Swedish Singer Tove Styrke Is Killing the Game Even as Americans Butcher Her Name
Emerging from of a jewel-toned haze, 25-year-old Swedish pop star Tove Styrke took the stage Monday night at The Belasco in Los Angeles for the 10th stop on her North American tour. Out in support of her latest album, “Sway,” the singer boasts a strong presence on stage, honed from opening slots on tours by mega-stars Lorde and Katy Perry this past year.
With refreshing zest for a Monday night, Styrke was a ball of pure energy as she bopped across a stage decorated with glowing white roses. Backed by two band members supplying tasteful synth beats and guitar riffs, her set ran through nearly every song off her album, including “On the Low,” “Say My Name,” and the title track, “Sway.” Styrke also paid homage to her friend Lorde with a rendition of “Liability,” which she said was one of her “favorite songs in the whole world.”
Styrke punctuated her set with audience banter, at one point instructing the crowd to crouch on the ground and wait for the beat to drop, at which point everyone popped up like corks and danced.
The Swede has a bon vivant air about her to be sure. Even though American audiences routinely butcher her name, she lightheartedly addressed the frequent mispronunciations on Twitter. “Hey! About my name. It’s pronounced toovah steerkah but I don’t mind tov strike it’s alright,” she tweeted last June.
Variety caught up with Styrke just ahead of her tour.
What was it like being on the road with Lorde and Katy Perry?
Just amazing! In the spring I did the Lorde tour in the U.S., and that was totally crazy because it was my first time playing in arenas, which in itself was overwhelming. It was such an experience. I’ve been getting to know Ella [Lorde], who I have admired for years. I really love what she’s doing and look up to her. … With Katy Perry touring Europe, it’s such a big production — just the amount of people that go into making that show every night. She’s got planets coming down from the ceiling. She’s flying in a glitter suit playing guitar. I’m so happy and grateful I got to be part of both those tours.
What did you learn from those experiences?
First of all, it’s possible to have routines with this job, which is one of the things that I’ve struggled a lot with. It’s always weird hours and I’m awake when everybody else is asleep, but day-to-day it gets way more manageable if you stick to something. I used to have a full trunk of makeup because whatever I’m in the mood for, I want to be able to do. But now it’s a normal makeup bag, because I’ve chosen [what] I’m going to do, and it’s working. I don’t need to change it every other night because I’m nervous. Somebody told me that all new artists do the same thing. They bring too many outfits, they bring too much makeup, they bring too much everything because the feel insecure, you know?
You must get confused with Tove Lo all the time. Does that get annoying?
It’s not annoying because I love her. But the tricky thing is that everybody got used to calling her “Toh-vah,” but I’m trying to get people to pronounce my name “Too-vah” and “steerkah.”
What inspires you?
Creatively, everybody who does interesting stuff. I’m just crazy about Post Malone. The mix of styles that he’s pulled together [are] really cool and work so well with his voice… it sounds very fresh in a way. It could be anybody depending on what I need to be inspired for. The most recent thing that I found really inspiring was the Moo song [by Doja Cat]. (Singing) “Bi— I’m a cow, bi— I’m a cow.” It’s awesome.
What’s your ideal songwriting environment?
I like Stockholm in the fall. The air is starting to get a little bit cold, it’s just nice to be inside. You don’t feel bad because it’s sunny and stuff outside, it’s alright to be in a dungeon. I like writing in the studio. I feel like that’s where I’m the most focused.
Your new album has gotten support from other musicians like Shawn Mendes. What does his endorsement mean to you?
I love Shawn. I’ve been listening to his songs since he first came about, and then all of a sudden he just wrote to me and I was, like, “How do you know who I am? How did you hear this song?” But he’s so sweet. It’s just so cool to sit in Stockholm in a basement studio and make things that I really like and that it can reach Shawn Mendes. I love how the world is sometimes.
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