Pop music is notorious for its ephemera, and as such, the multitudes of one-hit wonders and novelty acts overwhelmingly outnumber the commercially successful acts that continue to reinvent themselves and their genres. There is a narrow sliver between these two gulfs, wherein lie some of the most influential, but criminally underappreciated, pop artists.
Robyn is one of its occupants.
It wasn’t long ago that the Swedish pop artist was playing midsize venues while rookie pop stars were packing arenas, and most of these novice acts would probably even agree that the disparity was unjust. After all, the DNA of Robyn’s music can be found in virtually any pop artist of the last 20 years, whether it be Britney Spears, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Backstreet Boys, Charli XCX, Lady Gaga or Carly Rae Jepsen, many of whom have cited Robyn as an influence.
The artist is still rather humble about her place in music history, and even thinks I’m overselling the extent of her legacy (I’m not), but the fact remains that an artist this evergreen and ubiquitous is hard to come by. Robyn only continued to affirm her influence following the highly anticipated release of 2018’s Honey, her first full-length album in eight years.
Robyn is currently promoting the record with a brief North American leg that includes her first DFW stop since 2012. We spoke with her over the phone while she was at home in Stockholm and discussed this special occasion. We also urged her to try kolaches.
[This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.]
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Yesterday [Sept. 27], you performed in Stockholm at the city’s climate strike. What was that like, especially with you and Greta Thunberg sharing a hometown?
Well, Greta wasn’t there, but I was really happy to be there to support her organization, and there [are] a bunch of young people that are doing an amazing job here in Stockholm with organizing their events. And there are many other young people that are, and have been, doing this work for a long, long time. But it’s getting a lot of attention now, which is super cool, because [Thunberg] is a cool person and she’s so important.
I just want to show my support for the young people doing all this amazing work.
I do recall a few years ago that you were trying to be vegan. Has that changed?
I’m not vegan. I wouldn’t even say that I’m fully vegetarian. But I don’t eat very much meat.
Last month, your demo for Britney Spears’ “Piece of Me” leaked online. I don’t know if you saw that or not, but looking back, how exactly did you get commissioned to do background vocals for that song?
Well, it was really easy, because the song was written by one of my closest collaborators [Klas Alhund], and he just asked me to [record] a demo.
Speaking of Britney, your rejecting a deal with Jive Records years ago was crucial to her success, and this led Max Martin to write some of the most defining pop songs of the past two decades. In essence, I would say each subsequent wave of pop music has been an extension of your legacy. How do you feel about the direction in which both pop music and your legacy are expanding?
I don’t agree. I think Max Martin would have written those songs anyway, whether I rejected it or not. I think he’s extremely talented and good at what he does. I don’t think I would have changed the course of his effect on the music industry. I think that would have happened even if I wasn’t there.
But I think there was an interesting commission between me and multiple partners in the industry, and that gave me an opportunity to do my thing with it. Maybe that’s inspired a few people, but I don’t want to take credit for it. I feel very uncomfortable [taking credit], but I would say that pop music is doing really good. I think pop music is more interesting now than it has been in a long time.
Your Oct. 15 show in Irving will be your first Dallas appearance in seven years. The last time you came through was with Coldplay; the time before that was with Katy Perry, and following this, you did an aftershow at the Rio Room in Dallas. What do you remember about these tours?
The Katy Perry one, I remember the audience was basically children and their moms [laughs]. They really didn’t know who I was. But it was a great tour to be on. They treated us really well. The Coldplay tour was super friendly as well; they were the sweetest, and I felt really welcomed. That was much different — huge stadiums and really, really big audiences. Being the opening act maybe wasn’t the best thing in the world, but both of those tours were [illegible].
What was the last show I did? Do you remember?
The last one you did was in 2012 with Coldplay. That was a two-night stand at the American Airlines Center.
OK, so that means I haven’t done my own show in Dallas in a long, long, long time.
Yeah, your last headline show in Dallas was in 2011 at South Side Music Hall. That was when you toured with Natalia Kills. I’m not sure whether you remember that or not.
Yeah, I do. I don’t remember that particular show in Dallas, but I remember that tour. I’m excited to be back.
What’s Dallas like? Do you live there?
Yeah, I live in the area. I don’t live in Dallas proper. I live a little north of Dallas, but I’m there pretty much every day. I don’t know exactly how familiar you are with the culture here in Texas, but Dallas is considerably more liberal. You go to the middle of nowhere, it’s more conservative. Does that make sense?
And you’re going to be passing through lots of those rural places between Austin and Dallas. You’re going to pass a lot of Czech bakeries and porn stores. Go to the Czech bakeries and get yourself some kolaches; they’re delicious. I don’t have any suggestions if you decide to go to the porn stores.
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You have a day off between this show and your show at Austin City Limits. What do you plan on doing with this day off?
To be honest, usually those days are pretty chill and boring. I sleep, go to the gym and check up on emails. I do very little.
You said in a previous interview that when you write a song, you first create a melody and rhythm, and essentially scat-sing your way through before you jot down any lyrics. If I’m not mistaken, you seem to follow a trail of breadcrumbs when you create an album. Honey was very cohesive, so how did you achieve this while taking it one step at a time?
I think mapping something out, doing things slowly and letting your subconscious be part of the process means that it’s not going to be something that feels complete. I think mapping out whatever is going on inside of you is not something you can do going from A, to B, to C… You have to move around in a not-as-planned way.
Once you’ve made the map, you can make it make sense.
Robyn plays The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory on Tuesday, Oct. 15.