Danish alt-rocker Lukas Graham Forchhammer had an unusual childhood, living in Copenhagen’s Freetown Christiania, an autonomous 84-acre enclave of roughly 850 residents created in 1971. “We have the same laws as the rest of the town, but we don’t have a patrolling police force, we don’t have cars, and we don’t have street lights, so the neighborhood does try to police itself,” says the 27-year-old soulful singer, who formed his band Lukas Graham there, then took Europe by storm with the smash single “7 Years,” a heartfelt reflection on his father’s untimely passing at 61. The group’s self-titled debut was released in the U.S. in March.
How different was Freetown Christiania?
What I’ve seen from traveling the world is literally just communion – that sense of loyalty that you get from a small neighborhood that’s tightly knit, where everybody knows everybody. I mean, people there are not in each other’s business, but they take care of each other and look after one another. And that sense of loyalty is something that I brought with me to my professional career and my songwriting. I keep my boys around me, and my boys keep me around them.
But with the death of your father, your songwriting took a more serious turn?
When a parent dies, you realize that you don’t have forever, and that magic about life kind of disappears. And when my father died, I was 23, and what I also realized was that from 23 to 61, a lot of stuff can happen, you know? So at the same time you realize that you don’t have a lot of time, you also realize that you do have a lot of time, and what you do with that time is what matters.
Do you feel older, wiser than your chronological age?
That’s what they all tell me, the spiritual people that I meet — that I’m either 1,000 reincarnations or an old soul. But I think just growing up in a community that’s really switched on helped. People just knew things. And once you realize the facts of, say, Germany in the 1930s, you can change the discourse when you talk about history, politics, economics and social structure. And I think that affected me deeply — a lot of philosophy and history, trying to understand why people are so cruel to each other, and why we don’t learn from our past.
Which might explain Donald Trump?
That’s all up to the idiot vote now. In my neighborhood, our main rule is: You can do whatever you want, as long as you don’t inhibit other people from doing what they want. And I wish that most of the world could live by that.
IF YOU GO
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. April 14
Tickets: $15 to $17 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.snagtickets.com