Magazine Feature

Swedish Singer Zara Larsson on Her Hit Duet 'Never Forget You' With U.K. Crooner MNEK: 'It Felt Like It Wrote Itself'

zara larsson & Mnek 'Never ­Forget You'
Karin Toernblom/IBL/ZUMA Press

Larsson’s duet with London crooner MNEK has earned the Swedish 18-year-old her Hot 100 debut.

Even though she’s just 18 years old, Zara Larsson’s road to the Hot 100 has already been long: She made her industry debut at the delicate age of 10, as the winner of Swedish version of the Got Talent series. Since then, one-off singles and EPs have brought her success across the pond, but it wasn’t until 2015’s “Lush Life” and “Never Forget You” (her collaboration with London’s MNEK, currently at No. 34 on the chart) that she started to make an impact stateside. Billboard sat down with Larsson to talk about the making of her new hit, and what exactly makes America such a tough musical nut to crack.

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I assume you're working on your next album. How's that coming along?

It's going great, I feel really good about it. I'm going back next week to work on it a little bit more, in L.A., and I can't wait, I'm really excited.

Who have you worked with?

I worked with so many. Me and MNEK have done a lot of other songs. Me and the Max Martin team. Not Max Martin himself, but hopefully next time. The team is really good. The Monsters & Strangerz, I love them so much. And just a lot of super talented people -- R. City, Justin Tranter, so many good people. Whoever you meet, they're like, "I just wrote a No. 1 for this or that." Everyone has something to brag about, which is what I would do if I wrote that good songs.

What was it like working with MNEK?

The song was done in two hours -- it felt like it wrote itself. We had a great flow. It was supposed to be my song -- it was my session -- but when we sent it to all the labels and they loved it, he was like, "Well, I kind of want this song." And I was like, "No, I want the song." We ended up making it a duet, which is a win-win.

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The song first hit overseas; it took a while to pick up steam here. Did you ever lose hope that you would break stateside?

For some time, I did. But then I remembered the U.S. is actually very slow when it comes to everything. You just have to be patient and trust the marketing team, because America is so huge. It takes some time to break a record. [In Europe], you can release a song on Monday and it can be No. 1 on Friday.

With your success in Europe in already, do you feel like this is starting over for you?
Yes, that's what it is. Like I said before, I've been waiting for a long time and I've been ready for a long time. It just is so nice because I'm basically doing the same things I've done years ago, but now I'm on the same stage, only there's a lot more people in the audience.

Your career has had some starts and stops -- you won the Swedish version of Got Talent at age 10 and released an EP five years later. Do you ever get impatient?
I'm not patient, but I keep myself busy doing other things: social media, blogging, podcasting ... I feel like it took forever for me to get where I'm at, and I'm not even where I want to be.

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Where would you like to be?
I don't know! I'd like to sell out worldwide stadium tours. That'd be something. Or to have sixty number ones on Billboard. Something like that. It really is a dream coming true, being on Billboard. That's absolutely one of my main goals, to have a number one on Billboard. That's a big thing for me. That means people are buying and listening to your music.

A version of this story originally appeared in the March 19 issue of Billboard.