December 23rd, 2021


Hey Jens

Iím in my late twenties and Iím starting to go bald. I know itís not a big deal, it happens to many men. But It bums me out. Any advice?


Michael Stipe on the back of the Eponymous LP

Dear Joshua

I hear you. I felt the same thing. What bothered me the most was the pressure to be proud of myself, to not be upset about it. It didnít allow for a natural transformation. I remember people shouting at me ĒBe proud. Take off your hat. You look great.Ē  But my face had just made a U-turn. What used to be a frame for the canvas that was me had disappeared. I wanted to mourn.

A transformation is necessary. And if given the time and care it needs, balding is a blessing. How many men around me havenít held on to their locks as if clinging to their youth? Balding forces you into a pupa. You put on a hat. You stay inside. You think about who you were and what you're about to become. You donít become a butterfly overnight. First you need to find your bald forefathers and role models. Someone whoís been through it. I looked to Michael Stipe. The curls from his youth on the back of the Eponymous LP. The cap he wore in Shiny Happy People. The hat in Everybody Hurts and his final transformation in Whatís The Frequency, Kenneth.

I remember buying a nice black coat that I felt complimented my new streamlined appearance. I started working out and kept a permanent three day stubble. I met a handsome, bald, British man in his 50ís who worked for my label as I did promotion for an album in London and at the end of the night I shook his hand. As I walked back to my hotel I noticed a scent of tobacco and vanilla when I scratched my face. I decided I would now be interested in perfume, that I would find my own scent.

It was as if a new form of masculinity was presented to me but I was free to shape it myself. Become the man I wanted to be. As I now grow older I realize I look more and more like my grandpa, the one I probably inherited the bald gene from. I remember him with warmth when I look at myself in the mirror.

There are a lot of reasons why balding isnít a big deal. The physical changes the male body goes through usually become positive attributes in the end while women are judged much more harshly as they grow older. But don't be so conscious about this that you feel youíre not entitled to mourn your hair. You are. And you should. Stop trying to be ok with it.


December 23rd, 2021


Dear Jens,

I have been reading your smalltalk faithfully since, I donít know, 2005?
To me it is one of those safe havens online that remains unchanged as the whole online world spins faster and faster around it.

I understand digital agoraphobia. Honestly, I put off becoming any part of social media until my absence there started interfering with my offline life.
And even now, I never post anything personal online. No photoís, no birth announcements, no hobbies, no Ďhow was my dayí.
The idea alone of sharing these things online makes me uncomfortable.
At the same time I sometimes feel guilty, because I do enjoy seeing other peopleís online lives. So maybe Iím a voyeuristic digital agoraphobiac?

There is one exception though, my work life is an open book online. Google me (please donít!) and you would find anything I have ever done for my work.

Which brings me to my question:
You share parts of your personal life via your songs, which is your work. How do you balance what you share and what you keep personal?

Love your songs and always will.

Take care,



My question is, if you get some or all of your ideas for songs from events in your life, has there ever been something you've wanted to turn into one, but couldn't?



Ňsa Grennvall

Dear Alicia and Malcolm

I was in Paris when I read these questions, helping my partner who was painting a restaurant there. One day we were having pizza somewhere in the 2nd arrondissement when I swore Michel Houllebecq walked by. The comb over, the hunched back, the half smoked cigarette. It mustíve been him. I thought of his book The Elementary Particles and his portrayal of his mother in that book as a selfish, sex obsessed hippie. A common advice to writers is Ēwrite as if your parents are deadĒ and Houellebecq certainly did. He even claimed in an interview that his mother was dead (which she wasnít).

The advice to Ēwrite as if your parents are deadĒ demands of the author to position themself outside of family, relationships and society in order to speak the truth. Iíve often envied enfant terribles like Houellebecq because I feel restricted by these things. Iíve experienced so many things in my life that I think could be amazing stories but felt strongly that they belonged to the unwritable.

When I started writing songs I was inspired by the Swedish graphic novel scene of the late 90ís which was extremely autobiographical and kitchen sink realist. The authors depicted their personal love lives more or less like a coroner performing an autopsy. But the fact that these stories were so life-like made them so relatable and human. I brought some of this thinking into my songs. I thought maybe 5-10 people would ever hear my songs so I didnít reflect on what I wrote. Then things went so fast, the songs were copied over the internet, the labels cheered me on, I got caught up in a whirlwind and thought itíd be fine. It was an awful feeling when I realized that people I cared about had felt exposed. For a while I defended myself, thinking that I had exposed myself as much as them. But it is after all the author who holds the scalpel.

After this itís been a struggle. And itís supposed to be a struggle. Iíve written about people close to me or things that are very personal and sometimes Iíve regretted it afterwards. Iíve asked and been granted permission from people Iíve written about only to realize that they could never have anticipated what it would feel like to be exposed like that. But Iíve also tried writing very abstract and that doesnít work either.

So Iíve landed in an approach I call Ēemotionally autobiographical writingĒ. My usual example with this is my song Evening Prayer. At the time I wrote that song I had several friends who were undergoing cancer treatment. I didnít feel like their story was mine to tell but the state they were in put our friendship in a new light and that was a story I wanted to explore. I read about a surgeon who used a 3D printer to print out tumors he was going to remove in order to study them first and I used that image as a starting point. I chose the name Babak because Iíve known more Babakís in my life than any other name. And then I poured all the fear and sadness I had felt for my friends into this story of me and Babak going to the pub with a 3D printed tumor in his pocket.

I think there are times when itís worth not censoring or rewriting your story. The autobiographical Swedish graphic novel scene was quite male centered when I grew up, stories about dudes growing up and their awkward encounters with women. It quickly got boring. But these days the scene consists almost entirely of women and the stories are more political. I think of the old rallying slogan Ēthe personal is politicalĒ which came from second wave feminism. If your personal life says something interesting about the time we live in, then it may be worth sharing. But my life doesnít. Iím a boring person these days. That's why I make shit up.


November 13th, 2021


dear J,
i hope you are well!
only after landing i realised i had a question all along.
i've been carrying it with me for way too long and perhaps took too much care of it. it became a part of a pocket i carried it in, and that pocket - a part of me. i almost forgot i had it, or maybe i stopped remembering. nevertheless, i continued answering every day.
sometimes too much care can blunt.
and as i land, i dare ask:
what is home?

thank you,

Hey Jens
I believe we as humans are all like tiny bells, each one of us ringing at difference frequencies, a different set of notes. When we find music that touches our souls, it hits the same sort of vibrational frequency we run on, and thatís why we jive with it. I think the whole world is made up of these different frequencies, and thatís how what we see as fate or coincidences happen. What do you think causes ďcoincidencesĒ in life?

Thank you, for everything, your long time fan,