Interview | Former H.E.A.T singer Erik Grönwall
In recent years, the Swede Erik Grönwall has built up a considerable track record. After winning Swedish Idol in 2009, he became the spectacular frontman of H.E.A.T which lasted for over 10 years. This year a new adventure will start for Erik: the release of `Gate of The Gods’, the debut album of his new band New Horizon. In addition to that, Erik had to fight against acute lymphocytic leukemia [ALL] last year and is still recovering. Enough reasons for Raymond Helebrand to have a chat with Erik about his past, present and future.
You are born on December 1987 and I think it is fair to say you were a bit late for the 70s/80s music party that a lot of your influential bands were having in the 70s/80s. Bands like Queen, Skid Row, Kiss, Iron Maiden had their biggest moments even before you were born.
How did you get introduced to these and other bands, that formed you as an artist?
,,Actually I started with music because of even older bands. I was mostly influenced by 50s and 60s music when I was growing up. So artists like Elvis, CCR, Little Richard were the reason I picked up the guitar in the first place. And then from there I started exploring more artists and of course some of the late 80s/early 90s music was part of my childhood. My brother had the `Use Your Illusion’ albums of Guns N’ Roses albums in his room. So, I kind of went from there.’’
Around 2009 you made quite the impression with your second audition [first audition was in 2007] for Swedish Idol. You choose Skid Row’s ‘18 And Life’ and stayed true to your rock roots. Because also in the live shows you performed some rock solid hard and heavy classics.
Didn’t they try to shift you to a more commercial side, or was it easy to stay true to your own choices?
,,Well… I guess they tried to throw a few challenges at me but the music compiler at that time was also a rocker so he actually decided that I was going to do ,,Run To The Hills” of Iron Maiden. One should never underestimate Sweden’s rock roots 🙂 .”
They like you because you’re known from TV, not because of your music.-Erik Grönwall
Right after you won the competition, your self-titled solo album  was released. And the second album ‘Somewhere Between A Rock And A Hard Place’ came out a year later . The album that included songs written by Joey Tempest, Paul Stanley among others.
In retrospect, are you completely satisfied with how your solo records turned out?
,,Nope, not really. It was a production kind of based on a timeline to get it out before Christmas in order to make as much money on it as possible, instead of me taking the time to really find myself as a solo artist. When you come from a TV show like Idol you have a TV fan base rather than a music fan base. They like you because you’re known from TV, not because of your music (how could they, you’ve only performed covers). I am very proud of the song Joey Tempest wrote to me though and that is still one of my favorite songs. Would love to work more with him, great guy and inspiring artist. It has that 60s nerve that I like.’’
After your two solo albums, the band H.E.A.T came across your way.
Did you already know the band’s previous work and how did the first contact come about?
,,I knew them from Eurovision and the ,,1000 Miles’’ song. I met Jimmy Jay at a Dan Reed concert and he approached me. He didn’t mention anything regarding the singer position but a few days after I had the first two H.E.A.T CD’s in my mailbox and a request from the band via my management. So, I started listening and liked what I heard.’’
Between 2012 and 2020 you have recorded 4 great albums with H.E.A.T. The last one `H.E.A.T II’ has become an instant classic in my record collection. I think on that album everything came in place for the band when it comes to production and songwriting. Sometimes all things just come together and fall in the right places.
Is that also what you and the rest of the band thought when the recordings were finished?
,,Yes absolutely. I am so happy with that album and the songs on it.’’
Promoting the album live had become quite a different story, because of a global pandemic that introduced itself to the world. Other than a few shows in Scandinavia and the Monsters Of Rock Cruise, was there any kind of promo possible?
,,Unfortunately not. It would have been a fun album to tour on.’’
I promised myself that I would just keep singing my whole life if I got cured.-Erik Grönwall
I can only imagine what a bitter pill this must have been at that time and how the band must have felt.
Did this anticlimax contribute to your decision to leave the band end of October 2020?
,,No it was actually more about me wanting to tour less and try new things in life. I wanted more time for that. It’s important for me to wake up every day and do something that I love and although I love H.E.A.T it was time for me to try something new. After 11-12 years on any job, I guess it might be time to move on or at least go for that promotion 🙂 . Ironically when I got sick last year, I promised myself that I would just keep singing my whole life if I got cured. So now all I want to do is perform and release more music. One of the reasons I started my YouTube channel. It became a part of the healing to just sing in my home studio.’’
