ELLE.se – ‘Loreen: “Personal development is tough shit”‘ (09/09/2015)

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The fringe. The dance. The attitude. It’s just three of the reasons to love the exquisite Loreen. ELLE’s Klas Ekman talked with the coolest schlager-winner of all time, ranging from sex to synthesizers, and Johan Lindeberg who photographed her.

After just one year, Christer Björkman talked about “Loreen Curse” when he explained why so few female artists qualified for the final. According to him, it was because they, regardless of who they were or what they were trying to do, were simply inferior to comparison.

The following year, the singer and participant Ace Wilder thought that Loreen actually made the whole Melodifestivalen more boring.

– This thing with dancers and fun pop acts, it has sort of disappeared a bit, and I think that has to do with Loreen, she said in an interview after having qualified.

Earlier this spring, Hanna Fahl from Dagens Nyheter’s made a resemblance to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana’s influence on rock music. “It is sometimes not the worst, but the best artists that have the greatest adverse impact on their surroundings, “she wrote in connection with this year’s competition. Even though she had been tired of the serious and dimmed contributions in the music competition.

This was also true of Loreen.

– I also noticed that, she said. And it’s a bit fun, but of course, too bad for the competition if too many contributions will be the same. The reason I made Euphoria so scaled was that it made it stand out. That’s why it got that impact.

So, when she performed Paper Light (Higher) during the Second Chance in March, she succeeded in what in the evening language is usually called a naked shock.

The reason was a bit double, she says over a chicken salad at the Prinsen restaurant in Stockholm.

– I think, for example, that people have misunderstood me. “You’re such an inspiration! You do not use sex to sell! You’re not sexual!”, they can say. But wait, I may not sell through sex, but I love having sex, and I think our bodies are absolutely fantastic. So that has bothered me. But the main reason was that the message in the song did not come up well enough just because the male dancers wore high-heeled shoes. It is about confronting gender roles and norms and then it would be strange if I did not break any norm, right? And naked upper body is an item that men can have without questioning. If you have it as a woman, it’s shocking. But at least I did tape the breast when the head of SVT asked me about it.

The loud protests were interesting enough (although she hardly started a new Melodifestivalen trend with that particular performance). But then Loreen has become an artist who can not do anything wrong. Beloved in almost all camps, even though she only released one album so far.

Now it’s time for album two – where the new single, “I’m in it with you”, is about the political situation in several European countries.

– People should probably accept that I will not only do Euphoria over and over again, says Loreen.

All in all, it has only been three years since Loreen first made entrance to The Knife’s Silent Shout at the semifinal of Melodifestivalen in Växjö, then won the Melodifestivalen and finally the entire Eurovision Song Contest in Baku.

The big profit, however, was not really the euphoric experience you could expect.

– I was so green that I did not understand why Christer Björkman cheered so much, says Loreen. I just thought that it was the people’s voices counted and waited for a round of jury points. So I really was expecting a much longer evening. Then I began to realize that I did not have my headphones on me and worried that they would have to pull all my clothes in front of the cameras when they re-fitted the equipment. It was just practical worries. The fact that I had won, dawned on me on the stage, when I realized that there was no need for nice moves and that I could just stand there and sing, and try to enjoy the moment. Afterwards I ordered room service and slept like a baby, I still heard how Christer Björkman was thrown into the pool because people were so happy and drunk.

It is not only the entries which have changed since then.

It hasn’t been easy to build a real artist’s career on a schlager-victory, especially if artistical ambitions have been involved. But her first album, Heal, got a lot of brilliant reviews and according to Aftonbladet’s Markus Larsson, she changed the game rules for the future winners. Now there was no longer any excuse to drop “weak records just to make fast cash before the summer tour, or the pervert shopping orgies of Christmas”.

In any way, somehow Loreen has managed to unite several different worlds. Since 2012, she has not only been serving the king (“he loves beats”) and hung up with Carl Bildt (who showed a lot of “groovy youtube clips” of Afghan street musicians before a journey), but also became friends with the designer Jean-Paul Gaultier and Singer / songwriter Kathryn Williams and started collaborating with hip hop music producers whose names are so secret that they can not be mentioned here and now. But there is also another kind of commitment. In connection with the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, she arranged meetings with human rights activists and in 2013 she went to Afghanistan and got involved in the building of a school.

Perhaps not exactly the development that one predicted when Loreen made her first appearance at all when she participated in Idol 2004, after being registered to the contest by her little sister. Until then she had hardly dared to think about it. She had grown up with five little sisters and a single mom outside Västerås. Her parents originally come from Morocco, and her mother was only sixteen years old – and pregnant with Loreen – when she came to Sweden. On questions about future dreams, you were expected to answer an architect or engineer.

– I had never even been on a stage before Idol. It was tough, but I realized how important it was with control. Afterwards I wanted to know everything. From how a record is recorded to what a music publisher really does, all that. And then I wanted to find out what kind of artist I really would be, she says.

Much of the integrity comes from her mother.

