Article in Swedish. Published by 10.11.2020

By Eirik Alver

Photos: Agnete Brun Dagbladet/Magasinet

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Read Auto-generated English Translation Here


Alexander Rybak decided to stop taking the tablets that made him feel bad. Photo: Agnete Brun Dagbladet / Magasinet


Alexander Rybak on his addiction: “Not much of a life”


When Alexander Rybak was about to come out of drug addiction, he broke with everyone around him. Only in that way could he find his way back to himself.

– First of all, I want to emphasize one thing. Or two.

Alexander Rybak holds up a finger in the air.

I have never taken any illegal substances. Never taken party drugs to test limits or anything like that.

One: I can only tell my story. Mental health is very individual. And two: I’ve never taken any illegal substances. Never taken party drugs to test limits or anything like that. I followed the instructions on the package and of course never thought it would create problems in the form of addiction.

He takes a deep breath.

– But there I was wrong.

Alexander has previously told on his Facebook page that he lived with a secret. For eleven years he was addicted to sleeping pills. He also talked about the consequences, that the tablets made him weak and scared, that they destroyed relationships with people around him – and almost took away from him the desire to live.

– At one point it was all about moving on, but it was not easy. And for a while, I thought, ‘I’m not going to get out of this.’ And then there was not much to life to say it outright, he says quietly.

– But, fortunately, it’s history now.

Has released several songs during the corona pandemic

We are in Alexander’s home studio, that is, the guest room in his apartment at Aker Brygge in Oslo. A bookshelf, a large desk, a computer and a keyboard. Throughout the corona period, he has worked from home. This has resulted in several new songs, such as My Whole World and Give Me Rain .

While the first is a tear-jerking country ballad, the second is about overcoming difficulties: Despite the troubles on my way / I’m crawling through the dark night / Waiting for my sunshine / All the demons I have faced / They’ve only made me stronger / Day by day.

Yes, this can with a cliché be called the deal with a tough time. But right now, Alexander seems to be miles away from tough times, he talks about his admiration for and enthusiasm for the so-called 2-5-1 progression, a formula for creating chord sequences that swing. Or good pop songs.

– It has existed since Bach but is used in practically all popular music. From jazz to techno. Join in, he says and runs into the living room.


Alexander Rybak won Eurovision with Fairytale

On the mantelpiece are various prizes, including the crystal microphone he received when he won Eurovision 2009 and on the dining table a nearly half-meter-long contract model of a Star Wars spaceship with 3,152 pieces.

– Self-therapy, Alexander explains.

– While I’m doing this, I get lines of text in my head. I have not been so good at lyrics before and I have wanted to do something about it. But, listen here, he says and sits down at the piano.

– Do you hear it? How does the middle chord create a tension that is released when you return to the basic chord? It’s so simple, but at the same time so ingenious!

The enthusiasm and zeal is obvious. The smile is wide and it sparkles in the big eyes. It’s a little unbelievable that this is the same man who just a couple of months ago thought it was hard to take the elevator down and go to the store. Or take a walk. But that was what he did. He went out for a walk. In the beginning only a few hundred meters. Slowly but surely the tours got longer. And while he was walking, things happened. Both in the body and the head.

– I felt better, physically. And I made music. In the beginning I was very happy if I managed to set four notes in a row. But lately, almost an entire song may appear over the course of a tour. So it’s getting better and better, day by day.

Alexander Rybak suffered from tics as a child

Norway… twelve points! Norway… douze points! In 2009, Alexander took home the biggest victory of all time in the Eurovision Song Contest . In terms of points, no one had previously won so superiorly. His self-composed, folk music-inspired song about adventurous love went home with millions of viewers and overnight Alexander became an international star. In the time that followed, he soon lost count of how many times he performed and how many countries he visited. He slept more often in hotel beds than at home, insofar as he slept at all.

– I have always had problems sleeping. When I was younger, I could deafen it by getting up and doing some push-ups, but now it was no longer possible, he says.

Alexander came from Belarus to Norway as a five-year-old and already as a child he showed great talent for music. And to entertain. But growing up was not without problems.

– I had so-called tics.

– Involuntary movements and sounds?

– Exactly. I was also very picky and very sensitive. Pondered and thought a lot, took things from me. I remember the first news broadcast I saw, I was probably six or seven years old, and afterwards I could barely talk or sleep for several days.


Alexander says that he has always been ambitious and had high demands on himself. Photo: Agnete Brun Dagbladet / Magasinet


The sleeping pills “were not a problem in the beginning”

Both parents are musicians and Alexander himself started playing early. First piano and then violin. While other children in the neighborhood were out playing, the young Alexander was at home practicing. He says he wanted to be good and was very busy “please” others and get praise.

– That culture with praise is typically Russian and I do not know how healthy it is in the long run. But it was me who wanted to and today I am glad that my parents told me to practice.

