Benny Andersson, one of the "B's" in ABBA, has spent the whole summer out in Sweden's Baltic archipelago and, on his first day back in the studio, is not in the mood for work.
The studio is by the water's edge on a small island in the middle of Stockholm, and is where Andersson writes most of his music. The airy space is decorated with beautiful paintings, modern tasteful furniture and doors designed with a modern folkloristic star pattern – all creating a warm, serene atmosphere.
"I am supposed to write new music, but I admit I am not feeling inspired at the moment. I have not written all summer," a tanned Andersson said with a relaxed smile.
That may change soon as autumn promises to be busy for the man behind most of ABBA's music and songwriter Björn Ulvaeus – the other "B" and Andersson's oldest friend and collaborator.
They have concerts lined up in Britain and the U.S., plans for a follow-up to musical hit Mamma Mia!, and the opening of a touring ABBAWORLD exhibition that they are not directly involved in but might attend.
Coming up first is a tribute concert to ABBA, "Thank You For the Music," in Hyde Park, London, on Sept. 13, including singers Kylie Minogue, Chaka Khan, Lulu, Elaine Page, and the West End cast of Mamma Mia!
Benny will also be on stage with the Swedish six-man band Orsa Spelmän, or Orsa Fiddlers' Ensemble, which plays Swedish folk music.
But it's two concerts at New York's Carnegie Hall on Sept. 23 and 24 that seem to stir most excitement in the seasoned musician, who has performed since childhood. Titled "Kristina," the concerts will contain a selection from his and Ulvaeus' musical "Kristina från Duvemåla."
"I know I will be nervous," Andersson said. "I will be curious to see the reaction from the audience."
Andersson described the musical more like "a modern opera" and said it was the hardest and most daunting piece he had ever composed. Not only because it took five years to write or that it encompasses three hours of music, but also because it is based on the Swedish national epic "The Emigrants" by Swedish author and historian Vilhelm Moberg.
Andersson read the four-volume oeuvre for the first time at the age of 19 and was gripped by its protagonists, the farmer Karl Oskar and his wife Kristina, and their dramatic destinies.
The books follow the hardships of the starving couple in the mid-1800s as they uproot their family from a famine-stricken Sweden to move to America – a decision taken by a million Swedes at the time.
"It feels very special to play this music in New York. This is where most of the immigrants first arrived. Millions of Americans share the history of these characters," Andersson said, hinting that the musical might get a Broadway production, just like Mamma Mia! and Chess – his and Ulvaeus' first musical.
While Andersson and Ulvaeus had several projects in the pipeline, Andersson was adamant an ABBA reunion was not among of them.
"No! That's not happening. One should never say never, but No!" he said, shaking his head in response to the question that has followed the former ABBA members despite their consistent denials.
"The simple reason is that none of us wants to do it," he said, adding he was keen to protect the ABBA legacy by "leaving it alone."