Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson (born 29 October 1987), better known by her stage name Tove Lo (/ˌtoʊvˈloʊ/ TOHV LOH Swedish pronunciation: [ˈtuːˈvɛ ˈluː]), is a Swedish singer and songwriter. She was born and raised in Djursholm, a suburb north of Stockholm, wh...
Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson (born 29 October 1987), better known by her stage name Tove Lo (/ˌtoʊvˈloʊ/ TOHV LOH Swedish pronunciation: [ˈtuːˈvɛ ˈluː]), is a Swedish singer and songwriter. She was born and raised in Djursholm, a suburb north of Stockholm, where she graduated from musical magnet school Rytmus Musikergymnasiet. Lo formed the Swedish rock band Tremblebee in 2006. Following the disbandment of Tremblebee, Lo pursued a career in songwriting, earning a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music in 2011. Working with producers Alexander Kronlund, Max Martin and Xenomania, Lo became a successful songwriter while recording and independently releasing her own compositions. In 2014, she was signed to Martin's songwriting collective Wolf Cousins, and offered a recording deal, signing to Island and Polydor Records.
Lo rose to fame with the release of her debut studio album Queen of the Clouds, which opened at number 14 on the U.S. Billboard 200 in October 2014. The album spawned the sleeper hit single, "Habits (Stay High)", which peaked at number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. In addition to her solo work, Lo has co-written a number of songs for other singers, including Hilary Duff's "Sparks" and Ellie Goulding's "Love Me like You Do" (2015).
Deemed "Sweden's darkest pop export" by Rolling Stone, Lo is known for her raw, grunge-influenced take on pop music. Her characteristically honest, complex and autobiographical lyrical content has led to Lo being dubbed "the saddest girl in Sweden" by a number of media sources.
Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson was born on 29 October 1987 in Stockholm, Sweden. Her mother is a psychologist and her father is a businessman. She has one elder brother. Her lifelong nickname and adopted stage name, Tove Lo, was given to her at age three by her godmother because of her love for lynxes (singular: "lo" in Swedish). Lo grew up in Djursholm, Danderyd, Stockholm. She describes her childhood as being "very protected" and her family as "pretty posh". With her parents being academics, Lo achieved good grades in school and became fond of literature, writing poetry and short stories. In an interview with the BBC, she explained, "Growing up so safe, I think I was looking for something else".
Lo then developed a love for music and formed a girl band with her friends. With the band, she wrote her first song at age ten or 11. By age 15, Lo had written a compilation of lyrical content which "nobody ever saw" and had performed twice on stage, before enrolling at Rytmus Musikergymnasiet, a musical school in Stockholm. During her time at Rytmus, Lo developed a friendship with Caroline Hjelt, who would later form the Swedish duo Icona Pop. After two years, Lo graduated from the school and felt assured that her career would be in music despite her parents preferring otherwise.
2006–13: Career beginnings and collaborations
In 2006, Lo began writing songs with Christian Bjerring, a guitarist from Rytmus. The pair then formed a math rock band, Tremblebee, with three other male students from the school. Tremblebee played together for "a few years" in bars across Sweden, independently releasing some of their songs, before breaking up. During her time with the band, Lo developed a passion for performing on stage, and was introduced to Swedish production duo The Struts. After the dissolution of Tremblebee, Lo's musical focus turned toward pop. She then decided to focus on her own tracks, spending six months in her shed studio producing a demo, while doing session singing as a means of income. She also learned how to play the drums and garnered knowledge about music programming and record production during this time. Lo later spent time living with Icona Pop, in a suburb near Stockholm.
Lo later met an A&R who she handed her demo to. Lo initially met him upon the occasion of a party in Stockholm celebrating Icona Pop's first record deal, and later she met him by chance in a bar in London. The A&R liked Lo's demo and subsequently introduced her to a songwriting group which included The Struts and Hjelt. In 2011, Lo decided to pursue a career in songwriting and earned a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music. This new career path led her to travel to Los Angeles, and work with Swedish producer Max Martin. In 2012, she collaborated with British production team Xenomania and Swedish producer Alexander Kronlund, co-writing Girls Aloud's "Something New", Icona Pop's "We Got the World" and tracks for the duo's self-titled debut album.
