It’s hard to properly articulate the sheer force that is Swedish singer/songwriter LÉON.
Since releasing her critically acclaimed self-titled album in 2019, fans of LÉON (aka Lotta Lindgren) have been waiting with bated breath to see what direction the singer would take in the next chapter of her career. After using her time on the road as a band-aid to avoid dealing with an intense break-up she approached her sophomore album with the same passion and heart as the first, but used the time at home to take a step back, slow down, and begin to grieve the loss of a relationship without any outside distractions.
Understanding the universal feeling of being apart and lonely was what inspired LÉON and ended up being the catalyst to the vulnerable & emotive ‘Apart.’ The record is a tender, personal snapshot of a period of time where the 27-year-old singer sifted through the wreckage of a broken partnership to reconnect with who she is. The album is equal parts moving and mournful as it explores the journey of a break-up; the moments LÉON finds herself looking back in a nostalgia-induced haze, the times she didn’t know if she would be able to move on, and finding herself coming out the other side…. Even if she herself claims the album is ‘depressing as hell.’
With a knack for captivating audiences with her natural storytelling and her ability to craft catchy hooks, it can sometimes feel like LÉON is singing just for you—a power the singer doesn’t take lightly. She knows the importance music has on us; how we turn to it for comfort in our hardest moments, how it acts as a backdrop to help fill in everything that was left unsaid, and how we all have those specific artists we reach for who just get us in a way no one else does.
The confessional Swedish singer had a long chat with 1883 about her sophomore album ‘Apart’, why it was so difficult for her to process her breakup, and what it means to her to have people turn to her songs when they are struggling.
Apart is your second full length album after your 2019 self-titled debut. What has the difference been between approaching writing and recording your debut album and your second album?
What a question to start with! I think there was definitely more pressure on myself. With my first album, I actually planned on releasing something way earlier than when I did, but you realize how nerve-wracking the process is and I went a bit nuts. I started looking into every tiny little detail, like any artist would do. I had such a hard time letting go of that album; I kept wanting to find something that was wrong with every song and I wanted to go back and change my mind. With this album, I feel like I definitely relaxed and gave myself the opportunity to enjoy the process. I didn’t want to have that [pressure] take over me again. I wanted to feel more relaxed and go with whatever instinct I was feeling, what felt right, and not overthinking certain things. I didn’t want to overthink my vocals and try to fix things, especially if the emotion and feeling is there. That’s the most important thing to me — going with my gut instinct. I always want to keep the feeling of every song like how it feels when I’ve just written it.
I feel like this year has given everyone a chance to step back, reflect, and take a breath, too. It gave us the chance to properly sit with things rather than rush them out or stress out about it.
Yeah, we didn’t have a lockdown in Stockholm but it was definitely very restricted and places were closed. When we made the album earlier this year you weren’t supposed to go places, so I was kind of in a moment in time where I couldn’t do much or see friends and family, so I got down to work. I mainly work with one producer and that worked out because of the situation.
A debut album is the first big taste of who you are as an artist, but this sophomore record really showcases your strengths even more than the first record. How would you say you’ve grown and changed as a singer and songwriter between your first record and Apart?
For this album I went back to how I used to write my songs, like back when I was a teenager and in my earlier 20s. I would write everything from scratch myself and work with one producer, and I went back to that with this album. I am always honest and personal when it comes to my music… and with this album, I didn’t hold back on that part of me at all. I think I even went personal in an even bigger way, especially on some songs! [Laughs] It’s a tricky question. I don’t know how to describe how I’ve grown, but I’ve definitely been more into my gut feelings. Like I said before, I’ve been embracing the process and not thinking about whether every single detail is perfect. I would say that’s a big part of me growing.
Overthinking is something that so many people struggle with, so learning to get out of that mindset is an amazing thing.
Exactly. You always can overthink things and I completely drained myself last year when we were making the first album. With this one, I wanted it to be me taking it easier and not being so hard on myself.
The song ‘Falling Apart’ is a really stunning track that I feel really represents the album perfectly. Can you tell me a bit about the story behind that song in particular?
