They have gone to the same school, they have cried and danced to the same songs, they have supported each other when life is tough. Together they wrote a song about a break-up that made the whole of Sweden sing along. On May 12, the best friends Cornelia Jakobs and Isa Molin will compete in the Eurovision Song Contest.
– Music is our life.
– Yes, it’s about 80 percent of one’s life and identity.
There is no doubt about what the music means to Cornelia Jakobs and Isa Molin. The artists and songwriters have had music as the common thread in their lives for as long as they can remember. And sometimes those threads have been intertwined in an unusually successful way. As when, a little over a year ago, they decided to write a song together for the Melodifestivalen.
– I said that I was thinking of sending something and Isa immediately said that she wanted to try to write a song with me, Cornelia says when we meet the friends in the artist’s bright southern suburban apartment.
They have collaborated before, but not as goal-oriented as now – partly because they have moved in different directions musically.
– Isa is more poppy and loves synths while I’m more indie and rock and like a bit “strange” things. As a songwriter, Isa is the effective one who works with repetitions and frames, says Cornelia.
– But we have the same aspiration in our creation and what we want is to be touched, says Isa.
Cornelia realized that it was a good idea to include the more organized friend in a project where frames are the prerequisite. But when the music creation was about to start, they were in a pretty bad condition and anything but effective. On the same day, they had arranged a meeting with a third songwriter, David Zandén.
– We had sat and written until late, the night before. I was sad and tired due to heartache, Isa says.
Cornelia was in a stormy off and on relationship and they considered canceling the meeting. But after a run, they decided to give it a try anyway. Combining the three songwriters turned out to be a creative stroke of luck. The evening ended in a hilarious “late night cava session” and a poppy uptempo song. But the next day, Isa thought the chorus was not Cornelia enough.
– So we saw each other again and sat for hours and wrote. “Hold Me Closer” chorus finally came to life, then a new verse and parts of the lyrics in a few minutes. The story of a break-up only grew naturally, Cornelia says.
The result is a song that Cornelia loves and is touched by herself. Something that was also noticed when she performed with “Hold Me Closer” on Melodifestivalen. The song not only became a clear winner of the Swedish final, it’s at the time of writing third on the betting list for which song is predicted to win the entire Eurovision.
– I think people feel that Cornelia tells a story that she has experienced, that it’s genuine, and that many recognize themselves, Isa says.
Isa and Cornelia have grown up with music and both have musician fathers. Cornelia’s father is Jakob Samuel, a member of the rock group The Poodles. Isa’s father is songwriter Bobby Ljunggren, who’s wrote 57 Melodifestivalen songs, including five winning entries that went to Eurovision.
Growing up has meant free access to a home studio, instruments and a social circle full of musicians. They’ve been composing and recording songs since childhood. But both have also experienced resistance when they showed signs of wanting to follow in their fathers’ footsteps.
– We children preformed as soon as they had a party, I loved playing guitar and drums. Everyone else was so generous with compliments, but Dad was careful not to do it for the sake of attention. Now I can appreciate that, but it resulted in me thinking that Dad didn’t think I was good enough. Today we have learned to communicate better, and now I feel that he’s my biggest fan, says Cornelia.
Isa takes a sip of tea and nods:
– There was probably also a wish among my parents that I wouldn’t choose it as a career path because it’s a tough industry. But after graduating, I locked myself in the studio all summer just to write songs. Finally, my parents had a conversation with me in which they apologized for not supporting me enough. But they wanted me to find the music on my own.
The friends met for the first time when they started high school at Kulturama.
– Cornelia came into the school like a sun, Isa remembers. She was lovely, extrovert and social. I was more introverted and had a harder time opening up to people.
The following year, 2006, the fathers of the new friends would participate in Melodifestivalen. The Poodles competed with “Night of Passion” and Bobby Ljunggren had written Carola‘s song “Evighet” – and the 14-year-old daughters were allowed to come along.
– I liked Isa and her integrity so much. That I understood her – even though we were different, Cornelia says.
A common denominator was the interest in “old” music, that is, music from the 80’s.
– One of our first common favorite songs is “Little Lies” with Fleetwood Mac, which we listened to in Cornelia’s parents’ kitchen. I also have a clear memory of how we play Toto‘s “Africa” at the highest volume and sang in their basement in the middle of the night and her dear father comes down awake and angry, Isa says.
They followed each other to the music high school Rytmus where Cornelia had a singing specialization and Isa went on the singer-songwriter line. They’ve cried to songs like “Everybody’s Changing” by Keane and danced to guilty pleasure songs like Westlife‘s “When You’re Looking Like That”.
– We complement each other but have also learned from each other. I have learned to open up a little more and Cornelia that she does not always have to shoulder the role of nice and social, Isa says.
They collaborated for the first time seven years ago, among other things they made a song for Cornelia’s father. But four years ago, a turning point came when Cornelia suffered from fatigue depression. She worked full time while struggling hard with the music on the side.
– I had an ambition to release one song a month and never allowed myself to rest. In the end, I couldn’t write and couldn’t do anything. I had problems with my identity. Who was I if I couldn’t write songs and was no longer the one who was always nice? I needed to find a new way to be.
– During this period, Isa became so important, she was the one who held my hand. She taught me that it was okay to feel bad, to rest and be at peace. There we found a new platform, it became a greater depth in our relationship, Cornelia says.
Taking help from music when life is tough is something that comes naturally to both.
– When I feel bad, I use music therapeutically by creating without making any demands or judgmental thoughts on what I do. So, I approach music in the same way I did when I was little – sitting, playing and singing without aiming to complete something that someone needs to listen to. I just let what comes out of me come, Isa says.
– In stressful periods , I listen to yoga music or calm jazz, which is so far from my own music that I can’t start and analyze, Cornelia says.
The story of Isa and Cornelia is also a story about the unifying power of music. In addition to an in-depth friendship, that magical songwriting evening also resulted in a budding love affair between Cornelia and the third songwriter David Zandén.
Can music build community also in larger contexts? That was the idea with ESC from the beginning and the hope with the American Song Contest.
– Absolutely, music can unite in both large and small rooms, Isa says.
– One hundred percent! For me, it’s the meaning of music, to share emotions and unite in it. That something written in Italian can feel the same way, even though you don’t understand the language – it’s so heavenly amazing! It also feels fantastic that we have Eurovision this year despite everything that is happening in Europe. In all times – in difficult and happy times – people need culture, Cornelia says.