Tim Schou: ‘It feels so special to have this guitar back in my arms’

Tim Schou performing at Eurovision in 2011 | Image – Joerg Carstensen

Tim Schou, 35, represented Denmark at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011 as frontman of the band A Friend In London. The band finished in fifth place with their song New Tomorrow. Schou’s life since has been spent travelling between Denmark, Los Angeles and Germany writing music for established artists without always having a permanent home to go back to. 

Now he’s back in Denmark focussing on his own music and he’s happy after being reunited with his “baby” guitar which he got back through an extraordinary Facebook hunt. 

“I’m so fucked right now and I need some money,” Tim Schou says as he recalls being forced to sell his American vintage Fender Stratocaster back in 2013. “I looked for stuff I had that was worth some money and looked at the guitar and thought: ‘Maybe this guy has gotta go’.” 

To some, a guitar wouldn’t be much: perhaps something that sits on a stand in the corner of a room collecting dust. To Schou, guitars, and this one in particular, are so much more. 

“This is my first electric guitar,” Schou says with a beaming smile on his face as he holds it up with pride as we chat on Zoom. 

He bought the guitar off a Danish music producer in 2007 when he and his bandmates from the imaginatively named Tim Schou Band were recording an EP. The band later became A Friend In London and the guitar accompanied Schou through the band’s journey from then on. From Dansk Melodi Grand Prix and the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011, to supporting New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys on the European leg of their co-headline world tour in sold-out arenas, the Fender Stratocaster was as much of a constant as the other band members. Schou estimates he played about 300 live shows with the guitar. 

A Friend In London disbanded in 2014, soon after the emotional sale of the guitar. “I had a feeling I was going to regret it so it was definitely a loaded sale. But I also knew right there and then that, to get on with what I was doing, I needed a quick sell.” After the sale to a 19-year-old man called Kevin Foged who lived in Jutland, Denmark, Schou didn’t really think about the guitar again. 

However, earlier this month he decided he wanted to start playing New Tomorrow again for the first time in years, this time with a new band supporting him. “I texted my guys in the band and said: ‘I have this weird itch and I think I want to start playing New Tomorrow again’.” 

A Friend In London performing at Eurovision in 2011

Schou appreciates how important that song is to a lot of people, but it was when his 22-year-old bandmate (who was only 11 when it was released) told him it would be “legendary” to play it live on stage together that he released he couldn’t play the song without that guitar. 

On November 14, four days before a live show at Copenhagen’s Rust music venue, Schou made a plea on Facebook to see if anyone could help him find the guitar. His hopes were slim but social media proved it can be a source for good. “Within a couple of hours, the post on Facebook had been shared about 70 times,” Schou says. “The post somehow ended up with the guy who had the guitar. He commented saying: ‘Tim, I’m right here. What do you need?’.” Just like that, the guitar was on its way back to Schou, and in good time for the gig at Rust. 

The guitar isn’t in perfect condition. It has a loose connection and crackles a bit when it’s played, but Schou is certain to keep it as he says it would feel wrong to give it away again. “It feels so special to have it back in my arms. It feels magical. It’s like a portal to 15 years ago when I was happy-go-lucky with my band.” 

The gig at Rust went well, apart from when Schou stood on a monitor at the front of the stage, fell back and hit his head on the kick drum. 

Tim Schou performing New Tomorrow at Rust | Image – Kevin Foged

“I invited Kevin (now 28) to the show, gave him backstage tickets and everything. I told the story at the gig about the Facebook hunt and the audience were clearly excited to see if I had the guitar with me on stage. I invited Kevin forward to the stage holding my guitar and presented it to me like it was a scene out of This Is Spinal Tap. It was a great moment.” 

What’s next?

“I have a little studio setup at home,” Schou says. I can see it behind him as we’re chatting. It looks super professional considering it’s in his home. 

“Lately I’ve been focussing on myself and writing my own songs. My Danish label and I have just signed a deal with an American label called Preach Records.” That’s an exclusive, by the way. He smiled and said I could be “the bearer of good news” for everyone. 

Next year he’s going to release a few singles before he starts looking at recording a new solo album. “And yes, this guitar will definitely be part of that music.” 

Thoughts on Eurovision

Some artists want to rid themselves of the Eurovision label as soon as the contest is over. Schou is a little more respectful than that. 

“Because of Eurovision I have videos of myself playing in front of 65,000 people. I’ve been on tour in Europe playing places like the O2 in London and that’s because of Eurovision. So how can I sit here and dislike the tag of Eurovision? That would be ungrateful of me.” 

“But I am aware of exactly what the tag has done against me,” he concedes. “It’s a beautiful relationship, let me tell you that.” 

Schou’s native Denmark hasn’t fared too well at the contest since he was running around on that stage in his backless shirt in 2011. His fifth place has only been bettered by one Danish representative, Emmelie de Forest, who won in 2013. 

“One thing that I do find funny for the Danish is that they [broadcaster DR and TV producers] tend to not follow up on the bands that they have on the show, in terms of radio airplay and things like that.” He’s right. Even de Forest, a Eurovision winner, is seldom played on DR’s stations. 

He compares this lack of support to Sweden and their Eurovision selection show Melodifestivalen. Schou co-wrote Anton Hagman’s song Kiss You Goodbye that knocked Eurovision winner Loreen out of the competition in 2017. “That song ended up in eighth place or something like that. It didn’t make it to Eurovision but it still got certified gold. If it’s a good song they’re [Swedish broadcaster SVT] still going to play it.” 

Anton Hagman performing Kiss You Goodbye – written by Tim Schou – at Melodifestivalen

Schou knows that DR wants to do well but admits the broadcaster and its production companies shouldn’t “drop artists on their faces” after they’ve done Eurovision. 

“To me it’s pretty much just a switch of a button to have credible artists on the show because all it takes is to just let those artists know that: ‘Hey, if you participate in Eurovision, we are going to have your back on the radio’.” 

Would he go back?

“For a long time my answer was definitely ‘no’. I think you have a standpoint until you take a different standpoint,” he says. 

“If at some point I feel like it would actually be a good time for me to go and do it, then why not? I feel like I’ve established some steady ground for myself and my music career that I wouldn’t be as afraid of it as I might have been five years ago.” 

“But it has to make sense and it has to make artistic sense for me to do it,” he concedes. 

“If one day I’m standing with a song that sounds like it could win Eurovision, then maybe I’ll try and consider it. 

“And hopefully they’ll have me,” he laughs. 

Tim Schou is on Patreon and fans can support his music career.

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