- Words Aimee Phillips
- Photography Jasper Soloff
- Styling Phil Gomez
- Production Studio Notion
Pop sensation, Tove Lo, graces Notion's special edition digital cover to celebrate Pride. We spoke about everything from fostering dogs to her 'Sunshine Kitty (Paw Prints Edition)' record, and what Pride means to her.
- Swimsuit VERSACE
[Article originally published on 6 July 2020]
Tove Lo is worried. The dog she’s fostering at her L.A. home has had to go to the vet. Luckily, the pup should be OK, but she’s missing her babies, all of whom were previously living with Tove, but have now been adopted. Rescued by San Diego non-profit Mutt Scouts, the mother was shockingly found in a ditch with her three pups when they were just a week old. So Tove Lo decided to open her heart and home to care for the dogs during the COVID-19 imposed lockdown. “I really love dogs and I want to have a dog but with my life usually, it’s not really possible,” she says.
This is just one example of how much Tove Lo cares. The Swedish pop star, who graces Notion’s special edition digital cover to celebrate Pride, is constantly using her voice and her platform for good. Just one scroll through Tove’s Instagram and you can see how passionate she is about making the world a better place. From providing resources on Black, queer and trans organisations to support to donating the proceeds of her Sunshine Kitty masks to MusiCares’ Covid-19 relief fund, Tove has used this time to reflect and encourage others to take action. “[I’ve been] trying to spend a lot of time educating myself and be a better ally to the Black community and be a good LGBTQIA member. Thinking about my values and not put too much attention on myself at the same time.”
In the midst of all this, she’s been questioning when she will next be able to see her family in Sweden, and whether touring will ever happen again.
Ever searching for the light in the darkness, however, Tove confesses that lockdown has given her the chance to make her house a home for “the first time in maybe eight years.”
“Everything’s weird man, I dunno! Some days I’m like, we should really make use of this time, and then other days I’m like, what the fuck’s happening? I don’t understand who I am anymore.”
Tove has also been feeling a bit up and down when it comes to creating new music. Whilst some weeks she’ll have her head down in the studio making tracks, she’s struggled to find creative inspiration for her lyrics. “I’ve been having a bit of trouble finding a story to tell,” she admits. “I need experiences and need to travel around and see different people to get inspiration.” Not to be deterred by this change, Tove has instead “been making music in different ways. Maybe leaving the lyrics out a little bit more than usual,” she chuckles. “Which is rare for me; I usually start with words. It’s been an interesting experiment.”
The title of Tove’s latest album, Sunshine Kitty, pairs well with her sunny disposition. When we speak, Tove is candid, engaged and engaging; a reflection of the record itself. The fourth album the singer has released to date, Sunshine Kitty was released in September 2019, but the expanded version, titled the Paw Prints Edition came out this May. The 22-track offering includes all 14 original album tracks, two Finneas-produced songs, “Bikini Porn” and “Passion and Pain Taste the Same When I’m Weak,” a brand new track, “sadder badder cooler,” as well as covers and live recordings.
Shared at a time when the world was on ‘pause,’ Tove Lo has found it difficult to gauge the reception to the extended record. “I feel really proud of it. I think the songs I put out after still ties in well together and it feels like a whole body of work, which really matters to me. I personally feel really good about it and it seems like my fans seem to really love it too,” however, “it’s kinda hard to tell because it’s not been the time to promote my album.”
“When I can’t go out and perform the songs and see the fans reactions from the stage and see how the crowd responds, you’re kinda just looking at numbers and that’s always a strange feeling, I think.”
As someone who isn’t a big fan of social media, making the shift from in-person experiences to working digitally has not been easy for Tove. “I have a hard time living through my phone. It doesn’t feel real to me unless I’m experiencing it first-hand,” she tells us.
“I’m not a good social media person. I only look at dogs, or I’ll see what my friends are doing, but I don’t spend a lot of time on there. I post to see to see what my fans want to hear from me.”
“It’s always when you feel bad, it’s easier to feel like you’re alone in it. It’s hard to look at because people always put their best side forward on social media. You only see what people want you to see. At those times, I need to put it away for a bit. But then right now, I think this is what social media is good for. To spread a message and to get people to mobilise together and unite in a cause that’s good – I’m thinking both of the Black Lives Matter movement and with Pride. It’s a good way to spread awareness and to get people to motivate and activate themselves, but it’s a balance of using it for good and also using it to make people feel bad about themselves. I go on and off it. I do think it has a lot of positives about it, but you can’t live your life through [social media]. That can easily happen if you spend too much time on it… But right now is not the time to be like, ‘Look what I’m up to! Look at my dope life!’”
