Lukas Graham

Grammy Preview Issue: Lukas Graham Frontman on the Inspiration for '7 Years' & Why He Might Write More Lyrics for It When He's 70

Lukas Forchhammer’s cheek is full of bread and Brie as he explains the secret power behind “7 Years,” his band Lukas Graham’s thrice-Grammy-­nominated single. “Within this angelic singing and ­songwriting,” ­mumbles the 28-year-old Dane, “there is a lot of ­frustration and anger for what we go through as human beings.” In the course of our January brunch on the rooftop of a boho-funky West Hollywood hotel, Forchhammer will both belch and quote Nietzsche and enunciate with such fortitude that Dr. Evil comes to mind. Forchhammer grew up in Christiana, a self-governing enclave bounded on all sides by Copenhagen, where hippie ideals clash with gangs that exploit the legal weed trade and distrust of ­authority runs high. When Lukas Graham signed with Warner in 2013, Forchhammer had the label excise the bit that said it could tell him what to wear. Today he’s sporting a white tee, black Levi’s and a fresh haircut that he says makes him “look like a lesbian raver.”

“7 Years” -- which is up for record of the year and song of the year, along with best pop duo/group ­performance -- is both a sensitive song inspired by the untimely death of Forchhammer’s dad and something he wrote in three hours after his producer woke him from a nap by playing the melody on piano. The sound mixes Forchhammer’s father’s Irish folk records, rap and the classical music he learned while in the Copenhagen Boys Choir, but the most implausibly catchy part is the message: a celebration of ­getting old and settling down. “I love this song because it’s so deep yet so ­simple. It’s political without being political, social without being social,” says Wyclef Jean, who plans to cover it. Rivers Cuomo beat him to it on Instagram, while celebrities like Jessica Alba have uploaded family photo montages set to it. “7 Years” was the highest-selling single by a debut artist in 2016, and Lukas Graham is now the biggest Danish act in history.

So how did Forchhammer ­celebrate his big year? “I was boring,” he says. Actually, he became a dad himself, in October. He and his girlfriend -- they have been together since high school -- now live two blocks outside Christiana.

You were ­changing a diaper at a truck stop when you learned of your Grammy noms. Has touring with a baby been challenging?
I tour with musicians. That’s the same as babies, except they have hangovers and don’t show up for buses.

“7 Years” isn’t a ­typical pop banger. Why did it take off?
It tells a story: that slow wandering through life. Suddenly it’s all over, and you wonder, “What the f— did I even do?” These days, what it means to be ­successful is skewed, as if ­economic success is the only type worth fighting for. But when they put you in your grave, it’s not like your money does anything for you.

They don’t chisel your bank balance on your tombstone.
You’d be a douche, but you could do that. (Laughs.) It’s more the idea that when my father died he left me with a bill to the morgue. He didn’t leave me money, but he left me with so much else.

Now you have ­predicted your life in a song.
Yes! I’m now the father of a 3-month-old jewel, a little baby girl. I always wanted to be a young father. That’s the true manhood test: Can you raise proper people?

Is it daunting to be a dad?
Forget mushrooms in the forest of Sweden -- having a baby is a trip. Shit changes so fast. Suddenly she can see further and touch things, and that’s sparking all these crazy thoughts in me. I’m writing a hell of a lot. Weirdly, the songs are either fun and dreamy or strange and dark. Last night I wrote something that was reminiscent of late Johnny Cash.

What kind of odds do you give yourself for winning?
We checked the Danish bookmakers for fun. You get about two times your money back if we win one. I thought that was pretty good odds. If we do, we’ll ­probably get somebody we know thrown out of their house. But I’m not expecting it. We’re just enjoying the ride. Like, we are driving through America in a bus, and I have my child and my girlfriend with me. It’s the adventure of a lifetime.

What will you wear to the Grammys?
As little as possible.

You’ll go nude?
I’ll show up wearing a Speedo.

You know you’ll be playing this song until you’re at least 60, right?
Yeah. I’m going to have to write another verse for when I’m 70 and 80, because I’m going to become an old, old man. I’ll go Prince on it eventually, like, “We’re not doing it today.”

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 11 issue of Billboard.

2017 Grammys