Tove Styrke Talks New Album 'Sway,' Touring With Lorde and Katy Perry: 'Oh My God, Is This Real Life?'
Tove Styrke is very, very happy that Sway finally exists.
“All of the songs on this album, they really are like my babies,” she tells Billboard by way of a Skype call from her native Sweden. “I just hope that people can relate to these songs and live with them and appreciate them as much as I do.”
Sway, out today (May 4) is the product of nearly two years of hard work, and the 8-track record’s release is sandwiched between tours accompanying two Hot 100-topping stars in Lorde and Katy Perry. From the pounding title track to the infectious single “Say My Name,” Sway is a half hour of irresistible pop goodness.
Check out our interview with Styrke, and stream the album below.
The last time we spoke, you told me that your mission was to finish the album and put it out next year -- meaning this year -- and here we are.
Yes, it happened! I came through.
Let’s talk start with the lead single, “Sway.”
It's so sweet. I'm obsessed with it and it’s my favorite one. "Sway" is not just the title track; it represents the whole album so well. It’s about when you're vibing with somebody but you're not sure what it is yet. It’s all new and exciting.
It's taking these small feelings or the feelings that you usually keep to yourself and amping them and making it an anthem, almost. I think those feelings, they deserve that space. I'm so happy about it.
Vocally, this is a new direction for you, too. You're singing a little softer, a little sweeter. How did you find this new “voice?”
I think it's so cool, because this is the closest I've ever sounded to my actual speaking voice. I used to not like my voice that much. For a long time I thought it sounded like, meh. But now I love my voice. And I think it's nice that I love it when I sound the most like me and nothing else. No doing weird stuff with my voice!
How did "On a Level" come about?
I wrote that with Joe Janiak, the same person I wrote "Sway" with. I like that it's really small in the verse and that it ties together with the rest of the album in that way, but I also like that we made this start-and-stop kind of thing for the chorus.
I deliberately wanted to have "Sway" open and "On a Level" close the album, because they've got something in common, in terms of being bigger than many of the other songs. But it's big in another sense. It's more nighttime, it's a little bit more tight in how it sounds, and a little bit romantic.
What do you hope fans take away from this new album?
At the end of the day, everybody else, everybody that I work with, they go home to their real lives. But this music, to me, it is my life. It's me, everything that I am is in the music -- and the fans are who I get to share that with. They're the only people who it matters as much as it does to me. I really hope that they will like it.
It's been a while since your previous album, 2015's Kiddo, so they’ve been waiting…
They have been waiting. They've been patient with me and I love them so much for that. Seriously, they're the best. I don't know what I did to deserve the best fans in the world. It’s a special bond I have with the fans.
Speaking of which, when you were touring with Lorde, I saw that you’d go on Twitter and say, "Hey, meet me at the merch stand in this arena and we'll do a meet and greet before the show."
[Laughs.] Yeah, that was crazy! I thought five people were going to show up and it was like, the line didn't end.
How did you get away with that?
It's crazy. They barely let me do that. They were like, "We need security," and I was like, "But I'm just going to meet some people!"
What were some other highlights of that tour for you?
Getting to perform with Ella [Lorde]. We performed "Hang With Me" [by Robyn] on my last show. That was a trip. I grew up listening to Robyn and I love singing her music, so it was like, "Oh, my God, is this real life?" That kind of moment. The whole tour -- I feel like it changed my life a little bit. It was so amazing.
And you cover Lorde’s song "Liability,” which is on Sway.
That song is just one of the songs that really stood out to me the past couple years. The first time I heard it, my reaction to it was like, "How did I not write this?" Because it feels like me. It's like, I've lived this. These are my feelings. How did somebody else write this down? It's so spot on.
Did you and Lorde talk about it?
I actually sent it to her for approval before I put it out. I would never have put it out if she didn't like it! But she did, so I went ahead.
If one day, Lorde was like, "Hey, I want to cover one of your songs," what would you want her to take on?
Ooh, I don't know! It would be interesting to hear it, though, because I feel like she's so poetic and her music is so beautiful. Mine isn't always as beautiful. It would be very interesting to hear what she did with it. I know she loves "Say My Name," for instance. It would be so cool to hear her do that.
We're putting it out there. It's going to happen.
It's a challenge. [Laughs.]
Now, you have another tour coming up with Katy Perry...
IT'S CRAZY! I'm going on tour all over Europe with Katy Perry. I can't. I can’t. I grew up listening to Katy Perry and it's just crazy. It's insane. I hope I get to meet her and I hope that she's nice.
Do you plan on incorporating new songs from the album into your setlist?
Yes, because by the time I go on tour with Katy, the album will be out. So I'm going to play all of it and there might be some surprises. I've been working on it, but it's going to be a longer set -- I get a little bit longer time on this one since I'm the only opening act. I get to do a full 35 minutes. I can't believe that it's just me!
Selfishly, I’d like to know when you’re coming back to the U.S.
As soon as I can! I just want to clone myself and be everywhere at the same time. I just want to do everything. I'm such a control freak that I never take my hands off anything; it's always a bunch of things. But as soon as I can, like summer or fall.
Anything else in the pipeline you want us to know about?
I've been working on new music because I just never stop. So there's going to be more music coming out this year!