Singer/songwriter Peter Morén might, at first blush, not sound like a household name, but you’ve heard him before. For all of last year, he was simply known as Peter, one-third of the Swedish pop group Peter, Bjorn and John, whose brilliant and positively inescapable single “Young Folks” brought them their first brushes of fame outside of their native country.
With surname in place, Peter Morén is gearing up to step out on his own with the release of his first solo effort, The Last Tycoon. This winsome, acoustic-based affair rustles with the influence of autumnal folk icons Bert Jansch and Nick Drake.
Morén admits that the album isn’t a huge leap from his work with PB&J, simply pointing to the fact that, for the first time, he was making all the decisions and figuring out when songs were considered done. “It was a really good lesson because when you create stuff, you have days when you feel, ‘I’m so bad,’” he says. “With the group, everyone is pushing each other, but [for this album] that was left up to me.”
The most evident difference brought out on Tycoon is the more story-like lyrical content, which allowed him to “say more and stretch a story out over several verses.” The album also let Morén use his songs to explore some more personal content, as on “Social Competence,” an ode to not being able to fit in, inspired by his days working as a music teacher.
“A lot of what I was talking about there was the teachers’ lounge, where you’re supposed to be able to relax between classes,” he says. “But it was more stressful because everyone is talking about stuff that I’m not interested in. I couldn’t keep up with the small talk.”
Morén also points to the song “Reel Too Real,” a reeling examination of his dealings with young men in Sweden, particularly those who participate in the country’s obligatory stint in the military. “Teenage boys can be awful sometimes,” he says. “Their hormones are driving them crazy, and they have a lot of attitude. I mean, the people who actually do the military service are really the people who shouldn’t.” Morén himself avoided all of this, purposefully failing a psychological test by telling the examiners he was having nightmares about Adolf Hitler.
Morén will soon be on our shores again for a short solo tour to support the new album, a jaunt that will provide him with even more of an opportunity to stand apart from PB&J. “The great thing about playing by yourself is that you can surprise yourself all the time,” he says. “You can try out some cover that you used to play as a kid, and you don’t have to ask two other people if you can play it!”