Swedish pop singer-songwriter Andreas Johnson has a classic, drop-dead GQ look that can stop people in their tracks. His voice draws immediate comparisons to U2’s Bono, and his guitar-pop sound is tailor-made for radio.
So what’s the problem here?
Who knows. But while American listeners are fixated with soul-less, generic, studio-enhanced boy bands and girl groups, they’re missing out on Johnson’s superlative but overlooked single, “Glorious,” and his debut Reprise album, “Liebling” (released June 26).
It’s their loss.
In England, Germany, Ireland, France and Johnson’s native Sweden, “Glorious” soared to the Top 10. And HBO used the track during commercial spots for “The Sopranos” last season, prompting curious viewers to ask “What’s that song?!”
Johnson is letting the chips fall where they may. If “Glorious” becomes a late-blooming hit, so be it. If not, that’s okay, too.
“If things happen, they happen for a reason,” he said recently. “I take nothing for granted anymore.”
That’s because Johnson is just grateful to be in the game, period. Johnson, now 28, moved from Stockholm to New York City when he was 21 after his band Planet Waves signed a major-label deal. When the deal fell through and the band broke up, Johnson stayed behind and pursued his solo dreams.
Then came a stumble down a flight of stairs that nearly paralyzed him.
“I’m kind of a clumsy guy to begin with,” Johnson said, “but I had a few drinks and wasn’t watching where I was going and fell down the stairs and seriously hurt my neck.
“At some point, I had numbness and I had to be still for four or five months. I was tied up to all these tubes and a neck brace. It was very scary. It really affects your psyche.”
Months of rehabilitation kept him focused on regaining his strength and made him even more determined to make his mark musically.
“It was an awakening for me, setting me off in the right direction,” he said. “It was the start of something new. It was a sign, like ‘Hey, boy, you better wake up. You can’t stumble around and pretend you’re a rock star. You just have to go out and do it on your own.’ “
In 1997, he released his first album, “more of a country, Neil Young-ish type record,” he said. He’s proud of the results, but he was disappointed it didn’t attract more attention.
“I decided to take some time off and travel around Europe,” he said. “Suddenly, the muse came back to me. The songs were there. I felt hungry and got the drive back. That’s where ‘Liebling’ came from. It’s about some of the special people I met through my travels.”
One of them was Debbie Straight, whom Johnson met while living briefly in Berlin. He’s reluctant to talk about her; he chokes up thinking about how she died before he began working on “Liebling.”
“She was a very dear friend,” he said. “She’d be very happy with everything that’s happened to me over the past year.”
No matter what happens stateside, Johnson says he’s ready for the next step in his career.
“I’m just about to finish the next album,” he said. “We’re going into the studio soon to remix it. ‘Liebling’ has been out for over a year now in Sweden, so I’m anxious to put out some new stuff. I just want to keep going; I don’t want to stop doing what I love best.”
ANDREAS JOHNSON ON THE WEB: Get glorious on the Web @ www.andreasjohnson.com.