Sweden’s Tove Styrke first rose to prominence via her country’s ‘Idol’ competition back in 2009. Just 16 years of age at the time, she placed third in the competition and was granted the luxury of a number of months to create what would we become her debut album.
More than five years on, Tove is now on the precipice of international stardom with the recent release of her ‘Borderline’ EP and her incoming second album.
We gave Tove an early morning wake-up call to chat about her reality show past and the more recent interest in her internationally. The latter has taken her a little by surprise.
“I don’t know what’s happening really,” Tove admits. “I’ve just been doing radio interviews with Australian radio stations. I couldn’t have imagined that six months ago.”
Nor, we suspect, could she have envisaged such international interest when she originally set foot on the ‘Idol’ stage almost six years ago. But, Tove tells us, it wasn’t her who decided that she’d be a good fit for the competition.
“They called me actually,” she reveals. “Sometimes they get tips from people. So the production company had seen a video of me singing or something and they called me and invited me to audition. They talked me into it, so I did it.”
She placed third in the competition. But then came the really hard work; like here in Australia, widespread media across Sweden is hesitant in its support for former reality TV show contestants.
“It’s definitely the same here in Sweden,” Tove admits. “‘Idol’ is a pretty weird way to get into the music industry, because when you’ve done a show like that, you have the same audience but you still have everything to prove music-wise.
“I actually got some time – I waited for six months at least – before I put anything out. But most people have to put something out within just a few weeks. You can just imagine, it’s pretty tricky to be credible in that short amount of time. It is pretty weird, really.”
That said, Tove probably had a better start than most. Sweden is arguably the place where many of the planet’s pop trends emanate from.
“I suppose it is,” she says, “But when it comes to living here making music as opposed to living somewhere else and making music… I have nothing else to compare it to. I just think it’s really great that there are so many people – both music producers, writers and other artists – living here. It makes it a lot easier to collaborate with people, which is something I really like doing.”
Tove released her first (self-titled) album in Sweden in 2010. Still in her teens, she hit the No.10 position and achieved platinum sales success, but she then vanished from the scene. But not, as we suspected, to put space between her and her ‘Idol’ past.
“It was more for me,” she reveals. “I took about a year off and moved back to my home town up north in Sweden. I think I just needed to take some time off and get in touch with myself. And also to get some distance from the music industry a little bit.
“I’d been in the business since I was 16, then I put out the album, was working on the album – and maybe I worked a little bit too long on it, I don’t know. But taking some time off and doing nothing was great. It really fuels creativity in such an amazing way. So for the past two years I’ve been working on this new stuff.”
And it’s clear that this new stuff is reaching the right ears. Tove signed a deal with the mighty RCA Records in the United States after they happened upon her May 2014 single ‘Even If I’m Loud It Doesn’t Mean I’m Talking To You’.
“They heard the song and they were really interested. So I met with them and it felt great, so I went with them,” she says.
“They’re very keen on really understanding what I want to do. I think that’s a good thing. Their ambition is really just to try to help me keep on doing what I want, but with a bigger audience perhaps. They’re very creative. They almost feel like an indie label.”
From our perspective, there seems to be a mammoth proliferation of fresh new electro-pop artists peppering our charts these days, so we ask Tove what sets her apart from the rest of the pack.
“Oh well… That’s a tricky question. I don’t know,” she admits. “I just try to do things that I find interesting. That’s that.
“Music-wise, I just try to keep it as personal as I can in terms of really trying to write about the things that really go on inside my head and the thoughts and ideas that I think are important or interesting or fun. And that makes it genuine.
“And when it’s genuine and it’s personal, another person can’t copy that. And I guess that’s how you make something unique.”
As she’s mentioned previously, Tove has taken her time with the release of her all-important sophomore album. But she has given audiences a taste of what to expect with the release in late November of her ‘Borderline’ EP. We ask if it serves as the hors d’oeuvre to the album’s main course.
“Yeah, I think so. There’s a lot more coming, of course. It varies a lot. The sound varies a lot and the themes vary a lot too. But it’s a good taste of what’s to come.”
We also ask, given that her upcoming LP will be her first international release, whether or not some of the stronger material from her debut will make it to the second album.
“Style-wise, this is quite a leap from the last album, so I think that might be tricky,” she hints. “But hopefully people who haven’t heard the first album before maybe find the old songs through this album. There were some songs from that first album that I was very happy with.”
Though Tove tells us it’s “close to finished” and that she’s “still working on some last touches”, the plan is to release the LP in the northern Spring (March/April/May), but whether or not she’ll make it down under for a promotional visit during that time remains to be seen.
“I’m not sure what the plans are yet,” she admits. ” We’ve been working out what we’re going to do next year. I want to do as much as possible, but there are only so many days in the year. But hopefully I’ll get to come over… that would be really really nice.”
Tove’s ‘Borderline’ EP is available digitally now.
Look for her second album dropping in the first half of the year.