Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson, better known by her moniker Tove Lo, is delivering cheeky indie-pop out of Stockholm, Sweden. With her debut EP Truth Serum now released, we had the opportunity of speaking with the passionate and sassy artist over the phone this morning to discuss the meaning behind Truth Serum, collaborating with other artists, using rawness in her music, writing during a storm, and “dirrrrty pop”. Read the entire interview below, and catch Tove Lo at Toronto’s The Drake tonight (tickets here).
AMBY: Welcome to our site and thanks for speaking with us today!
Tove Lo: Aw, thank you.
AMBY: It’s our pleasure. First off, congrats on the release of your debut EP Truth Serum. What was one of the best moments you had while creating the EP?
Tove Lo: It must have been when I recorded Habits. There was a storm happening with a power out and I was living stranded in the studio. I was camping out and there was no reception on anything and that’s when I wrote and recorded Habits there. It was a magical moment.
AMBY: Being so excluded from everything with the power outage, did that have an impact on how the song turned out?
Tove Lo: I think so, because I write a lot better when I’m not interrupted and when I’m in my own space. There was no time frame and nothing else I could do, and there was no pressure to do anything else. When you’re in the studio there should be no distractions and that was probably the least distraction I’ve had in the studio. I’m going to try, maybe not create a storm…
AMBY and Tove Lo: [laughs]
Tove Lo: But I’m going to try and have a similar situation for writing my album.
AMBY: When it comes to the title, what’s the meaning behind Truth Serum?
Tove Lo: When you look at the songs, it’s all about honesty and I’m really giving up a lot of myself in these songs; I’m not filtering anything. I felt that kind of speaks a lot for how truthful the EP is [laughs].
AMBY: Before releasing the EP, you wrote songs for a number of different artists. Do you find it’s easier writing material for yourself or others?
Tove Lo: It varies since it depends on where my inspiration is at the moment. If I’m going through a lot on my own, sometimes I can’t write for myself because it’s too emotional. In moments like those, it would be easier to go and dig into someone else’s head and focus on their story. If I’ve had a very intense time of writing for others, I usually have to have a day alone to think about what I’m writing or who I’m writing for. It usually ends up being a very personal song! It really varies on where inspiration is coming from and where I’m at mentally.
AMBY: That makes sense. And often working with other artists, who would you say your dream collaboration would be with?
Tove Lo: I love writing with my friends. Janis Joplin would be one and Michael Jackson is another, but I think anybody would want to record with him. Maybe since they’re both dead I should pick someone else alive.
AMBY: [laughs] Go for it.
Tove Lo: I’d love to work with Lorde, that would be amazing.
AMBY: I read you’re a big fan of hers.
Tove Lo: I am, yes [laughs].
AMBY: It’s also no secret that you’re a Nirvana fan. I read that you first fell in love with the band when you heard the pure emotion and melancholy-ness of Polly.
Tove Lo: Yes.
AMBY: Was this sense of rawness taken into account when creating your EP?
Tove Lo: It’s weird because when I write, I don’t think about any other artists. Bands have obviously influenced me, but I’ve never really thought about who I’m inspired by until getting questioned about it. I don’t ever think “oh I want this to sound like how they did it” or anything. That’s usually my first thing when something is finished; I’ll say “it’s too polished” or “it’s too done!” I want things to be dirtier and messier.
AMBY: I guess that frame of mind had an influence on the term “dirrrrty pop”?
Tove Lo: Hmmm… I didn’t really analyze that when I came up with it [laughs]. “Dirrrrty pop”. But yes, I think my lyrics are a little cheeky and a lot of people raise their eyebrows when they hear my music. They ask me how I can be that honest or embarrassing and I feel it’s loud and in your face, so I feel that’s a good description of my own genre.
AMBY: You mention being honest there – I read in an interview that “dirrrrty pop” is about “not being afraid to show your bad side”.
Tove Lo: Exactly!
AMBY: With that said, what’s one of the most inappropriate things you’ve ever said or done?
Tove Lo: We all mess up, but sometimes I can be a little too impulsive or speak before I think. I’ve said some things that were accidentally rude to someone, but at the time not thinking it would hurt their feelings. I’ve done that many times without understanding that I’ve insulted someone. I bite my own tongue a lot of the time.
AMBY and Tove Lo: [laughs]
AMBY: Tonight you play Toronto’s The Drake before gigging in England and Sweden. What have been some of the more memorable moments you’ve had while on tour?
Tove Lo: Now that we’ve done our first US tours, it’s been really amazing the way that the audiences have been. It’s a big different culturally.
AMBY: From Sweden?
Tove Lo: Yes, every show in the States people are singing along and know the words. Not just the choruses, but the verses, too!
Tove Lo: The one thing that was astonishing to me was at one show I reached my hand up in the air, and I wasn’t aiming for everyone else to follow my lead, but almost everyone reached up. I was just thinking I actually get to say “put your hands up”. That was so funny to me.
AMBY: Outside of music, what do you do for fun?
Tove Lo: I love to go dance with my friends, I love to paint… I suck at it but think it’s really fun [laughs].
AMBY: And for the last question: what’s something about Tove Lo that nobody knows yet?
Tove Lo: I have three kidneys.
Thank you Tove Lo, for giving us your answers!
Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout