Interview: Lukas Graham Talks ‘The Pink Album,’ the Weight of Retrospection, & the Anticipation of Tomorrow

Lukas Graham © Petra Kleis
Lukas Graham © Petra Kleis
Lead singer Lukas Forchhammer of three-time Grammy nominated pop band Lukas Graham tells us about ‘4 (The Pink Album),’ the best “whole album” he’s ever made. The world has changed a lot since we’ve last heard from Lukas Graham, and he’s excited to share his evolution.
Stream: ‘4 (The Pink Album)’ – Lukas Graham

You can’t have the good without the bad, you need a bit of love, and a bit of bullshit to stay above. The pain in life makes life better when you get to the other side of it.

Danish pop band Lukas Graham haven’t released a new album in almost five years, since 3 (The Purple Album) was released in 2018. Their brand new fourth studio album, 4 (The Pink Album), is a culmination of a career spent traveling the world, meeting people, and embracing the lows and the highs of life.

“I love releasing songs that are reminiscent of what I used to do, but I also love challenging myself and presenting new sides of myself to the audience that’s listening,” frontman Lukas Forchhammer tells Atwood Magazine.

The Pink Album - Lukas Graham
The Pink Album – Lukas Graham

Over the last five years, Forchhammer welcomed his second daughter into the world. He’s collaborated with industry giants, learned from mistakes, and sought to create his best possible self.

Forchhammer has been staying sober to prove to his kids that there is more to life than drinking, drugs, and junk food. He’s trying to find joy in the little challenges we make for ourselves, like plunging into the arctic waters of Denmark for a few minutes longer each attempt. He is helping his community by cooking meals for the homeless, and writing a blueprint of happiness for his kids.

I think the keywords are, evolve or die.

Lukas Graham © Petra Kleis
Lukas Graham © Petra Kleis

The Pink Album is polished and meticulously put together, yet it sounds candid and true to life.

Spending countless hours focusing on the placement of each song, and the message of the story as a whole, Forchhammer has embarked on a journey of self-discovery in hopes that we are able to relate our own experiences to his words of encouragement. Stemming from his hometown of Christiana, Forchhammer has always believed in the concept that the “broadest shoulders carry the heaviest load.”

He hopes that we can focus on the little things, like sitting around with family and listening to music. In his duet with Mickey Guyton on the country-esque “Home Movies,” Forchhammer reminisces on the special feeling of being with loved ones and doing the things that bring simple and complete joy.

He tried capturing the magic of the mundane, like cleaning up after his kids, on the song “One by One.” He understands that one day his kids won’t need him anymore, and he’s hopeful that he’s done all that he can to lay the foundation that they need to thrive without him.

On “Wish You Were Here,” Forchhammer thinks of those that are not with us anymore. His friends, who can’t physically be with him on tour, his dad who has passed away, and his family for which he must go months without when he is performing on the other side of the world.

I wish you were here
Yeah, I wish you were here
After all this time and all these years
I wish you were here
Yeah, I’ve had my share of friends that come and go
Seems they don’t make ’em like they made you anymore
All these places, all these faces, still alone
It only helps to grow, tell you ’bout it when I’m home

After years of touring and writing music, Lukas Forchhammer says that he has finally found comfort.

But he’s determined not to become the kind of artist who becomes complacent with his work. He wants to continue with the changing undertones of the music industry, and thus he has written an album of true introspection and self-questioning.

With the free time he’s found over the last few years, he’s beginning to embrace the things he once took for granted, like listening to his favorite artists. He’s taken a dive into the albums that he grew up listening to, and he’s thinking about what’s next for his musical career. He wants to travel the world even more, and work with the types of artists he loved listening to in the kitchen with his dad. Whether it’s a folk Americana project or an EDM album, Forchhammer has his sights set on his future as an evolving artist.

The Pink Album is out now via Warner Records, and Lukas Graham are slated to head on a European tour in support this February. We’re excited to see what lies ahead in the future for Forchhammer and his band as he focuses on capturing the charm of the past, while redefining what success looks like in his progression.

