That’s exactly what happened when Elias debuted in 2015 with ‘Revolution’. Here was an artist with a voice that was truly something else. Not only was it striking in its nuance and in its power, but it also was the voice of a man who has seemingly weathered a lifetime’s worth of emotional upheaval, and had learned how to convey love, loss and devastation with utter sincerity. And yet Elias was still just nineteen-years-old.
The reaction was suitably emphatic. Noisey described him as “a concoction of James Blake soulfulness and Bon Iver potential”, while i-D prompted comparisons with FKA twigs, Spooky Black, Anthony Hamilton and Sam Cooke as they praised his “gorgeously profound voice.”
And it wasn’t long before things took off for the young working class Stockholm resident. Releases such as the ‘Warcry’ EP and ‘Down N Out’ – accompanied by a striking video which used body horror as a byword for emotional pain – proved that ‘Revolution’ was no fluke flash-in-the-pan. Factor in a stunning once-in-a-lifetime performance at Sweden’s Grammis in 2016 and a collaboration with the Cullberg Ballet, and it’s clear that Elias is the real thing.
Two years on, and it feels like Elias’s path has been almost pre-determined. “Did I have a back-up plan?” he responds with the careful consideration that seems to inform everything that he says. “No, not really. If I don’t do music, maybe I could clean apartments. I don’t have a choice. I have to do this.”
Elias’s journey started as a child, when he’d sing along as his mother performing rebellious workers’ songs with a righteousness and fury inspired by punk. His own writing would see his words evolve into songs that could connect with others, and he discovered his distinctive vocal gift while performing with the Tensta Gospel Choir. King Krule and James Blake proved to be particularly compelling influences as he sought to home in on his identity as an artist.
The pivotal moment in the direction of Elias’s forthcoming debut album came when he headed to London to work with Adele/Coldplay/Florence producer Paul Epworth and long time partner HYENA, who produced ”Revolution”. Touchingly overwhelmed by Epworth’s interest in him, the pair’s initial discussions in London shaped the album’s future – both thematically and in terms of the production.
“I really wanted the album to be as pure and honest as possible,” he asserts. “And that’s a pretty hard thing to do. There may be simple melodies, but to find those melodies you have to go full circle: discover the more atmospheric side at first, and then you come to the essence of the song. I also wanted to get away from where I was born and try to find my place in the world.”
The album’s first calling card comes with the single ‘Thinking of You’. Produced by HYENA, it’s a track which uses the time-honoured tradition of simple songcraft as sweeping strings and singers from the Tensta Gospel Choir form a choral wall of sound which perfectly complements Elias’s booming baritone.
“I wrote Thinking of you during a farewell process. A farwell to an end of an era and a goodbye to a person that had a big impact on my life and will always affect me in a way. This someone will always be with me as a memory of that period of my life. “
‘Thinking of You’ will be followed by ‘Focus’, a slowburner with a more modernist approach in which Elias explores a similar theme of disharmony. “It’s about me leaving a relationship and getting on with my life. I’m conflicted about it, but I know that it’s something that I have to do – I think people can relate to that. Sometimes you have to choose to leave something behind when it’s not working anymore.”
There will be much more to explore when the album emerges, but Elias consistently writes with a passion for both internal turmoil and social issues. As he opens up on the album’s other themes – “trying to understand and get over the inner demons that rule your being” and the fractious relationship with his estranged father – it becomes evident that there’s a lot more to Elias than is immediately apparent.
Back in the here and now, however, Elias believes that his growth throughout the process of making the album is a case of growing self-belief. “The main thing is trusting in myself and what I want to say, and to be able to rely on that and not hide away so much,” he concludes. “As for the album, I just hope that people are patient with it and will give it a chance.”