Lo then decided to manage an "artist indie career on the side", recording her more personal compositions and releasing them independently. She released her first single, "Love Ballad", in October 2012, and her second single, "Habits", in March 2013. The latter gained her a substantial online following. Lo was featured on Swedish disc jockey Lucas Nord's single, "Run on Love", released in June 2013 for his album Islands. She also featured on the single, "Strangers", by Seven Lions and Myon & Shane 54 for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones film soundtrack (2013), and Seven Lions' extended play (EP), Worlds Apart (2014). Throughout 2013, Lo was mentored by Martin and his fellow Swedish producer Shellback. She also co-wrote Victoria Justice's "Gold", and tracks for Tal 's À l 'infini and Icona Pop's This Is... Icona Pop.
2014–present: Breakthrough with Queen of the Clouds and writing for others
Due to the strength of her online following, Lo was offered a recording deal in 2014, signing with Island and Polydor Records. Lo then shifted her focus to an international singing career, earning critical acclaim for her first live shows in London and during South by Southwest in the United States. Lo's debut EP, Truth Serum, was released on 3 March 2014. It became her first charting release in Sweden where it peaked at number 13. The EP was also a critical success, and led to several news media sources referring to Lo as "a pop star in waiting". The EP spawned two singles; "Out of Mind" and a re-release of "Habits", re-titled "Habits (Stay High)". A remix of the latter by American duo Hippie Sabotage, re-titled "Stay High", marked Lo's international breakthrough into mainstream success, peaking at number 13 in Sweden and at number six in the United Kingdom. Lo was later named VH1's 'You Oughta Know' and iHeart Radio's On the Verge artist. She made her live television debut, performing "Habits (Stay High)" on the Late Night with Seth Meyers in June 2014. Lo's debut album, Queen of the Clouds, was released on 24 September 2014, to generally positive reviews. It debuted at number 14 on the U.S. Billboard 200, selling 19,000 copies in its first week. The album peaked at number 17 in the United Kingdom and at number six in Sweden where it was certified gold by Swedish Recording Industry Association (GLF) for sales of 20,000 units. Queen of the Clouds has since spawned two successful singles. Serving as the album's lead single, a United States release of "Habits (Stay High)" became a sleeper hit. The single was Lo's commercial breakthrough in the country, peaking at number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The album's second single "Talking Body" peaked at number 12 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, number 16 in Sweden, and number 17 in the United Kingdom.
Lo was also featured on Swedish DJ Alesso's single "Heroes (We Could Be)" for his upcoming album, Forever. The single was a commercial success, peaking at number five in Sweden, number six in the United Kingdom and number 31 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Lo served as the opening act for the third leg of American singer Katy Perry's Prismatic World Tour in November 2014. She recorded the song "Scream My Name" for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 film soundtrack released that month. In late 2014, she was signed to Max Martin's songwriting collective Wolf Cousins. Tracks co-written by Lo were featured on the 2014 album releases of Cher Lloyd's Sorry I'm Late, Lea Michele's Louder, and Zara Larsson's 1. She also co-wrote "What Are You Waiting For?" by The Saturdays. In December 2014, Lo announced that she was taking time off to undergo surgery on her vocal cords which had developed cysts. The surgery successfully took place on 3 January 2015.
At the 2015 Grammis, Lo won in the categories for Artist of the Year, and Song of the Year for "Habits (Stay High)". Lo was featured on Swedish group Urban Cone's single "Come Back to Me", released in March 2015 for their album Polaroid Memories. In May 2015, it was announced that she will be featured on a song for Adam Lambert's upcoming album The Original High. Lo also co-wrote the 2015 singles "Love Me like You Do" by Ellie Goulding and "Sparks" by Hilary Duff. She went on to write two tracks of Duff's next album, Stay In Love and One in A Million
On October 2, 2015 a repackaged version of Queen of the Clouds will be released as the Blueprint Edition. The album will feature all tracks from the original release. "Over", "Out of Mind", & "Paradise" taken from the 2014 "Truth Serum (EP)" will be on the Blueprint edition as well as Tove Lo's collaboration with Alesso, Heroes (We Could Be).
