Tove Lo's Breaking Her Habits

TOVE-LO-PRESS-SHOT-1-HIRES-Credit-Johannes-HeljePhoto: Johannes Helje.
If you ever had a bad habit you needed to break, you’re not alone. Swedish pop singer Tove Lo (born Tove Nilsson) knows all about that.
While it’s easy to mask the pain of a breakup, Lo made waves earlier this year with her very open debut EP, Truth Serum, featuring the catchy, addictive (in more ways than one) pop gem “Habits (Stay High).” Although it seems like the 26-year-old singer’s success was quite sudden, Lo had been writing songs for artists like Icona Pop, Girls Aloud, and Cher Lloyd over the past three years. Seizing her opportunity at an industry party, she gave her demo to staff member at Icona Pop’s label, and the rest is history.
On her debut record, Queen of the Clouds, out September 30, Lo separates her songs into chapters — essentially her version of the descending stages of a relationship: “The Sex,” “The Love,” and “The Pain.” Lo’s emotionally raw lyrics tear through the record, accompanied by electropop melodies and ‘80s-influenced beats. The record features anthem-like tracks like “Timebomb,” “Thousand Miles,” and “Moments” that read as diary entries directly from Lo — something that makes the singer even more appealing to us.
We spoke with Tove Lo about relationship advice, the guy that “Habits” was written about, and getting through pain.
You’ve had a big year so far. How does it feel to have blown up in the pop scene?
“Well, it’s a lot like everything at once — it’s amazing, overwhelming and so much fun. There are also the feelings of having your whole life change overnight. It’s kind of cool to watch your dream come true.”
“Habits” was inspired by a relationship ending and a really intense time in your life. Can you speak a little on the background of that track and how it fed into your music?
“I didn’t realize until I put the EP together and picked songs like, 'Oh shit, here’s the whole story of this relationship that I was in' — that was very intense and passionate and ended in the bad way that those things usually end. ‘Habits’ is the part where we’re broken up and I’m trying to get on with my life — maybe in not the healthiest way. My whole EP is pretty much the open story about this relationship, my feelings around it, and how scary it is to be in love with someone because it can change you and make you go nuts.”
With regards to “Habits,” did you fall into a tailspin of drinking, drugs, and anything you could do to make the pain go away?
“Yeah. You don’t realize at the time you’re doing it. You can have this great, fun night and you can feel amazing, but at the end of it, when you’re a bit too drunk, those feelings start bubbling up because you can’t push them down for too long. They always come back up. It’s just that constant roller coaster of trying to be happy and trying to move on, but you have to feel the pain as well or else you can’t move on. I would say it’s better to feel the pain and not try to ignore it. Feel it, be sad for a while, and then it’s easier to get over that person fully. I obviously do it the other way around — but it’s okay to be sad.”
How did you pull yourself out of that situation, the sadness and tailspin?
“I think it was around the time things were taking off with the music as a writer before I released the song. Suddenly, I had to be doing something real with my music. It wasn’t me in this shed just sitting there writing alone every day. Suddenly it was like ‘Oh this artist needs a song.’ There was something pushing me to focus on something else other than the heartbreak. The music came in there as a bit of a savior.”
Has the individual in this relationship reached out to you since hearing your EP?
“He sent me a really beautiful poem last year. He heard ‘Habits’ and he took it really well. There’s no way to tell how someone’s going to react. He was like, ‘So, inspiration-wise, you and me?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, kind of.’ We don’t have any contact really. We’re on good terms. He’s not pissed at me, and I’m not pissed at him. We just coexist in different worlds.”
Is Queen of the Clouds a continuation of the same relationship story from your Truth Serum EP?
“I mean, it’s about different relationships. It takes off from there, but it also goes back a bit. Then you can see my patterns, which is a bit disturbing maybe. You’re going to get a bit more of the happier side of me, which I like. It won’t all be as dark as Truth Serum.”
That makes sense. So, who have been the biggest musical influences for you?
“I haven’t really thought about it until I started getting that question. I think what I started listening to earlier when I was younger like Nirvana and Hole — the grungier kind of stuff. I like that it’s gritty; that combined with the electropop stuff that’s coming out of Sweden like Robyn and Lykke Li. There are so many amazing pop girls that are big inspirations. Those are the two that made me realize I wanted to do my own thing.”
What’s your signature style?
“I’ve never really cared about style too much, but I tend to always buy stuff that’s secondhand vintage. In Stockholm, there are three stores I always go to in my neighborhood. I guess that’s why I get a ‘90s vibe sometimes. I guess I’m kind of grungy, bohemian; I love feathers, jewelry, and fringe. I always wear Docs — I never wear any other kind of shoes.”
Who are some of your style icons?
“I think a mix of Janis Joplin and Courtney Love. I think, right now, Sky Ferreira has a really cool look. I rarely see something that I get inspired by. No one really cared what I looked like when I was a writer; I started to get a little more into it. It’s kind of fun to think about what you’re going to wear on stage. I try to spice it up a little bit.”
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to someone who went to the same experience as you did coming out of that relationship?
“I feel like I’m probably not the best one to give advice, but if someone’s hurt you and you’re upset. Swallow your pride. Be okay with being sad. Be okay with being the one who’s hurt, and just feel it for a while. I think it’s much easier to move on that way.”

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