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Meet our BOTW: Tove Lo

“It’s harder for me to write a ‘no worries-happy-summer-party-song’ than something you dance to with tears in your eyes,” confesses Sweden’s Tove Nilsen – aka Tove Lo – halfway through our chat about her forthcoming debut EP, Truth Serum. She’s not far wrong. All six tracks present on Truth Serum cut a perfect balance between her direct – sometimes wincingly so – lyrical approach and the smile-inducing pop hooks she’s spent years crafting as a songwriter working for some of the biggest names in the business.

Whether she’s confessing to eating dinner in the bathtub and then going to sex clubs on last year’s breakout single ‘Habits‘ or going full throttle on ‘Love Ballad‘ and comparing love to being doused in gasoline before being stabbed several times, you can’t help but believe every single word. Almost everything on Truth Serum is so confidently uttered and immaculately placed that you’ll be finding new reasons to adore it with each subsequent spin, and believe us: there will be lots of them.

With the announcement of Truth Serum’s impending April release this week, we caught up with Nilsen to find out about her dream of collaborating with Silverchair’s elusive Daniel Johns, why she won’t be filtering the emotions in her music, and for a guide to the places she’d take us on a great night out in her hometown of Stockholm – because on overcast Wednesday afternoons we like to dream of fresh fika with our new pop heroes.

You’ve chosen to name your debut EP, Truth Serum. Tell us a little about how that reflects on the music within.
I sat down and listened to the songs in the order the story goes in my head and I realised they’re all filled with the things I find hard to admit to or say to someone. There’s a lot of regret but also the scary parts about being happily in love and how vulnerable that makes you. No filters basically.

Across your output so far, you’ve always struck me as someone who’s unafraid to be pretty open and direct as a lyricist, the first verse of ‘Habits’ coming to mind immediately. Have you ever found it difficult opening up to people in the public domain or is that something natural to you?
I’m just starting to realise now that what am doing might not be the best for me in the long run [laughs]. I think I’m naturally open as in I like to get to know people fast so you know right away if they’re your kind of people or not. As for being personal with the public I’m not fully sure how that feels yet, but it’s just the way I write!

I understand the EP is designed to tell a love story from start to finish. I take it, based on closer ‘Out of Mind’ that it doesn’t have the happiest of endings. Was this story autobiographical? Tell us a bit about the narrative at the core of Truth Serum.
It is a love story from beginning to end with all the passion at the start, the ups and downs, the mistakes and the ‘put the pieces back together’ part. ‘Out of Mind’ for me is the time when the storm is over, you’ve gone your separate ways and live with a scar in your heart. You might have moved on but that person will always have a bit of you.

You work as a songwriter for others on the side from your output as Tove Lo. Does it ever get difficult separating the two in terms of the way you write and your process as a musician?
So far, no. It’s more just the lack of time now and then. It’s easy for me to know if it’s ‘my song’ or not. I guess to shift between inspirations and taking in a new person to write with/for can sometimes be hard if I’ve been writing my own stuff for a while. But mostly it’s amazing. It’s so good to get a break from myself!

And on that note, if you were given the chance to write for any musician, past or present, who would you most like to work with and why? What sort of song would you write for them?
This is a hard one. I thought about this for a while and I decided Daniel Johns from Silverchair. His voice kills me and has since I was a teenager. To hear him sing something we’d written together would be so cool. Also, I had a huge crush on him and wrote some love letters I think. I would write him a desperate teary love song to sing to me! [Laughs].

You’ve spoken in the past of how you explicitly only write love songs. What appeals to you about that form? Would you ever consider breaking out of that mould?
I definitely need to break out of it from time to time. It was that I used to try and not write about love but those songs didn’t turn out too good. It’s like you can hear that I’m making an effort not to say what I needed to say. When I let go and just wrote what I felt, it was easier. I do write songs that aren’t about love. But it’s harder for me to write a ‘no worries-happy-summer-party-song’ than something you dance to with tears in your eyes.

We recently had your fellow Stockholm natives Vulkano put together a guide to the best places to visit in the city. Where would you suggest we head to in your hometown and why?

DRINK:
Pharmarium in Old Town: The BEST drinks and so cozy, the walls are covered in rugs and you drink out of a horn and there’s a drink with gold powder in it!

EAT DINNER:
Hjördis in Södermalm: A small local restaurant a metre from where I live. There’s good food but I go there mostly cause it’s so cozy and you feel a bit like you’re eating in someone’s living room with a lot of funny pictures on the walls.

DANCE:
Everyone says this but Trädgården in the summer is perfect! An outdoor club under a bridge where you can hang out and play ping pong, eat and drink in the day and dance and listen to live music or great DJs at night.

EAT LUNCH:
Gildas at Nytorget, Södermalm: Typical Stockholm café with funny odd furniture, big salads and grilled sandwiches. You can drink tons of coffee out of huge random flowery mugs, which I love. Good for the classic fika as well.

SHOP:
Stadsmissionen on Skånegatan/Nytorgsgatan: It’s a secondhand store that is set up by an organisation that helps the homeless in Stockholm. There’s a lot of those stores around the city, but I always find something cheap and amazing in here. Also, it’s good to contribute because they do great and meaningful things.

SEE:
Årstaviken: You can walk around the water on the south side. It’s beautiful and in the summer you’ll walk by a few jetties where you can take a swim on the way.
Hammarbybacken: If you’re here in winter you should go to the little ski-slope in the middle of the city. I just think it’s so funny how it’s one big hill that pops up out of no where!

Outside of the EP itself, what have you got planned for the rest of 2014?
Well, I’m really excited about my upcoming shows that are soon to be announced – Great Escape and SXSW being two of them. I’m also recording a new video to ‘Habits’ right now and another for ‘Not on Drugs’ in about a month. I love making videos!

And, musically speaking, who are you excited about for this year? Who should we be getting on the office stereo?
Shout-out to Scandinavia! I’d say Frida Sundemo and Emelie Nicolas – listen to both of them and be amazed!

- Alex Cull

Truth Serum is available from April 7 on Polydor.



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