– My origin is Berber. In that culture, talent is a gift that one has to respect and which belongs not only to you. You are considered to channel something that is much bigger than yourself. That means that other people can’t decide how you’re supposed to sing and dress.

So how did she end up at the Melodifestivalen?

– Christer Björkman had discovered me through mutual friends in a studio where I worked. He called me occasionally for a few weeks, but I did not like the song as it sounded and began to make a lot of impossible demands that everyone agreed. Then I watched old performances on Youtube and thought everything was too sparkling. I sent a link to the Terminator film and explained that I wanted a siren in the beginning like in that soundtrack. For a while I was thinking that I wanted no light at all on the stage, and that you would only hear me. And that’s how it all happened.

What has been the hardest way to deal with the breakthrough?

– All special people. I have had stalkers, people who lived outside my house. Others have arrived and proudly showed up hair they say I lost …

Have you had police protection?

– Yes, and that’s pretty complicated in Sweden since it’s not common here. To be honest it was just recently I got rid of the last one outside of my appartment. She moved about there day and night. The truth is I couldn’t understand how she managed. People have also met me at airports and for a while we suspected that someone tipped them, but it turned out they slept there and waited for every flight from my destination. And these are no kids, they are grown people …

What do they want, do you have any idea?

– No, only that they feel like they have some sort of connection. I wasn’t prepared for that. But I wasn’t prepared for the amount of travelling either. I’ve travelled constantly and just been home on average one or two days a week for the last two and a half years. That changes a lot of things.

Are you together with someone?

– No, I can’t say I have a relationship. There are disadvantages with being an artist, because it is a special way of life. Still, I can not say I’m living in celibate either.

Almost one year ago Loreen pulled the emergency brake, started to say no thanks to gigs, to wholly occupy herself with her new record. Already after her Idol-time she decided to learn everything about sound production, and with time she has become more and more of a synth nerd.
For example an upcoming song is called “Jupiter Drive” after an old favourite analogue synth, “which is impossible to control, but which is fantastic”.

IIn her ministudio in her appartment she’s collected five, six different models.

The songs themselves have often started as movie posters. When they worked on “Red Light” Loreen brought the Kill Bill poster to the studio so that the other song writers would understand what she was after. Other film inspirations are Ryan Gosling’s Drive and the theme of Terminator’s. That’s how it’s been at least since she saw Oscar-winning The Piano for the first time and after that suffered through a ghastly amputation scene time after time just to hear more of Michael Nyman’s music.

She doesn’t worry about the future at all.

– I know what I want to do, she says.

Of course, it is necessary to get that kind of self-esteem. Besides the songwriting a work that could be called spiritual has taken place.
She often meditates, goes away to retreats and on a couple of occasions Loreen has visited Mexico and joined in Ayahuascha-ceremonies, where the participants drink a kind of tea with psychedelic qualities, under the guidance of a priest.

– It’s not a drug-thing. You take Ayahuasca to gain access to a larger part of your brain. Everything becomes much clearer to you, you don’t get high, but extremely ‘clear in your head’. I’ve taken it to get into even closer contact with myself, to find out if I’m really on the right path. You can’t lie to yourself when you’ve taken Ayahuasca and that can be very hard. “Ignorance is bliss”, as they say. It’s so comfortable to live in your bubble. Personal development is tough shit. It happens that people divorce or change their “path” after such ceremonies. You really get a perspective on yourself.

When did you try it the first time?

– Four years ago, before Euphoria. It meant a lot to me, because I could see myself from ‘the outside’ but I really don’t see Ayahuasca as a drug thing, but as something developing. But it’s definitely not something for everyone, you should approach it for spiritual motives rather than something else.

With that kind of visions, how difficult are you to work with?

– Whenever I compromise, it feels like prostitution, maybe not quite simple. But you have fun with me if you have the same mindset and work ethic. I like to pursue things. But if you have a mañana mañana attitude and leave stuff just because you are going to vacation, I’m not very nice to deal with, no … I think it’s important to respect what you do.

Where do you see yourself in ten, fifteen years?

– In a studio in the countryside. I’m not a city person, not at all. I would like to have a place with a lot of windows and where I’m in touch with nature. I’m possibly working more with other artists, but if I do something myself it will be even more nature, and even more strange.

Loreen about Johan Lindeberg:

“Johan Lindeberg is a bulldozer, and so am I. Two dominant people in the same room doesn’t always work, but we balanced each other out. The first time we met was in New York right after Euphoria and he was like a lion, you heard him, saw him and he had opinions about absolutely everything. I really appreciated that. And I really liked his photographs.”

– You’ll take pictures of me, I said. Maybe not now, but some time.

But it took a couple of years, because he’s so damn busy. And me too.

– Johan photographs women in a fantastic way; as powerful creatures. He is unique in that; there’s no victim-thinking in his mindset.

• Original link: http://www.elle.se/loreen-personlig-utveckling-ar-tough-shit/
• Translation: Via Google Translate
• Photogallery: http://gallery.lovely-loreen.com/thumbnails.php?album=515