"We're in a little bit of 'I'll do anything, just as long as we can do things together' period," the singer says of her best-known band.
Nina Persson has performed under several different monikers over the years – most famously as the frontwoman for The Cardigans, whose surprise smash "Lovefool" topped the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart in 1997, and more recently with side project A Camp. But it took her 20 years to fully embrace her own name as a performer.
"I always thought it was more glorious to be in a band — and cooler," says Persson, taking a sip of warm Starbucks while visiting the Billboard offices during one of New York's latest snow storms. "And I thought my name was the most everyday, boring-sounding name. But then I thought, 'Why not?' Ten years ago, I didn't exactly know what kind of artist I would be without a band. But now I've just chiseled out a better understanding of that."
The result is "Animal Heart," due Tuesday (Feb. 11) via The End Records, an album that melds elements of Persson's previous projects with a sound that's more distinct and worth calling her own, courtesy of producer Eric D. Johnson (The Fruit Bats, The Shins). The title track (and lead single) has a modern electro-pop sheen, uptempo numbers "Clip Your Wings" and "Food For The Beast" have a Nile Rodgers-inspired disco stomp, and Persson's longtime love of country works its way into world-weary bar ballad "The Grand Destruction Game." It lands somewhere between the alt-country leanings of her latter Cardigans work and the more theatrical moments of her two A Camp albums (the second, "Colonia," was released in 2008.)
And then there's the sweetly soaring "Dreaming Of Houses" finds Persson pining for a new place to call home (originally from small-town Sweden, she now resides in Harlem). "I was so close to moving to Portland," Persson says of writing "Animal Heart" with Johnson in Oregon's hipster mecca. "It's probably the only other place I could live. Everyone's fucking nice, unlike Brooklyn hipsters. I seriously think that everybody is pretty happy. If you could measure the happiness or the suicide rate or whatever, it must be remarkable. I spent so much time talking to strangers in the streets and I was like, 'I want to be their friend.' If it hadn't been so far away from Europe I would totally live there. I saw so many houses and I was like, 'I could have three of these if I sold my house in New York.' I don't even want to think about it, I get depressed."