A day with Kris Kristofferson in Sweden

Roy Skjellaug

I had just finished the review for the web magazine about Kris Kristoffersons new album Feeling Mortal, when the phone rang late in the evening. Roger Rudholm, my good friend and the greatest worshiper of Kris as I know, came up with the good news we had hoped for several weeks ago. Kris had been previously announced by the organizer that no interviews would be given after the concerts, which now made an exception. We were invited to meet with Kris after the concert in Malmo for an exclusive interview and the meeting was just hours away. Many thanks to Kris’s wife Lisa and son Jesse that this could happen.

The concert was at St. John’s Church in Malmö on the 16th of November. We who have seen concerts by Kris previously had the great experience that we could expect, with the nice bonus that Kris Kristofferson’s charming daughter Kelly played and sang a few songs with her father. Kelly said afterward that this tour was the first time she stood on stage in this set. Apparently, it has also impacted Kelly to travel around Scandinavia as she seems to like to settle in Sweden. Warmly welcome to Sweden Kelly!

God almighty here I am

Classic song after classic song succeeded each other during the concert, «Sunday Morning Coming Down,» «Loving Her Was Easier«, but the greatest moment for me was to hear the new song “Feeling mortal” with Kris voice that filled the church in a declaration of love for his creator. When the words «God almighty here I am» echoed in this great church with its high arches illuminated in red and green, and Kris standing at the altar and slowly turns his head up, we were probably many who felt a sense of affinity with existential basis, irrespective of religion or not. Very touching and one of the most powerful experiences I ever had in a church, even if the «Why me Lord» also made me shudder properly. On some occasions Kris raised his head and looked up towards the roof with a smile, it looked as if he drew strength from someone above, for certain, he was struggling at times, the chords are not always where they should and some text lines disappeared. But what does that matter, no one can as Kris convey so much love in his presence, and so much wisdom in his poetic texts, it is not a perfect guitar playing or singing, it’s about the greatest art of storytelling. I listen through the whole concert and really savor every word, every chord, every breath, giving the music the utmost importance as it can have.
It is amazing, and it is also the reason why Kris is getting full pot for his gigs in newspaper after newspaper on this Scandinavia tour.

Nothing happens when it happens, it happens afterwards, so expressed himself an Icelandic writer who I forgot the name of, it was in all cases, so our meeting with Kris felt, afterwards, we began to understand. Roger and I were admitted to Kris behind the altar in the sacristy by his wife Lisa as soon as the concert was over. We even got to bring our equally excited respectively, Anne and Pernilla.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

There, in the middle of the floor of the sacristy, he stood, dressed entirely in black next to a large table of solid oak. The black shirt was as usual unbuttoned a few buttons and I noted that he replaced the mottled boots he had in the last tours. With the warm feeling in his eyes he greeted us while his daughter Kelly sat in one corner and Lisa had begun picking away tonight equipment. His eyes felt crisp but tender, with gray hair and maybe a few more wrinkles than last time I saw him, I think it was during sound check on Trädgårn in Gothenburg in 2010, one can only conclude that this man has aged with grace. Sure 76 years puts its marks but every wrinkle only reinforces the impression of the representative he is of the outlaw country music tradition. And how we laughed when Kris called us «The Good, The Bad and The Ugly», emphasizing that he was The Ugly. We cannot agree with you Kris, you look extremely good, something my partner Pernilla often remind me of.

Kris opened up the talk immediately and had no claims or questions about the design of the interview, the atmosphere was completely relaxed. It was with delight and surprise as Kris reacted when he heard that Roger seen four concerts with him on this Scandinavia tour and also going to Copenhagen for tomorrow’s gig, not the least surprised he was when Roger picked up a copy of a Swedish magazine called VeckoRevyn from 1978 with an Article about Kris and Rita Coolidge. Could not help but had to smile when the surprises continued, as when he received a message by Roger from Girll George from Girll George and the Arizona Star.

There was an immediate sense for us to keep the good energy that was in the air as soon as we started talking. The shape of this meeting did not feel like an interview and we went with the feeling instead of going after a pre-arranged question battery. Therefore I recognize in retrospect that this becomes a little story about our meeting with Kris, rather than an interview. Some of our questions were asked, however, even if the answers are not quoted verbatim.

Not many songs touch me as much as «Jody And The Kid» and «From Here To Forever». Getting to express one’s feelings about these songs to the man who wrote them was a relief. It was a happy Kris who got to hear how these songs mean a lot to me in my relationship with my own daughter. I have never felt more gratitude to a songwriter, it’s not all privileged to meet a person who seems to have found the words in one’s own heart. It is precisely this that makes the greatness of Kris, we recognize the words as if they were our own, and it will continue to be, major texts live on and they tell us something about ourselves. “Feeling mortal” becomes one of the many lyrics that are anything but deadly. We also got the answer to our question as to who Mama Stewart is in the song with the same name from the latest album; Kris told me that this is Rita Coolidge’s grandmother, one of the most beautiful lyrics of the album in my opinion.

Kris got into to talk a little about the background to «Jody and the Kid» and how he with sad step left his daughter Tracy to her mother, who had broken with him. Kris took the subject seriously, this man clearly shows with his eyes when something touches him, you really see how he’s looking for the right word, as well as search for them as if they are floating in the room. Sometimes Thanks is the best you can say, even if it sounds simple. Thanks Kris.

The Musketeers project

One interesting thing we started to discuss was the Musketeers project as it has been previously written about. Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson had plans for this super trio with Kris. How it really is with that project thing we never got any clarity about, but Kris said in any case it would have been a new Highwaymen and he still felt positive to the project. Now we can only hope.

Since this interview in the first place was planned for we took the opportunity to talk a bit about the legendary names that have recently been out touring for Rootsy Live in Scandinavia. Chip Taylor and Arlo Guthrie were the ones we mentioned and Kris talked about these two with the utmost respect. Good guys, ended Kris and asked me to say hi back to Chip as I have good contact with him. Then talked Kris lyrical about Don Was, who has produced, among others, his last three albums and described him as one of his best friends. Don produced some of Kris’s best albums and I think many agree with me. Kris continues to confirm his position as one of the greatest songwriters. And as I wrote in my album review, I have hardly looked so much forward to a biography as Kris, which rumor said that he is working with.

During our conversation, told Kris wife Lisa us that she just received a message that a duet is to be recorded with Rosanne Cash and Willie Nelson, the song is one of Kris best known. All of a sudden here we were behind the altar in St. St. John’s Church and realize that we are, for a moment, in the heart and the roots of outlaw country music. Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings felt suddenly not far away and it strikes me that perhaps it was in those Kris seems to get his strength during the concert while he looked high up in the church vault with a smile. It was a moment of forever. To conclude this evening we four drank Swedish whisky outside the church in the cold november evening, it felt worthy Kris and the outlaw country music.

Kris Kristofferson
Roger Rudholm, Kris Kristofferson and Peter Söderlind

Written by Peter Söderlind for

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