In the six years since Lykke Li emerged on the scene, the Swedish musician has built a huge following of fans drawn to both her critically-acclaimed music and reputation for being an equally mesmerizing and mysterious ingénue.
Her newest album, I Never Learn, came out in May, and breaks away from the hand claps, broken rhythm, and intense drum beats of her earlier work and moves into very different territory. I Never Learn is stripped-back, refined, and sad — the songs are largely the byproduct of a major breakup that happened on the heels of her last tour. Nine songs long, it's both Li's shortest and most ambitious work to date.
We partnered with Lykke to have her shoot some Polaroids exclusively for Urban Outfitters that share a behind-the-scenes look at life on the road. Afterward, we talked to her from LA about drinking wine, David Lynch, and never settling down.
This month Lykke Li will do three exclusive UO Live performances + signings in UO stores in Portland, Or, Minneapolis, and Washington DC — read on for show details and to learn how you can win tickets to see Lykke Li live in your city!
You're in LA right now — is this where you're living?
Yes, but only on this break between shows. I don't try to figure out where I should live anymore.
Your childhood was spent traveling around a lot, right?
I went to 11 different schools! Born in Sweden, in the south, moved to Stockholm, lived in Portugal, winters in India, Nepal, Morocco. Then I moved to New York when I was 18 or 19. That's been my life.
But for now do you like being in LA?
I love it. The light, the ocean...
What do you do on your time off?
I love being outside. Also, I like to cook a big dinner with friends and drink a lot of wine.
This album came out of a tumultuous break-up, which you've been really candid about. Did any of this play into moving or wanting to find a new place to live? It obviously affected what you wrote about but did it affect how you wrote?
Yeah, I ended my last tour and was really thinking about not having a place to return to. I have been traveling my whole life. It's fight or flight, you know? I thought that I needed to step back and heal for awhile, but I was writing all the time. I was completely obsessed with it. It always takes me a long time do a record but I love writing.
Are there any places you go to write or be inspired in that way?
Just being solitary. I go into my own bubble and don't need the outside world.
Were you surprised by anything that came out during the writing process?
It wasn't easy. I think I knew the emotions were there, I have always felt that way. But it was about finding the way to express them. I have to be honest...It's the only way I know how to do it.
This album is the third in a trilogy of records that have seen you really change as a musician. In retrospect, what's it about?
This album is about me as a woman. But I think people can relate when you are 27 or 28 you can break free from your past. I guess it was that. I was trying to heal and let go of my past but also break into something new. I feel like we all have that. It's basically the return of Saturn.
There's a lot of talk about it being "dark," but those ideas seem less about sadness and more about identifying points of transition.
I think so too. It's an interesting thing to think about…being lost.
The cover of your album is an incredibly stark portrait of you…can you talk more about this as an aesthetic choice?
I think it reflects the music. With this [record] I felt like I could step out into the light. This is who I am and what I look like.
Does this play into what you wear on-stage?
Yeah, I like the idea of wearing the same thing for a tour. I wear all black. I have been taking the time between shows right now to figure out what I will wear on the next part of the tour. I work with a designer who helps me.
Another collaborative project recently was with David Lynch last year on a song for his record, which is so amazing. Can you share more about working with him?
It was magical. He is very intuitive and was just an amazing person to work with…[he has a] really instinctual way of treating and making art. He also introduced me to TM [Transcendental Meditation, which both Lynch and Li are practicers of]. He is very easy to talk to and confide your worries — that's how he told me I needed to meditate.
You also did a film project last year, the Swedish film Tommy, and you're set to be in a future feature from Terrence Malick. Are there things that come out in film — when acting, or just exposed to a different medium — that you can't express in music?
Acting is completely different. It is very difficult. I'd love to do more of it though, [and] have been humbled by being a beginner at it…You just make a fool out of yourself.
You also do your own photography — can you talk about this?
I really want to make a book of my photographs sometime — I think that would be a project I want to do when I have the time.
Right?! When are you going to find the time to do this?
I don't know! I still have a million shows left to play!
Lykke Li UO #FortheRecord Performances:
September 18th at 5:30pm
Urban Outfitters, 2320 N.W. Westover Rd.
September 28th at 1:30pm
Urban Outfitters 3006 Hennepin Ave. Minneapolis, MN
October 6th at 2pm
Urban Outfitters, 3111 M St. N.W, Washington, DC
Want to see Lykke Li live in your city?
UO is giving away tickets to shows on her upcoming tour — download the UO App to learn how to win!