Alexander admits that he is still ambitious. His competitive instinct is consistently high above average and he has always expected efficiency, not least from himself.

Rybak realized his addiction during Let’s Dance in Sweden

The first time after the breakthrough in Eurovision , the almanac was smocked and when he finished the day’s assignment ahead one at night, the plan was that he would fall asleep a quarter of an hour later and then sleep well all night. But if you are not the one who has good sleep, it is not the easiest thing. And then you have to resort to other methods.

– I did not experience it as a problem in the beginning. One tablet an hour before bedtime was what was needed. And the time after I swallowed the tablet until I fell asleep was the best of the whole day. Then I was calm. Then I was happy. Then I looked brightly at life.

– When did you realize you were addicted?

– It was 2012. I was part of Let’s dance in Sweden when I realized how difficult it was to work without tablets.

At the same time as he impressed with his talent on the dance floor in Swedish television, he was in a reality show in Ukraine.

– I would teach a blogger to sing. So Monday to Thursday I was there and I was in Stockholm the rest of the week.

– I thought that the participants in Let’s dance trained intensively all week.

– Yes and I do not know why I did not do it. I’m a perfectionist, or… hopefully not anymore. But I was then. I was also part of an even more demanding Russian program in 2015 where you would imitate other artists. Then I stepped up with more tablets

He says, no emphasizes, that it is very different how you react to that kind of medicine. The same tablets that can make life better for many others made life difficult – and at times unbearable – for him. Of course not all the time.

– Everything was good and well until the effect released, usually around lunchtime the next day. Then came the stress and anxiety. Sometimes I also became aggressive.

– You had a girlfriend at this time, how did it go?

– It went well – for a while. When I got the idea to write a song about how to write a song That’s How You Write a Song , I felt pretty good. But with the Melodi Grand Prix series (Melodifestivalen in Norway) 2018, it escalated with the tablets along with all the stress. In an attempt to stop taking the sleeping pills, I started taking antidepressants. But it went badly, yes extremely badly. I became like a zombie. I mixed pills I received from doctors in Norway, Russia and other countries. Several pills and larger doses, he says soberly.

– It may not be so easy to understand, but if someone had taken my sleeping pills from me, I almost think it would have felt as if someone had taken my child from me. Or my girlfriend. Everything I liked. It is very difficult to understand that what keeps you up is actually what pulls you down.

At the end of 2018, Alexander made a drastic decision.

– I broke up with my girlfriend. That she had endured my problems for so long I do not understand. And so I broke contact with friends and acquaintances.

– With the family too?

– For a period we had no contact. I decided I did not want to talk to anyone before I figured out how to deal with the sleeping pill problem. I could not accept that my life would continue like this. I have to find a solution.

Alexander Rybak got out of addiction

It would take a while for him to do that. 2019 was the year it was supposed to happen. Alexander was to get out of addiction. He would find his way back to his old self – and realize an old dream.

“Helgjuten show.” “All in.” The family musical Trolle og den magiske fela based on Alexander’s children’s book with script and music by the author, who also played the lead role, went for sold out houses with extra performances at Kilden in Kristiansand. Alexander, who had received the Hedda Prize for his participation in Spelman on the Roof at Oslo Nye Teater twelve years earlier, was able to tick off another career goal: to play the lead role in a musical he himself wrote.

But success is never free.

– I realized that the goal I had set for myself in 2019 would not work. If I were to complete the Trolle project, I could not stop taking the tablets. It was a big production with many children and I could not walk around and be afraid that I would give in to anyone.

– You mean, like, saltines and their ilk, eh?

Alexander nods.

– Everyone was very patient with me, even though they saw that I was skeptical of proposals for changes. I had the thorns out. By the way, it is one of the worst side effects of abstinence. You think everyone is your enemy. That everyone is looking for you. So I started with Valium. The lowest dose at first, but then I was unlucky and injured myself at the premiere.

– And then?

– Well, then I took larger doses to cope with the performances.

He laughs dryly.

– We got good reviews.

Stopped all medications

Fortunately, the story of Alexander’s tablet addiction seems to have come to a happy end. It is well known that googling is the worst thing a hypochondriac can do – yes, Alexander considers himself a hypochondriac too – but sometimes online searches can actually be a way out of addiction.

– I found an article by Rolf Torodd Olafsen, a man who himself had been addicted to prescription drugs and then I literally saw the light. I contacted him via Skype and realized that if I ever got back to some kind of normal state, I had to stop all medication. Absolutely everyone. And I did that last winter.


Alexander Rybak avoids stress and plays the piano in the evenings – so he fixes his life without sleeping pills. Photo: Agnete Brun Dagbladet / Magasinet


– Like that without further ado.

