When the second heat of Sweden's Melodifestivalen 2012 takes place Saturday night at the Scandinavium arena in Gothenburg, there will be at least one American at the venue - Arkansas-born songwriter Randy Goodrum, a rare U.S. visitor at this annual event.
Melodifestivalen is the local Swedish competition to select the country's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, held every May. There are six parts to Melodifestivalen - four quarterfinals, with the top two songs from each contest advancing into a finale; a "Second Chance" show with all of the third and fourth place songs battling for two more spots in the finale; and the grand finale itself, set this year for March 10 at the Ericsson Globe arena in Stockholm.
So how did Goodrum, whose credits include Anne Murray's No. 1 hit "You Needed Me" as well as Michael Johnson's "Bluer Than Blue," DeBarge's "Who's Holding Donna Now" and Chicago's "If She Would Have Been Faithful…" end up competing in this traditional Swedish event?
The process began a few years ago when Goodrum's business manager, Kerry O'Neil, suggested his client visit territories around the world to interact with artists and writers in order to create work and opportunities. "It's the best business advice I ever got," Goodrum tells Billboard.biz. "I have a wealth of writers and colleagues all over the place to make music with. Kerry leads the way, networking with effective sub-publishers, including Hans Desmond and Peo Nylen at Scandinavian Songs."
Nylen, managing director of Stockholm-based music publisher Scandinavian Songs, has represented Goodrum in Sweden since 2007. "Last year I introduced Randy to Niclas Lundin and his wife Maria Marcus for co-writes in our studio and they clicked immediately."
Swedish songwriter Maria Marcus, pictured here in the studio, is one of Goodrum's co-writers on the Melodifestivalen entry.
Lundin, previously signed to Murlyn Songs, has been with Nylen's company for three years. Marcus is signed to BMG Chrysalis but primarily works in the Scandinavian Songs studio with her husband.
When Nylen suggested the couple team up with Goodrum, Lundin didn't know much about the American visitor. "But I said yes, since it was my first opportunity to collaborate with an American writer. After Googling Randy, I was overly-excited about the co-write. I brought my wife Maria in because I felt she would have the perfect production sound and be a great complement for what I hoped we would write together."
Lundin found working with Goodrum to be a unique situation. "Randy has an amazing ability to elevate me as a fellow writer, mostly because of his personality but also his experience." Lundin admits that working with native English-speaking writers was initially intimidating. "I am a lyricist and I made myself feel quite small due to my limited knowledge of the language. But I discovered I had a lot to offer and now I love it because I realize my 'outside perspective' on English can be very beneficial."
Goodrum, Lundin and Marcus wrote their first song together in 2010. "Get Over" was recorded by Canadian artist Jacynthe in French as "Oublier." Their Melodifestivalen entry was written in 2011. "Maria and Niclas had already started writing the song before we got together, with verse and chorus ideas in Swedish," says Goodrum. "They played what they had for me at the end of a day of co-writing. The three of us finished the song together by way of the internet - email and Skype - I came up with some English lyrics and Niclas wrote the Swedish lyrics."
The result, "Aldrig Aldrig," will be performed in Swedish in Gothenburg by Andreas Lundstedt, who has had a string of hits in Sweden, both as a solo artist and as a member of the group Alcazar. The song will appear on the 32-song double-CD compilation that features all of the entries from this year's competition. "The contest has a long tradition of creating huge hits, at least locally in Sweden," says Nylen. "It's a great marketing platform for songwriters and can boost long-lasting artist careers."
Goodrum will be only the second American songwriter to have an entry in the 54-year history of Melodifestivalen. "It's really unusual due to the fact that it was against the rules until 2011," Nylen explains. "Now foreign writers are allowed to compete, as long as they are teamed with Swedish writers." Last year, Desmond Child was a co-writer on "Run," an entry performed by Anders Fernette.
If "Aldrig Aldrig" does win Melodifestivalen and becomes Sweden's Eurovision entry for 2012, it would most likely be sung in English. "We hope Andreas will record the English version and have already suggested it," says Marcus, "but who knows, it might be an American artist recording the English version instead."
Goodrum would not be the first American to compete in Eurovision, but he would be one of the elite few. Los Angeles-based Gordon Pogoda co-wrote the Czech Repubilic entry "Have Some Fun" in 2008 and Andrew Lane and Brendan Barnes (of Rise Against) wrote Russia's entry in 2000, "Solo," performed by Alsou. In 2010, Julie Frost, whose credits include the Black Eyed Peas' "Just Can't Get Enough" and Madonna's Golden-Globe winning "Masterpiece" from "W.E.," became the first American songwriter to win the Eurovision Song Contest, with the German entry, "Satellite," by Lena.
"I've seen clips of parts of the [Eurovision Song Contest], but never an entire show," says Goodrum. "I would love to see one, especially as a contestant."