When I think of Erik Grönwall, I think of an excellent vocalist, great performer that is kind of unstoppable on stage during a show. When you are on, you are on.
The End of April 2021 you let out the fact you were diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). You decided to be completely transparent about it, while being in the middle of your first treatments. And you continued giving updates to the world.
Do you think this decision, to share, also helped you during the process of dealing with all of it?
,,Thank you. 100%. I’ve been given so much strength from my followers and some have shared their stories from cancer treatments. It’s been so inspiring.’’
Giving up never seemed to be an option for you, and the positivity in the updates you gave during the process of getting back on top, are more than inspiring and can be seen as a great example as far as I’m concerned.
In September it finally became clear that you are 100% cancer free, how is the recovering going for you?
,,Well I’m still recovering, still on some medicine but I did a bone marrow transplant in August. Some anonymous wonderful human being, somewhere in the world donated his/her blood cells so that I could get a second chance at life. Sometimes I can just get tears in my eyes when I think about it. It’s so beautiful that one person who is not connected to me in any way wanted to do that for me. He/she doesn’t know that the blood cells were for me. It’s completely anonymous. I’ve started boxing again and I’m also doing some Aikido weekly. So, I’m starting to come back. Still on sick leave though.’’
Although you were battling a threatful disease, you started your YouTube cover sessions in July last year. With a monstrous version of Black Sabbath classic ,,Headless Cross’’ to begin with. Damn, that must have been recorded in the middle of all craziness going on, but that performance has made once again clear what an amazing artist and person you are.
How the hell did you get the insane idea to start covering those classics in the middle of your own battle?
,,Thank you again. It was a surviving and healing mechanism. I realized what was most important to me and entertaining and singing is what I am. I had to get more material out there since I didn’t really know what the outcome would be. Now it’s like 10K subscribers on the channel and growing, so now I’m just having so much fun updating with videos there weekly.’’
A little more than a month ago you also started with your own vlog. High energy, almost ADHD like peeks into your life at the moment.
Do you have any boundaries regarding what you’ll show in the vlog? Like, no, this is private.
,,A lot of ADHD in this family 🙂 . Well yes. I’m not really comfortable showing my son on camera. First of all, I think it should be up to him when he is old enough to make that decision if he wants to live a public life and secondly there’s been a few stalker occasions and I don’t want them to know what he looks like.’’
I started the management side of things because I find understanding contracts and music business very interesting.-Erik Grönwall
Besides being an artist, you also have a ‘few’ other things on your to do list. You are involved in a project in South Africa named Hitchat Entertainment, and you are also a manager for a few bands.
How in God’s name do you find the time to do all those things? And what are those projects about?
,,I started the management side of things because I find understanding contracts and music business very interesting. And I thought it was a good way to put my experience as an artist to use as well. I try to take an 80/20 approach (pareto principle) and focus on the tasks that will generate the most outcome. So, trying to be very effective during the day.’’
And if that was not enough, I already heard in August about a new project you would be involved in, with former H.E.A.T band mate Jona Tee.
Was that the plan from the moment you had left H.E.A.T?
,,Not at all. That happened afterwards. I was just supposed to sing on two tracks for the New Horizon album but it was just too much fun so I told Jona to tell the other singers that I was doing all the songs 🙂 .‘’
Obviously we can expect the release of the full New Horizon album somewhere in March of 2022. Pretty much your (Jona & you) declaration of love to the power metal genre you love too. Besides the official audio release of ,,We Unite’’ and the first video of ,,Stronger Than Steel’’ it is of course quite exciting what we can expect musically from this project.
What can we expect from the New Horizon project, or should it be called a band? Please enlighten us.
,,Yes. I would avoid calling it a project because to me it feels like that is kind of undermining how serious we are taking this. A project feels like something you just do on the side. It’s true we have a lot of other things going on but we still put our heart and time into this. We agreed that we will have New Horizon to release great metal music and just have fun together. The day it’s not fun anymore we will just stop doing it. So, look at it as a metal factory producing the greatest metal in the world 🙂 .‘’
Given your track record, it is almost inevitable that you are also busy with some other projects.
What more is coming towards the world, having Erik Grönwall’s signature?
,,Nothing that I know of just yet. I’ll keep building my YouTube channel and focus on my recovery and we’ll see what happens 🙂 .‘’
On behalf of our readers, I would like to thank you for your time and I’ll hope to see you soon, somewhere on the road. Stay healthy and being just the way you are.
,,Thank you very much Raymond. And thanks to all the readers.’’
Header photo by Raymond Helebrand