Robyn: a little, blonde doll with a soft, buttery voice laced with a Swedish accent, and with a pleasant aura about her that makes you want to linger around her…and possibly just hug her. Prior to her Vancouver show a few weeks ago, I had the chance to sit about a metre way from her to chat about her latest effort, Body Talk, the series it stems from, and her growth as an artist.
So how’s the tour going?
Very well. It’s really nice being here. We came out to Canada at the end of the summer for a tour with Kelis but we didn’t play the west coast. This is more like a traditional tour, in the sense that we’re not doing festivals and we’re playing cities where we haven’t been before. It’s the same audience everywhere which is really mixed: the gay crowd, people who knew me from 15 years ago, hipsters, ghetto kids, nerdy goth kids…it’s a really eclectic mix which I’m happy about.
Have you had any musical epiphanies while on the tour? Anything that will translate to new songs being recorded right away?
Maybe, I don’t know. Maybe something will stick. I collect memories and impressions but it’s hard to say what will become a song later on. I’m inspired by the audience. These people are responding to something simple: we don’t have fancy light shows and pyrotechnics. We have a simple plan which is to make people dance; it’s a club show. I’m inspired that people are responding to that, that what I’m doing naturally reaches people in the right way.
Well at the end of the day, it comes down to the music. You can have as many fireworks as you want, but if the music can’t stand on it’s own, you’re hooped right?
Exactly. There’s something interesting about the mechanics of how a good show happens because even if we do the same thing every night, the audience is always new, so if I don’t give it my all, the audience feels that and I don’t get as much back. Its that exchange that makes it a good show. It can be terrifying but there’s I also find security because I know if I go out there and give 100%, that’s probably what I’m going to get back. It reinforces my belief in people, music, and realness.
Because you put so much into your music, is your writing process really personal or collaborative?
I don’t know if there’s a songwriter who doesn’t put themselves into a song, I don’t know how else you would do it. I think song writing is a mystery. It’s not something you understand. I’ve grown up around a lot of really amazing song writers in Sweden, like Max Martin or Klas Ahlund, who know the structure of a good song. I think traditional song writing has influenced me in how I look at what kind of pop music I want to make. Even though I might work with Diplo or other cool producers, it’s really about the structure of the song for me. How you get a piece of yourself in there is like trying to explain why you fall in over or why people die.
Sometimes it just feels right….
Yeah, and you get there by doing it and risking things. Sometimes you have to hurt or cross lines. It’s not something you can intellectualise.
What was your motivation behind releasing the Body Talk Series?
I wanted to have more fun. I wanted to work in a way that enabled me to have normal life where I’m not on the road for three years in a row and away from the studio for so long that I can’t write a song anymore. That usually happens when I’ve been on the road for awhile. There’s something about routine that is important to me. I wanted to make the process easier and more enjoyable instead of coming back exhausted and having to write again without knowing what I’m doing or what I want.
After starting to write songs after the summer of 2009, I started thinking about releasing the first eight songs as soon as they were done instead of waiting to finish the whole album. I toured so much for the last album that I wanted to keep my audience happy by giving them something new. So I went on tour for a couple of months and started recording again and wrote some more songs and then released them. Then we did the same again. And now Body Talk, is five tracks from the first album, five from the second, and five new ones. All in all, I’ve released 21 songs this year that I’m proud about.
Do you have a favourite track?
No. I think whatever song I’m working on at the moment is my favourite and then I move on.
Outside of your own music, what would you say are your top five albums of 2010?
I don’t have favourites. I rarely fall in love with music. When I do I obsess over it and I listen to it to the point where I can’t listen to it anymore. It’s very rare that I fall in love with a whole album. I think the last album I fell in love with was probably the last Fleet Foxes album.
So…Snoop Dogg…how did that happen?
I’ve always been a fan and I think when Klaus and I did “Konichiwa Bitches” it was about us having a passion for hip hop music. Snoop wrote “You Should Know Better” for a Teddybears album and I had done some vocals for him on a remix he did a few years back, so after we hooked up in L.A. to catch up, it hit me that we should do that song together. Snoop’s a punk rocker with a kid, and I’m a Swedish 30 year old woman so since we can’t write songs about crack, we started writing rhymes but in a different way. Even though I rap about doctors and demolition machines, the attitude is still what I felt when I was a teenager listening to Biggie Smalls and Snoop. It’s about bringing Snoop into my world and contrasting him. I think it brings out what hip hop was all about for me.
Are there any collaborations you’d like to make happen in future?
I play it by ear and all of the ones I’ve done have happened that way. Sometimes it works out sometimes it doesn’t.
So on the issue of collaboration, a lot of people do them. I interviewed Naughty by Nature awhile ago…
Really? Awesome! How are they doing? Are they still wearing those hats?
Well, I don’t really “know” them, but I guess they’re doing well! I don’t think they’re wearing the hats. We got to chatting about how people always ask them about collaborations and whether thats what fans want to hear and whether they’re overkill, etc. What do you think?
I think it’s the industry and not how the artist thinks. I collaborate all the time but mostly with people you guys don’t know like Patrick Berger who I did “Dancing on my Own” with. Collaborations are super important. I don’t like collaborations that are watered down by that industry concept of putting two famous people together. It has to be natural. It has to be something more than that.
It sounds like you’ve had a lot of time to learn and grow the ins and outs of the music industry. From the day you started to now, what would you say is the biggest change within yourself, musically, etc?
The biggest change is that I’ve gotten older. As we get older we get better at defining who we are. I don’t think we change that much. Whatever I was listening to as a teenager is still what inspires me now, whether its Prince or Technotronic. It’s always the same music and sometimes new music. I think now I’m more able to really point out the little elements that make things special for me which I wasn’t able to when I was younger.
Well when you’re new, you kind of just go with the flow…
Yeah and you’re trying stuff, etc. That’s how you learn and understand. I think I’m pretty much liking the same things but now I’m able to point it out.
If you could go back and change one thing in your entire career would you? I mean, I think everything we do makes us who we are but is there anything you would change, not change, etc.
I think you answered your own question. I can’t go back. It is what it is. I try not to focus on the negative aspects or experiences.
Live in the moment.
Yes. Have fun!
So are you excited for the rest of your tour?
I’m excited for the year and for the next year to. I’m really looking forward to touring and building my audience organically.
I can proudly say that your Robyn is Here album has been one of my favourites since my teenage years and during those years when you were M.I.A. in North America I remember thinking, where did she go? I was super stoked when you started releasing music in North America again. Even more stoked that it was dance music.
I kinda went back to Sweden to figure out some stuff, like what I wanted to do. I also started my music company. It was good to get away from the industry and stand on my own two feet for awhile.
Well I’m glad you came back to us. Good luck tonight. Stoked to see your show and to hear what else you release down the road!