By Shannon Carlin
“Breaking up is hard to do.” That old pop cliché is at its truest after taking in Tove Lo’s debut EP, Truth Serum.
On her six-song release, the Swedish singer seems to be working through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief to get past one devastating break-up. Lo’s latest single, “Habits (Stay High),” might be the depression stage as she tries to get over her ex: she watches people get it on in sex clubs, picks up dads on the playground and binges on Twinkies only to eventually vomit them up in her bathtub. Who hasn’t been there?
“We don’t have Twinkies in Sweden,” Lo told Radio.com of the recently resurrected cream-filled sponge cake, which she thought was just another word for cookie. “But they’re good, I’ve tasted them.” Fans have yet to start bringing them as gifts to her show, but what she’s really hoping is that Hostess will thank her with a box or two for the rest of her life. “I should be getting some Twinkies!”
But, all Twinkie talk aside, “Habits” and her song “Over,” where she chronicles the drunken night when she realized her and her boyfriend were officially done, are just two of the reasons why she’s earned herself the nickname, “the saddest girl in Sweden.” After sitting down with Tove Lo — pronounced “Too-veh Loo,” but she doesn’t mind if you say it phonetically — it’s clear that nickname is rather misleading.
“Well, I think when people meet me, they’re like, ‘Oh,’ because they expect this kind of sad, doped up, kind of girl, but I laugh a lot,” she said.” I think [the nickname is] funny, but I do get what they mean because all my dark sides kind of come through in my music…I’m not the saddest girl in Sweden, but sometimes I am, yeah.”
Tove Lo, whose real name is Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson, has always been interested in writing about the perils of falling in love.
When the singer was just 9 years old, she wrote her first song about a boy six years her senior who worked at her school. She had written him a poem, but “he didn’t appreciate it,” she said laughing. At 11, Lo says she wrote her first proper song with a few of her friends. It was called “Crazy” and was about a girl who everyone thought was stupid for loving this one particular boy. In 2012, she released “Love Ballad,” her first official song in Sweden, which was about the crazy ways in which you sacrifice yourself for the one you love. “Love is definitely a theme for me,” she explained. “It’s good to stick with what you know.”
Her EP also deals with love and how horrible you feel once it’s gone. But with Truth Serum, Lo—who’s written songs for Icona Pop, Cher Lloyd and Lea Michele—doesn’t try and capitalize off her heartbreak by writing a female empowerment anthem that shames the guy who did her wrong. No, on this album, Lo is not an innocent. It’s actually quite the opposite.”I made the big mistake that ended it,” she said. “I don’t think a lot of female pop singers would admit that, like ‘This is my big mistake, my flaw.’ It felt like a challenge to write and I wanted to try.”
But wearing your heart on your sleeve has its drawbacks. Especially when everyone with an internet connection thinks they can weigh in on your pain. “Sometimes I think, ‘Oh, this is really stupid, I don’t want to share this with everyone,'” she said. “But then I get a lot of letters from fans and people saying they can relate so much to what I’m saying and I feel like, I’m not really alone in this.”
Knowing she’s not alone has made it easy to get in front of a crowd and sing her heart out, but having to talk about the man who inspired the songs has been harder than Lo originally imagined. Mostly because it has forced her to return back to that time in her life, when things seemed to be spiraling out of control and she would do anything just to numb the pain.
Shooting the video for “Habits” was also quite tough for the singer. Besides having to walk around a club with a 22 pound camera strapped around her waist, she says it was draining to try to act out the pain she had felt when she originally wrote the track.”I couldn’t actually watch [the video] for the first few weeks,” she said, noting that every mascara-running tear you see is very much real.
The shooting, which had her spending a few days in a dirty Swedish club getting wasted with three of her friends, who Lo says, were more than willing to “have a few drinks and make out with her,” ended the same way most sad, drunken nights do: crying alone in a bathroom stall.
“I was wasted and tired and it was a tough recording and I really just went into the bathroom and sat there by myself. There weren’t any people around then and I was just really alone in that stall,” Lo said. “I just sat there and thought of anything that was happening during that time. The tears just came.”
Lo assures us that she’s in a much better place now. Besides having plans to continue writing for other artists, including Adam Lambert, who she is contractually obligated not to talk about right now (“Don’t get me in trouble!” she joked) she’s also hard at work on her full length debut, which yes, will include some lighter fare. But, she promises the album will certainly have its fair share of sad, cathartic moments. “Life’s messy and dirty,” Lo said. “And so is my music.”