Lukas Graham voiced a few simple (yet unwavering) requests during his first casual encounter with Warner Bros. Records Chairman/CEO Cameron Strang: provide ample time for music and his buddies.
Or to put it Graham’s way: “I want to build the perfect team and I want time to settle my record, to meet new writers and producers and experiment with my sound. Most of all, I want to build a team I know I can trust.”
And to justify such dedication, over the next several months the 27-year-old classically trained singer emptied his own pockets to accommodate his loyal Denmark crew’s Los Angeles transition. “I write lyrics and melodies––I don’t produce drums or write string arrangements. I don’t know chords and keys. When Warner didn’t want to pay for something, I went and paid for it. So Warner could see that I put my own trust and heart into it, I bankrupted myself twice. They eventually put in more effort and money and rewarded me for investing.”
“The record label is not your friend.”
Graham’s rather humble upbringing also lends a positive sort of industry cynicism. “The record label is not your friend. You can’t trust them as a whole, but you can rely on people at your label. You must make money [because] the corporate beast wants money. But people want people. I try to bond and connect with everyone from top to bottom. If you’re not a likable guy, they don’t give a shit about working with you.”
Worldwide fame on Spotify also influenced Graham. “I would advise artists to stop making exclusive releases. It’s bullshit! You’re pissing on your fans without the courtesy of calling it rain. Streaming has democratized music––people are now choosing the songs. No one knew who Lukas Graham was six months ago, but once [“7 Years”] became global it got forced onto radio.”
With chart-climbing hits and a demanding tour, things aren’t slowing down for the band anytime soon. Still, Graham maintains a modest outlook on success. “We get the feeling from the entire Warner team that this kind of run doesn’t happen. It’s not supposed to go this well.”
Photo by Chapman Baehler
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