Tove Lo shot fame with her song “Habits (Stay High)” from her 5x platinum 2015 album, Queen of the Clouds. The tune is still one of her most played tracks to date, along with “Talking Body” from the same album. Since then, Tove has gone on to tour the globe and work with some of the world’s biggest artists, such as Sean Paul, Kylie Minogue, Doja Cat and Wiz Khalifa. Her easily digestible electro-infused pop has led Tove Lo to rack up more than 12 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone.
Alongside her solo career, Tove Lo has worked as a prolific songwriter, penning tunes for everyone from Lorde and Dua Lipa to Zara Larsson, Ellie Goulding and Hilary Duff. Writing with and for other artists is something Tove loves to do, and will continue to do in the future – as long as it’s not when she has her own material to work on. “[To] be part of another artist’s album process would be really amazing,” she says. “But it would have to be at a time when I’m not focusing on my own because doing it as the same time is kinda confusing.”
The streaming era and the ‘buy it now, have it now’ culture from online shopping has changed the face of the music industry, and there seems to be more music coming out now than ever before. In a world where finding new music is so easy, and holding listeners’ attention is getting harder, artists are feeling the pressure to keep putting out content to keep up. “I love that you can keep putting out songs whenever you want, but it kinda starts to feel like music becomes a bit disposable at times, and that makes me feel a bit sad,” Tove says. She instead wishes that labels would focus more on quality rather than quantity and let “writers and artists have a bit more time on the craft.”
“It’s always about something new,” Tove enthuses. “It’s weird because a song for me is something I connect to and experience and a memory, so I want to listen to that one song for a long time. It’s just changing and some creatives find this new climate way more inspiring and I respect that too, I just think I’m different from that.”
Now, however, Tove feels like she’s in a position to fight back on such pressures. “I can’t put something out unless I’m really happy with it,” she states. “Even if I feel the pressure, I still stand my ground. If I’m writing this, you need to give me a few weeks and then in a few weeks, if I like it, I’ll send it. I need to go back to it a few times before I actually send it to someone. If whoever wants to work with me says ‘I need it in like two days’ then I’m not your guy.”
“Sometimes you come up with something in a day, sometimes you come up with something in two weeks, but you still need to let it marinate to know if what you came up with is it. It’s quite a hard thing to put a timestamp on in general, so I try not to.”
Shot at her Los Angeles home, Tove Lo, who identifies as bisexual, lights up Notion’s special edition digital cover to celebrate Pride. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, usual Pride celebrations around the world have been put on hold this year, but Tove hasn’t let that stop her. Having previously played at Pride parties in New York, L.A. and London, Tove said, “There’s something so magical about those times and I really miss it this year, I really miss it. It’s just such a feeling of love and unity and colour and freedom.”
This year, however, Tove has been celebrating from home by joining several charity livestreams, watching documentaries about the LGBTQIA community, and having a Pride party with her housemates, where they all “put on my whole closet, put glitter on and were in rainbow colours, had a little party at home,” she recalls joyfully.
For Tove, Pride means “freedom to be who you are and who you want to be without judgement. Freedom to love who you want to love without judgement and celebrating that with the Pride parades. Freedom, even though it doesn’t exist everywhere, [Pride] is a moment for everyone to feel that despite where you live, despite where you’re from, despite what the people around you might think, it’s a community and a time to feel that support – for those who don’t have it especially. It’s a demonstration and a celebration in one.”
Tove Lo has been in the music industry for more than five years now, and in that time, a lot has changed, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to make the industry a more LGBTQIA-inclusive space. “I feel like I see a lot more acceptance and inclusion,” Tove says, although she feels that record labels are still not doing enough to champion LGBTQIA artists. “Making an effort to put forward artists that, even if they [the labels] don’t think will connect with that audience, they should still put forward. It’s [their] job to still make that effort,” she says.
Tove’s Sunshine Kitty album is all about reconnecting with yourself and feeling comfortable in your own skin. How did she get to that place within herself? “I was lucky and had people around me that really accepted me, accepted my sexuality and my search within myself,” she answers. “I still have days where I’m not comfortable in myself or loving the skin I’m in, but my foundation is a lot stronger now from going through the changes that I’ve gone through in my life.” It’s through forgiving herself and forgiving others that Tove has grown stronger. So, what advice would she give on how others can find a similar sense of peace?
“Thanks to social media and the internet in general, you can find people that will support you and be there for you and have gone through the same things you have. Reaching out to people is really important so you know you’re not alone,” Tove offers.
“Going through the feelings and not trying to run from them, that’s probably the best advice I can give.”