Nicke Borg (SWE)
For twenty years the bombast of the Backyard Babies served as the sonic backdrop for the songwriting skills of Nicke Borg. But two decades of hard living and hard touring with one of Sweden’s premier hard rock bands took its toll: by 2010, Borg had reached a personal and professional crossroads. You could even call it a breaking point. His friend and fellow frontman Mike Ness of Social Distortion provided the inspiration he needed to kick drugs and booze. ”I believe that everyone has a quota for how much drugs they can do in a lifetime,” says Borg. ”I managed to reach mine already.”
The timing also seemed right to take his songwriting in new directions. Like Ness, outlaw country and traditional American folk music had long intrigued Borg. But he knew that Backyard Babies weren’t the right outlet for his fascination with Americana.
Enter Nicke Borg Homeland. For this, his first solo project, Nicke dialed down the aural assault of Backyard Babies and cultivated his appreciation for the likes of Johnny Cash and Steve Earle, without losing sight or sound of Backyard Babies influences such as Social Distortion and Guns N’ Roses.
For the first time in his career Nicke felt he had the confidence and freedom to make music entirely on his own terms. The debut EP, Chapter 1, defied expectations to such a degree that fans had to reassess him from scratch. To compare his new sound to the Backyard Babies was to miss the point of Homeland completely.
Borg’s plan to launch Nicke Borg Homeland while simultaneously pursuing a career as a professional songwriter got off to a blistering start when his songs began appearing on an array of albums by Swedish pop acts. This unprecedented level of mainstream success not only confirmed that he could successfully write songs to order, it also put the music industry on notice that Nicke Borg was a songwriting force to be reckoned with.
Having transcended his rock roots and now cranking out commercial radiohits, Borg found himself moving in a very different world from the Swedish hard rock scene and international touring circuit that he called home for so long. He began collaborating with other composers, and it soon became clear that this eye-opening experience – which might have previously seemed far-fetched – offered Borg a unique opportunity to demonstrate the full breadth of his musical capabilities.
Although Nicke fronted the well-known Backyard Babies, he’d never taken center stage in the band’s mainstream media exposure. When the Borg-penned Leaving Home was unveiled as one of the songs competing in Sweden’s largest and most prestigious music and television event, Melodifestivalen, Borg’s public profile as a solo artist soared overnight, effectively transforming his life. Half of Sweden’s population of nine million watched as Leaving Home was catapulted straight into the finals following its performance in the first round of Melodifestivalen.
Some might say that going all in on the über-commercial glitz of Melodifestivalen was a bridge too far from the irreverent sleaze and swagger of Borg’s twenty years with Backyard Babies. Again, that would miss the point of the new incarnation of Nicke Borg. For the very first time as an artist, Nicke wasn’t doing what was expected of him. In fact, metaphorically speaking, he had never screamed ‘fuck you’ louder than when he had the audacity to finally do, say and play exactly what he wanted.
Leaving Home was a massive hit, and marked the emergence of his collaboration with Jojo Borg Larsson as lyricist. It paved the way for the release of Chapter 2, with the album’s second single – the duet All Stars – following on the success of Leaving Home.
For the new Nicke Borg Homeland record Ruins of a Riot, Borg cranked the amps back up to 11, while retaining the broader songwriting influences of his recent solo work. Produced and mixed in Stockholm by Mats Valentin, and co-written together with Valentin and Jojo Borg Larsson, Ruins of a Riot will be released worldwide during 2013 on Gain/Sony Music Sweden. It marks the first Nicke Borg Homeland release on the renowned Swedish hard rock label.
The creative freedom and fervor that characterize Nicke Borg Homeland are this time channeled into a timeless rock record, which is both a tribute to Borg’s appreciation for melody and a reflection of his ability to strike deeply personal chords with his music.
With all the new sides of Nicke Borg that have surfaced the past few years, some hardcore fans and conservative rock critics have understandably found it hard to keep pace. But rock ’n’ roll is a broad church.