Reaching the finale of Swedish Pop Idol at aged 16, Tove Styrke isn’t what you would imagine. We had a chat with now-22-year about how these competitions affect young people, what’s changed since she entered the industry and also about kickass feminism.
Tove Styrke gives us an insight into her Harry Potter obsession, her funny fans and how music and fashion intertwine to change her moods. All the while maintain her effortlessly cool attitude.
So how long have you been in London for?
We arrived yesterday and we’ve done mostly promo and stuff.
Yes [laughs]. And we’re playing tonight.
It’s sold out!
Yeah! I’m like, “what happened? It’s so cool”. I’m playing my own gig in London and it’s sold out. I’m really really happy.
You actually started on Pop Idol.
I came third. It’s not that good to win it. That was in 2009, I was 16. Then I got a record deal from that but I really took my time to make my first album. With that, I co-wrote almost the whole album, which I think was good. I managed to do a record that still felt like me, even though it came from that place.
Do you think TV shows like Pop Idol, that they don’t actually produce people for the long run?
Usually they don’t. I think the thing is that often, you call something like Idol a music competition, and it’s not. It’s a popularity competition. That’s what it’s about. When you’ve done that and if you win or whatever, you gain fame but haven’t proved anything musically.
You have to do so much work afterwards to prove yourself and show people that you actually have something to say and something to express musically.
You have everybody’s eyes on you whilst you’re taking your first steps into that industry.
Would you ever recommend it to anyone wishing to become a musician or an artist?
I don’t think so. It’s a very overwhelming experience and I don’t think you can imagine beforehand how much it can change your life. At least in Sweden there are so many more people that entered that competition and gained nothing, they haven’t succeeded in what they wanted to do, than actually did. It’s just a handful of people and how long has the show gone on? Like ten years? So it’s not that many who actually manage to make something afterwards. Making something out of that competition, it’s tricky.
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Your new album ‘Kiddo’ is out soon, how has that developed since 2009 when you first started doing music?
A lot has happened. I actually, three years, I decided to take some time off. I’d been living in Stockholm for five years, I decided to move back to my hometown which is up north in Sweden and I stayed there for ten months and did nothing. I felt like I needed some time away from the industry, put some distance between the music industry and myself and just explore music and also get to know myself better, on a personal level without that huge chunk of my identity being an artist.
Because I had been that since I was 16 and I really needed to get to know myself and explore music without the pressure to sell it.
It’s quite a key time of growing up, from 16 onwards. And if you’re doing something so busy, it must have been difficult.
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You travel loads don’t you? You got into London yesterday from Berlin.
Yes we played a show in berlin and tomorrow we’re playing Paris. We’re going on that train underwater, I imagine it’s like a submarine train [laughs], like with a propeller. But then I was told it was a tunnel. We’re also doing Amsterdam this week and then in May we’re going on a three-week tour coast to coast in the US. That’s gonna be fun.
I’m looking forward to touring on a bus. I’ve never done that properly. I did the bus thing in Sweden once but it was an old truck that was rebuilt into sort of a bus [laughs]. It was really really small and smelt kind of weird and now I know we’re going to have a bus, I don’t know how fancy it’s going to be but it’s going to be a bus.
We’re going to travel on it from city to city and I have really romantic picture of it.
We’ll see what your idea of it is when you get back…
“It’s the worst thing ever, don’t do it!” [Laughs].
What’s it like performing in city to city? Do you notice any differences?
Yeah, you do. I think the support here in London is quite extraordinary because I haven’t been here doing things for very long and still I feel like, from the audience, they’re really quite amazing. The vibe has been very good at the shows that I’ve done. Tonight is sold out and I have actually just put out one EP and two singles in the UK and I think that’s really really fun. People are really different you know? People in Sweden, they can be a little bit difficult. I also think that’s the charm of it, to get to know your audience, what they’re like, how they respond to music. I think that’s interesting.
What’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever said or done? We saw a tweet earlier that said they were so excited for your show tonight that they were going to need another pair of underpants.
Yeah [laughs]. I thought that was so funny.
So funny! Have you had anything else like that?
I think the ones that follow me and listen to the music, they’re really funny. They’re like a bunch of nerds. I’m a huge Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings fan and every time I write anything about that I get a huge response. When I told people on Twitter that my album is coming out in June, I immediately got a meme back with a picture of Snape and the text said, “my body is ready”. We get each other [laughs].
They’re really nice. So many cool girls, like young girls and stuff, just kick ass feminists. We have a good connection I feel.
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Is feminism something you feel strongly about?
Yeah, I do. I write a lot about those things. It just easily turns out that way. Things that make me angry or frustrated about inequality in general and things that are just messed up and not right makes me really frustrated.
Do you feel, as a female musician, the difficulty of inequality in music?
You know what, it’s easy to point at a place like the music industry and say it’s not very equal and it’s really sexist and stuff. But really gender inequality is such a huge problem, it’s everywhere.
You can’t just look at one thing and say “there it is” because it’s everywhere. It’s just more visible in the music industry. It’s often very superficial so it shows there. But it’s everywhere really.
Talking about that music and fashion, you’re style isn’t the superficial pop star, you have your own style. Do you feel like your clothes help to tell people who you are as a person?
I just feel like clothes enhance parts of my character that I want to bring forward and I think that makes the music maybe more understandable. It’s fun to work with clothes in that character building way rather than that very fashion-y way. There are definitely brands that I like, these [Tove’s shoes]. I love these from a few collections ago. It’s Acne, the Swedish brand. They look like shoes that you wore when you were a kid when you went swimming but with a bit of Japanese Zen to it.
Also another Swedish designer called Ann-Sofie Back, it’s really cool. She has this punk attitude towards fashion, she really does her own thing. I definitely think that the clothes, you can use them as an expression.
Does it ever influence the music you write? Or the mood your in to get creative?
I can definitely pick myself up by choosing what I wear. Often it’s the other way around actually. If I feel totally uninspired when I’ve got to get dressed, I usually just listen to some music and then I start dressing the way that the music makes me feel.
And what’s your favourite piece in your outfit today?
Probably the shoes, I think they’re really badass. Also this shirt. It’s my friend from my hometown, it’s his band, Caotico. They’re really good, they write really good songs. I think it’s funny because it’s their merchandise and it’s so over the top. It looks like someone designed it for a brand. They were like, “we’re going to make the coolest merchandise ever. No one’s ever going to buy it but we’re going to make it and it’s going to look cool and our friends are going to wear it”.
And now you are.
You’re playing your first English festival this summer at Wireless. What do you expect from it?
I don’t know too much about Wireless, most people seem to know what it is when I say I’m going to play there, so I suppose it’s huge. I saw the headliner was Nicki Minaj and Drake.
I haven’t heard any horror stories, but I guess ill see when I try it.
Be prepared for that English weather…