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:: stream/purchase The Pink Album here ::
Stream: “Home Movies” – Lukas Graham & Mickey Guyton


The Pink Album - Lukas Graham

Atwood Magazine: Hey Lukas, so nice to meet you! Thanks for talking with us today. I know you are busy with the upcoming tour and album release, so we’ll try to keep it quick. How are you doing today?

Lukas Graham: Hey Nick, nice to meet you. I’m good! Having some family time today. Kids will be back in about 30 mins so hanging out with you until then [chuckles].

Sweet sounds good! First question that I like to ask anyone I meet is what kind of music have you been listening to lately? Any artists you’ve been obsessed with?

Lukas Graham: I’ve been obsessed with this album from this British rapper, Dave. His album We’re All Alone in This Together; I heard it by coincidence. The way he words things and puts things together is really, very very skillfully done. Over the past few years I’ve come to realize that I was listening to too little rap compared to what I used to… because of this Dave album I’ve gone back and re-listened to some of my favorite Jay-Z and 50 Cent records as well.

I’m more of a lyricist than a singer in some sense. Like the words that I write are kind of more important than the way I sing them, and a lot of the songs I’ve released, at least the big ones, have been written as poetry first, before there was a melody to it. Having kids and traveling too much makes it really difficult to listen to music… and I’m beginning to do that more when I have the time to do so.

I’ll have to check that album out! Can you tell me a little about your day-to-day life in the last couple of weeks? I saw on your Instagram that you were signing boxes and boxes of albums.

Lukas Graham: Yeah, I mean for the past few weeks, it’s like the calmest time of year for me typically. I have an annual summer holiday, and around Christmas I don’t have a lot of stuff to do, which is by choice. I chill with my family, hang out with my kids and my wife. I do my workouts, and I like swimming in the ocean in the winter time. It’s like a nice mental exercise. I get better under pressure the more I swim in the ocean, the more it’s really really cold. But ya, signing all of these vinyls and cds has been really really fun!

It’s been so long since I’ve put out an album, and I’m all about albums. Like when I listen to an artist, like I said with Dave, I’m not just listening to a song one play. I’ll put on the album and I’ll listen to it from start to finish. Probably because the way I grew up with music was I’d put on an album while I was cooking with my dad… and I still like doing that. I like listening to a whole country record when I’m cooking dinner for my kids.

So when I release an album myself, I really think about where I place the songs in the running order of them. I always look at it like a vinyl. Like you have a first half and a second half, side A and B, and then also the gratification of knowing that so many people have preordered a physical album. It gives people something that’s more of like a keepsake with artwork in it, where you can read the lyrics, and not go to some YouTube lyrics video where someone maybe mistranslates something. [laughs]

Lukas Graham © Petra Kleis
Lukas Graham © Petra Kleis

I actually had the opportunity to listen to the album, and I thought it was amazing. A lot of people online have ideas of what they think it's about. I’d love to hear directly from you on what this album is about.

Lukas Graham: Thank you very much. It’s about a few different things. My albums have always been written from the place in my life that I’m in. But in some ways this album is retrospective, as well as in the current.

The oldest song in this album was released in 2019. “Share That Love” is from 2020, and so these songs were written over quite a long time. There are songs in there from around when my second daughter was born. There are also songs in there that are referencing the fact that I went clean and sober in 2020, and I’ve been clean and sober since. So, there are a lot of the concepts that run through the album, from “Wish You Were Here” that talks about the friends that you can’t take on the journey, be that spiritual or in your work, or physically traveling with you.

There’s this song “Stay Above” that references that you can’t have the good without the bad, you know, you need a little love and a little bullshit to stay above. The pain in life makes life better when you get to the other side. It’s an album that really, really means a lot to me. I hope every artist feels that way every time they release an album, but like with The Purple Album, I feel I’d already moved past some of the subject matter. Where with The Pink Album, it’s like it’s all still here. I’m still living through becoming clean and sober, becoming a father again, getting back on tour and missing my friends. I think it’s the best whole-album I’ve made.

