Zara Larsson feels empowered owning her songs

Swedish pop singer Zara Larsson deliver the songs and owns her music catalogue.

The ‘Can’t Tame Her’ lead single from her upcoming fourth album has spent the last 16 weeks on the UK singles chart and shows no sign of slipping out. “It takes you back to that place where my mom was going out in the clubs in the early ’80s,” Larsson says when we meet at her label’s London office. “It definitely has that retro sound all over it, but it’s still fresh.”

Now, Larsson has followed ‘Can’t Tame Her’ with ‘End Of Time’, a “dramatic” and “cinematic” love song co-written by Rick Nowels, the Grammy-winning producer known for his work with Stevie Nicks and Lana Del Rey. She says Nowels has helped to create a “foundation” for her new album – currently untitled but due later this year – where she “can do a little bit of this and a little bit of that” musically. “It’s very me to do that!” the Swedish singer-songwriter adds with palpable enthusiasm.

Though she’s still only 25, Larsson has already done a lot of everything. She broke through internationally more than seven years ago with ‘Never Forget You’, an electropop duet with MNEK, and the irrepressible summer jam ‘Lush Life’, Since then, she’s collaborated with everyone from Clean Bandit to BTS, and scored further solo hits with ‘Don’t Worry Bout Me’ and ‘Ruin My Life’. The latter feat on her 2021 album ‘Poster Girl’, which provided a frothy pop tonic during the pandemic.

Because she has built a substantial body of work, it was particularly cheering to hear last year that Larsson had acquired the rights to her entire catalogue. So now, as we find out in an entertaining and wide-ranging interview, she’s not just a reliable bop provider, but also a literal boss.

You’ve worked a lot with Rick Nowels on the new album. How did that collaboration come about?

“I don’t actually remember how it came about. I’m pretty sure it was thanks to my A&R [person]. But I’m so happy it happened because he is one of the most passionate men I have ever met in my life… I love that he pushes me, and he has allowed me to find my own voice in a way. Because when it’s just me and him and maybe one other writer or engineer [in the studio], and I say, ‘Well, Rick, what about this?’ and he’s like ‘no’, I can be like ‘yes!’ He kind of started a little fire in me where I’m gonna stand up for myself, which I previously thought was a hard thing to do in writing rooms. Because, you know, [it can be like] ‘you have so many hits, you know what’s best’. But now I’m like, ‘it’s my record, so [it’s a] yes!’… We just go back and forth and I feel like it pushes us to a place where I previously haven’t been creatively. When I’m walking out of the studio, I’m like, ‘We made a really good song.’”

How would you say the new album is different from ‘Poster Girl’?

“‘Poster Girl’ was very fun. It was a perfect time in my life to have that sort of fun, especially since we had the pandemic…This [album] is still pop, but it has an element of stillness to it as well. There’s definitely songs on there that are very raw and [that] feel a bit naked. And this album is a bit more dynamic – there’s songs with a hard-hitting bass, like club bangers, but also songs that are just piano and a vocal track. So I think it’s a little bit more daring in not being one thing, which is honestly very me. I think it’s personal and relatable, and I wouldn’t say it’s a concept album at all. Me and Rick, we’ve had a lot of talks about this, and he’s like, ‘I just think it should be a collection of really good songs.’ The [common] thread is that it’s me and my voice. On a lot of the songs, I’m really singing a lot more.”

You went to the first two nights of Beyoncé’s incredible Renaissance World Tour. Did you notice many differences between the two shows?

“Well, she definitely changed some bits up – not only the costumes, but the setlist [too]. She kind of switches it up depending on where she is – obviously she did the Tina Turner tribute here in London because of Tina’s passing. I think she has the framework of the show, but then because she’s been doing it for such a long time and the people she works with are so quick, she can be like: ‘I want to do this, and you’ve just got to get on it.’  I know that if I did that, that would stress my band out. But she’s Beyoncé, so she can do whatever she likes.

“The show is about three hours and has so much information because the budget is unlimited for this tour. So you know, she just shoves things in your face for three hours. And you’re like, ‘Oh my god, everything is amazing!’ But that’s why it was really, really nice to have the second day to sit back and take it all in. Really, that’s what made me understand how good the show truly is. Everybody who knows me knows that she’s my biggest inspiration. She’s the best artist in the world.”

Sweden is hosting Eurovision next year, and it’s also the 50th anniversary of ABBA’s iconic victory. Could you be tempted to throw your hat into the ring, or is it still a no as you’ve said in the past?

“It’s still a no! But I would love to be an interval act. I’m a really big fan of Eurovision, I watch it every year. Eurovision and [our national selection show] Melodifestivalen are a big part of Swedish culture, and my boyfriend dances on that show every year. So yeah, I’d love to be part of it, but I don’t think I would want to be part of the competition. I’m also really scared because, like, I’m doing quite well in my life [and as] an artist. But what would happen if I [entered Eurovision and] didn’t get to the finals and they just voted me out? I feel like it would be like, ‘Oh wow, that’s the end of my career!’”

You bought back your own catalogue last year. What made you want to do that, and how difficult was it to achieve?

“It took many, many years. And I have to give a huge thanks to my manager, Roger Ames, and to [record label boss] Ola Håkansson, who was selling it to me. [Ola is] such a legend in the Swedish music industry and he just called me up and asked if I was interested in buying my music. And I said, ‘Of course, not a lot of people get that opportunity.’ Sony is still licensing my music but I own it now. [This means] I’m not completely independent but I do hold the power over my songs, which is such an incredible feeling.

“It’s so weird that artists aren’t in control of their music. Even getting signed to a label is [essentially like saying], ‘Well, I guess I don’t own the songs that I’m creating.’ But now I’m housing them at my own record label and I can do whatever I want with them… ‘Lush Life’, for example – I didn’t write it, but it’s still one of the biggest songs in my career and such a part of who I am as an artist. So it’s really nice to have that [ownership of it]. Obviously Taylor Swift is one of the biggest stars on the planet, so she could take back her power by re-recording all her songs, which I think is brilliant. But it’s also like, ‘Why does she have to do that?’ It’s definitely a nightmare situation for an artist to be in where you’re like, ‘I don’t want my songs to be sold to this person or company who isn’t even interested in me or what I have to say.’”

So, if someone wants to use ‘Lush Life’ in a TV advert, it’s now totally your decision?

“Yeah, which is sick. And obviously, I get a way bigger percentage of the earnings. Maybe I won’t see the benefit of it this year, but my kids will – it’s just nice to have that security. And if we’re making a deal, I’m just in a better position.”

Zara Larsson’s ‘End Of Time’ is out now

Author Profile

Web Desk

Leave a Reply