She'll Never Forget You: Zara Larsson Interviewed

She'll Never Forget You: Zara Larsson Interviewed

Another side of the Swedish pop trailblazer...

After weathering an anxious storm of anticipation, Zara Larsson’s reign of sporadic singles is over.

The 23-year-old Swedish singer has returned renewed and ready to share her obsession over escapist pop, progress on her secretive sophomore album, and an obscenely cheesy love story.

- - -

- - -

Zara Larsson is on the cusp of one of her biggest career releases, but right now, she’s wrapped up, in Stockholm, on her bed wearing oversized cream sweats. Set up in a dark, wide sweeping room, the acclaimed artist confesses she hates video calls because she can never get them right. When I ask her how she’s doing she laughs, replying “not many people have asked me that recently, but I’m doing okay”.

Still, the pop star has made do with a bad situation; unable to tour and having faced multiple push backs on her second record, she’s been living with her sister to search for some rhythm of normality and herself. “There's definitely one part where I just hate the uncertainty around everything, but I have been really lucky,” she tells me. “This summer was one of the best summers of my life – I felt like I was a kid again. I usually work on summers, festival summers are sick, but now, with Corona, it was lowkey. It was like let’s go for a picnic or go swimming, and it was nice, it felt like I was fifteen again.

After unwinding across the summer, the singer found herself faced with the uncertainties of an unfixed schedule and with much more time on her hands. In that freedom, Zara has found her port of calm in all of the chaos – by reminiscing over hometown pop icons. “I've really been inspired by Swedish pop legends like ABBA, Roxette, Robyn – I’ve definitely been proud of my pop heritage,” she smiles. “One thing I realised is that, for me, pop has always been a form of escapism. Now we got Tik Tok, we got Instagram, and algorithms that sucks you in and take you away from reality, but, growing up, pop was my form of escapism and it always has been. I would look in the mirror and pretend I was somewhere else, that I was someone else. I think it's very tied to me wanting to entertain people.”

- - -

- - -

In taking lessons from the Stockholm greats, Zara also learned to be more transparent with herself. “I feel a bit more honest. I feel I can resonate more with emotions and it’s mostly about love there. ‘Poster Girl’ - my album - is about what I want to do, what I want to talk about, and I always talk about love, because I feel that’s the most important feeling in the whole world,” she nods. I feel I have way more control creatively over this album, so I allowed it to be way more pop and dancey, because I fucking love pop. It's still the same old me, but I've just taken myself a notch up. If you liked ‘So Good’, I think you will like this album a lot. It's way more fun and if it helps people through these times then I think that is what’s really important.”

Continuing to persevere with her anthemic pop vision, the young artist admits she has grown with this record from a young girl to a woman. “I’m always in development mode. I don't think I'll ever be like, 'this is the new me' or, 'I'm a whole new person'. I'm never going to be a finished version of myself – it’s an ongoing process,” she explains.

“This pandemic forced me to realise I don't sit down and reflect on myself. I occupy my mind with things, because I'm scared of being lonely or overthinking. Right now, I'm talking to you on the phone, but I have a shopping site up behind me and my TV on in the background. If I wasn't talking to you, I would have a podcast on. I stuff my brain with so much information that it just never gets to breathe.”

- - -

- - -

Taking time out to refocus has been crucial for the Swedish singer and part of that has been falling in love. “It's going to sound so cheesy, but I am so happy and in love. That is really what's gotten me through all this. I've never really felt love like this before. I don't know how to say this without being super corny, but I am just so in love. I'm like 'I want to have your babies', 'I want us to marry, I want it now' - it's insane!” she laughs. “Sometimes I think I can't be this lucky. I know, something bad is gonna happen to me really soon, because it's just not legal to feel this good.”

“You know, no one is strong by themselves and nobody is an island, especially in these times, and it’s really helped me. How are you supposed to be confident in yourself if you don't have people supporting and believing in you? I just don't think it's really possible. I’m just really grateful. I think it's so important to find your community, where people understand you and uplift you – it’s like finding your little tribe in a way.”

- - -

- - -

Life lessons seems to have served the Swedish singer well as she’s poured her new, upbeat attitude into her highly anticipated sophomore record. Although, at times, the young artist has had to reckon with the realities of success and her own creative standpoint. “Honesty, sometimes I have a meltdown about what the fucking thread of this album is. I start questioning what I’m going to say, it’s purpose, or what I’m doing,” she sighs.

Mid-frustrated rant, Zara’s doorbell rings. Without hesitation, she picks up her phone, giving a humoured, brief tour of her house, glancing back at the screen as she continues her reply, pausing only to thank the delivery guy. “I overthink it so much. Then I'm like 'you know what, it's just a good fucking collection of pop songs that I love and it's not deeper than that. I really resonate with these songs, and when I hear them, I'm like 'play that shit again'. So, sometimes, I have to stop myself and say we're not going to Mars, we are just making a pop record!”

- - -

- - -

Setting her phone down on the table, and her food also, the singer laughs, tosses the phrase “mukbang” out there before diving into her Munsell yellow Swedish soup. “I have really high expectations of everything I do, and I overthink it, which is why I've been pushing my album back quite a lot, because I wasn’t happy with it,” she tells me.

“I think my music will still resonate with people and it’s coming out very soon, but the pressure of this being my second album is quite high. I had such big success on my first album, and now it's been four years, which is a long time in the pop world. I’ve been trying not to think about it, because I know that it's a good ass album and I'm really proud of it. I can just do my best. I can't really do much more, really.”

- - -

- - -

A quick glance away from the singer eating, reveals small ornaments and bookshelves dotted around the room. Clash asks the singer what led her to lead with the title track ‘Poster Girl’ and later give the album the same name. “In my teenage bedroom, I used to have so many posters up on the wall and they would all be like Beyonce,” she muses, thinking back. “But, in this version it’s me on the poster. It started off as a cool title track and then grew into something that made so much sense.”

“I think it’s a little nudge to the life I'm living, because I love pop and I love the glamour and the glitter and the show of it all. When I'm not on stage or having a press day, I walk around like this,” she gestures at her outfit and tied back hair. “It's not glamorous. I sit in my bed, I smoke my weed, I eat noodles, and that's the beauty of it, because it's both worlds. I could be a poster girl for pop and glitter and glamour, but I'm also a poster girl for just me being very normal, like everybody is.”

- - -

- - -

Sitting there, dressed down, without makeup, and spooning away at her soup, it is possible to see the everyday Zara Larsson; the artist that wasn’t born on a stage, but one that rambles about her love life, her feelings, and wanting to do a good job with her music. Unaware of herself, the singer starts almost all her sentences with “to be honest” and it’s how she finishes her last too: “To be honest, I set myself up for failure like my therapist says. Since I was small, I’ve been like 'I'm going to be number one, or I'll just end my life' - no, I'm kidding!” she laughs, breaking seriousness.

“But I've always wanted to be recognised. I've always wanted to entertain, to make people feel good, and to be admired. Now, I’ve realised that it won’t bring you happiness. Instead, I am very happy with myself and just being me.

Now, almost post-pandemic, Zara Larsson has built something much bigger than a chart-topping record; she found solace in her creative sound.

- - -

- - -

Zara Larsson's new album 'Poster Girl' will be released on March 5th.

Words: Zoya Raza-Sheikh
Photography: Luc Coiffait
Fashion: Kate Iorga

Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.

 

Follow Clash

Buy Clash Magazine