The other Stockholm syndrome

Josh O’Kane:

Sara Hjellstrom had just had a tonsil operation when a friend, DJ-producer Mike Perry, handed her the roots of a song he hoped she could turn into a hit. Sitting on the couch in her Stockholm apartment, Hjellstrom built Perry’s four chords into a tropical house track, with help from her songwriting partner Nirob Islam. The beat, top-line melody and the words came near-instantly.

Hjellstrom wanted her own voice on the track, but had been told by her doctors not to sing. Being from Sweden, though, where music is treated like a job – a profession, really, such as an engineer or electrician – she wanted to get that job done. So, a half an hour after she began writing, she stepped into her walk-in closet and recorded the vocals – in a single take.

In June, 2016, that song, The Ocean, began a six-week summer run atop Sweden’s charts, reaching No. 11 on Billboard’s American dance chart, too. Hjellstrom, who’s taken on the alias SHY Martin, instantly went from music-school student to coveted co-writer and guest performer, jumping on tracks by the Chainsmokers, Kygo and Bebe Rexha.