Tove Styrke’s had an incredible 2018; between touring with Lorde and Katy Perry, she also released Sway, her newest album, which is filled to the brim with pop gems. And she’s not even close to being finished yet! She’s currently on her first headlining US tour in three years, and she’ll be stopping off at DC’s Rock & Roll Hotel tonight, plus will take over NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge this Wednesday, October 3rd.
In advance of the much-anticipated gigs, I was able to hop on the phone with the Swede to talk about ALL OF THE THINGS, like whether or not she and Tove Lo are bringing global awareness to the correct pronunciation of “Tove” (she thinks they still have work to do before people truly get with it), why she wouldn’t change a thing about the trajectory of her career so far, and how writing song lyrics in English feels more natural than in her native tongue. Internet-eavesdrop on all of that below, grab tickets to whichever show applies to your geographic location, and whatever you do, 100% download Sway, ’cause it’s seriously a critical, magical listen.
First off, how’s your summer been?
It’s been pretty great, actually! I’ve been doing a bunch of festivals throughout Scandinavia, which has been really nice. I even squeezed in a little bit of vacation time. I feel like I’m recharged and ready for this amazing fall tour!
That’s rad! And have you had any moments to work on new material between now and when you released Sway in the spring?
I’ve been trying to squeeze in a little bit of studio time here and there, because I’m very eager to figure out my next sort of “move”. I don’t like to wait too long to release new music, and I have a couple of things that I’m really excited about right now.
Amazing! Well we’ll for sure keep an eye out for those things. In the meantime, I’m going to ask you a couple of questions based on your song titles – these questions don’t necessarily have anything to do with the actual lyrical content of the tracks, it’s just more of a word association thing. So the first one is based on the song title “Mistakes” – you’ve been making music for a while now (which I don’t think people always necessarily realize), so is there anything that you retrospectively feel was a mistake in terms of the way you went about trying to achieve certain things? Would you go back in time and tell yourself to go about anything differently?
Cheesy as it sounds, I have no regrets, really. I wouldn’t want to change anything because I’m in such a good place right now; even if I’d have been able to get to this point sooner as a result of doing something differently, I don’t know that I’d have appreciated it as much as I do in this moment. I’m very happy about my situation.
And similarly to that, for “Changed My Mind”, are there any songs that are older in your catalog that you still perform but maybe don’t connect to as much, or maybe at all?
There are definitely songs that I can’t relate to as much anymore, but I think the coolest thing is that, for example, there’s a song called “High and Low” from my first album, and that one didn’t mean too much to me when I wrote it, but when I’ve revisited it throughout the years, I’ve found it’s begun to mean more and more to me. As I’ve lived more, I’ve discovered some things in the old songs. I think that’s really cool.
That’s great! Alright, and then the last one for this little series of song title questions is based on “Say My Name” – you might already be able to guess where I’m going with this one, but do you feel like you and Tove Lo have been championing the way to properly say the name “Tove”? Bringing some global attention to the matter?
[Laughs] She put it in a video, and I’ve got it written out phonetically in my Instagram profile [ed. note – “Tove Styrke” is pronounced “Tuva Stierka”], but people still aren’t getting it right. We’re keeping at it, though. Hopefully people will eventually take notice. [Laughs] I feel like someone should make a viral meme to solve it. This is the internet, right? We can make that happen!
I don’t know if you’ve seen Bridesmaids, but it’s like that airplane scene where the flight attendant’s name is Steve and Kristen Wiig keeps being like, “Okay, Stove…”
[Laughs] I think I actually have gotten “Stove” before. I’ve gotten so many weird ones…I get “Stryker” a lot, and I got “Tofu” once. “Tofu Stryke”.
Oh my god. [Laughs] Well, sort of along the same lines, just in terms of language differences, a lot of the people I interview who are from a country whose first language isn’t English still tend to write their songs in English, and it seems like you also do that. Is there any word or phrase in Swedish that you still feel like would either sound better or translate better than English could, though?
I definitely feel like English is easier for me to write in because my whole life I’ve listened to so much more music that’s in English than music that’s in Swedish. So musically, I know the English language better. If there’s anything that can be tricky sometimes, it’s probably stuff that’s more like the slang that you say a lot. That can be kind of hard to translate. And choosing American slang words, for instance, feels less personal. But usually it’s a smooth ride. I think it probably takes me a little longer to write a song in English than it would for someone who speaks it as their first language, but I still prefer it way more than writing in Swedish. Writing in Swedish is really tricky. If you say “I love you” in Swedish, for instance, it’s really a statement. It’s a big thing to say, and people don’t usually put it in a song. But it’s fine in English – I can say “I love you” to a friend, and it’s a beautiful thing to say, but it’s a little bit broader. A lot of things in Swedish, especially things pertaining to feelings, tend to get amplified. It’s less in-between when you say them.
Totally. Alright, now that we’ve brought up love and feelings, let’s talk about the video you recently released for “Sway”! I love it, it’s so good! Now, did you come up with the idea, or did someone pitch it to you, or was it a pure collab in that way?
It was actually me and Joanna Nordahl, who I’ve worked with fairly closely throughout this whole project. We also did the “Mistakes” video together, and she worked with me on the cover art for the album and everything. She came up with this idea, and we’d been talking about it for a while. First we had the discussion about doing it for the “On the Low” video, but then finally we landed on “Sway”, and it really feels like the perfect match. “Sway” is like the anthem of the album, it’s this big feelings anthem. And it need a visual that really put focus on the emotions that I wanted to communicate. It felt nice to take the backseat for once, too, and not have this super performance-heavy video. I love doing those, and I’m going to keep doing them, but it just felt nice to have the main video for this album be something more universal, trying to capture that specific feeling of being in this moment. It’s like when you’re in a bubble with this person, and you can’t see anything but the here and now. And I’m so happy about it; I think it turned out beautifully!
I agree! Alright, before we wrap up, it’s been a massive year for you, and you’ve got a birthday coming up in November. What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from this past year of your life, and what are you looking forward to in the year that’s coming?
Where to begin, even?! This year has been life changing for me. This whole year has been a big pinch myself moment. I’ve gotten to do such amazing things, and I still have this whole fall tour to go. I learned so much. I’ve given so much of myself, gotten more personal than ever before, and I’ve gotten so much great feedback. It really means the world to me. And now I just can’t wait to keep building on this foundation that this year has given me.
Featured photo by Gustav Wiking