this year we have a theme as well. We have a film music theme. (There will be) a lot of old ones like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and those kinds of vibes.  It will be exciting for the show. I think it will be a good thing.

There are five people in the band and then two artists. I don’t know how many there are in the production team. They have been working all year with tickets and with the websites and everything like that. The people that I get to meet are mostly the crew and there are maybe seven people. They monitor sound and lights and stuff like that. Then we have the same people every year that take care of the catering and the hotels and bookings and everything. That is one of the things that I really like about it. It is like coming home.  It is like meeting your Christmas family. I have toured all of the years with Christmas Night. I have been with this project since the start.

We start in the north and I think that is a good thing, because in the north there is a better chance of snow, so you don’t feel so stupid (she laughs) when it is November and you are singing Christmas songs. In the south of Sweden it is going to take a while, before it gets that cold.”

The Christmas tour will also mark the debut of an original Christmas song by Petra Wahlgren.

“That’s a funny story, because I wrote it when I was in Nashville and it was 95 degrees Fahrenheit outside and especially for a Swede, because we are used to chilly temperatures. That was fun and it is like a Christmas song. It is mostly about snow and ice and trying to finish it up the lyrics in all that heat. That was fun as well.

I wrote that on my new five string.  That is kind of tricky, because the violin is in the same range as the voice, so a lot of times they compete, but this time I think that I really succeeded. The whole song is accompanied by the violin, as well as the other guys in the band.  That is very good, because I have the extra low string and it is more like a nice harmony. 

It is a winter song. It is about the dark times and then you have Christmas (editor’s note: In Sweden during the winter months there are very few hours of daylight). It is about lights that you can find in music and in the Christmas season as well.  A lot of people get depressed in the spring, because by then the vitamin D from the sun is completely empty.”

Leading up to Christmas, how will Petra Wahlgren be spending her time when she is not performing?

“I just like to be outside in nature and I do a lot of knitting as well. Maybe that is more like a tour thing for me, because I spend so much time on the road, so I knit socks and I tell jokes,” she says, finishing with some light laughter.

Petra Wahlgren grew up in Stockholm, the daughter of Jenny and Magnus, one of two children.

“(Everyone in) my family is a musician as well. My mother is a singer and my father is a piano player. We are like the family from The Sound of Music (laughs) just not that many people.

My father is playing the piano on this tour as well. We are on the road together. They have been doing a lot of private parties and accompanying artists, pretty much what I do.  When you are a freelancer I think that you can play anything. I have been doing a lot of Pop music and musicals, Rock and pretty much everything,” says Petra Wahlgren.

As for when her musical education started, she says, “I was I think six years old when I started violin lessons and my parents were going back and forth (about) whether they were going to put me into music school, but they wanted me to decide if I wanted to play an instrument and then one day I met this girl and I was six and she was maybe nine. I thought she was so cool and she was playing the violin, so I said to my parents, I want to play the violin. They were like, perfect, great!

I was always singing as I mentioned, so that has always been a natural part of my life. I started when I was in high school. I started to write some songs myself and doing these horrible kinds of rhymes and trying to make everything rhyme perfectly. I spent a lot of time by the piano singing. I never saw that as my profession until maybe three or four years ago. I started doing some backup vocals with Dan Hylander and some other artists in 2011. That was the first year that I did pure voice work.  The violin was always my main instrument before that. They were like oh you can sing as well, good!”

As for her tour earlier in the year with Dan Hylander, Petra Wahlgren says, “We were touring this summer with David Carlson. That was fun. Dan is from the south of Sweden, so we were mostly there, but some other parts as well like the west coast. That is a very fun thing to do as well, because I get to play both the violin and (sing). Dan is very generous, so I did a duet with him. He gives his musicians a lot of space and I really like that about him.”

About the Nashville experience she says, “I was there for two weeks.  That was a really fun trip. I have always wanted to go there. I am interested in Country and in Bluegrass music with being a violinist and all. I went with my boyfriend and a friend who is a Country music artist who was nominated for a Country Music Award.  That was the main reason why we went there. I love the city. Oh my God.  Everyone is so warm and welcoming and the food is so amazing. I was eating so much good food. 

We went to 3rd and Lindsley and we saw The Time Jumpers with Vince Gill and everyone. I did not have much of a clue what we were going to see before, but we went with some friends and they said you have to see this. It was amazing. I was shocked.”

Petra Wahlgren also is working on a new album. At the time of our interview she had already recorded four new songs. She will be releasing a single in advance of the actual album’s debut.  

“I have been doing two styles and I haven’t decided yet (on the rest of the songs). It is going to be mostly Pop I think. I am a little bit torn between Swedish and English. There have been a few artists who have been releasing albums with both languages. For me it is very different writing in Swedish and in English. English is a lot faster and maybe that is because I don’t understand it as well. I also think that my Swedish songs have been a little bit higher quality. I always using the violin, so it is going to have some kind of Country or Folk vibe (too),” she says.

In 2014 Petra Wahlgren released an album for children.

“I am a character that is a leopard playing the violin and I am called Cleopetra. It is like a musical. The songs (cover) many themes. One of them is about why you can’t have cake for breakfast. There is another song about going to bed. Everything is child related. I do this show with my brother and that is fun. He is a lion,” she says.   

If you would like to listen to Petra Wahlgren sing in English and Swedish you can watch her promotional Youtube here and you can listen to her play her violin as part of a trio here.  To find out where Christmas Night is touring and how you can book tickets you can visit the official website. Concerts are selling out quickly.       Return to Our Front Page

Both Photos by Fredrick Francke, protected by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved

This interview by Joe Montague  published November 24, 2016 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  Except where indicated photos are the the property of  the photographers and artists and they are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine, All Rights Reserved