My favorite song on the album is probably the last one, “One by One,” which is a song about how everyone dies one day. It’s going to break my heart the day my kids move away from home, you know? One day I’m gonna walk into a bedroom and it’s going to be empty. I think we all as parents struggle with the idea that we’re cleaning up after our kids all day… and I believe we’re gonna miss that. Eventually they’re going to move away and we’re going to miss that, so why can’t we just enjoy that while we’re cleaning up after them now? [chuckles] But I guess that’s life, there’s always something to complain about.

I’m really looking forward to the world knowing about this album, and having people voice their feelings and experiences about it.

I’m so glad you mentioned “One by One,” it’s my favorite song on the album! So I’m curious, has the vision of the album shifted with time? The world has changed so much since you started writing.

Lukas Graham: You can kind of say that I always have the same vision for an album. I had a whole album a year ago, but then I wrote some songs since that were just better, you know what I mean? That influences how the album is built up. I’ll move songs around in different locations. But at the end of the day I write songs that I want to write, and I release songs that mean something to me personally.

I’m not too big on listening to a lot of people, I’ll have a handful of people that I listen to in terms of my musical content. At the end of the day I’m going to be the one singing these songs, right? You won’t be singing them, my label won’t be singing them. Like with “One by One” you can hear how emotional that song is for me.

Remember all my flaws and my mistakes
Some of them I know are youre to make
Remember me for who I was, who you want me to be
Guess I’m afraid you might forget me easily
I’m fearful, love, the day when I wil have to say goodbye
‘Cause I’m the one supposed to dry those teardrops from your eyes
Everyday with you has been the best day of my life
I’m sorry if I’m being sentimental tonight
But one by one by one we fade away
Memories, one by one by one, they fade to grey
We’re here for every season till we’re gone without a reason
One by one by one we fade away

I get what you’re saying. We’re all going to have different interpretations of the album, which is awesome right? When I was listening to “Stay Above” I sort of thought about the bullshit you mentioned as being the influences around you during the creative process. How do you block out all the noise and outside opinions when you’re making music during that process?

Lukas Graham: Yeah, I don’t play songs to my label before at least I think I’m done. I have my A&R, Kate Craig, who I’ll play demos for. But very rarely anyone other than her at the label gets to hear it.

At the same time, I’ve always created songs and music with a lot of different collaborators and partners. I like being able to bounce ideas off people, smack a ball against a wall and kinda see what holds. I’m really a firm believer that you need to write the wrong songs to be able to write the right songs. You can’t always say “oh I have to write a good song.” Sometimes you need to just finish a song; it might be a stepping stone to getting to where you need to go. Like I’ve written 20 songs about my father dying, and I’ve only released a few of them, you know what I mean?

Sometimes you need to just finish a song; it might be a stepping stone to getting to where you need to go.

Makes a lot of sense. On the topic of collaboration, “Wish You Were Here” is such a beautiful and personal song. How was it like working with Khalid and Ryan Tedder on such an emotional song?

Lukas Graham: Ya I kinda found over the last decade that the quicker you open up to the people you’re writing a song with, the quicker you can write a good song. I understand why songwriters have a difficulty doing that, because you never know what’s going to happen. But If I open up enough we can write something that’s closer to the point.

It was a milestone to work with Ryan Tedder. I’ve done some stuff with him before, but this was different. Him inviting me to work on a song from scratch was a really really cool experience. Watching him work on the keyboard, guitar, and little drum loops; he made a little demo production. And then when we had done most of the song, he said “you can definitely sing this and release it and it will be a great song, but what if I try to call a friend of mine.”

