Tove Lo Goes From Writing For Pop Greats, To Becoming One

Over the past few years Tove Lo has made a name for herself writing for the likes of Icona Pop, and Cher Lloyd. The Swedish singer even caught the ear of icons Max Martin and Shellback, who invited her to be part of their new song writing collective.

While she’s proven to be adept at writing for others, Tove Lo (which is pronounced Too-veh Lu) also has music of her own. She recently released her debut EP, Truth Serum, which is a dark pop album that takes listeners down the path of a failed relationship, one that was fraught with mistakes, and missteps. Tove Lo sings about all of this with a clarity, and honesty, not often heard in modern pop music.

With Sweden being a traditional hotbed for pop music talent, I caught up with Tove Lo to find out more about her Truth Serum, and the wild video for her latest single, “Habits.” Tove Lo also discussed some horrible pick-up attempts she’s experienced, and what happened in Vegas the one time she went there. Yes, she broke the “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” rule, but don’t blame her, I kinda pushed her to do it.

Adam Bernard: First off, is there something in the water in Sweden that helps you guys create great pop stars?

Tove Lo: {laughs} Let’s say yes.

Adam Bernard: Sweden’s been a pop music hub for generations. Do you have any theories as to why?

Tove Lo: I don’t know. I guess it’s hard to say. There are all these theories, like it’s the melancholy. No, it’s that you guys can follow rules. No, it’s the way we speak. It’s up and down when we speak, and it’s very melodic. I don’t which one I should pick, but I think it’s the last one, because when you listen to Swedish it’s very up and down, there’s a lot of melody in the actual language. I think maybe that’s part of it.

Adam Bernard: Your EP, Truth Serum, is about one relationship you had that went poorly. Focusing your entire album on that, and performing those songs night after night, does it reopen any old wounds, or is it a constant shutting of that door?

Tove Lo: It’s a mix because it really depends on me, and what mood I’m in that day, which can vary a lot. I think that it also would be like one song one night suddenly just brings me back right to that spot, and it really hurts to sing it, and then the next day it’s another song. It’s always one or two that get me when I’m performing, because I really dive into the emotion of the song when I’m performing, so I’m always feeling it. It also depends on which song I finish the set with. If I finish it with “Out Of Mind,” or one that’s kind of like the final chapter, then I guess it feels like shutting the door again and again, but if I finish with like “Over,” then I’m a mess when I walk off.

Adam Bernard: So how people approach you should be based on the last song you perform.

Tove Lo: Exactly. {laughs} Either it’s come give me a big hug, or just be like “You did it! Yes! You’re through, you’ve made it through this roller coaster.”

Adam Bernard: Have you had a moment where you got off stage basically almost crying, and been like, oh crap, I have to be nice to all these people and I’m almost in tears?

Tove Lo: Yeah, I have, but I think it’s had more to do with it having been a tough gig for other reasons. It could be something with the sound, or my voice being really tired, or I just didn’t feel I did my best. I really want to alway give my everything, and if something is disturbing me so that I can’t, I get really angry. Not on stage, usually, but just like when I get off I feel that “Arrrgh, why didn’t that just work!?” There was one time I was playing “Run on Love,” it’s not on the EP, but it’s released in Sweden, it’s a feature (with Lucas Nord), but it’s all about running on love for a while, but love isn’t always enough, unfortunately, and I saw a person in the audience that I was shocked to see, and then when I walked off I was like {deep breath} what’s going on? That was emotional.

Adam Bernard: How has being so open about one of your relationships affected your social life? Are less guys approaching you, or are they approaching you, but making sure to be as little like the guy in the songs as possible?

Tove Lo: People approach me, and guys approach me, but it’s rarely... I would say that maybe they’re a bit scared of me, because if you listen to the songs it’s me making the mistakes and being the bad one, and I guess not many people want to be involved in that. Also, the ones that kind of approach, they’re usually like, “Hey, so did you just perform, or something?” {laughs}

Adam Bernard: Oh God, that so sounds like my gender.

Tove Lo: {laughs} You’re like “I’m sorry!” Obviously that doesn’t really give me anything.

Adam Bernard: You mean that doesn’t get ya going?

Tove Lo: No. {laughs}

Adam Bernard: You mentioned that in your songs you’re the one making the mistakes, you’re the one being bad, but isn’t making mistakes a universal thing?

Tove Lo: Totally. I just mean in the specific relationship. Making mistakes, everybody makes mistakes, and it’s time we tell about it.

Adam Bernard: Do you have, to quote someone else’s song title, a favorite mistake?

Tove Lo: My favorite mistake that I've done?

Adam Bernard: Yes.

Tove Lo: Let me just say going to Vegas was a big mistake. I’ve been there once, and nothing has gone as wrong as it did there.

Adam Bernard: Oh boy! What happened in Vegas gets told now. What happened in Vegas?

Tove Lo: I can say this much, I had to call a friend and say, “Please please transfer this amount of money, or I’ll be in a lot of trouble,” because I broke things, that’s all.

Adam Bernard: So it wasn’t gambling?

Tove Lo: No, it wasn’t gambling.

Adam Bernard: What were you angry at in Las Vegas?

Tove Lo: I wasn’t angry at anything. I was too happy. That was the problem. Then I was a bit careless with... OK, I can’t talk about this. They’re gonna kill me now for saying this. {laughs}

Adam Bernard: So when you get happy you break things?

