Nine years have passed since Tove Styrke walked into a room to audition for Idol, with millions of Swedes watching at home. Juror Anders Bagge said that he had high expectations of her, but that she lived up to them – something many people can still relate to today, considering all that the artist has managed to achieve since then. Scan Magazine spoke to the Swedish singer about fame, female role models and finding her groove.

By Linnea Dunne

Since her appearance on Idol, where she finished in third place, Styrke has been signed to Sony Music, released two albums, sold platinum in Sweden and toured the world. But the 25-year-old dispels the notion of fame as something that had to be managed carefully. “You have to remember that this is Sweden, which is pretty soft – it wasn’t a Britney Spears situation by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m grateful for that,” she says. “But then I’ve also made sure to take a lot of time for myself, time to grow up between busier work phases. I ended up with great people who I still work with today, even though it’s a bigger operation now.”

For Styrke, taking time for herself did not mean doing something different or pausing the music work entirely, but rather taking a step back from the attention in order to look inward and focus properly on work. “I’ve been writing nonstop since the last record, but it’s more about giving myself the space to come up with strong ideas. I think it took a year before I ended up on the track I eventually went with for the new album, where I really felt like it clicked. In the end, I decided to really dig deep within myself in a personal way with this record,” she explains, adding that the process has to come from her, from within. “I call the shots. That’s how it has to be.”

Learning on the job

On screen and on stage, Styrke oozes charisma and playful confidence, like a natural-born entertainer. Over the phone, she is more muted – realistic, perhaps, and down to earth. She talks about the songwriting craft as something she has grown into naturally, thanks to both support from and collaboration with professionals, as well as time and faith in her skills. It is not the kind of thing you read in a press release, but it is all the more believable and relatable for it. “My first album, which was all co-writes, was very much a learning process. I got to figure out how it works, how you make an album, what a producer really does and what the mixing and mastering is all about. It’s a whole job in itself, which is also part of my work,” she reflects. “What I do now is a result of everything I’ve learnt along the way. I had a clear vision of what I wanted it to sound like, who I wanted to work with and what I wanted to create. That was a big deal for me.”

Album number three, Sway, is out this May, and Styrke is really excited. “I’ve been working on this for so long and it’s so close to my heart,” she says. “It’s a collection of love songs, about the pros and cons of being in love, mostly good vibes but a few sad songs too. It’s really important to me that at the heart of each song there are real feelings – I want to make music that makes you feel something, and when I’m walking around with music in the headphones, I want to listen to music that I can relate to. In some ways, this is the poppiest material I’ve ever made, but it’s deeply personal too.”

A woman in a man’s world

Comparisons to Robyn do not seem too far-fetched, and the singer admits that she is flattered by them. At the same time, she does not really believe in comparisons too much. “People are best when they are as much of themselves as possible, when they get to be their own,” she says. Asked about influences and idols, she barely knows where to start and certainly not where to end – there are too many. “I love Britney, there’s always been something about Britney. She’s my pop princess. But there’s Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kylie… So many pop princesses! I’m obsessed with Camila Cabello right now.”

There is little doubt that she has plenty of female role models, but her conscious effort to always support and highlight other women has not always been straight-forward. “The first time I said I wanted an all-female band, they came back to me and were like, ‘we can’t find any’. In the end I did – and what’s great to see is that a lot has happened just in the time I’ve been in the industry. Now when we’re putting together a band it’s a no-brainer that it should be all women, and that’s that,” she explains. “It might sound like a small thing, but I’m definitely noticing a huge difference in being an artist in Sweden today. But I do long for the day when it’ll be easier to find women producers and technicians, women for mixing and mastering, all that. We’re getting there, but still today there’s always that last filter music goes through that’s almost always male.”

Never stop

In recent weeks, Styrke has been performing to arenas in the States, opening for Lorde on tour – a huge step in her career. Yet she is cautious when it comes to big plans. “I mean I must suffer from some sort of hubris, or I wouldn’t be doing this, but I think it’s important that you’re having fun and not doing stuff because you think one day you’re going to get huge,” she reflects. “I’ve been working really hard for many years now, and it feels like you’re constantly taking small, tiny steps forward – but it’s all just about small victories. I just want to enjoy what I do. I love this, being in London for press days, touring the US, hitting the studio and getting to know new people… There’s no end to it, no ceiling. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing, go everywhere, release more music, have fun and never stop.”