“You have your whole life to write your first record,” explains Tove Lo. “I had two years to write this one.” The 28-year-old Swede’s breakthrough came in 2014 with the arrival of her debut studio album Queen of the Clouds, which spawned numerous hit singles like “Habits (Stay High),” a drug-and-sex-fueled post-breakup bender anthem echoed around the world. Fame, when it came, seemed overnight. The freshly minted pop sensation won a legion of fans, and the excitement bubbling up around her imminent follow-up album started taking on new levels of ferocity. So how do you repeat a career high of that of magnitude? How do you give fans more of the same without reinventing the wheel? Tove Lo’s answer is Lady Wood, and the new album finds her at her best. It’s infectious pop, a battle cry for self-empowerment, and endless truth telling about relationships imbued with the twisted wit—decidedly Scandinavian—that we’ve come to expect from her.
When it comes to your songwriting, you’re quite revealing. What does it feel like to reveal so much of yourself to the entire world?
It’s amazing, and also kind of scary. When you’re in a creative bubble, you know exactly how you feel about everything, but the world can receive it differently. You know what I mean—It’s like, “I hope they understand what I’m saying here,” because it is so personal. But mostly, I’m so proud of this record. I’m excited to share more stuff from Lady Wood.
Is the creative process very different when you’re writing songs for other artists?
When I write with someone else in mind, I have to be with that person to figure out what they want to say and think about their voice. You see what kinds of melodies suit them. When I’m writing a song that’s for someone else, it’s the same way movies can inspire me. I love creating a scenario in my head and describe what’s going on, while pulling at those emotions that I can relate to. When it’s a song for myself, it’s very easy and introspective. It just comes and I blurt it out, you know? I’m putting my heart to paper.
What was the overall concept for Lady Wood?
Lady Wood is a double album and there’s a second part coming up with two more chapters later on. “Fairy Dust” and “Fire Fade” are the first two chapters, and the whole album is about the past two years of my life. It’s been a fucking emotional rollercoaster—in the best and worst ways possible. [Laughs] Lady Wood is all about chasing that rush. How do I feel the most alive? Sometimes it’s stress, sometimes it’s love, and other times, it’s being high getting off the stage. The album takes you through the different stages: The chase, the rush, the peak, and the downfall. The beginning is when I hear the fans shouting my name and I’m about to hit the stage. “Fire Fade” is when it all sort of starts to wear off and I’m losing connection with the fans a bit, and I’m trying to get back to that first chase. You feel vulnerable there. It’s where you start to reveal your true self.
The track “Cool Girl” was inspired by Rosamund Pike’s memorable monologue in David Fincher’s Gone Girl? That’s so specific!
It was sort of a coincidence! I had just seen the movie. I’d also remembered being in a similar situation where it was a back-and-forth with this person. I felt uneasy about it, you know? It was like, “Do I really know this person? Do they really know me?” She changes herself so much for someone else. Why do we—and not just girls—do that? Why do we change ourselves for someone else and then expect that person to love us for who we are? Why do we play mind games? Why do we try to make someone we like feel insecure so they will like us more? It’s strange the things we do to others to make them love us. [Laughs] It’s like the less emotion you show, the more in control you are. It’s like you can’t let your emotions get ahold of you. Why is it so bad to be emotional?
They sometimes call you “The saddest girl in Sweden.” Is that a source of irritation?
That doesn’t bother me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m Swedish. [Laughs] It doesn’t bother me to say that I’ve been depressed and I’ve struggled with dark thoughts. It’s not something that I find shameful. Everyone’s sad sometimes. Even though I’m living my dream, which is fucking awesome and amazing, I still have days when I don’t want to get out of bed. If you experience all these highs, you’re going to get the lows—that’s just how it’s always been. I definitely appreciate the small things in life as much as I do the huge things. There are people who are surprised when they meet me like, “You’re nice!”
Do you still sometimes stop and think, “This is all fucking crazy right now”?
Yes! In Miami, we went to this amazing, beautiful house and had so much fun jamming on stage with Maroon 5, and then we went back to our hotel and jumped into the ocean. It’s like, “What the fuck is happening?” [Laughs] We just performed for 15 thousand people! As often as I can, I try to think about that. It can get stressful and things can get intense, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m here to live my life to the fullest.
What is your FAULT?
Where do I even begin with this? [Laughs] Well, my FAULT is that for every TV show type thing we do now, we have to include in the contract that I won’t flash the camera.
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