Swedish super star Tove Styrke has gone from a self-professed “weird kid” to one of the hottest names in alt-pop.
Growing up in Sweden, Tove Styrke – full name Tove Anna Linnéa Östman Styrke - would sing for hours and hours every day in an attempt to perfect massive diva anthems… even at the age of six. "I can't believe my parents put up with it," she begins. "I always wanted to sing like Whitney, Beyoncé and Mariah, so it was these huge songs that were really difficult to sing. And as a kid, you really can't," she laughs. "It wasn't much to brag about, but they let me keep going at it. They're the best; I love them so much."
Having always wanted to be a singer, Tove enrolled in music school but only stuck at it for a year because she started releasing music as a teenager. "I didn't even try to finish because it's really difficult to juggle the two things at the same time. Some people manage, I know Zara Larsson did it, but it's hard," she remembers. Putting her music first has certainly paid off, though – Tove is currently on tour with Lorde, counts Shawn Mendes as a fan and will support Katy Perry in a few months time.
But she hasn't always been so confident about her musical direction - something that became clear a few years ago when she performed at Wireless Festival in London after her first album was released. "It was surreal; I played on the same stage as Willow and Jaden Smith, Drake was backstage, and I stood two meters away from him. I was very indie back then, just a weird kid from Sweden, thinking, ‘What am I doing standing next to Drake, why are they rapping about geometry? I don't know where I am'."
Fast forward several years and Tove Styrke knows exactly who she is as an artist. "I think I'm more comfortable in myself now," she continues. "It's a growing thing. The older you get, the more you get to know yourself. Now I feel I'm at a point that I know I'm capable; whereas I was more insecure before."
Her second album, ‘Sway', is a development of sound and style. "Right now, I feel like I want to make music that makes me feel good," she says. "That's the sort of music that I need, and want to listen to." Full of pop bangers like ‘Mistakes' and ‘Changed My Mind', Tove's aim is to make music that people can dance to and, importantly, makes her feel something. "It can't just be the beat or cool sounds – the lyrics are really important to me. It needs to be real emotions; there needs to be heart in it," she considers.
In terms of songwriting, Tove collects ideas. "When I hear stuff, if somebody says something that I think is an interesting perspective, I would write it down and maybe use it for something." As well as learning from different experiences and opinions, she's very interested in people; "especially those that I don't understand".
It's something that's always been in her nature. So much so that if she hadn't have pursued music Tove would have trained to be a psychologist or therapist. "I like trying to figure people out; I think that's really interesting," she suggests. "That's usually the driving force, or the common theme – that I'm trying to figure someone out, or my own behaviour."
It's a trait that comes out when she gets in the studio, too, often ending up interviewing the producers or artists she's working with. "I love listening to people when I meet them at shows, but also when I write with people, I end up interviewing them – asking how they feel about something, or how they've stayed in a relationship for so long. I think it's so interesting just to hear and try to figure people out. It's gotten worse over the years..." she considers.
Whereas her debut album dealt with bigger concepts, ‘Sway' is more rooted in everyday feelings. "Back then it was more like grand images that I had and wanted to put music to. The process was different; now it's more like introverted little thoughts that I go through, try and pin down and make songs of."
While Tove's lyrics build into infectious choruses, the synth-led, electronic production is as much a part of the song-writing process. "The little riff in ‘Say My Name' is a big part of that song. I'm trying to build everything simultaneously until it's finished," she says, adding that attention to detail is key. "We spend a lot of time just making the lyrics good, looking at every word trying to get that right feeling..."
Recorded across various, mainly small studios in Stockholm - "there was one where I didn't even have a chair; there was just a little bar stool in the corner where I could sing" - the record has been almost two years in the making. "We started working last summer. It feels good. I'm so excited to release all these songs."
A collection of "little love stories", Tove describes ‘Sway' as the pros and cons of being in love. "This album is more upbeat, mostly good vibes; but in ‘Mistakes' I think there's a sadness too. Especially in the video, we really tried to emphasise that – there's empowerment in choosing yourself but also sadness in not being able to stay with people."
And why did she call it ‘Sway'? "I just think it's a good, romantic word, and it's one of my favourite songs on the album. It's movement and fits the theme of the album," she suggests, adding that it wasn't the only title she had in mind. "I was thinking of calling the album ‘Romantic' because it could have been almost sarcastic; how modern love is not supposed to be that romantic..."
And what are her plans for the rest of 2018? "My main ambition this year is to keep releasing because I have so much stuff that I'm working on. I want to put out some fabulous music videos, the album, and tour, tour, tour; play as many places as I can… and just have fun. That's also important – just to have fun". After that? "World domination?" she laughs, sounding half-serious. Don't bet against it.
Taken from the June issue of Dork - order your copy below. Tove Styrke’s album ‘Sway’ is out now.