Music critics opine that Lo's music is drawn from the subgenres of pop: alternative pop and synthpop. Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker describes Lo's sound as "of the moment: simple, spare, electronic, and unfussy". Lo's musical style is often described as dark, idiosyncratic and raw. Rolling Stone deemed her "Sweden's darkest pop export". Lo has an alto vocal range. Peter Robinson writes, "As a vocalist she hints at euphoria and melancholy in equal measure". She has stated that her vocals are predominantly recorded from the first three takes of their demos to best convey her emotions. Her music uses a dynamic mix of prominent drum instrumentation, quiet verses and thunderous choruses indebted to the template of grunge music.
Described as "the world's most brutally honest pop star" by Alex Panisch of Out, Lo uses songwriting as a means of therapy for subjects she avoids speaking about. Her lyrical content is primarily autobiographical, and is mostly based on mistakes, love, sex and failed relationships with her characteristically direct, candid and complex lyrics. According to Tim Jonze of The Guardian, Lo tends to home in on "the more deranged side of love". Dubbed "the saddest girl in Sweden", Lo admits that her lyrics are predominantly sad because she is "useless" at writing tracks of a happier tone. Her lyrics have been noted to make subjects that are generally relegated to genres of punk and hip hop more accessible in a pop framework. Lo's debut EP, Truth Serum, documented one of her failed relationships in the order of how it took place. Her debut studio album Queen of the Clouds served as a concept album that went through the stages of Lo's relationships and was divided into three procedural sections: 'The Sex', 'The Love' and 'The Pain'. Jason Lipshutz of Billboard described the album as "blisteringly honest" and "unapologetically uncensored". Lo's lyrics have also been noted to frequently contain profanity and drug metaphors. In an interview with Coup De Main, Lo explained her songwriting process:
"Sometimes it starts with a random lyric idea that sets the tone for the whole song. Chords and sounds build from the lyric and rhythm, kind of. Sometimes it's a track I fall in love with... but writing my own songs, I rarely write on tracks. Then it's pretty much always 'the story' first. Then I add some chords and melody on my piano, or do a minimal production to get the sound right."
Lo grew up idolising Courtney Love, inspired by grunge culture and the polarising lyrics of Love's music and her band, Hole. Lo also became fascinated with Love's romantic relationship with Kurt Cobain, as well as the rawness and honesty of his music with band Nirvana. While in high school, Lo developed a passion for pop music and songwriting, influenced namely by the co-written output of Swedish singers Robyn and Lykke Li. She cites the simplicity and quirky lyrical content of French singer Charlotte Gainsbourg's IRM (2009) as the main inspiration behind her career in music and said that it "opened a new world" for her sound-wise. Her other musical influences include Amy Winehouse, Beyoncé, Jeff Buckley, Mikky Ekko and Silverchair.
Lo insists that she created a media image for herself that is synonymous with her true identity. She has a prominent tattoo along her left upper arm of a girl harnessed to the back of a bumblebee (which is from the cover of an album from artist Jack Off Jill). According to Elle writer Rebecca Moss, Lo is "a true '90s child unwilling to part with her early iconography". Frequently barefoot during her live performances, Lo sports only two footwear items in her public appearances: Dr Martens and her signature platform Candie's. Her outfits primarily consist of denim or black Cheap Monday tight shorts with sheer crop tops or T-shirts and over-sized denim jackets. Lindsey Rhoades of The Village Voice writes, "Tove Lo rocks a specific brand that veers slightly from most other women in pop—she paints herself as the hard-drinking, hard-drugging, DTF party girl, admitting the somewhat destructive nature of these preoccupations but celebrating them all the same". Lo's look is often compared to that of her style icon Janis Joplin. Her other style influences include hippie fashion, the fashion of older rock singers and the people of Stockholm, and Edie Sedgwick. In 2014, Lo's first clothing line, which she also modelled for, was released based on the lyrics of her EP, Truth Serum.