How Tove Lo Became Sweden’s Darkest Pop Export
In June, Tove Lo thought she had finally crossed over. The Swedish pop songwriter’s debut EP, Truth Serum, had gone Top 20 in her home country, and its best track, the Kendrick Lamar-esque “Habits (Stay High),” could occasionally be heard on U.S. radio. Four month later, “Habits” keeps getting bigger – radio won’t leave it alone – and her debut full-length, Queen of the Clouds, is coming up right behind it. Shortly before the record’s September release, Tove discussed the transition from songwriter to solo artist, her self-destructive tendencies and what she’s learned from Swedish pop maestro Max Martin.
In America, people are obsessed with the concept of Swedish pop but often don’t know much about what is actually happening in Stockholm. What is the music scene like there?
It differs. You have a big group of “pop girls,” the kind of artist who also writes for herself, that has a bit of an electronic edge. I’m always in that group, and there are so many talented ones. We also have our boy bands. And people know us because we have guys like Max Martin, and they write for such big names and they’re always on top of the charts.
Have you worked with Martin before?
I’m part of his songwriting team – a group that him and Shellback have signed called Wolf Cousins. It’s six different producers and me as the top-line writer. So maybe Martin and Shellback will write a song and produce it together with one of these new young writers, which obviously gives us a huge chance to be on a bigger project that we would never get a chance to be on otherwise. And it’s also kind of like mentoring: We’re all sitting together in this big studio complex in Stockholm, which is awesome, and they’re just working their asses off. That’s pretty recent – it just started end of last year.
It’s cool to see, because you understand why he’s so successful. When you’re writing a song, it’s easy sometimes to settle, but I’ve never seen him do that in that way. I love writing, though now I haven’t been doing it because I’ve been just playing and doing press. But it’s best to be in the studio.
In the last few years you’ve released singles called “Habits (Stay High)” and “Not on Drugs.” What about the drug metaphor appeals to you as a songwriter?
I write about what I know and my way of dealing with things, good or bad. And I think no matter what your drug is, if it’s weed or alcohol or just adrenaline in general, it’s whatever gives you the ultimate high. I like to compare things to that because that’s what everyone’s always chasing, at least I’m that way. I can’t live just being content. I can’t have a routine. I can’t be settled because then I just get really frustrated. I need to get these rushes. I’m pretty much chasing rushes.
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