The Official Chat with Loreen: "The universe wants me to channel love"

Loreen on her musical return and working with Max Martin's production team.

Loreen is in control of her own destiny. 

One thing that has always set her apart from her peers is her willingness to forgo the path laid before her, and choose her own instead. She had a map for pop stardom laid out for her after she won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in 2012, but swerved it.

Now, she has an even bigger chance to take her sound global, given the success of Tattoo, the thumping and glorious trance-inspired lament that made history in this year, making Loreen the first woman (and only second person ever) to win Eurovision twice. It became a viral sensation, peaking at Number 2 here in the UK. Again, the path seemed clear. But just when Loreen seemed on the cusp of becoming the name on everyone's lips again, she disappeared. 

It's taken her half a year to follow up Tattoo with new material, but her new single is well worth the wait. Nobody would have blamed her for cranking out 7 or 8 variations of the Tattoo formula; ABBA inspired electronica to pull at the heartstrings on the dancefloor. But Loreen marches to the beat of her own drum, and her brand new single Is It Love cleverly plays against all the expectations you may have had for her new material.

Is It Love - Loreen

MORE: See where all of Loreen's singles have charted in the UK

"Of course there was a part of me that was like; I want to get stuff out [right after Eurovision]," Loreen tells us on a video call from her native Sweden. "But then what do I stand for? You need to find the right song, and you need to be focused."

Loreen, hello. We haven't spoken since Eurovision. Congratulations on making history. 

Thank you! I remember, we talked before Liverpool. I never forget a face dorlin!

Not only did Tattoo make Eurovision history, it also reached Number 2 in the UK  - you're highest-peaking single ever. How did that feel?

To be completely honest, it still feels surreal. You're going to have to ask me that question again in another year or two, because when I won [Eurovision for the first time] with Euphoria, it took me a couple of years [to take it all in]. So you'll have to ask me that again. But we all put so much hard work into it. Body, mind, spirit, heart, sweat, pain, happiness...everything. There was no grey zone. It was almost like a near death experience. Now, all of these beautiful things are happening. 

You're back now, with your new Is It Love - we think a lot of people are going to be absolutely obsessed with it.

I love it! You know I write about love in all its different forms. Usually, it's heartbreak and that confusing space, like My Heart Is Refusing Me. I guess Tattoo has it too, I say "all I care about is love." I don't know why all these songs come to me. It's almost like the universe wants me to channel this. I ask sometimes, can I do something else? No. Love. Love, love, love. 

But it does feel like your music is a vessel for understanding different forms of love, that's what your best stuff is always about 

I think it's the most interesting conversation, at the end of the day. That's all we are. That's all we have left. Not to be too dramatic, but we're all going to die. I feel like love is what we're going to bring with us. We can't take anything else. But I'm pretty sure we'll take the memories of the ones we love. That's why it's so important to me. Love is why we love.

The meaning of the song is going to resonate with a lot of people too. It's like when you're unsure about how someone feels about you, you'd change the world to see it from their perspective 

Really, George, the one thing that's been on my mind is duality. Love would never exist if we didn't know what pain was. You know what I mean? It's in everything around us. We only know what darkness is because we can see the light. I feel like in my own love, the choices I've made, like the painful situations in my life - in relationships, or whatever - are the only reason why I feel so much love now. I'm thankful, now. It's almost like it was necessary. 

If we could change our perspective on how we look at negativity, maybe it's a tool for us to evolve. With all these songs, you feel a lot of pain, but you also feel a lot of love. 

That's so true, because when you do hit that point, in a break-up or whatever, it feels like the world is ending. But looking back, you realise it just made you stronger!

And isn't that the most beautiful thing, George? Like, the information that comes with that pain. At the moment, you're like f*ck this shit! This needs to stop! But it's necessary. We can't run from it. It is going to happen. We just need to accept it. 

Is It Love is also very different from Tattoo, was that a specific choice you made to go elsewhere?

I mean, honestly, it's interesting, because usually I just follow the flow. It's all about telling the truth. It's really important to reflect what's going on inside. I don't have a plan. I tried that. So now, I just go with the flow. I say certain things out into the universe; I want to be authentic. I want to make music that pays tribute to my heritage. And it happened, now it sounds like this.

I try not to control too much. I just want to make sure it's authentic, I want to make sure that...I call them 'money people' who might [want to change the songs[. It needs to be real. This is energy that we're sending out. My job is to protect that energy and make sure that nothing interferes with it. That the clean truth comes out. 

loreen isit love

I love how the production of the song reflects your own Moroccan heritage too

Those drums do certain things! [Hums the drum pattern] They do things with the chakras. I'm all about heritage. Like I said, it's all about telling the truth. But I also believe in representation. This is not [just] my culture, and you guys are over there. I want to broaden it, welcome everybody in.

There's a mystical energy about it. We all have that. I'm just trying to trigger it. There are some things we can't smell or see, but they're still there. Certain sounds can open up that part of you. 

I was actually sitting by the sea when I first heard the song, on holiday, it seemed like the perfect place

Isn't that beautiful? You were so connected to nature. You were so close. See? You got everything you needed in that moment. That just makes me so happy. That's great. That's a beautiful thing to send out into the universe. You have a clear vision...and then it happens.

One of the things I was most excited to hear was that you worked on Is It Love with Rami, who of course is part of the Max Martin team

I've actually known Rami for a very long time. I met him years ago and felt like we had a connection. I knew we would meet again. It was something like 14 years ago, I'm serious. He's like my big brother. I knew he was going to become a part of my life. And now 14 years later! We have the same heritage in many ways. We were always going to work together. 

It's super interesting how you can work at his level [in pop] and still keep your integrity. Making the song was a very fluid process. Rami has respect for the songs. There are certain producers who want the song to sound cool, there's a lot of ego. With Rami, he wanted realness. I just love creators who respect the art. He's been through a lot, I can tell by looking in his eyes. He knows a lot about pain. 

Seriously, though, why are Swedish people so good at making pop music?

I don't know. Is it the weather? People just go into the studio! We don't have anything else to do. But it is very interesting, and I feel very privileged. We're all very calm and given the space to create. There's a simplicity to life here, so maybe that's why we like quite simple songs. 

You've waited almost half a year to follow-up Tattoo, was that intentional? You do like taking your time with things

Of course there was a part of me that was like; I want to get stuff out now. Things have been going back to back, though. I've been so busy, preparing for the tour, getting into the studio. But you can get stuff out quickly, but then what do I stand for? I'm not going to lie to you, there were thoughts in my head like; OK, maybe we need to do it [fast]. But then, you need to find the right song, and you need to be focused. 

You're finally going back on tour next month and coming back to London - what can we expect from the show?

It's going to be very intimate. I really like the idea of [the show] being very intimate, and us just sending energies back and forth. I have a question for you, though; what songs do you want to see?

I would love it if you did Paper Light (Higher), that's my favourite 

Being honest, we were actually performing that one. I rehearsed it, like, two days ago. What version do you want? The original or the remix?

It's got to be the original!

I need to actually ask you guys what songs you want to hear. Wouldn't it be fun if I was like, "and tonight, there will be no Euphoria!"

Is It Love by Loreen is out now via Universal.  

Pictures: Charli Lijung

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