When you’re on the road as often as Swedish pop duo Roxette, finding time to make new music can be a challenge. This time around, Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson have been touring the globe since February 2011. As a result, their latest release, Traveling, was recorded in unconventional locations whenever their schedule allowed—in hotel rooms, at soundchecks and in makeshift studios. Following the diagnosis of Marie's brain tumor and her subsequent recovery, Roxette has a renewed sense of purpose—one fueled by the support of their diehard fans. We spoke with Per about Marie's health, the craziest place they recorded and how one of their biggest hits started out as a Christmas song.
This is your first world tour since 1994. Why was now the right time?
Marie got ill in 2002, and I was pretty sure Roxette was over. That she survived at all was amazing. I started doing my own stuff. I was touring in 2009, and I asked Marie if she wanted to join me onstage. She hadn’t been singing publicly for many years. To my surprise, she said yes. We did "It Must Have Been Love" and "The Look," and people were freaking out and crying. It was very emotional for all of us. She felt so much energy and affection from the crowd. Two weeks after that, she called me up and said, "Can you write a new Roxette album? I’m ready to go." We took it slow, and then it became a full-scale tour after a while.
How is her health?
She’s been doing great. She’s probably the healthiest of all of us. [Laughs] She lost half of her eyesight in her right eye. She sometimes has problems with her balance, so she’s not running around like she used to onstage. The last 18 months have been a very strange rehab for her. She’s getting so much support and love from people all over the world, and it’s meant a lot to her.
You recorded Tourism in 1992 while on the road. How was it different this time?
The basic strategy behind it was sort of the same. When we realized this was going to be a long tour, we talked about doing a sequel. Today, it’s very easy to do. In the early ’90s, you had to bring 8-channel recorders and stuff like that, reverbs and echoes. Now everything is run through the computer.
Where was the craziest place you recorded?
We were staying in a really weird presidential suite in South Africa, and we brought in the entire band. If we found ourselves staying at the same hotel two or three days, it was really easy to rent a boardroom or part of a nightclub.
There’s a song on the new album called "Excuse Me, Sir, Do You Want Me To Check On Your Wife." What’s that about?
You tell me. [Laughs] I wrote that song because it was something someone said to me in a London nightclub.
What was your response?
"No, she’s doing fine." [Laughs] That’s always been the way I write. I pick up things people say and write it down. When the time comes to write songs, I look through what I have and let my imagination run wild. Writing songs is very much like putting a puzzle together. You use things that have happened to you and things that haven’t happened to you.
Your song “It Must Have Been Love” was a huge hit. What memories does that song bring back for you?
That song was written and recorded in 1987, a few years before we had our international breakthrough. We were trying really hard with our first Roxette album to get on the radio in Germany. One of the executives at EMI Germany said, "Why don’t you write a Christmas song and we’ll try to get you on the radio for the Christmas season at least." I went home and wrote this ballad called "It Must Have been Love (Christmas for the Brokenhearted)." It became a super song in Sweden but nowhere else. We just forgot about it.
Three years later, after we had our big breakthrough, we got an offer to be involved with this low-budget movie with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. They wanted me to write something, but I didn’t have the time because we were doing promotion all over the world. I said, "I have this Christmas song; I can rewrite the lyrics and take away the Christmas references." I got a call from Garry Marshall, who was directing the movie, and he said, "I just fell in love with this song. I’ve re-edited the whole movie just to get the song in there." The movie ended up becoming this blockbuster. It’s still one of the most popular songs we have.
Roxette plays the Gibson Amphitheatre on Saturday, Sept. 15. Tickets are on sale now at LiveNation.com, but you can win one of two pairs of tickets to the show at FrontiersLA.com!