HARD is out now!
Image: Ninja Hanna.
Swedish International pop star, Tove Styrke recently unveiled her fourth studio album, HARD. We caught up with the singer to chat about the release, finding self-assurance throughout her career, her sonic exploration and so much more!
HARD is your fourth album, and arrives twelve years after your debut. What new knowledge were you bringing to the sessions working on this album that you've learnt across your time in the industry, and how do you think your artistry has evolved throughout your career?
I mean, I think I've evolved a lot. What I really feel this time is that I really feel like I have more, oh, this is gonna sound cheesy, but I really feel like I have more tools in my toolbox now. It's like you're collecting different knowledge over the years different, also different experiences so that today it's so much easier than it was in say 2015 for me to make a song that actually sounds the way that I want it to sound. Or to articulate myself well enough to describe to somebody else exactly what I want a video to look like. And that's such a huge difference, it makes it so much easier and a lot less stressful to make things.
Yeah, that's such a great place to be in. The record’s overriding message is just jump headfirst and wear your heart on your sleeve, even if it results in heartbreak. Could you walk us through the themes and concepts explored across the album and the importance of that central thread?
Yeah definitely. This record definitely is very different to me than what I've previously done, because I feel like I am very, I like being in control. I tend to edit things to quite an extent. For instance, my previous album was very like polished and perfect and so, so good. And I wasn't trying this time to do that again. What I tried this time was really to just let myself go, let all that control go and try and create something that just comes straight from my heart where the human and the humanness can show through. Because so much music today, it's almost like over produced. It's like it's so perfect. It's so perfectly shaped to just fit right into any Spotify playlist and nothing is nothing is like 'uh uh', everything is just good and nice and perfect. And I was really trying to not do that. [laughs], and that was a big challenge for me. [laughs]
The result of that is this lyrically intimate, side compared with this juxtaposing art pop meets 60's meets club dance exploration. How did you arrive at the sonic realm HARD exists within?
What I really tried to do was just to let the songs guide themselves. So instead of trying to make everything fit to a perfect frame sonically, I just wanted to really let each song soar and be as big or as little, or just like as expressive as it wanted to be. Show Me Love for instance was one of the first songs that I wrote for this album. I wrote it for my girlfriend when we just started going out. I've never been that personal ever in a song before. It was so scary for me to even put that out because it's a love letter from me to another person. And it's also like everybody's now. With that for instance, I just like felt that you this is like a classic love song, like a cheesy, 'I want so much' love song. I felt like it needed, I wanted to put it in this costume of being just like a traditional pop song from the sixties, think The Ronettes Be My Baby. Like that very 'boom, buh boom, tsh, boom, buh boom, tsh' and the build up with the chorus and then you have the break with with the guitar solo in it. And then like paired with lyrics that are obviously from today because you wouldn't have written that, [laugh] 'all the other bitches die for it' in the sixties probably. So yeah, a lot of this whole album is very all over the place. It's messy, but I think it's a beautiful mess.
That's such a perfect analogy and you know, you've shared some super great visuals throughout the albums. How do you go about conceptualising the imagery and how important is building a visual identity for your music?
To me, visuals are very important. They're one of the first things that I think about when I even make a song. And with all the videos that I have for this project, the process has been that I've had the idea and I write it down and I make a full video treatment. And then what I do is I send it out to directors until I find who I think would fit. Until I find somebody who's like stupid enough to join me on this venture and try and make this for way less money than we need. It's a hard project. Everyone who has been involved has gone in with like their whole heart and all their spare time and all their creativity, because we want to make beautiful things. They want to be part of making, just like something beautiful and I'm so appreciative and grateful to everyone who's been involved. They're so talented. The videos, they mean a tonne to me because also, to me that's a place where I'm completely free. With the music I have some pressure on me, people expect me to be kind of good at it at least. But with videos, people, they don't expect anything. So it's a very free and just like fun process for me to dive into every time.
Is there a particular line or lyric from this album that you find will get stuck in your head more often than not, or maybe one that you're most proud of?
There's a couple. I feel like the whole lyric to Millennial Blues I'm quite proud of. I think it describes a feeling that a lot of people my generation have of not ever being enough. Like not ever meeting the expectations. I feel like a lot of people my age, we are like that Beyonce cup, you know that mug that says 'you have as many hours in the day as Beyonce [laughs], like that way of thinking damaged my whole generation. Like growing up and feeling like, 'oh, the world is your oyster. You can do anything you want'. And then you grow up and you're like, 'no, actually I can't. I can't even find anywhere to live. Every working environment is more competitive than ever. Everyone's a genius and can do like five different things professionally. Like how am I supposed to excel at anything and the world is burning up. Everything is falling to pieces and it's world war three right now.' Like what the fuck? So you end up just depressed and anxious and hating everything. So that I think, but also the line in Show Me Love, which is "need something more than my imagination, even if it breaks my heart". I think that sums up the album very nicely.
Which three songs would you pick off HARD play to someone who had never heard any of your music to make like an instant diehard fan?
I would pick YouYouYou. I think that's the sunrise of the album. I think it's very representative of the album and the kind of pop that I like to make. I would probably pick Show Me Love because it's so personal and I feel like it resonates with people on a different level. I think it's an even race between Bruises and Free. I love both of those songs and they sound a bit different and both are a lot of fun to perform live.
Speaking of performing live, when are we gonna get you back on tour in Australia? It's been a while.
ASAP! Because I had so much fun last time I was there. I played two shows and both were sold out and I felt so at home. Seriously, you guys, you feel almost more home than Sweden. It's like, it's like we get each other [laughs] I love that. It's like the perfect combination of what my audience is in like Sweden, UK and U.S. That's Australia.
GET TO KNOW TOVE STYRKE
Doja Cat. There's tonnes more, but I think she's so brilliant. I met her once and she's really cool as well. Like I really love her.
An album that has had the most impact on you?
There's a couple, but a big one for me actually was the Born This Way album. I love it. It's not flawless, and that's part of why I love it. It's a really great pop album. It feels like she really put her whole life in it and that's how I like my pop.
If you could create the soundtrack for any existing film, which film would it be?
Hold on. That's that's a really good question. I'm thinking what films have I even like seen recently? Probably like one of my favourite movies ever is Call Me By Your Name. I would've loved that.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
I love Miley. Like I love her so much. I'm a diehard Miley fan, so yeah.
What was the first song you loved to sing?
I sang everything. I spent a lot of my time trying to like impersonate seagulls. I spent a lot of time like singing different musical songs.
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?
A Backstreet boy.
What would your street name be if you were a Backstreet Boy?
An artist that you think has had the most impact on the music industry?
I really think that Rihanna has had such a big impact on the music industry. I feel like she's the best A&R ever, the way she picks songs, picks tracks, the way she makes things that are so culturally relevant and still so like, they become so big. So like mainstream. It's amazing. I think nobody does it like her, she truly is like a modern day icon and I hope that she's gonna put out more music someday.
What advice would your current self give your future self for a year from now?
Don't stress too much girl. You don't want another burnout.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
I think first time I even, I probably first time I sang in a mic and I was like, 'this is cool. People can hear me. I can make noise and they can choose if they hear it or not'.