Another Look at Avicii

In 2019, about a year after @avicii untimely death, Swedish journalist Måns Mosesson first interviewed the people closest to the missed house hero. Avicii, née Tim Bergling, had not only left behind a music world in grief but also mourning parents, siblings, and friends. Måns met with Avicii’s father Klas Bergling and his wife, Anki Lidén, to portray a beloved son, taken away much too early. 

The interview, published in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, resulted in Klas and Anki wanting Måns to accept the honorable task of writing Tim’s biography. Now, the book is finished and Måns is presenting a side of Avicii that we haven’t seen before. 

Simply and fittingly entitled “Tim – The Official Biography of Avicii”, the volume captures an enigmatic world star in a new way, closer than ever. Måns writes as if he has been walking alongside Tim Bergling for years as if he has been standing by his side through thick and thin. But, despite the personal and friendly tone of the book, Måns and Tim never met. The author has gotten to know the celebrated DJ – as well as the person behind the fame – through hours of conversation with his loved ones, and more than two years of studying Tim’s personal correspondences and journals. 

“I know him pretty well, I would say,” Måns Mosesson says with a heartwarming smile as if he is talking of a dear friend. 

We meet in the dazzling halls of Bonnier, the publisher of the biography, on a cold Stockholm night close to the release of the biography. We’re not extremely far from where Tim Bergling grew up, where he started making music in his bedroom and eventually became the world-famous Avicii. From the moment of success, the unbelievably hectic life of an international pop sensation became Tim Bergling’s reality. It was when he allowed himself to step back from that reality that the musical icon started penning much of the material that Måns has used to get to know him. 

“He became addicted to opioids and was convinced to commit himself to a rehabilitation center in Ibiza in the fall of 2015” Måns explains. “There he started writing about his life, and then he continued making these beautiful, pondering reflections about his career and his condition, and about our time. To me, it has been worth gold, getting Tim’s own perspective on things. I feel like I have been hanging out with him for almost three years now.” 

I ask Måns about his relationship with Tim and his music was before the life-changing interview with Klas and Anki in 2019, the interview that set him on the monumental adventure of depicting the life and accomplishments of one of the greats of the last decade.
“I’ve looked at Avicii’s career from afar because it was impossible to miss,” says Måns, who is a hip hop-lover and originally a music journalist. “I’ve always liked his music, but I wouldn’t say that I was a fan.” 

Måns believes this outlook has been beneficial for his work on the biography. As an observer standing outside the immediate house community, but still with a vivid understanding and appreciation for music, he has been objective regarding Avicii’s cultural impact. Since he is no longer an active music journalist, rather covering societal issues in his day-to-day work, the author has also been able to encompass the deeper meaning of the tragic circumstances surrounding Tim Bergling’s passing. 
“In part, this is, of course, a story about an epoque-making musician, but there are also bigger questions to raise here, about our time: Opioids, stress and pressure, expectations and social media,” Måns says. “I don’t think you have to be in Tim’s stratosphere of fame and stress to recognize yourself in lots of the things he went through.”

Parts of the revenue from “Tim – The Official Biography of Avicii” will go to the Tim Bergling Foundation’s work for preventing suicide and mental illness. Hopefully, the book can also paint a picture of our modern world and the hardships that can come from living in it, no matter who you are. One of Måns’ ambitions has been to show that Tim wasn’t alone carrying the feelings he felt. 
“It has been important to me that the book brings up vulnerable things in an honest way. These horrible things have already happened, there is nothing we can do about that now. But, it’s possible to try to find something constructive in it, and in the best case maybe help someone else.”

Through interviewing others with similar problems as Tim’s – such as addiction to alcohol or easily prescribed opioids, and distress caused by extreme pressure from the entertainment industry – Måns manages to point out a wider concern. The questions of mental health and inordinate accessibility to dangerously addictive drugs do not start nor end with Tim Bergling. But, telling his story and noting that he shares it with many others might shed further light on pressing matters. For example, house music alumni Laidback Luke, one of Tim’s early heroes and mentors, has opened up to Måns about how the loss of Avicii has affected him.

“Many people around Tim have changed their life after his death. Laidback Luke is one of them. He has stopped drinking, and he forces himself to take time off. I have searched for this kind of story, where people in Tim’s life can speak of similar experiences. In that way, we can discuss the bigger themes that I hope many can recognize and contemplate.”

Avicii was unique in many ways, but Tim Bergling’s case isn’t entirely. Måns respectfully shows us the inner thoughts of an individual burdened by fame. “Tim, as I perceive him, has for long periods not felt good about being so celebrated. He reflects on it himself in his writings” the author says. 
In the biography, we get to see a perhaps previously unknown side of Tim, the one dealing with these troubling emotions. “In the rehab center, he started getting interested in meditation, Buddhism, and eastern philosophy in a more general sense. He reasons about not feeling well, due to his ego being overfed” Måns shares. 
All in all, “Tim – The Official Biography of Avicii” brings the reader closer than ever to a troubled soul loved and admired throughout the world. On top of that, it surfaces terribly important thoughts on mental health and its integral part in the music world. Most of all, Måns hopes his readers will close the book feeling warm feelings towards Tim, which I am utterly sure they will. 

Words by Filip Linström
All image: Courtesy of Avicii