‘Falling Apart’ is actually one of the oldest songs on the record. The majority of the songs on the album were written this year or late last year. ‘Falling Apart’ is a song I really love, I always wanted to put it out. It resonated with me because it represented what I was going through earlier this year and at the end of last year. I went back to that song over and over; I started writing it back in 2018 and it was this year that I finished it. It just felt like the right time to put it out. It’s one of the most honest songs on the album. Sometimes it’s hard to explain where a song comes from—I always know where it comes from of course, but explaining it to other people is difficult! I would describe it as a turning point. Before I wrote that song, I always wrote from the perspective of being some kind of victim. This one was more about my own doubts because I was in a place last year where I was questioning all kinds of things in my relationship. It still is a love song that focuses on a relationship, but it’s a lot about my own self, my feelings, and trying to figure myself out at that time. It’s hard to explain but I hope you understand!
I get it — it’s like learning to figure out who you are and trying to figure out whether who you are in the relationship is who you actually are.
Something that’s always touched me with your songs is how confessional they are; someone can always find a lyric to relate to. In ‘Falling Apart’ you sing “I’m so afraid to live wrong and end up being on my own” and “What do you do when you love someone/but you feel like you can’t let go.” I feel like those are two things so many people can relate to when you’re questioning yourself and your relationship. Do you ever find it difficult to release songs that are so confessional and specific to an event or person?
I didn’t before. I used to not care and just never really stress about it. Now, every time we put something out from this album, I’m kind of nervous. I’ve been starting to wonder what my friends and the people that really know me will think, and how the people who know what I’m singing about will react. There are some very intense and real songs on this album, so I’ve been starting to get nervous for some reason. I’m not scared about what the people I don’t know will think, I just hope they can relate to it. It’s mostly me feeling nervous about those who know me and the person I’m singing about. That’s scary now for me.
It’s one of those times where you might feel like you have to let go of the songs and hope that by letting them go, you are closing a chapter and it can be not as nerve wracking.
Yes! I also think in the moment it feels SO right and you can’t wait to put it out [laughs] and then you get to actually releasing it and you’re like “Oh, god wait a second! I’m not ready! What did I do!” I hope if I feel this way that means it feels real and I hope people can relate to the songs in some way.
The biggest overarching theme of this album is the word ‘apart’ — whether that’s breaking apart, being apart, or falling apart, which I feel are all different meanings of the word ‘apart’. When you think of the word apart, what do you imagine or visualize?
It just happened to be the word for the album because the entire album is about a breakup from a very long term relationship. Last year I had a crisis where I never felt connected with myself. It sounds corny but this year gave me the time to reconnect with myself, learn to be apart from the person that I’m singing about on this album, and figure out how to cope on my own for the first time in years. I’ve never had to face the fears that I faced both this year and last. It’s definitely about being apart from someone and just feeling a bit all over the place in your own emotions. Does that make sense?
Yeah, I can totally relate to that! [Laughs]
I hope you know what I’m trying to say! It felt like the right word to put on the album.
All of the songs come back to it, so it makes sense. You’re feeling both apart from the person you loved while also feeling distant from who you are.
Yeah, that’s exactly it.
You touched on it briefly but I know you were touring so consistently and you were so busy, you didn’t really give yourself the chance to grieve the relationship.
I’m good at avoiding things when I want to! [Laughs]
That must’ve been really abrupt; going from being on stage and touring around the world to being alone.
It was rough.. so rough. I have always done this thing where I don’t necessarily take the time to process things. I’ve always been the way. My mother has always been worried because I never slowed down when I was a teenager, I always went really hard. I was on tour, I came home, the break-up happened, and four days later I was back on tour. I didn’t give myself any time to think about it. I was with my tour family and friends, I was living on a bus, and I was never really alone.
Looking back, do you think you really need that?
Definitely. I came home around Christmas, I moved into my first apartment, and it hit me so hard; everything came crashing down on me. But I needed it—it was good for me. It was healthy for me to go through it and be forced to face it without the comfort of someone else getting me through it.
