A Day's March
with Ludwig Bell

InterviewsFrom the emergency room at S:t Görans Hospital in Stockholm to the music stage – doctor and musician Ludwig Bell, is as much a science geek as a lyric’s genius. We paid a visit to his Stockholm flat in between curing chest pains and fine-tuning pop songs ahead of his EP release in August.

In our ongoing interview series we highlight the daily lives of people we admire. From the emergency room at S:t Görans Hospital in Stockholm to the music stage – doctor and musician Ludwig Bell, is as much a science geek as a lyric’s genius. We paid a visit to his Stockholm flat in between curing chest pains and fine-tuning pop songs ahead of his EP release in August.

You studied to become a doctor alongside your successful music career. How come you decided to still keep your ‘day job’?
- Years ago, I tried writing songs full time for a couple of months, but I found myself running out of ideas really quickly in the morning and then semi-panicking the rest of the day. I think I need to work up some creativity doing something else, and also I need to read, watch movies or just be around people to get good ideas.

It resulted in a job as a doctor at the emergency unit at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm and later at S:t Görans Hospital in Stockholm, what has it given you?
- My dream job, I suppose? I'm a science geek! I also love meeting people and trying to figure out how to best help them out. This job combines all of that.

You started writing songs as a 14-year-old. What drove you to it?
- I really, really wanted to be in a band back then, but I was such a lousy guitar player (I still am) so I had to find another way of earning a spot in a band. I decided to write songs instead, and eventually found a band that were tired of playing Nirvana covers. And I just kept writing from then on. I prefer writing at home by the piano or the guitar. But if I'm in a studio with other people (and wine), that setting works too.

How do you switch between standing in an emergency room and on stage?
- Haha, the settings aren't that much alike, really! But sure, I think the performing I've done through the years has given me a sense of calm in work situations that might be considered stressful. It's a team effort regardless.

Do you have a story from the hospital that sticks with you?
- I think everyone working with a health profession of some kind has plenty of stories that stick. I've been in scary, funny and heartbreaking situations that I'll never forget, but I'll keep them to myself.

Your newest song Körsbärsblom i Kungsträdgården comments on the current times and behaviours, what made you write it?
- A feeling of exasperation. You hear the political jargon little by little getting more extreme and less humane. You see inequalities slowly but surely growing. It turns into a kind of desensitisation, and that really frightens me. And at the same time, you get almost overwhelmed by a perfect world every time you check the feeds on your phone. So that divide really interested me. I sent the song to pop wizard Peter Morén (of Peter, Bjorn & John) and he wrote and sang the second verse about the environment, and it just fits perfectly.

What’s your favourite line from it?
- “Man tar det lugnt, ser vad som händer / tänder en cigg utanför Radiumhemmet" (based on an observation outside of the hospital).

You release an EP in the end of August, is there a theme running through it?
- Lyrically, there's no particular theme running through it. The main theme of the EP is collaboration. During the final years of med school, I stayed away from performing and instead wrote songs for other artists when I managed to find some spare time. Having that experience of someone else letting me be a part of their creative process opened up myself to that same idea. I've met so many incredibly talented musicians, songwriters and artists, so why not let some of them do their thing with my songs in progress? Apart from the duet with Peter Morén, there is also a song with Petra Marklund, whose voice just gives me goosebumps every time. Linnea Olsson is another awesome artist, songwriter and cello player, we performed together for a charity event once, so I sent her half of a song and within an hour she'd written the rest. Finally, Sibille Attar, I've known her for a long time. People already know what an amazing vocalist and performer she is, but on our song she instead took the role of composer, producer and instrumentalist.

Bell's studio is located on Södermalm in Stockholm, Sweden.

Is there anything in your profession treating people that you can use in your life as an artist?
- Definitely! Every patient has a story and I always need to be laser focused and just listen. The same goes for song writing, I think. Whether I write for someone else or keep a song for myself, I need to stay sharp and listen to what people are trying to communicate. When a complex set of emotions are captured and condensed in just a few words...that's what great pop lyrics are, right? At work, I spend my time trying to gather as much information as possible and then try to boil it down to a problem representation, like the duration and character of a chest pain.

At the hospital you wear a doctor's uniform, is it equally important to wear some sort of a uniform on stage?
- When playing with a whole band, a common theme regarding outfits is great. It makes everything look and feel much more...professional! I like when artists make that effort; colour coding, suits, whatever floats your boat.

What’s are your thoughts on clothes and style in general?
- Clothes and style are definitely important to me. Music and style are in a sense intertwined, where I've personally felt that a musical experience can be heightened by the right style. I would describe my style as trying to combine great basics, adding something of a personal twist. Half-prep, half-indie, in a clumsy attempt to summarise. My approach to song writing has always been about the basics – trying to perfect the lyrics and melodies – I truly feel the same way about clothes.

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