After feeling low for quite some time, Robyn just wanted to feel good, and Honey was the antidote. Matthew Wade interviewed the Swedish chanteuse ahead of the release of her eighth studio album.
Swedish pop artist Robyn wanted her latest album Honey to have a soft, open, and never-ending sound. She had spent much of the earlier part of this decade feeling sad, and was finding it hard to be an entertainer in the traditional sense (press, album, tour, repeat).
Her fans were incessantly tweeting and Instagramming about the absence of new music, spending days, months, and then years adamantly urging her to drop new material.
And while their loyal commitment through both her “tough period and coming out of it” was heartening, Robyn says she put those pressures and expectations to the side to make the album on her own terms.
“I was in a space where I was trying to find a new way of making music – I wanted to dig deeper into both my music and my personal life,” she says.
“I don’t think I could’ve been an artist in the more classical sense, or an ‘entertainer’, during that time. I didn’t want to stress anything and I didn’t want to put the release first.
“That took me on an adventure.”
Having listened to the album for the past four years throughout its inception, she says she has a different relationship with it than her fans likely will, but hopes they can still hear themselves in the music.
“I started writing this album in a very different way,” she says.
“Usually I start with melodies and lyrics, but with this album I started with rhythms and how they made me feel.
“I was really sad for a lot of that period, and I wanted to make music that made me feel good. I was interested in music that had a groove, and a sound where you could repeat chords and rhythms forever and never get tired of them.
“[Honey] is about finding a place inside myself, a place of curiosity and sensuality, a place that’s very soft and free. Maybe a place that I kind of found after feeling like shit for a long time.”
As a singer with more than 20 years in the industry, and gay dance floor staples “Dancing On My Own” and “With Every Heartbeat” under her belt, the fact that Robyn has amassed a sizeable queer following isn’t lost on her.
And yet, when I ask her why that might be, she mischievously redirects the interview towards me.
“I think that’s a question I should ask you,” she says.
I meekly respond by suggesting that many queer men have an affinity for electronic dance music, as that’s what’s often spun at gay nightclubs; nightclubs that often act as safe and important spaces for the community to bond and express themselves.
She agrees, but adds that no two queer people are the same, and that there are likely several reasons her music often resonates with them.
“I don’t have the perfect answer,” she admits.
“I think when you’re an outsider or you have a different perspective as a kid growing up, you develop an emotional sensitivity that I definitely recognise in myself.
“I think that makes you listen to music or take in emotions in a particular way. You question conventional ways of life, because you can see it from the outside. You know there’s something else, and you know there are people who live in a different way.
“I’m aware of that in my life, and I think a lot of queer people have that perspective as well, so I hope there’s some resonance there.”
Arguably one of her biggest hits, “Dancing On My Own”, was largely given life by the queer community.
Aside from featuring on an episode of Girls and being covered by pop star Calum Scott, it was – and still very much is – played in gay nightclubs the world over.
Robyn says she was excited about the song as soon as she recorded it, but couldn’t have anticipated how major it would become.
“I didn’t ever get any play on the radio with that song, it just had this organic life,” she says.
“It came from people listening to it in the clubs and the gay community really embracing it.
“It just kept having its own, weird little life. It just kept peaking in a strange way.”
With the release of her cathartic new album Honey, Robyn hopes to tour next year, and would love to travel to Australia again.
When it comes to her queer fanbase down under, she says she hopes they like the album.
“I think whenever young people, especially queer people, come up and tell me my music has helped them in some way, that means so much to me,” she says.
“Music gives you space to deal with your feelings, and I’m really happy if anyone is listening and they feel that way.”