– I abruptly stopped taking Valium on New Year’s Eve, but I gradually reduced my sleeping pills. Of course, quitting requires a lot of strength and discipline, but I have succeeded. That is,… I had a small relapse a while ago. I was going on a date and was so excited that I took an Imovane, a sleeping pill, to calm down.

– How did it go?

– Yes, the date went very well.

– But how did you react to the sleeping pill?

– Yes, the body got hopes. “You were just kidding. You should not stop taking sleeping pills anyway! ”. It took a week for the body to calm down, so luckily it was not like starting all over again.

– “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic” it is said. Do you think that also applies to tablets?

– Yes. The little episode in connection with the date shows that.

– How do you fix life without tablets now?

– I have established routines. I play the piano before I go to bed. Preferably something calm and romantic, something by Debussy or Rachmaninov, or simply Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata . It makes me sleepy so I have always taken the opportunity to play it during the day. He he.

Alexander goes out into the kitchen and comes back with a vitamin drink.

– And I try to avoid all kinds of stress.

– It was simply stress that was the cause of the problems?

– Yes. Now I have become better at saying no to things I do not want to do. I probably make less money because of it, but I feel better. I thrive very well as a guest artist or to be part of projects where I am one of several. Concerts where I feel responsible alone make me stressed. Stress over time has never been good for me. I’ve probably always been more of a sprinter than a marathon runner.

Regrets that he nobbed Ukrainian Bachelor

In May, Alexander turned 34 years old. But he feels no pressure to change marital status or turn the bachelor party into something else.

– I’m in no hurry.

Alexander takes a sip of the vitamin drink, shakes his head firmly and continues:

– Neither to get a family nor a cohabitant. Right now I have more than enough with myself. Besides, I do not run out of time. Look at my mentor Arve Tellefsen, he was not a youth when he became a father for the first time.

– He was over 60.

– Something like that, yes. And it has gone well.

– Is there anything you regret when it comes to your career?

Alexander first says no, but then thinks again.

– It was a period when I was short of money and was offered eight million kronor to be part of the Ukrainian version of Bachelor . It’s a little bigger there. 40 million viewers. That I said no that time I have regretted.

– You could have had a beautiful, Ukrainian wife.

– Yes. For a week or maybe two, he says dryly. No, I do not regret anything, although there are probably those who think I should.

“Can I brag a little?”

Alexander tilts his head.

– Can I brag a little? Okay, he says and says:

– I am proud that I have always gone my own way. When I won a youth championship in music, everyone said I had to bet on classical. But I wanted to experiment with other genres. Then I won Kjempesjansen where I performed a jazz song I wrote. Then I was advised to invest in jazz. But I wanted to try theater. 

After I had received the Hedda Prize for Spelman on the Roof , people told me that the theater was my place. But I wanted to try the Grand Prix . It went as it went and then the record company people thought that pop was my thing. Then I went back to classic. So I wrote a children’s book, but despite all the well-meaning advice, I did not want to write a sequel to it. Instead, I made a musical based on the book.

He shrugs.

– I do not want to be placed in a compartment. And then there is something with authorities… I do not like to be told what to do.

– Is that why you are no longer affiliated with a large record company?

– I have great respect for the big Norwegian record companies, they are good at taking care of their artists, but that presupposes that the artists do not suddenly need a week timeout due to stress. As a so-called independent, I release songs when I feel like it. It’s not entirely easy to get attention for what I do, but it’s still worth it.

He thinks for a moment.

– I am very disciplined, I have always practiced every day, but for a period I did not know why. When it was at its worst with the tablets, I thought that only sound came from the violin. But in the last six months I have started to like music again. Yes, started to feel music again, he says and nods slowly.

– And that, yes, it’s just amazing!



Alexander Rybak has written a children’s book

Age: 34 years.

Work: Musician, actor and writer.

Family: Mother Natalia and father Igor.

Lives: At Aker Brygge in Oslo.

Took Europe by storm when he won the Eurovision Song Contest 2009. Has since written a children’s book, made a musical and participated in a number of television programs in several countries.

Current with several new songs on various streaming services.

Alexander Rybak on Skavlan on Instagram


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Alexander is not afraid – but has anxiety

Best quality: I think and analyze all the time.

Worst trait: I think and analyze all the time.

Reads: Instrumentation and Orchestration by Alfred Blatter. And Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson.

Watching: Now I’m getting through all the Bond movies. Have only the last two left.

Listens to: Good melodies and 2-5-1 progressions.

Afraid of: I’m not afraid of anything, but I have anxiety about everything.

Provoked by: Coercion. Injustice.

Admires: Eminem, he is completely honest in his lyrics. Barack Obama. And Arve Tellefsen.

Inspired by: Moving myself.

Favorite destination: USA. Especially the states with the largest amusement parks.

I’ll do that in ten years: Sitting behind the levers in a studio.

This is how I would like to be remembered: As an adventurer.

This is how I think I will be remembered: As a musician.