Tove Lo: Sometimes. It’s just fun to throw things sometimes, and then you’ll end up hitting something else and then that other thing breaks.

Adam Bernard: Were there no pillows or cushions in the hotel room?

Tove Lo: There were, but they weren’t available at the time.

Adam Bernard: Speaking of wild times, you video for “Habits” is pretty wild. Was there any concern that you might get mono during that shoot from all the making out?

Tove Lo: I think I was pretty sick, actually. The thing is, we’re all drunk, and it’s some of my closest friends in the video, so I was just like, “Thanks for making out with me for this past week.” It’s all very authentic, what’s happening. We all woke up, I guess it was on day five, or something, and we all had this nasty cold because we had been outside so much wearing pretty much nothing, and just drinking and making out with each other. It wasn’t very pleasant, to be honest. It was fun, but when you’re recording it’s like, “Lean your head this way. Lean your head that way. Look up. Look down.”

Adam Bernard: It’s more of an acting gig.

Tove Lo: Kind of. It’s more like they’re telling us what to do, but I’m the one kind of carrying the camera. I have this camera strapped on, it’s like an arm coming out, and the camera is connected to that arm, and there’s a big light circle that goes around to light my face up, and I’m carrying that thing all the time. So we’re in this club, I’m drunk, and I’m with this thing, and everyone’s like, “I can’t see anything cuz the light is so strong,” so I’m kind of walking in blind in this place, and then I just hear the director saying, “Here’s a beer, have a sip!” It was a crazy recording. I've done a few videos, but that was insane.

Adam Bernard: Going from the present to the past, let’s dive into your history for a bit. What has been the greatest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?

Tove Lo: I think the time when I stepped out of my band and went into writing and producing myself. I set up this little studio in this kind of shed thing at my cousin’s place. I had no money. I was doing session singing to get money. I was not really on my best behavior, and just was writing. You know when you kind of feel like you have no one to lean on, in terms of like “this music thing is actually gonna work out.” I was kind of in the dark, just going, “I’m gonna make some more songs, and who am I gonna give them to?” I was just sitting with all these songs, and had no connections whatsoever. You realize you need someone to say, “Hey, we want to take you in, and (let you) do your thing, and we’ll help you with the stuff around it that’s not interesting to you.” I was happy when that happened.

Adam Bernard: Who did that? Who was the first person to reach out to you?

Tove Lo: I met this A&R from England at a party in Sweden, and I said, “You have to hear my stuff!” He was like, “Who the fuck are you?” And I said, “Well, give me your email.” He was like, “No.” And I'm like, “GIVE ME YOUR EMAIL!” He gave me his email and I sent him the stuff and he said, “This is actually really interesting,” and he connected me with some people in Sweden, some publishers and stuff. After a few meetings, and me being a bit flaky, and not knowing ... when you’ve been isolated in your own little music world, never writing with anyone but yourself, it’s kind of scary to walk into the business world of things. You don’t really understand what’s happening, and they’re all talking about stuff, and you’re just like, “What do you mean? I can make money?” I think I was kind of intimidated at first, but then I finally found, with Warner/Chappell, a guy there that’s my age, who’s really funny, and we just really get along, and I think I kind of trusted him right away. His name is Julius Petersson. Finally I get to talk about him. He’s an amazing guy, and we’re still really good friends. He always looks after me. He’s great.

Adam Bernard: Now forgive my ignorance, but you mentioned you were in a band. What was the name of the band?

Tove Lo: Tremblebee. That will be fun when you Google that. You're gonna get a shock with what kind of music that is.

Adam Bernard: I think you may have just answered my next question, which was going to be about the tattoo on your shoulder of the girl riding a bumblebee.

Tove Lo: Yup. I used to have black hair and bangs when I was in that band, and since it was my first band that I was part of it meant so much to me. I had my first gigs with that band. We rehearsed four times a week. We put all our music (available for) free online. We were like, “We don’t want to fuckin make any money out of this, we’re just doing our thing.” There were all these indie labels from around Europe and Brazil that contacted us like, “We want to get involved,” and we’re like, “No! We don’t want to be in the business, we’re just doing this for fun. Raar!” That was a good time. Then I found this painting of Mark Ryden’s that I really enjoyed, he’s an American painter who’s super talented. I saw this picture and I’m like ah, that just goes straight to my heart, so I decided to put it all over my arm.

Adam Bernard: Finally, you’ve written for quite a few big name artists (Icona Pop, Cher Lloyd, Girls Aloud), and you’ve played your share of shows. With that in mind, what’s been the wildest, or most interesting, thing you’ve seen, or experienced, during a show, or in the studio?

Tove Lo: That’s a hard one. I think ... I was in Australia, and Icona (Pop) came. Randomly we were there at the same time. We’re both from Sweden, we’re good friends and everything, but how random is it that you’re all of a sudden in Australia at the same time? It was the first time I saw them play a show in a long time, and just to see the amount of people there, and they do “I Love It” and everyone puts up the hearts, and at that moment, because it was so hot that day, something in the back, something of the gear, exploded, and everything just went dead, the whole sound. It was at the Summadayze (festival) outside of Brisbane, but it was so cool because everyone just kept on singing the verse, “I got this feeling on a summer day when you were gone.” The whole audience still kept on singing that. It was so amazing. I was like, “This is what you want!” They got (the sound) working again, but it was just like that minute, which felt like the longest minute in the world, it was probably longer than a minute, but they just kept on singing their verse, the whole audience. It was really cool.

Interview originally ran on


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