He didn’t tell me who he was planning on calling, so with his network I was thinking like “who the f— is he gonna call?” [laughs] And then he hits me back up and says Khalid wants to sing the song with me. Khalid ended up flying to Copenhagen and we wrote all his parts in the studio here, and we had a really nice dinner. He was amazing to work with! Both of our first big hits were sort of at the same time, but we never met, which is kind of a funny thing.

That’s so cool, not knowing who this mystery featured artist is going to be.

Lukas Graham: Ya I was texting with Khalid, and I go “do you want me to come to LA to finish the song?” And he said “nah I’ve always wanted to come to Copenhagen.” [laughs]

That’s so funny, I totally get that. So another cool collaborator you worked with on this album is Mickey Guyton, who’s a super talented country singer. Can you tell me about the inspiration to do a more country sounding kind of song?

Lukas Graham: One of the writers behind the song, Nicole Galyon, is actually a top notch country songwriter. I grew up listening to folk music because my father was Irish so I listen to a lot of folk music, Irish and Scottish folk. Different stuff like Bluegrass, Americana, and country. So I kind of had this thing for country songs and country music. So when I was presented this song, and I heard the song, I was like “I have to sing this.”

I rewrote some of it, recorded a little demo of it, and I told my manager, “what if this was a duet, with like me and a girl, and you can kind of paint that home movie picture, with the vocals playing with each other.”

Coincidentally in 2021 Mickey Guyon put some backing vocals on a song of mine, “Call My Name,” so I just messaged her about this new song. She messaged back and was like “I love this song, let’s do it.”

The world works in some weird ways sometimes. I remember getting “Call My Name” back and hearing these amazing backing vocals and thinking like “who the f— is this girl” [chuckles]. I thought of Mickey for “Home Movies” right away after that.

Really cool how it ended up happening like that!

Lukas Graham: I think the keywords are evolve or die, you know? Like some artists today say they don’t want to use TikTok. But that’s like saying 50 or 70 years ago that I don’t want to use the radio, it kind of just doesn’t work like that you know? I love releasing songs that are reminiscent of what I used to do, but I also love challenging myself and love presenting new sides of myself to the audience that’s listening. Like if you love the old stuff, listen to the old stuff, but I am going to release this new stuff too. [laughs]

Totally, it’s what you gotta do. The song to me is like the feeling of sitting by a warm fire with some hot chocolate and a blanket. It’s just lovely to listen to.

Lukas Graham: I just love the line from the chorus where it goes, “Everybody’s got a story no one knows” and it’s true for everyone. Like if you’re a janitor, or like a policeman, even a pop star. You can’t ever explain to people who you are anyway, because we all have this little secret life we live, you know?

Lukas Graham © courtesy of Warner Records
Lukas Graham © courtesy of Warner Records

I love releasing songs that are reminiscent of what I used to do, but I also love challenging myself and presenting new sides of myself to the audience that’s listening.

Can you tell me a little about your hometown, Christiana? The song is a little reminiscent, but you’re also looking into the future. Christiana sounds like a crazy cool place to grow up. I was hoping you can tell us about the impact it had on your music, you as an artist, and maybe even just you as a person.

Lukas Graham: I think the music style was mainly through my Father’s influence. He had an eclectic music collection, and then in varying venues around Christiana he used to put on concerts for people. Like rock n roll and folk, and book different bands from the U.S. and around Europe. A Lot of these folk bands, I actually met them, you know? It meant a lot to me seeing these touring musicians, who are by no means making a lot of money, but they were having a great time doing what they love. That kind of stuck with me, this idea that I want to do something that makes me happy, and let’s just see what happens.

But ya, Christiana was kind of a crazy place. We didn’t have a bathroom in my house until I was like 6. It was a little walk to use a little bathroom, and we would use a communal washroom. As a teenager I worked at that same bathhouse a couple days, but ya Christiana is just a weird place. It’s only 34 acres of an old military base that was squatted in 1971. We don’t have cars, not a lot of street lights. It’s an everyone knows everyone vibe, and I still live a couple blocks away, and I love going back. Because people don’t ask “how you are doing, how’s the career?” They ask “how do you feel?” “how are you inside?“

It’s a funny thing, my wife mentions sometimes when me and the guys hang out, she goes like “huh, no one talks about work. Everyone’s talking about like how do you feel, what’s going on with you, how’s your mom doing?”

