The Swedish pop legends returned earlier this month, announcing details of a “revolutionary” and immersive new live show called ‘Voyage’ along with a new 10-track album of the same name and the first two singles from it.
The ‘Voyage’ live show will see a “digital” version of ABBA performing alongside a 10-piece live band (put together with the help of former Klaxons member James Righton and featuring Little Boots) at the new purpose-built 3,000-capacity ABBA Arena at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in a run of shows from May 27, 2022.
Now Little Boots, AKA Victoria Hesketh, has revealed how the experiencing of working with her heroes influenced her long-awaited fourth album – due for release in 2022.
“I’ve done a few EPs and collaborations, but it hasn’t felt like the right time to do a full album until now,” Hesketh told NME about her life writing, producing and DJing since 2015’s ‘Working Girl’. “Lockdown has been so many people making albums because there was nothing else to do, but for me it forced me to step up as a producer. I’d dabbled with that for a long time, but I’d never really been brave enough.”
She continued: “This just felt like the right moment. Having had this experience with ABBA, it absolutely affected and inspired me. I was asking myself, ‘Can’t this song go further? What would Benny [Andersson] do?’ I’d be trying to remember his hands on the piano. That definitely fed into the songwriting. It feels like a nice kind of synergy between my new stuff and the project I’m going into with ABBA.”
Hesketh went on to explain how both ‘Silver Balloons’ and her new record see her go “back to her roots” in a similar spirit to her acclaimed 2009 debut ‘Hands‘.
“It’s DIY electronic pop with a disco edge,” she said. “I went back and wrote on the piano with everything starting quite simply. That’s what I started with that really resonated with people, so it’s nice to go full circle. I’m at that stage where I’m not trying to please anyone else, so it’s just a very me record.”
Explaining the lyric “silver balloons, stay high / Pick up the pieces and hold me tight,” Hesketh revealed how she was inspired by wanting to party through the pandemic.
“That’s very much thinking about the cancelled plans that blew up as you got nearer and nearer to them,” she said. “I wrote a lot of the album in Blackpool where I grew up and where I wrote a lot of the first album. There are quite a few nostalgic moments, and it’s quite an uplifting record. No one wants to remember lockdown, so it’s quite optimistic.”
Admitting that she’s been an ABBA “mega-fan” for as long as she can remember, Hesketh explained how it was “absolutely mind-blowing” to be in the same room as them – let alone to perform as part of their ‘Voyage’ band.
“Just as a pianist, a songwriter and a pop-nerd, I’m in awe of them,” she said. “The way that they approach writing and arrangement is incredible. For a long time, people have thought of their music as a guilty pleasure – it’s gone beyond that now. In the ‘70s, disco got a bit tarnished.
“I’m a big disco fan so I’m glad that’s gone full circle to be recognised for its songwriting. ABBA are a legendary part of the fabric of our artistic history now.”
- READ MORE James Righton on putting together ABBA’s new live band: “They had to be as good as the originals”
Having been friends with former Klaxons member James Righton for many years, Hesketh said that she was in “disbelief” when he called to ask her to audition for the project.
“It’s a strange call for me, because I do my own thing: I still tour, I still make my own records and if I was asked to play for anyone else then I would have said no,” she said. “There’s no way you can say no to ABBA.”
Hesketh continued: “I’m a classically-trained pianist, but I still have that imposter syndrome with people who have been to music colleges and conservatoires – the people who are going to really bring it. I really upped my game and had been training with a really great classical teacher LA to get back up to my top form, then I just spent days playing all of ABBA’s songs.
“Even then, I didn’t know if I would get [the part]. It was quite a mix of people auditioning. Some people were really high-end session musicians and some were really well-trained. I think my love of the music and the band came out in the audition even though I was so nervous. That’s probably what clinched the deal.”
While refusing to give anything away in regards to the identity of the rest of the band, Hesketh did praise the ABBA ‘Voyage’ line-up for being “just a brilliantly high standard of musicians”.
“The big message that came across was that ABBA could have just called up a session musician agency of a music college and got a bunch of dudes who can play it all immediately, but it wasn’t about that,” she admitted. “It was about building a band who had character, soul and personality who could also play with an incredibly high level of skill. The band that we have are a brilliant mix of vibrant personalities, and I think that will come out in the music.”
She added: “That’s what they had in the ‘70s and wanted to recreate. Every sound you hear, apart from ABBA’s voices, is being made in the room on the night. That’s amazing. It’s like lightning.”
Describing the “emotional” process of auditioning and jamming with ABBA, Little Boots explained how she still feels starstruck.
“I didn’t think they’d be there for the audition, then Benny and Bjorn walked in and introduced themselves,” she revealed. “By the end of the day, Benny was jumping on the synth with me and showing me what kind of sounds he would use for different songs. I couldn’t believe it.
“I remember one time Benny started playing ‘Thank You For The Music’, I started singing and had a moment. It was incredible. They’re the most lovely and inspiring people, and it’s a joy and an honour to work with them.”
While describing the ‘Voyage’ live spectacle as something that no one had seen or experienced before, Hesketh added that the band’s two new singles are “testament to the magic of ABBA”.
“Young people are into them,” she said. “These songs are trending on TikTok. So many artists come back and collaborate with some EDM people to try and be modern and relevant, and it just doesn’t work. I love that they’ve just come back doing what they do to such a high standard.
“For me, it’s about fantastic songs that tell a story,” Hesketh added. “That sounds so easy, but it’s difficult to do well.”
Check out NME‘s interview with the producers and directors on what to expect from the ABBA live show here, along with details on how long it might run for, and Righton explaining what went into putting the live band together here.
ABBA’s ‘Voyage’ concerts will run from May 27, 2022, following the accompanying album which will be released on November 5 on Universal Music. Visit here for tickets and more information.
‘Silver Balloons’ by Little Boots is out now. Check out her upcoming UK tour dates below. Tickets are available here.
26 – Manchester, UK, The Deaf Institute
28 – London, UK, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club