22-year-old LOVA declared her intentions to the world with the very first song, “Impress Myself,” on her very first EP. Released in 2018, the Swedish singer-songwriter sang, Don’t care about the way you want me to be, I wanna impress myself; Not looking through your eyes when I’m looking at me, over a catchy beat. That same sense of self is still present in the songs on her full-length debut album, Grown-ish.
“I started writing songs with no artist ambitions,” LOVA, real name Lava Alvilde, tells American Songwriter. “It just felt so natural and something I had to do; my way of expressing myself. I’ve always written for myself. It’s as much for me as for whoever else is listening.” Over the past year, there have been a lot of ears listening to the singles LOVA has put out, including “Lonely Ones,” which has surpassed over 5 million streams to date.
It was around the age of 12 when LOVA took part in one of Sweden’s biggest singing competitions, the Lilla Melodifestivalen, that she realized writing for herself could also mean writing for others. “I wrote a song about courage and being authentic and standing up for yourself,” she says. “And I won that competition. And kids saw it on TV, and many of them reached out to tell me, ‘Thank you, this song really inspired me and helped me through a rough time’. It changed how she saw the part she could play with her music.
“I’m someone who’s always known that music can make a difference,” she says. “I turn to it for anything that I am feeling, it is the center of my emotions. In both my own personal life and with my friends. I’m always giving advice to them and I love to just help people and be their biggest supporters.” When she saw the kind of response her songs could elicit, she knew how best to make her mark on those around her. “I felt like if I wanted to make a difference in the world, music was the only way I knew how,” she says.
Signing to Universal Records in 2016, while she was studying music production at Rytmus Music School (which counts Robyn, Tove Lo and Icona Pop as alumni), helped her set that intention into motion. After two EPs, LOVA recently released Grown-ish — a collection of melodic pop songs about independence, underscored with a spirit of ‘carpe diem.’
Seeing fellow Swede Robyn in concert left a lasting impact on LOVA and the way she wanted to shape her career. “I remember one speech she had, about being a female in the industry, there was so much she said,” says LOVA. “That she had to talk louder to get her voice heard, and how she started her own label and started producing. It was so empowering. It came at a good time in my life, when I was just starting to figure this all out.”
LOVA strives to write about herself and how she sees the world — and not about those who may have wronged her. “I try to be as personal and open as I can,” she says. “I’d rather just focus on me and be my own therapy, in a way.” She also decided early on, not to write love songs. “It’s so easy to write about love,” she chuckles. “Because it’s such an universal language and everyone can identify with that feeling, both being heartbroken but also being crazy mad in love with someone.”
But in spite of herself, “Black Converse,” is a love song—or an anti-love song, about a past breakup. “My way of dealing with things and getting over them is by writing,” she says. “I didn’t want to give him that attention, so I decided to focus on myself, but I think that whole breakup was just at the back of my head the whole time because I didn’t write about it. It was still this weight there. So that was such a liberating song for me to just have out and I felt so much lighter, like I can finally move on.”
Another moment of freedom on the album comes with the anthemic “Dance For The Hell Of It.” which she wrote in the middle of a bout of panic she was feeling in trying to get it finished. “I had 70 songs to choose from, and told the guys I was going into a studio session with, ‘I would love to write with you, but could we just write for someone else?’ That took away all the pressure,” she says. Out came the upbeat track, encouraging all who hear it to live their true selves.
“I’ve learnt nothing from writing this album,” she jokes. “I’m still the same person. I care a lot about what other people think of me. But I realize that everyone is thinking that. We’re so self centered. “Dance For The Hell Of It” is a reminder to not take myself too seriously. I’m my biggest enemy sometimes—I pull myself back when all I want to do is go.”