Mads Langer (born 1984) is a Danish singer-songwriter, who became internationally known for his cover of "You're Not Alone" by the British band Olive. While the song is cheerful, his own songs are frequently typified as emotional guitar ballads, because many of them are in a minor scale and have a melancholic feel to them. He has explained that even when he tries to write an uplifting song, it often ends up being a sad song, even though he does consider himself to be an optimist rather than an emotional person and says about himself that he is not that sensitive but rather a very tough guy. Langer also writes more powerful songs and performs various songs on piano. His third studio album Behold was released on 9 May 2011.
Langer writes the majority of his repertoire alone, but also collaborates with among others Marcus Winther-John, Tim Christensen, Daniel Ahearn, Edie Kuhnle, and Justin Hawkins. Tim Christensen has contributed to several songs with backing vocals, guitar and bass on Langer's earlier albums, and Justin Hawkins sings backing vocals on Langer's upcoming album. He has announced that he will also be working with several artists and producers from the United States, including Ryan Tedder. About his approach to music, Langer says: "I'm very inspired of the way Keith Jarrett just lets his hands run out of control and create big poetic moments out of improvisation. The same can be said for other big artists like Ryan Adams and Jeff Buckley. I can relate to all three because they all seem to let their intuition and playful musicality take them to beautiful places. My own music originates in the same way." Other musical influences he names are Chris Cornell, John Mayer, Prince, Coldplay, Rickie Lee Jones, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Nick Drake, The Band, Radiohead, Fionn Regan, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Ray Lamontagne. His voice is often compared to Thom Yorke's and Jeff Buckley's. His band, both in the studio and live, is composed of Søren Lund on guitar, Nis Tyrrestrup op bass, and Asger Møller on drums and percussion. On 30 March 2011, Langer introduced Simon Luth as his sixth band member and announced he will be the opening act for his shows in May 2011. Langer plays among others guitar, piano, Mellotron, and keyboard.
Earlier years (2005–2009)
Langer grew up in the town of Skive, Denmark. His parents are both teachers and share a love for music. At age three, he started learning the piano and he listened to his father's record collection. When he was 15, he dreamt of moving to New York and becoming a rock star. In high school, he was in a Rage Against the Machine cover band. After finishing high school, a local audition in Skive got him in touch with a talent scout who suggested him to move to Copenhagen and present his homemade demos there. He studied jazz piano at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, but eventually he just started writing music It was during this time he started playing guitar. Ultimately this landed him a record deal with Copenhagen Records. Langer debuted on 20 March 2006 in Denmark with Attention Please, an album containing potent pop rock songs. It was scheduled to be released a year earlier, but in post-production he connected so well with Søren Balsner of Carpark North that Langer requested his label to scrap the recordings and start over with Balsner as producer. Despite an intense media hype and good reviews, the album had limited success in Denmark. According to Langer, his record label is to blame for raising unrealistic expectations: "As it often happens, when something is overhyped, then the media just gives you the finger afterwards when it comes out. Because of course this record isn't a masterpiece, but I think it's a very good debut for a very young guy, but that's never where we came to because they had been told that it was a masterpiece from the record label. So the minute it came out, it flopped." The song "Breaking News" became a hit. The American spotter Sat Bisla picked up on him, which enabled Langer to perform in Great Britain and Germany, to move to New York City and from there often travel back and forth to Los Angeles, where he among others played before record company executives. This media circus life was taxing on him at such a young age, he had grown tired of other people's visions on his career, questioned his talent and got homesick, so in 2007 he quit his rock star life and returned to Skive. Equipped with only a map and his guitar, he roamed through Europe like a troubadour, playing about 100 acoustic shows (other sources say about 60) for gas money to fuel his c. 1987 Volkswagen Polo which he bought after his return. He lived off the money he collected by selling his CDs after each show. The tour helped him to find himself again and garnered him a growing fanbase. Later in 2007, he composed and conducted the Danish performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Nørrebros Theater in Copenhagen starring Anders W. Berthelsen.
For his second studio album, Langer had written over 90 songs, of which he wrote "Say No More" together with Tim Christensen. He explains the cause of this large quantity as follows: "A minute doesn't go by, not even a second, without a stream of new musical ideas or familiar phrases running through my head. My songs spring from that source." The record was eponymous because he felt this album made it clear in which direction he is headed in style and genre, whereas he felt the songs on his first album did not reflect him, but were what he thought others wanted from him. The album was released in Denmark on 9 February 2009. The critical reception was bland; critics judged that the music was more of the same and lacked a soul because it was too polished. He did score hits with "Wake Me Up in Time" and Fact-Fiction, a song he wrote in the United States in less than ten minutes and describes his confusion during that time. He started his tour as opening act for Tim Christensen and The Script before continuing his tour as main act. The songs "The River has Run Wild" and "Beauty of the Dark" have been used in the American television series The Vampire Diaries, On En Hyldest til Sebastian ("A Tribute to Sebastian"), released in October 2009, Langer covers the song "Stille Før Storm" ("Silence before the storm"). Sebastian originally wrote this song for Lis Sørensen.
International breakthrough (2009–current)
An acoustic version of "Fact-Fiction" appeared along with several other songs off Behold on the acoustic EP Fact-Fiction – Pop or ...? and quickly reached 60,000 plays on Myspace. This caught the attention of Sony Music who offered him a contract, shortly after he found a manager in London in the summer of 2010, where he had moved to in November 2009. where he resides today. The record deal led to a breakthrough in Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany with his cover of the song "You're Not Alone" by Olive, written by Tim Kellett en Robin Taylor-Firth. Langer is surprised that although he had already written 250 songs of his own, it was a cover that opened the doors to the international market. In 2010, he co-produced, sang the lead vocal, and played acoustic guitar and piano on the song "Sleeping With the Enemy" by Mika Vandborg. The lead guitar party was played by Justin Hawkins, who also mixed the song.
Meanwhile, Langer continued to work on his third album Behold, a process which started since he moved to London. For this album, he had written about 80 songs to choose from. Three songs were recorded in London with producer Martin Terefe, while other songs were recorded with Ethan Allen and Sacha Skarbek. His website describes the album as Nordic pop melancholy lifted up by big epic melodies and words that will instantly stick in one's mind; intense, romantic and fragile. Justin Hawkins of The Darkness has provided backing vocals. About choosing songs for this album, he explains: "I definitely killed some darlings there, because it was down to, let's say that this song is very close to this one, and I would rather spread it out so you get a broader picture, because this is an international debut, so it's important for me to show me as an artist. But then I can do a very narrow release in three years' time where it's just me and a guitar, but this time I would like to show the bigger picture." The album was released on 9 May 2011 and contains the following songs:
In December 2010, Langer offered a free download of "The River has Run Wild" off this album to anyone who joined his mailing list. In March 2011, the single "Microscope" was offered to new subscribers instead. "Microscope" entered the Italian charts at #25. It was written in around 30 minutes and came out of nothing. It was intended to be a happy song, but turned melancholic as the lyrics were written. Langer has already explained the theme of some of the other songs. "Last Flower" was written in memory of a Danish fan who committed suicide. He played an acoustic version of his song Whisper Goodnight in the church at her funeral. "Death has Fallen in Love" is about stopping to realize that someone you love could die too. The idea for the song came about while Langer' girlfriend was brushing her teeth.