- Erica America
Jens Martin Lekman (born 6 February 1981) is a Swedish musician.
His music is guitar-based pop with heavy use of samples and strings, with lyrics that are often witty, romantic, and melancholic. His work is heavily influenced by that of Jonathan Richman and Belle & Sebastian, and he has been likened to Stephin Merritt (of The Magnetic Fields), David Byrne, and Scott Walker.
Lekman was born February 6, 1981 in Angered, Gothenburg. As a child, he was not particularly interested in music, but the age of fourteen he was asked to play bass in a friend’s cover band. This sparked his own song writing and he quickly came to write hundreds of songs.
Gradually, he adopted the pseudonym Rocky Dennis, a name he borrowed from the protagonist in the movie Mask. Under this name, he began releasing limited edition CD-R discs, the first of which was 2001’s The Budgie. The following year, he sent a collection of their songs to the American record label Secretly Canadian, who contracted him.
From 2000 to 2003, Lekman recorded and released much of his material privately on CD-R. Because one of his songs during this time was entitled “Rocky Dennis’ Farewell Song to the Blind Girl”, inspired by the movie Mask, Lekman was mistakenly referred to as “Rocky Dennis“. Lekman says that it was a “mistake”: “someone thought that was my real name cause I had a song about him, and then radio picked up on it, and I never had a chance to change it”. He put the confusion to rest with his Rocky Dennis in Heaven EP (2004).
In 2003, Lekman self-released a 7″ vinyl EP, Maple Leaves. When the same EP was released on CD by the Swedish independent label Service Records later that year, he was a well-known name. The songs “Maple Leaves” and “Black Cab” were heavily played on Swedish national radio. He soon signed a contract with the American label Secretly Canadian for releases outside of Sweden. Heavy touring and his debut album soon followed.
His first album When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog was released in 2004, and consisted of recordings made between 2000 and 2004 (some tracks had been previously released independently by Lekman). The album attracted attention among the alternative music press in both Europe and the U.S. The song “You Are the Light” was a successful radio hit, and a video received some rotation in the Nordic MTV and ZTV. In Sweden, the album reached No. 6 on the national chart. Lekman was nominated for three Swedish Grammies, three P3 Guld and three Manifest awards, and the album was named the album of the year by Nöjesguiden.
A concert film shot from Lekman’s sold-out show with José González at Göteborg’s concert hall in December 2003 was broadcast by Swedish national television in 2005. In June 2005, a compilation CD of Lekman’s first three EPs (plus extra tracks) was released as Oh You’re So Silent Jens. Lekman’s cover of Scout Niblett‘s “Your Beat Kicks Back Like Death” appeared on Secretly Canadian’s SC100 compilation.
Night Falls Over Kortedala was released in Sweden on 5 September 2007 and worldwide on 9 October 2007. The single “Friday Night at the Drive-in Bingo” preceded the album’s release.
Live performances by Lekman have differed in style; at times he has performed alone with only a guitar and a CD player, sometimes doing a cappella versions of his songs, while at other times he has been accompanied by a choir and string quartet. In 2008, he toured with an all-female back-up band (dressed mostly in white) that provided basic rock instrumentation as well as horns and backing vocals. In December 2008 Jens played a short China tour organised by Split Works.
In 2010, Lekman released a free song entitled “The End of the World is Bigger Than Love” online. This was his first release in three years.
On 19 March 2011, Lekman played a show in support of libraries during the widespread closures in the United Kingdom where he premiered a new song, “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name”.
Lekman’s An Argument With Myself EP was released in September 2011 to generally favorable reviews. This was followed up by I Know What Love Isn’t in September 2012, Lekman’s first full-length album since 2007, also receiving favorable reviews.
On 2 September 2014, Lekman released a 33-minute long mixtape titled WWJD, which included three unreleased songs: “WWJD”, “I Remember”, and “What’s That Perfume That You Wear?” The mixtape has been described as being “one cohesive experience as intimate as writing a postcard, as pleasant as receiving one.”