One of my favourite songs on the album is ‘Crazy/Stupid,’ two words many people can feel while in a relationship that isn’t perfect. In the bridge, you sound like you’re breathlessly reciting and summarizing the end of a relationship and voicing your inner monologue while it is happening. ‘In all my stupid ways I want to keep you to myself/cause I don’t want nobody else to have you’ and ‘can’t go back to being strangers’. Are these types of confessions things you feel you can only make tangible by singing in songs rather than actually telling the person?
Oh yeah, no way. I would never say that to someone’s face! [Laughs] I’ve never talked about this song, but that part was fun to write because, again, I’m so used to singing songs about being left, but that song is more about me being flaky and selfish in many ways. I’m on the other side and being the one who is playing with someone’s emotions. When I wrote that song I thought “Oh my god, people are going to think this is a musical moment where I’m singing this monologue to myself!” It was a really fun song to write, but I’d have a hard time saying all of that to someone. That’s why I’m nervous for people to hear them.
I know you’re nervous, but I think those are the words so many people can relate to. I know with myself and break-ups I cannot fathom the idea of just going back to being strangers with someone. I feel like people will relate to that the most.
I hope so. I like to listen to songs where you feel like a story is being told. I think I did that on this album. It’s very specific and I know the exact moment and I can see the scene in my head when I sing a certain song.
On the same theme, in ‘Die For You’ you sing about how difficult it is when you’re breaking up with someone because you lose a friend in the process and in ‘Tell Me’ you sing ‘A part of you lives on in me forever’. I love how you can write about the same situation yet the songs sound entirely different. Does that difference in sound or feeling depend on how you’re feeling at the moment?
For me, in my head, why those two songs are next to each other is because I envision a music video for ‘Tell Me’ that would be the morning when you wake up after a night out and confront the person you’re thinking about, and ‘Die For You’ is more in the moment when you don’t want to go home and then you have to kind of face your own fears of being alone. It’s funny because ‘Tell Me’ came after and ‘Die For You’ came first!
Another two songs that feel like two sides of the same coin is the first track ‘Head and Heart On Fire’ and the last track ‘Apart.’ I like the difference in feeling and sound between the two; it really feels like bookends to both an album and a relationship. Were those placements on the track list intentional?
‘Apart’ doesn’t even have the word in it, it was the last one I wrote, and it wasn’t supposed to make it on the album because we really didn’t have left. I rushed to the studio and I played it on the guitar for my producer Martin [Stilling], and we just thought we had to have it on the album. It felt like a true ending to this entire process for me. It’s not really a very uplifting song. ‘Head And Heart On Fire’ is much more hopeful; it feels like you’re looking back at something and you feel very nostalgic and feel a bit of hope. With ‘Apart’ I’m singing about a certain person, but it’s a lot about my own emotions and how I’m looking at myself. It was exactly what I was feeling and thinking when we finished the album. I thought we should have a song that ends the album that represents what I was going through at that exact moment. I was tempted to end the album with a song that brings hope because it is a really heavy album, but I decided to go with my gut feeling like I said earlier. We recorded the song two days before the album was due and it feels like it’s a conclusion to that chapter.
It’s okay, ending on a sad note is therapeutic sometimes.
Yeah, people are NOT going to be hopeful when they listen to this album [laughs]. When you come to the end, you just think “Oh shit, it doesn’t get better!” I just decided to call it ‘Apart’ because it represented the theme of the album best. I wrote it when I was away from this person for a year, and that was the final conclusion I had at the time.
To end a really lovely chat, I wanted to ask you how it feels to know your own heartbreak and songs will help other people? Your self-titled really touched so many people, me included, and I always wonder how artists feel about their work healing others.
That means so much to me, thank you. That really is the best part of it. You know when you’re in the middle of a breakup and you feel so alone you can’t imagine that other people feel the same way as you?
Break-ups feel like your own little world where only you exist! It’s like no one could understand you.
Exactly, but you realize everyone goes through it. Especially reading comments and talking to people over Instagram and connecting with people through my music is hard to take in sometimes, but it’s absolutely amazing. It really means the world to me and it’s rewarding in a way—knowing someone can take something from what I’ve been through and feel less alone because of it. I have my own artists that I go to when I’m feeling like that so if I can be that artist for someone else, that means the world to me.
LÉON’s new album ‘Apart’ is out now.