Lukas Graham Live in NYC (Interview)

Danish Band “Storms” NYClukas graham (photo-credit-chapman-baehler)

There’s a popular tune on the airwaves these days that sounds like nothing else: the poignant ballad “7 Years,” an empowerment anthem about life and loss, making a global impact for Danish soul-pop band Lukas Graham. Led by lead singer Lukas Graham Forchhammer, the four-piece band is sitting pretty book-ended by the company of Rihanna and Drake’s “Work” and Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” in the U.S., just to get an idea on its surge. Lukas sang in the Copenhagen Boys’ Choir and developed an appreciation for classical music from a young age, while also being drawn to his father’s Irish roots and Irish folks songs, which are both evident in the band’s music. They are also fans of hip-hop, apparent on their tune “Mama Said,” which features a children’s choir singing a reworked version of Jay Z’s “Hard Knock Life” (which of course samples the iconic Annie song). Currently on tour and passing through NYC, Lukas Graham and bandmates perform live May 9 at Highline Ballroom in Manhattan and May 11 at Rough Trade NYC in Brooklyn. New York City Monthly was honored to speak with Lukas recently…

With “7 Years” hitting #1 in the UK for weeks and at #2 in the U.S., what’s it like to be the only artist other than Adele, Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber to make a global impact with a ballad in recent memory?

It’s weird that’s it’s happening all around the world so quickly – with the song and the record. I like the fact that we are so high on the charts with a song that’s so personal, of this caliber, as opposed to something like “Take The World By Storm.”

What do you think will be different about your New York dates compared to other cities in the US? Have you been to New York before?

We played two showcases in New York [in the past], one at Velvet Lounge, one at SOBs. So far I wouldn’t say crowds vary that much – they show up for a band that gives them an experience. I was in New York seven years ago when I was 20 and I recorded a few songs in Brooklyn with some friends of mine. I would recommend it to anyone, just walking around New York City.

Lukas Graham is a band comprised of childhood friends, probably having gone through a lot of the same things together. Now as you experience the U.S. together on a North American tour, in your free time while in New York City that doesn’t include performing and media, what do you hope to explore or do?

I brought the guys on different ferries and showed them good food, brought them around Williamsburg [Brooklyn]. We’ve been to Central Park. When we get there we want to check out some of the museums.

Dr. Dre’s “2001” inspired you big time – “changed your life” rather. You also grew up listening to the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Al Green, James Brown, Prodigy. There’s even an Annie/Jay Z sample on “Mama Said.” So American culture and popular music have certainly influenced a lot of your own music. New York is a melting pot of so many cultures and musical styles, and Lukas Graham music blurs folk, hip-hop, soul, rock ‘n’ roll effortlessly. How do you think New York is going to respond to your shows and what do you hope for these dates?

We recorded it and pitched the children – we made that sample – I hope people get the notion of rap music in the songs. I’m singing with the melody, most of my songs are written like raps. We are going to give people a lot of lovely musical moments. We’re going to bring a lot of sweat and power to those concerts halls, people can sing along if they want to. It will make a difference if they have heard the record or not. I think the New York shows are going to be killer cause the album will be out for about a month.

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(Photo credit: Chapman Baehler)