Max Martin. Foto: Chris Pizzello
Max Martin.  Foto: Chris Pizzello

Max Martin: "I would like to divide the prize into pieces"


The top songwriter Max Martin has always declined interviews.

For the first time this year’s Polar Music Prize winner has spoken about his success.

The Swedish producer has written 21 US number-one hits but doesn’t like the fame, he said in an interview in the magazine DI Weekend.

Max Martin was announced as this year’s winner of the Polar Music Prize in the contemporary category a few days ago. Following the public announcement in Stockholm, Sweden, he was praised in a video by several artists, such as Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry.

Despite the fact he is one of the world’s most successful songwriters, Max Martin has always chosen a low-key approach to fame and tried keeping an anonymous life, consistently declining requests from the media. Until now, that is. In a DI Weekend interview Max Martin speaks to Jan Gradvall, a contributing writer for Expressen’s culture section, about why he doesn’t like the limelight.

“My life is so much easier without the attention. I am not on social media, I am not taking part in that at all. I meet a lot of people who have been troubled by all those things, ‘People think this and that about me’. But they wouldn’t have had those issues if like me, they never had read it. I’d like to keep it simple”, Martin told DI Weekend.

Only beat by McCartney and Lennon

Max Martin, whose real name is Martin Sandberg, was born in Stenhamra in the outskirts of Stockholm in February 1971. His father was a police officer and his mother a primary school teacher.

He was named Max Martin by mentor and producer Dag Volle, more known as Denniz Pop, who tragically died aged 35 in 1998 following a battle with cancer.

Martin's first super hit was Britney Spear’s “Baby One More Time”. To date he has had 58 top-ten hits on the American Billboard chart - ten of them at number one. Only Beatles legends Paul McCartney and John Lennon have scored more Billboard hits.

In the DI Weekend interview Max Martin talks about how he manages to innovate his music.

“What I will be saying now is important to stress. Most songs leading to me sitting here today have been a result of help from a number of different people. I would like to share the Polar Music Prize with a lot of people. None mentioned, none forgotten”, Martin said.

“My collaborations with others made it possible for me to tag along for longer than what is expected for a songwriter. I have been blessed with working with so many young people. How do they do it? I am struggling to keep up with them. I feel very humbled by that. I would like to divide the Polar Music Prize into ten pieces and share it with others,” he added.

"The ego is stopping many people"

Max Martin also tells how on a daily basis he sees himself being overtaken by the younger talents.

“I feel funny about saying this, but I think I have been good at keeping my ego in check. The ego is stopping many people, in different situations. I don’t think that is of any good. I can’t come up with many situations when it doesn’t favour you to be generous and to keep an open heart. But sure, I have an ego just as others. Sometimes that has been a struggle over the years”, he told DI Weekend.

The one helping him stay in control is his wife.

“She has made me keep my feet on the ground. My wife and a few friends. It’s difficult, however. I really can understand artists who suffer from it. That is also a reason for me to stay away from interviews. If no one recognises me, if no one care, it is much easier not to fly high. It is much harder if you are a well known artist. I have seen several examples of how bad it can go.”

Max Martin also explains why he has actively worked to have more women and producers of non-Swedish backgrounds in his team.

“I don’t care at all about where people are from, what background they might have. If you are amazing, you are in. To have more women in the technical parts is also very important. There are a lot of great female songwriters today, but few of them are producers. We have to change that. Laleh is a great example of someone who is just as good as a producer. She is a genius”, Martin said.

“The best way of changing this is to promote more role-models like her. It’s boring with so many men in my profession”.

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