When a band gets a new lead vocalist, sometimes it increases their profile and sometimes it just crashes and burns. It is one of the biggest gambles a band can make when revealing a new front-person to become the focus and the voice for their catalog and their brand. This is a story of a band which comes from the Scandinavian backdrop of Sweden, and how after releasing two studio albums they discovered their new lead vocalist from a television talent show which searched valiantly for a national singing treasure. In addition to this, the journey takes fans on to the next chapter. With bated breath, fans and newcomers are eagerly awaiting the forthcoming fourth studio album Tearing Down The Walls which hopes to break new ground and continue the momentum that was successfully set by the preceding album Address the Nation in 2012.
“I sent them a video, they called me up and asked me if I wanted to be a part of the show and come for an audition. At the time I didn’t have much going; I had separated from my band that I had going on back then and you know, I thought it’s music that I want to do, so here’s my chance.” Erik Grönwall speaks clearly and precisely from the London hotel he is staying at whilst doing promotion for their upcoming new album. “Maybe I won’t get it again, so that’s why I did it. That’s how the H.e.a.t guys found me, so in a way it was the best thing that had happened to me; it’s a blessing and a curse.”
When tackled regarding the last bit of his reply, Grönwall elaborates. “It’s like a circus in a way” he says with a chuckle. “You don’t learn much about the music business but you know, you’ve got cameras in your face 24/7. The Swedish media is after you, it was a crazy time! So it was fun to experience it but I’m kind of happy that era is over.” How does a national competition of this stature set you up for joining an existing band? “I guess doing live shows with a lot of cameras in your face; I think it became very natural to me. That’s easy for me to do, even today. That’s what I brought to the band and maybe having played in front of 1.5 million people, I guess that’s a very good experience.” Grönwall admits also that during this performance, he was understandably a nervous wreck!
Joining an established band can be a challenge. “They had their fans and their fans liked the former singer Kenny, and they recruited a Swedish Idol winner and that’s not something you do in a rock band you know. So I guess I had a lot of eyes on me; people waiting for me to fail. That was the toughest challenge of joining this band, to prove them wrong.”
With regards to the first album that Grönwall sang on, Address The Nation, he set the record straight about his involvement. “We wrote everything when I joined the band. That’s when we started writing for the album, so no songs were made before that.”
Address The Nation was unleashed in 2012 containing solid muscular melodic rock nuggets like Falling Down, Heartbreaker and Breaking the Silence. It would be interesting to know from the standpoint of a fan what they can expect regarding the follow-up. “I guess this is a little bit heavier this album and I personally think that we’ve been working harder trying to do the artwork better, everything I think we didn’t do with Address The Nation we really worked hard on with this album. There’s more energy and I think the songs are better and I think the artwork turned out great. We focus on building up a great live act and I think we can do a lot of stuff with this album.” When quizzing the lead vocalist about his favorite tracks on Tearing Down The Walls, he responds with “Of course the first single (A Shot at Redemption), Mannequin Show and Point of no Return; the opening, I really think that’s a classic hard rock song.”
Amongst the press release and general bits of promotion the band have shared with fans regarding Tearing Down The Walls; the band seem united on the concept of breaking free, trying something new and not being held down with boundaries. “When we started writing songs and the lyrics for the songs, it just happened. We realized there was like a theme through the whole album and most of the songs were about trusting, believe in yourself and breaking free yeah.” Grönwall continues with this thread of thought summarizing, “So it just happened in a way and that’s why we chose to name the album Tearing Down The Walls.”
Grönwall acknowledges the creative process for H.e.a.t as a very united effort and real team collaboration with each member participating. “I think Jona (keyboardist) and I had the chorus idea and the riff and we put it together. We always do it in our own studio and we come up with ideas there. Just track it down and then Jona introduced it to the rest of the band and we started working on it together and putting the song together; rehearsed it a couple of times and then we headed for the studio and recorded it.“ This was his reply when asked to share the creative process for their single A Shot at Redemption as a specific example.
Although the question wasn’t asked, Grönwall shares why it was released as the first single to a backdrop of soft piano music which guitarist Eric Rivers was playing while he patiently waited. “Why we chose it as a single, it’s actually; we let our record label decide a lot of the single choices as such. So it was because of our label that we chose that song. We trust them and it was a good choice.” You can check out their single A Shot at Redemption by clicking here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f6D5qP9WAc
Due to the enthusiasm from Grönwall regarding the cover artwork for Tearing Down The Walls, that topic was addressed allowing him to explain how it all came together. “Crash (drummer) started working on the artwork, and he found a Russian artist, he lives in Canada. Crash sent him some ideas you know, and we wanted something we can work with live, a cool backdrop and such. He sent him his ideas to Alexis and he came back with what we thought was amazing, and it’s pretty much the result you see, kind of like a Marvel comic book.”
Regarding the chemistry of H.e.a.t with this new album being their second with Grönwall at the helm, he adds “It was easier to record this album because we know each other and it’s easier to work when there’s no stiffness.”
Grönwall found himself becoming a singer after initially wishing to be a rhythm guitarist. “Somehow I got into singing and I got a main part in a school project, the musical of We Will Rock You. That’s when I realised I wanted to sing instead. I practised a lot and I sang a lot to Freddie Mercury and Sammy Hagar, that’s what I did.” The original fascination with the rhythm guitar came from a source that may surprise you. “I played a lot of rhythm guitar along to the Metallica album Master of Puppets and I wanted to be like James Hetfield and do the riffs.”
Noting at this junction how Grönwall had name-dropped Hagar, Mercury and now Metallica, it seemed potent to enquire about his influences. “Queen, AC/DC, Pantera, Metallica of course, Van Halen and I actually listen a little bit to Slayer, not that much, just some songs; Led Zeppelin too. You know, I’m more in to the straight on, foot-on-the-floor rock n’roll like Rolling Stones also.”
With a self-titled debut album being unveiled back in 2008, their second album titled Freedom Rock in 2010 with Kenny Lecremo on lead vocals, who would have thought they would rise like the proverbial phoenix with a new lead vocalist? Examples like AC/DC continuing with Brian Johnson after the shocking death of former singer Bon Scott; Iron Maiden changing front-men from Paul Di’Anno to Bruce Dickinson and many other examples that you could contribute; there is room for a band to move forwards with a new voice and focus at the front of the stage. It would appear that these Swedish rockers are yet another example to add to a growing list of bands that respectful of their fans, introduce replacements. Journey and Alice in Chains are two more that spring to mind.
The other debate that arises from time to time regards the credibility of these singing competitions that appear on the television. They are entertainment in one way, and also controversially providing a way to address undiscovered talent. With the story of H.e.a.t, would they have ended up selecting Grönwall without the aid of such a high-profile televised competition? What would have become of the band without Grönwall stepping into the shoes of Lecremo? It would seem that the initial scepticism of such a television-based search for talent may have been a little premature, despite providing financial reward for those who play the role of judges and for those who created the format.
With an act like Daughtry doing good business thanks to the success of main man Chris Daughtry and his high-profile during the fifth season of American Idol, when he made it to the final during 2006, there is another positive point in why the television talent show has a relevant place in the world of entertainment. Perhaps, there is a little room for such an entity within the vast space that is the music business after all? One thing is for sure, Grönwall is thrilled to be in the situation he is in with H.e.a.t.