Maxim Meyer-Horn

9 Jun

Tove Styrke: “I Wanted to Work on My Album ‘HARD’ Without Limiting Myself”

Whoever says “pop” usually says “Scandinavia” in the same sentence because the northern Europeans know better than anyone how to make good pop music. Tove Styrke is one of the leaders and is on her fourth album. On ‘HARD’, she goes even deeper into what makes her the person she is today and also goes in search of herself musically. Before she opened for MARINA in Brussels, we sat down with her on the leather sofa of her green room to talk about her intriguing pop project.

You’re finally back on tour. How does it feel to be back on the road?

I’m so glad that we’re finally able to do this. I feel like I had a life crisis when COVID happened. I wasn’t sure if I could go on tour any time soon again. Touring is probably my favorite thing about what I do. My job is to get out there, meet the fans, and share the music with people. I’m overjoyed to be back.

The last time we met, you were on tour with Katy Perry. Do you feel differently as an artist now? Do you feel more mature?

I don’t feel mature, but I feel like I’m at a very good place with my music. I’ve grown into myself as an artist, and I feel very comfortable with how I express myself in my music, on stage, and in my videos. I’m in a very comfortable and fun place right now.

You’re still quite young and already have your fourth album coming out. Do you feel like you’re still figuring out what it is to be an artist?

Still figuring it out a little bit. The music and the songs themselves that part feels quite solid to me. The times and how you put music out are changing. It’s different to be an artist. You always have to reevaluate what it means to be an artist today, what you’re willing to put into it, and how you want to interact with your audience on social media and everywhere. I think I will always be figuring that part out.

Was it different to make this new album because it’s been four years since your last album?

I’m always so slow. I was actually about to put it out in 2020, but the industry shut down from one day to the other. As an artist who puts out music globally, I literally couldn’t put it out because you couldn’t even get a hold of some part of the label on the other side of the world. For those reasons, it got delayed but that also gave me time to write more songs. Some of the later songs I wrote for the album like “YouYouYou” feel special to me. The video of “YouYouYou” is probably my favorite music video I’ve ever made. It’s so stunning and that wouldn’t have been on there if the album wasn’t delayed. It all came together quite nicely even though I had planned to put it out way earlier, but I’m glad I could add more depth to the songs.

How would you summarize your new album HARD in a few sentences? What was your perspective while working on the album?

This is definitely my favorite album that I made. I’ve done a lot of music that I love before, but this album as a whole is very pop and meaty. You get a lot of very different things on there, which I love because it never gets boring. To me, it’s a very joyful record, and I feel freer as a human when I listen to these songs. It’s liberating and uplifting. It’s about both love stories but also heartbreak but in a dancy way that makes you feel better. That’s what good pop songs need to have for me, so I hope it can work like that for other people too.

What made you feel so free while working on this project?

A lot of different things. The big challenge was for me that I wanted to work on the album without limiting myself and not edit it too much. I’ve been trying to just trust the idea and the songs, so really let them lead the way. I had to trust that they would make sense and that it was okay to leave the humanness, the little flaws, and the imperfection in the project. I’ve realized that the music that I love to listen to the most or inspires me the most, isn’t the slickest and most produced projects. I love the albums where you can feel the human behind it and can feel the intention, so that has been a big part of the process.

You’ve always put a lot of effort into your visuals as well, with the music video of “YouYouYou” being another standout. What’s the main message you want to bring across in the video?

Passion! The main thing when we were going to make this video, I wanted to make a visual that is very expressive, raw, and almost animalistic. I had a vision of it being very sexy and sexual but real and human by using dance and movements as a way to express the feeling of the song. To me, it’s so big and poppy, but in a good and real way. It turned out the way I wanted it to be.

Is there anything else besides music that helps you express how you feel

Definitely making the videos. For all the videos, I was the one who had written the idea and came up with the concepts. Then I start to look for a director who was stupid enough to try and help me make that reality with no money. The videos are a huge part of the way I express myself, and it’s my sneaky little way of being creative without any pressure because nobody expects me to even have anything to do with the video. People expect me to be a musical genius, but for the music videos, I can work without any pressure so that’s a lot of fun. I mean fashion and coming up with concepts for everything takes so many hours, but it’s always worth it.

Is there anything you want people to know before they listen to the album?

I would recommend people to listen to the whole thing. Start from the beginning, and you listen to it through because it really is a thought-out journey that you go on. These songs are all a different part of me and my life. There are things that I’ve been through in the past. It’s about things that happen when you’re young that keep defining you, you identify with it so much that you’ll bring it with you always. Maybe you’re not the same person anymore or you’re not in that situation anymore, but it shapes you. It’s a collection of those kinds of things.

There are also many things on it that refer to things that you can go through right now like being in love or going through a breakup. I also use these songs as a way to process fears that I have about things that could potentially happen. It’s like a 360 human experience that talks about the past, the present, and the future scares all in there.

You’ve been praised many times for your songwriting. Do you often read what people think of your music?

I don’t look out for articles and read them, but I do read what fans write because they are the ones I do it for. Sometimes, they even bring perspectives to the music, and they’re reflecting on it in a way that I didn’t. It’s often way smarter than what I thought about when I wrote it. (laughs) I read what they think and what they feel because that remains the most important part for me—music is something between them and me.

How are you preparing for the last few weeks before your new baby HARD is out?

Panicking! Most of my focus now is on the touring part of it. On the release day, I’m doing a big show in Stockholm at Gröna Lund, a very legendary outdoor stage. It’s so iconic, and everyone I look up to has played there. This summer, for example, it’s Dua Lipa and other huge artists. That’s going to be a lot of fun and there’s a lot of preparation going into it. I’m just going into this album release head first. I’m scared, shit nervous, but it’s also a lot of fun.

Tove Styrke‘s new album HARD is out everywhere.

Interview and pictures by Maxim Meyer-Horn
Special thanks to Charley Beyen and Ewan Dourée of Sony Music Belgium.

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