Saturday, 26 March 2016

Daniel Ward Interview - Part 1

I recently interviewed the author of the new book "Agnetha Faltskog - The Girl With The Golden Hair", Daniel Ward, for an Abba fan magazine - here is the first part of the interview...

Why did you decide to write a book on Agnetha ?

Simply, I wrote it because I wanted to read it! Creative writing has been a hobby of mine since childhood and I’d been looking for a new project for a while. As an ABBA fan, I had been listening to some of Agnetha’s solo material, particularly from her early pre-ABBA days, and wanted to know more about this beautiful, talented woman with an air of shyness and vulnerability; her upbringing, her inspirations, her family life, her struggles and successes. I assumed there must be a biography of Agnetha that contained the kind of information I wanted to know, only to find there wasn’t.

So I began to research her life myself and eventually compiled quite a lot of information. I was also struck by the amount of apparent rumours and untruths there seemed to be out there and wanted to get to the bottom of them. So I had my new project! Once I had decided to write a biography of Agnetha, I had to decide what kind of biography it would be; the structure, the tone, the style of writing, the level of detail. It could have been approached from a number of different angles.

I didn’t want to hit the reader with too much unecessary information (the book could easily have been much longer without actually telling you anything more!) and I was keen to avoid anything that could be construed as overly intrusive or insensitive. I’m also aware that many of Agnetha’s fans around the world will not have English as their first language, so I also aimed to write a book that was accessible and in an easy-to-read style. ‘Agnetha Fältskog – The Girl With The Golden Hair’ is the book about Agnetha I always wanted to read.

Did you manage to find any pictures of Agnetha for the book which haven't been seen in the past ?

The photos were chosen to illustrate the many different stages of Agnetha’s life and career – her early solo days, the genesis of ABBA, Eurovision, the ’77 and ’79-80 tours, her later solo career etc.. – so high-quality professional images were preferred, rather than trying to source more obscure and perhaps poorer quality photos. I did consider using a few grainy black-and-white photos of her childhood and some amateur images from ABBA’s peak years that I thought her fans may not have seen before but, on reflection, felt that quality should be our primary aim. Obtaining the necessary licences to publish the photographs was also a major consideration in their selection. Overall, I’m delighted with the photos that have been chosen as I feel they show Agnetha at her best.

How did you go about researching the book ?

A lot of sifting through newspapers and magazine articles, Swedish music archives, Swedish social history from the 1960’s to the modern day, interviews and, above all, listening to a lot of Agnetha’s music. I have tried throughout to not speculate, to ensure that facts are correctly sourced and verified, and to avoid drifting into gossip and conjecture. It was also enjoyable to look through photo libraries to select the images for the book

Whilst writing the book did you find out anything new about Agnetha which you weren't previously aware of ?

While I considered myself a fan of Agnetha and ABBA prior to working on the book, it was more as a casual fan who enjoyed their music rather than someone with an in-depth knowledge of their lives. Researching and writing the book was therefore a real journey of discovery for me. I learned so much about Agnetha that I didn’t know before and I hope the readers will also be able to learn something new. I developed a whole new level of respect for all that she has achieved.

There have been a few Abba and Agnetha books in the past - how do you think yours differs from those ?

I’ve never really thought of ‘Agnetha Fältskog – The Girl With The Golden Hair’ as being in competition with any other books about ABBA and its members. Rather, I hope it will be complementary to what has gone before. As I mentioned earlier, I wrote the book as I felt this kind of biography of Agnetha didn’t really exist and I felt it should. Apart from some cross-referencing, I deliberately avoided reading too much about ABBA and Agnetha from other authors during the writing process, prefering to draw my own conclusions from the research. I just hope the book is an entertaining and worthy read and earns its place on the bookshelf of any ABBA and Agnetha fan alongside any other books they may have.

What do you think is the most interesting period in Agnetha’s career ?

There’s very little about her career that isn’t fascinating for me, but if I had to go for one particular period it would probably be the late 1960’s. Agnetha was one of the first successful female singer-songwriters and that achievement is somewhat forgotten due to her enormous fame with ABBA. There were very few female singers writing their own songs back then, though of course it’s much more commonplace now.

Agnetha was really a pioneer; a hit album at 18 years of age, largely full of self-penned tracks, was an enormous accomplishment. The UK had Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Cilla, Sandie Shaw, the USA had Connie Francis and Brenda Lee, but none of them were writing their own material. She really was ahead of her time.

Why do you think Agnetha’s early English solo recordings were less successful in the UK than they were across Europe ?

An interesting question, and one that is difficult to put a finger on. Re-listening to it, much of the material stands up quite well in comparison to other female singers around at that time. I think the rest of Europe are quicker to accept artists from other countries than here in the UK. How many French, German, Spanish singers make it here? Without the ABBA brand, Agnetha struggled to find a place in an overcrowded market.

Touring and more promotional appearances may have helped her, but ultimately I don’t think the desire or ambition to be a stand-out solo star was there. She had moved on, and being a mother was far more important to her that being a success outside of ABBA. There was nothing for her to prove.

Daniel's book is published on the 21st April in the UK and is available to pre-order on Amazon now - I will post the second part of the interview tomorrow.

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