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An interview with Swedish musician Lykke Li

The enigmatic genre-defying starlet takes time out to talk to Amelia's Magazine at a recent gig in London

Written by Kat Phan

Photography by Lee Goldup

Sweden is a small country but it has produced some big exports. Whether it’s infectious pop, this web affordable furniture or fashionable, well-priced clothes (take a stab at guessing the brands!), the Swedes know what it takes to satisfy their consumers. Now if we extend these categories to ‘hip young musicians’, you’ll find that they have their bases covered here too.

We first featured Lykke Li back in February 2008 when she was just an emerging artist, relatively fresh to the gig circuit. Since then, she has well and truly blossomed amongst the underground and commercial elite of the music scene, building up a set of credentials to leave most of her peers looking on with green-eyed envy.

She released her debut album ‘Youth Novels‘ to critical acclaim in 2008 and has since performed with The Roots and hip hop legend Q-Tip, collaborated with Kayne West and MIA, and currently features on a track called ‘Miss It So Much’ on Roysopp’s latest album. As if that weren’t enough, she also penned the track ‘Possibility’ for the second installment of lovey-dovey vampire Twilight saga ‘New Moon’, gaining herself a healthy teen following in the process.

On the award front, Lykke’s musical talent and fashion sense have not gone unnoticed; she has received nominations for “Best Video” and “Best Female Artist” at the Swedish Grammy Awards and was voted “Best Dressed Woman” at the Swedish Elle Magazine Awards in 2009. Is there an end to this list of fabulousness?? (And she’s only 24!)

Photography by Lee Goldup

Dressed in an oversized black tassled jacket, a short black mini-skirt, bulky black boots and lashings of thick black eye make-up (and with few words), on meeting Lykke, I couldn’t help but feel that she exuded the demeanor of a slightly irked teenager.

I caught up with the Swedish starlet briefly, prior to her set at the Volvo Subject 60 launch party in London last week, for a rather intriguing interview in a drafty stairwell to talk about her international background, performing in front of big crowds and desert island necessities…

So how are you feeling about your set tonight?
Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to do some new songs tonight which I haven’t done before. The sets are also going to be more acoustic so it will be different and quite interesting.

You’ve had a very international upbringing – have you found that this has influenced your music?

I don’t know because I’ve never known any different. I don’t know how I would write music if I only lived in one place. I feel that my music comes more from within – not so much from the outside.

Photography by Lee Goldup

Who are your biggest musical influences to date?
There are just so many. I don’t really listen to a lot of new music. I get really inspired by weird chanting, like Voodoo music. I recently found these field recordings from the 1920s which I’ve been listening to a lot.

What bands currently excite you?
I really enjoy Beach House – the singer has a great voice and their songs are very well written. I am also listening to The Big Pink and a lot too who have an interesting sound. Of course, there’s always Leonard Cohen.

How have you found the transition of playing in big venues compared to small venues?
It’s been fine although I still enjoy playing small venues the most because there’s more of an intimacy you share with your audience.

How do you find playing in front of a UK audience in comparison to a Swedish audience?
It’s kind of crazy because I almost never play in Sweden; it’s so rare. I guess every audience is different but I find that in big cities, people tend to be slightly more reserved – there’s more of an effort that people make to be cool.

What has been your most memorable gig to date?
Last summer there was a festival on an island just outside Holland so we had to take the smallest boat to get there, but it was during severe storms and the water was really rough. Everyone on the boat thought that we were going to die. And then there was the coming back part when we were super drunk in the middle of the night. It was crazy but we had a great time.

Who would you most like to work with?
Leonard Cohen as always.

What’s the best piece of advice you can offer someone starting out?
It’s hard to maintain yourself in this industry. I think the main thing I would say is to be honest and always stay true to yourself. It’s clichéd but it’s true.

What are you most looking forward to this summer?
I’m looking forward to going for a swim in the lakes in Sweden when it’s finished. It’s going to be a long summer for me as I’ll going to be in the studio for most of it. It’s exciting but I can’t sleep anymore because I’m thinking so much – my brain is working all the time.

What three items would you bring with you if you on a desert island?
A hot man, a Swiss army knife and some erotic novels by Anaïs Nin.


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One Response to “An interview with Swedish musician Lykke Li”

  1. grthink says:

    I love Lykke Li — my wife calls her ‘magical’. I remember going to see her play at Pure Groove a couple of years ago, and true to form being the least well-dressed person in the room, and having a too-weak prescription that meant I squinted through the whole thing. I probably looked like some creepy old geek… Well, the ‘old geek’ part is pretty accurate.

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