That’s the biggest take away from it, that sharing is caring. That the broadest shoulders carry the heaviest load. Like when we do our little Christmas eve party, I always check up on some of the guys that might not have anywhere to go.

We do this thing every year called “Christmas for the Christmasless” in a big hall in Christiana. This year we served Christmas dinner for around a thousand people. There’s gifts for the kids, and dinner for homeless people, and people who don’t have enough money to celebrate. But it’s also for wealthy people who don’t have anywhere to go, like CEOs who are working overseas will come there and have Christmas dinner. Every year on the 22nd of December, I cook all the food for the volunteers, like 150 portions of lunch and dinner. I’ve done it with my dad since I was 16, and have done it for the last 10 years without him. It was really nice to give back with a few friends, cooking a good hearty meal for some volunteers.

That’s beautiful man, so nice to hear that there are still people who take the time to do good things like that for their communities. I just have one more question for you before the kids come back.

Lukas Graham: Yeah, that’s cool man.

Looking back, you guys have achieved the greatest feats in music: Playing at the Grammys, going on world tours, even singing happy birthday for Ryan Seacrest.

Lukas Graham: [laughs] I just saw that video the other day! It was hilarious, but it wasn’t for Ryan. It was this girl who worked at the radio, who had a birthday. By coincidence I go to Ryan like, “Should we sing happy birthday to her?” That was a goat clip!

Lukas Graham © Petra Kleis
Lukas Graham © Petra Kleis

After all of these adventures in music and in your life, is there anything that you guys are still hungry to achieve or try? Thinking back to when you were a kid, is there anything that you are still trying to experiment with, maybe in terms of your art or a genre that you want to try?

Lukas Graham: There are still a lot of countries where I haven’t performed, where I want to go and perform. A lot of my ambition right now is rooted in like the geographical, like imagining seeing a country that I want to see, but also playing a concert there, that would be amazing.

Genre-wise, I know I’m going to have to release that folk-country old time album eventually. Then I’ve also done a couple of dance features, where I realized like shit, I should hook up with some dance music producer and create a full ass album, with being able to tour with a dance project.

I think being a father of two kids, having fun with it, as long as it’s fun, becomes pretty fundamental at this time. I could retire, right? I would become a bit of a boring grouchy dad, sitting around the house all day. But personally, I just want to be a great dad. I have these ambitions in terms of swimming in the ocean, you know I was just in today and it was 5 degrees centigrade, and I was in for 5 and a half minutes without using a sauna, which is a personal record.

I’m not smoking and staying clean and sober, and pushing my body’s boundaries and limits. It feels really, really good to be in my own skin, and I just want to be able to show my kids that you can be a busy dad, but still a present dad. I’m in such a comfortable place in my life, that I think I should switch it up a little, and make it a little uncomfortable again. Otherwise, life is gonna get a little boring bro. [chuckles]

Totally man, very well said. It made me so happy to hear that you’re thinking about a folk album in the future!

Lukas Graham: I’m actually going to be performing with one of my favorite country artists, Caleb Klauder’s country band. I’m going to be performing with him here in Denmark at a folk festival in August. I used to go to this festival and volunteer when I was like 18-19, and I’ve played there a few times; it’s going to be really nice going back and playing with a good ‘ole country band.

Sounds awesome! Well Lukas thanks so much for chatting with us, I’ll let you go and be a dad, and we’re so excited for the album!

Lukas Graham: Yeah my wife is about to come home with the kids, thanks as well for your time!

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:: stream/purchase The Pink Album here ::
Stream: ‘4 (The Pink Album)’ – Lukas Graham

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The Pink Album - Lukas Graham

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