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20 minutes with Tove Styrke

Words by Veronica Stanford

Know your worth.

If you’re not hooked on the latest release from Tove Styrke within minutes of listening, you might want to reconsider your taste in music.

Titled Sway, the album is the third from the 25-year-old Swede, and we’re already willing to dub it catchiest record of the year.

Having already scored ample radio play for its first three singles – ‘Say My Name’, ‘Changed My Mind’ and ‘Mistakes’ – one thing’s for certain, Tove is quickly making a name for herself as a certified pop star.

Off the back of a supporting spot for Lorde, an Australian headline tour and her latest release, we caught up with the singer/songwriter to talk self-love and making the perfect pop song.

Welcome to Melbourne. I’m really excited to chat to you because we actually talked in 2015 in the lead-up to Kiddo’s release. Back then I asked you, ‘when are you going to come to Australia?’

I was like: ‘soon!’ I’ve been wanting to come for years. And now you’re finally here.

How have you enjoyed your time Down Under?

I’m loving it. I mean you shouldn’t pick favourites but of all the places I’ve gone to – for being the first time in a place – I’ve never, never had this kind of immediate, just, fantastic response.

Well, that’s nice to hear. I feel like Australians like to hear others singing our praises.

Yes! And you’re like: ‘we’re far away, but we’re so worth it!’

I caught you playing in Melbourne and you have so much energy and charisma when performing on stage. Does that come naturally to you? Or do you have to talk yourself up before you go out there?

No. I just go out there and, as you noticed, I don’t plan. I just end up talking and interacting with [the crowd] because you guys, you give me so much energy. When I walk up on the stage and get that response, it’s impossible to not give out energy as well.

But was that kind of confidence always there? Or is it something you’ve had to work at?

I’ve definitely gotten more confident through the years. I feel like it’s been such a difference. I mean, if I compare me now to my previous album, Kiddo, now I’m at a place where I just… I don’t know if it’s me getting older or having just done this for a longer time and actually gotten better or whatever, but I’m so much more comfortable.

It’s nice to watch as well. I feel like women need other women to look up to who are confident and embody that self-worth.

I had a whole speech at the Sydney show because when I did that one I was wearing this tee. Somebody pointed it out in the audience and said: ‘hey, are you wearing a T-shirt with yourself on it?’ And so, I had this whole little speech thing about it because I feel like… I’m my biggest fan, and I think everybody should be that. You need to love yourself, like RuPaul says: ‘how the hell are you going to love somebody else?’ It’s like, amen. It’s important.

Congratulations on Sway. Your third album by the age of 25 which is pretty cool.

I’m so excited. I’ve been working on these songs for so long. Like, [it’s been] almost two years now since I wrote the first one. ‘Say My Name’ was the first one I did. And I’m just so happy about it, I’m really, really proud of all of these songs, and this album, everything.

The album is very consistent throughout. Every song is equally as catchy as the last, something that’s quite different to Kiddo. What changed between those two albums for you?

I’ve grown a lot, but it took a while for me between these albums because I had to do some digging – both within myself and just trying out different things before I really figured out what it was that I needed to do.

What I figured out is I really wanted to strip things down a lot on this album. I wanted to make it as simple as possible – as direct as possible – but still keep it interesting and special. I wanted every song to have its own ID in the sound, so that if people hear [a song] for the second time, they recognise it just by how it sounds.

Talk us through some of the writing processes, where’d you draw your inspiration?

People! I feel like these songs are a patchwork of every person that I know… at least, every interesting individual. Usually, it’s not me describing this thing that happened with this person and exactly how it went down, it’s more like when you have this kind of feeling with a person. So, I’ve been writing a lot about just connecting with people – how you connect and when it doesn’t connect, why that is. I’m so fascinated by it.

Other people are like mirrors almost, and you like the ones where you like your own reflection, the ones who make you your best self. Those are the ones you like to hang out with.

That’s very profound.

Mm-mm (shakes head). I mean with pop, it’s about getting to the core of the feeling, and I feel like to get there you have to go pretty deep.

Do you write all your songs in English straight up?

Yeah. I’ve noticed that when I write with people who have English as their first language, we definitely have a different approach to lyrics. To me, it’s a translation process going on in my

brain. I think that also might be something that a lot of Swedish writers have in common, that we like to keep things very clear, not too ambiguous. When you hear the music for the first time, I want you to get the message immediately and for me to get the message immediately, it needs to be a little bit simpler.

But then I think that it translates really well, because like you said, you want people to get it…

Yeah, it’s like a safety net, or like a… what’s it called? Like a filter. An extra filter [the song] has to go through, and that works well with pop.

You’ve really nailed the perfect pop song formula, especially on this album. What do you think makes the ultimate pop song?

That’s impossible [to answer] because whatever I say, I’m going to look back on this interview in two years, or five years, and be like: ‘no girl, you’re wrong. You didn’t figure it out.’ Because you never figure it out.

What have you figured out so far then?

I’m just guessing, but one thing is that it’s good to have contrasts so you get a sort of balance. If you have a verse that is a certain way, simpler or not very melodic, it’s good to have a chorus that is melodic. But also, I know so many songs that disprove that. For instance, Post Malone – he can go over and do the same melody a million times and change the lyrics every now and then, and I think it’s the hookiest thing ever.

So do you think you’ll continue in the pop realm for now?

You never know. Right now I feel like I’m in a place where I’m just, like, my ultimate self. But I don’t know who I’m going to be tomorrow, so I have no idea what the next record’s going to be like.

And now the album is finished, what’s next?

I’ve already got a bunch of new songs.

Oh, really?

If it’s going to be an album, I haven’t decided yet, but I have a lot of new music that I want to release.

Keep it coming!

Yeah, I want to just keep it going – keep putting music out, keep playing, and travelling to different places, and do everything. Make more videos. Yeah.

Sway is out now via Sony Music. 

This article was originally published in Fashion Journal 179. You can read it here.

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