Photo by Moni Hayworth
Tove Lo Talks Magic Of 'Sunshine Kitty,' Teaming Up With Kylie Minogue & Love Of Nirvana & Hole
Since 2014, Stockholm-born alt-pop queen Tove Lo has served up a growing catalogue of fun, confident, zero-f**ks-given tracks (2014's "Talking Body," 2016's "Cool Girl" and 2017's "disco tits," to name a few). It's evident that the singer/songwriter has always known who she is, and is not afraid to share that person with the world, through the messiness of life, breakups and the like. She's relatable, and with that, her music is not only fun as hell, but pretty empowering, too.
Speaking to the Recording Academy over the phone the day before her fourth album, Sunshine Kitty, was set to drop on Sept. 20, Tove Lo told us how her shimmery project ultimately came from a calmer place.
"Even though it's all my blood, sweat, and tears into, it's been less of the having everything around me be chaos for me to be able to write. It's a new experience of being able to write emotional songs while being in a happy place, which I feel like I didn't really believe in before," she revealed.
Tove Lo also talked about what she's most looking forward to on her upcoming Sunshine Kitty Tour with BROODS and ALMA (one of the album's collaborators), what it was like working with Kylie Minogue on "Really don't like u" and more.
You're dropping Sunshine Kitty very soon. How are you feeling?
I'm feeling very excited and a little bit nervous. And I can't believe this day is here already. But I'm very ready for this album to be out, and I think it may be my best one yet, so that felt really good.
That's amazing. Being that this is your fourth album now, what does this one specifically mean to you?
Well, just the fact that, you know, four albums in five years is quite a lot. I guess it's just weird because I feel like, by this point, I know the process and this time, writing this record I've been in a calmer place. Even though it's all my blood, sweat, and tears into, it's been less of the having everything around me be chaos for me to be able to write. It's a new experience of being able to write emotional songs while being in a happy place, which I feel like I didn't really believe in before. It's a special feeling because it's the first album I've written that I feel like it has the same amount of substance and depth and emotions and everything, but without me needing to be in a chaotic place in my life to be able to write it. That's what's special about it.
I'm curious, did the album title come first or did the lynx character come first? Or how did those pieces play with each other?
It was kind of a simultaneous thing, where I thought, I want to have it elevated every new album. What would I want to add to the art? I wanted to add an extra element, and since I had the lynx tattoo on my hand, and my fans had copied it, with little drawings, they'd incorporate it. Because it's in my name [lynx is lo in Swedish], it's kind of been my spirit animal since I was little, I knew that I wanted to do some kind of character based on it.
But the fact that the title and character was going to be kind of one and the same, that came together when I changed up the title. I was like, "This is it, that should be my little friend." [Laughs.] The extension of me. The album is like a soundtrack to the lynx. There's been so many different ways, but I definitely had an idea of wanting an individual element playing a character, but I wasn't sure exactly what it was going to be yet, so I think that once I had the title, it was kind of like, "Ah! Of course!"
That's so cool. Does she have a name, or is she Sunshine Kitty?
She is Sunshine Kitty.
That's so cute. And, obviously, I have to know what it was like working with Kylie Minogue on "Really don't like u." That song's just so fun. Even when I'm driving, I have to dance to it.
Aww yay, car dance. It was amazing. It was a very surreal moment for me, and it goes back to when I released Lady Wood [in 2016] and I posted a picture of me with my lyric book, because I write all my lyrics with pen and paper. And she commented like, "Oh, yeah, she's a pen and paper girl." I was like, "what?," really feeling very, "Holy sh*t," you know? So, that was one of those screenshot and save in my folder of memories. And then, randomly, we played the same AMFAR charity event in Hong Kong and I actually got to meet her. I was thinking, "At least now I know she knows who I am, maybe she'd be down to meet me." This was a couple years later, and she was so nice and cool and beautiful. Very, very iconic. She just said, "I would love to write with you sometime. That would be fun." I was like, "Oh my God."
