All hail the
fairy dust queen
On the eve of her Music Midtown performance, Tove Lo chats us up about all things ‘Lady Wood’
By Gregg Shapiro
It’s been a couple of years since bisexual Swedish singer/songwriter Tove Lo made an impact with her debut disc Queen of the Clouds, containing the hit singles “Talking Body” and “Habits (Stay High).” For those who waited patiently for her second album, the rewards are plentiful on Lady Wood (Island).
As you might have gleaned from the title on the disc, split into “Fairy Dust” and “Fire Fade” sections, Lo lets her “dirty mind” (so named in the title track) run wild. Opening with a pair of House-inspired tunes, “Influence” (featuring Wiz Khalifa) and the aforementioned title cut, the artist loosens up on the beats on “The Disaster,” “WTF Love Is” and “Cool Girl,” then finds her way back to the club on album closer “Keep It Simple.”
With an Atlanta performance scheduled for Music Midtown on Sept. 16, we spoke with Tove Lo about her music, her process, her influences, and her tattoos.
Queen of the Clouds is divided into four sections. Lady Wood is in two parts. Why do you divide your albums?
It was important to me that it was clear that it’s one body of work. There’s a storytelling element to it; a sequence of events and emotions. I never plan it when I write, but because I write about what’s going on in my life, what’s going on around me, and what’s in my head and my heart, it’s natural to put them in an order that lets you follow the emotional ride, so to speak.
The “Fairy Dust” mini-movie, which incorporates songs from Lady Wood, begins with the quote “There is nothing pure about the way we do things.”
Growing up in Sweden, I noticed it’s maybe a bit more liberal when it comes to sex. Sex isn’t seen as something shameful. Women’s sexuality isn’t seen as something shameful. When I came to the States and started touring, it’s where I first got the reaction that it’s something to be ashamed of, that I’m a bad girl or whatever. To me, it was a shock.
There’s a difference between being provocative and for something to be fun and stir up emotions. There’s a big difference between being good and being pure. Pure isn’t necessarily a good thing.
A lot of times the shame comes from religious descriptions. I think it’s a sad way to raise people because it makes you feel guilty about who you are. Especially if you are coming out as gay. So many friends of mine, the years that they felt ashamed of themselves, makes me so sad; it’s not fair. Because it’s really all about love.
There’s a same-sex romance in the “Fairy Dust” mini movie, too. Do you celebrate Pride?
I feel like I do that every day! [laughs]
In the song “Imaginary Friend,” you sing about “how kids get high,” as well as being “under the influence” on “Influence.” The songs “Not On Drugs” and “Habits (Stay High)” also include similar references.
It’s been part of my life as an escape and an enhancement in certain situations. For me, it becomes, “Should I or shouldn’t I mention this”? I decided not to have a filter and just be honest about my life, so it becomes part of my songs.
What can you tell me about your ink?
I started at 17 with my little scorpion under my collarbone because I’m a Scorpio. It feels very classic. But the rest of it is paintings by (artist) Mark Ryden that I love.
Lo means lynx in Swedish, which has been my nickname since I was a kid. I now have that on my hand. My vagina symbol on my arm, my ‘lady wood’ symbol that I felt needed to be with me forever. I think that’s all I have.
You’re currently on tour and hitting Atlanta soon. What do you enjoy most about performing live?
What’s been so amazing is that we’re combining festivals and club shows with opening for Coldplay in stadiums; the three most different kinds of shows.
I feed off the energy of the audience so much. It’s an hour, hour and a half a day that I get to fully emotionally be very present and not think of anything else. It’s the most present I am at all times. There’s nothing to distract me from whatever is going on onstage. It’s a very freeing feeling.
See Tove Lo at Music Midtown on Sept. 16 in Piedmont Park. Visit musicmidtown.com.