One thing I really love so much about the album is they’re not fully love songs, they’re in between, or the friend zone, or a crush, and I know that now you’re, as far as I’ve read, with someone who made your “Run Away With Me” video…
Which is beautiful. So, what do you pull from when things are good?
My imagination, and my past experiences. I’ve had a ton of really interesting people who I’ve been fortunate to have met in my life; there was a moment in time for a lot of them. I’m not like, “Oh, that didn’t work out.” No, I’m so glad I met that person, I’m so glad they’re over there now, that was a wonderful couple years! I feel that way about almost all of my relationships; there’s always been something that I’ve learned or gained, at the very least, and I pull from that.
I also do have a really wild imagination and I let that fantasy play out in music, whether it’s a big stream of sad or happy or whatever. That being said, if I’m really fully something in the moment—even in a love relationship, there are moments of sadness and jarredness and insecurity. There’s a constant pool to draw from, even in the healthiest, most functional relationship, you’re gonna have days. Even comfort and security, that’s a song in itself—this feeling of intimacy being shared, where you’re letting more sides of yourself show. There’s music inspiration everywhere. It doesn’t have to come from, like, Adele-type heartbreaks every single day, although those are fucking beautiful. It comes from friendship, or even talking to your girlfriends and hearing what they’re going through. I actually get slapped on the wrist many times by girlfriends being like, “Really? You put it to a song?” It’s like, “It was good, it was so good! I’m sorry!”
Have you ever gotten that from an ex?
No. I, lots of times, can also start a piece from a really sincere thing that happened, and then allow my imagination to almost make it a better story, you know what I mean? Just because that’s the beauty of it: You can play out your fantasy in music. I think that’s what I love about it so much. But I’ve never really had—well, that’s not true. I did have a Canadian ex of mine ask him if “Black Heart” was for him, and I was like, “Yeaaaaah, it was.” He knew. “Cutting through the cracks of the concrete.” It was a guy who was like, it was really hard for him to let loose and allow himself to be in love. I worked at him, finally got him.
I feel like in “Favorite Color,” you’re on his side of that dynamic, you’re the hesitant one.
“Favorite Color” is a song I’ve had for the longest time. It’s taken eight different forms before I finally landed with the best one, and it was my sweet friends who actually helped me find out its home. Sometimes it takes a few different productions […] Before, it was a little too this or a little too that; these guys helped me get there. I was so extremely in love when I wrote that song and I turned myself into a little hippie and just that feeling, like we almost like blurred the lines and blended into each other, that happened whenever I felt like, uh, we made love. Sorry! It just all of a sudden felt like I forgot myself, and it was lovely.
It sounds like the way it feels to be like, “I’m so scared, but this is awesome!” What was the last song that you recorded?
“Let’s Get Lost.” And it’s funny because that song was due, the album itself was due, I think like a day before I finally realized the song still had something to it. I actually have to thank Dev and Ariel, because they gave me their ears in New York. They spent an entire evening with me with wine and pizza and went through all of my songs. These were songs on the album, songs I was thinking about and not sure about, and they gave their votes. Dev hit me up like, “‘Favorite Color’ better make it!” I so valued and respected their ears for stuff that it meant a lot to me, and it was funny because I’d been really gunning for this song and nobody was getting it.
“Let’s Get Lost”?
“Let’s Get Lost.” No one was getting it! And I was so like, “Am I like crazy?” I just feel like it’s fun, and it’s joyful and it kind of has like a little, with that sax solo, it does something for me!
Oh my god, totally!
I just wanted it on the album! They were the first ones who I’d shown it to and they were like, “What do you mean this was ‘a maybe’?” And I was like, “Thank you!” But the album had been due. So I called up the guys I’d been working with, CJ [Christopher J. Baran] and Ben [Romans]. I said, “Guys, it needs harmonies still. The album was due yesterday, but if we can pull off these harmonies and get the rest of the production just a little tighter, I would be able to convince John to stall, do you wanna try? I think it’ll work.” And they were like, “Hell yeah!” So I went over to their house and we spent the night on it. I sent it in to John and was like, “Hold the phone! Can this song please make the album?” He heard it and he was like, “Shit. What are we taking out?” Then we had to figure out what we had to take out to add that one back in. I’m really glad that we did that. It feels like it would have been missing.
What about “I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance”?
It’s a really different song for the album, I felt like it was my club song. That song also had a really long lifespan. It began in Canada with a couple friends of mine, Canadian writers: Joe Cruz, who I’d worked with doing demos before I’d ever even done my first album, I think I was like 17 when I met him. So I’d known him for a while, we’d been writing partners. He knew this guy, Tino Zolfo from Toronto who was really into making beats and stuff. We had a night together, I think they had a session that canceled so I just came over for two nights. We were writing a bunch of songs and two songs that came from that was, [Singing] “Warm love feels good” which we changed to “Warm blood feels good,” the one we did with Rostam. And “I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance,” which was the late-night whiskey song. I didn’t drink whiskey at this time in my life so I was just, [Singing] “Hey, Joe’s calling me over. Tino’s calling me,” which are the names of the writers, and they were laughing, like, “You’re gonna keep that?” Like, “It’s awesome! Boys in the club!”
Tino was the best name for that song!
I know! So we’re laughing and we decided to keep it. And then when I first went to Sweden to work for Max Martin who in my mind was the Wizard of Oz of producers, I told myself, “If I ever meet this man I have to show him my strongest ideas just to see.” I’ve always felt that was an idea that I was proud of, and when I met him we had finished recording “Tonight I’m Getting Over You.” I said, “I’ve been wanting to meet you my whole life, all I need you to do is give me your ear for two seconds and that’s it.” I showed it to him and he was just so encouraging and ended up staying up late with me working on it, and then linked me with Lukas [Hilbert], ’cause he was a friend of his, to work on it for this next album because my Kiss album was due. So it was a long, long process.
So that was during Kiss?
This was before Kiss, during Kiss, and after Kiss. So it has a very long life, that song. Actually, it beats “baby blue” [“Favorite Color”] when I think about it. And then I went to work with Lukas and he added those technicals, just to kind of bring it up to almost like a club anthem that you wanna lose yourself in. We loved it! We felt it was a big personality piece for the album because it does stand alone. As much as you want to be cohesive, you want it to have variety and that felt like the right balance.
Is there one [song] you feel closest to or might have like, I don’t know! Bad question! Not a real question!
“Gimmie Love.” “Gimmie Love,” to me, was a song written out of desperation ’cause I was sort of like, I don’t know, I don’t know how to say this, I was feeling, I was feeling all these things that I couldn’t say. So, part of me processing sometimes happens in music and it sounds [like], “Gimmie love, gimmie touch.” It was so to the bone, and what I really needed at that moment when I put it to music. It began with Matias [Larsson] and Robin [Fredriksson], two guys who I worked with a lot in Sweden, and it was a nice way to say all the things that I couldn’t say, in a song. “Gimmie Love” was the last song we worked on together and it was the easiest because we knew each other so well by then, you’re at the point of sharing your journal entries. ♦