So, when I was writing this record, kind of in my mind was, "It would be so cool to have a song with her." So when I did "Really don't like u," I was like, oh this might be it. I just really felt like I could hear her voice on there, and maybe she'd be into the contrast and the tone, and it kind of had a bit of a Kylie essence to it. I sent it to her and was like, "I love this!" She definitely elevated it a lot. [Laughs.] She just put her ID on it, yeah. It was a very communal experience. She's really cool, we had the back and forth, and she's been really easy to work with. And like "Oh, I love this lyric video idea. What if I sing karaoke to you? Would that be cool?" "Great idea!" Yeah, she's just been so awesome.
What was the biggest thing you learned from working on this project?
I would say that sometimes you just have to let the album be what it is. I can't really force it in any direction. Whatever I'm feeling is what I'm going to write about. So accepting that and going with that and not questioning it too much. And that's what will make it effortless. It will feel effortless, if that makes sense.
I think it was a good feeling to have to do something so conceptual and so deep and long as Lady Wood was, and especially, maybe only short term, being so committed to keeping it in one world. That was a really amazing and hard experience.
And I think, for this record, I managed to reflect where I am right now. Because we're able to move and represent wherever I was during that time, I can't try to redo that. I need to write from the space I'm at which at the moment is very kind of impulsive and playful. Kind of doing without thinking, I guess. And that's been really, fun.
I think I need to get that tattooed on my wrists. "Don't think about it so much," something along those lines.
Yeah. Just do it, don't think. It's kind of like that. Just let it be what it is. Just let it happen.
And then, you're going to be bringing the Sunshine Kitty Tour to the U.S. and Europe next year, which is very exciting. What are you most looking forward to about this tour?
As much as I love playing festivals, because I just love the vibe and I play to huge crowds and get new fans, and see other acts, you kind of just go. There's no preparation. I love the pulse of that, but there's something so special about playing your own headline show, where it can be almost two hours long and you have a cool connection to the crowd.
I'm just really looking forward to [planning] this right now, and I'm reading through the comments to see what everyone wants to hear, their requests. I've really given the show a story arc, a dramatic curve that I want to take the crowd on. I love bringing it together. I'm excited to go out and be a box and see my fans, and yeah kind of be in that bubble, which I love.
Do you have a song that you're most excited to perform live?
I just performed "Sweettalk My Heart" on Late Night With Seth Meyers last night. It's vocally kind of challenging and it's a fun challenge. I'm looking forward to performing that one and then just hearing the crowd just belting it as good as they can, just like screaming it back in my face. [Hums the chorus.] It's just a very satisfying melody to sing. So, looking forward to that one.
And then, I'm really looking forward to playing "Are U gonna tell her," because we're creating a really, really cool lighting thing with that, and it's probably my two top live ones, I think.
What was the first CD you bought and first concert you ever went to?
It got me hooked on Kurt Cobain's voice. [Laughs.] I was just discovering him, and realizing that he wasn't around anymore, so it shock and heartbreak. And then the real Nirvana fans, were like, "Oh, he hated doing that show, he didn't want to play Unplugged, I can't believe you have that album." And then would listen to it in secret, and then all of the other albums. [Laughs.]
And the first concert that I ever went to was Robyn in Vossenberg. I was 11. I didn't understand anything about music and so I heard they were sound checking, and we went to the festival area early. I can't remember what the festival was called, I kind of remember watching her sound check and thinking that it was the show. I'm just standing there and nobody was there, and she was talking "hey guys, turn up the mic," as I'm staring and taking pictures of her. Being like "Does nobody know that she's playing right now?" That was my first show.
That's also amazing. I have yet to see Robyn, so I'm jealous of 11-year-old you.
I mean I just saw her again in New York a few weeks ago and it was f***king amazing, it was so cool. She's awesome.
When you were younger was there an artist that you admired or loved, that made you want to go into music? Someone that helped you switch from being just a fan to "Oh maybe I can do this"
I mean [Robyn] was definitely one of those. I was like "She's been around in music since so young. I can maybe also do that." I was also a big Hole fan, of Courtney Love. I just loved the embracing darkness, that was very appealing to me. So yeah, I would say her too. Kind of on the different side of the spectrum. But yeah, a mix of the two.