With a new album—and short film!—dropping today, Tove Lo is at a pivotal point in her pop career. The singer/songwriter, known for collaborating with the likes of Nick Jonas, Icona Pop, and Ellie Goulding (Tove Lo was nominated for a Grammy for helping pen “Love Me Like You Do”), already has an anthem in her album’s first single, “Cool Girl.” The song is an ironic take on the desire to appear ultra cool, laidback and feminine in order to hook a man. But “Cool Girl” is just the beginning. The entire album, titled Lady Wood (Island Records), is filled with unapologetically feminist tracks and Lo’s signature tell-it-like-it-is lyrics about love, sex and heartbreak, with a healthy dose of humor mixed in. (The title itself is a playful claim on female empowerment through sexuality.)
Broken into two parts, Fairy Dust and Fire Fade, the album will also have two corresponding short films, and an upcoming winter tour. InStyle chatted with Tove Lo about her pension for performing barefoot, her favorite song on the album, and why she’s not as sad as people think she is.
So, tell us, what’s the deal with performing barefoot anyway?
I’m just more comfortable. It’s nothing else. I was supposed to do a TV performance—my first one—and they had all these awesome shoes for me. I put them on and seconds before I went on stage I was like, I can’t, I feel weird and not in control. I have this vocal pedal I do all the effects on, and I couldn’t press it properly with those shoes. So I just kicked them off and ran out barefoot.
All of your songs are really personal and somewhat autobiographical. Do you have a song on this new album that’s closest to your heart?
I would say the one that is probably the most vulnerable is “Keep It Simple”. It’s about trying to move on when you’re not ready. And there’s a line in there that most people go “ugh.” It’s, “I go to bed with you, but dream about him. You think I want to? No, I hate that he wins.” People are like, “Oh, I feel that.” But it’s hard when you’re like, “Am I admitting this? Yeah, I’m admitting this.”
You have to bare your soul in your lyrics.
Yeah, exactly. But it’s how I work through things. I need the music to stay that way. I can’t start to polish that because you notice that more people will admit to their actual feelings when you’re the one being honest.
Your songs are often moody or dark, and then people meet you and are surprised you’re so normal.
And I get that, but everyone has good and bad days. Everyone has dark thoughts sometimes or goes through tough times, it’s just that we’re not supposed to talk about that. You’re just supposed to say that you’re fine and smile. I’m not shy to speak about the bad stuff, as well. We feel better if we just talk about it and we’re open, and it’s not so dangerous to be sad. You’ll get over it. You need to feel it to get over it.
It’s unusual to write about that in the pop realm.
I think there’s usually a lot of pressure that you get when you’re a girl or woman doing pop music. You’re supposed to be this perfect person who does everything right. And no one is. So I’d rather just be real about that. Pop can also be just kind of a happy escape but I love the contrast of writing those pop melodies and then putting some real heartbreak lyrics in there.
Who are some of your pop icons?
Robyn was a huge influence of mine. I think she’s amazing. Sia and Lorde. All these amazing girls and women that just write from the heart; I think it’s really impressive.