Shirt by Christopher Kane.
Swedish singer Lotta Lindgren is on a bumpy bus traveling across the United States when she answers her phone. Despite the sophistication of modern telecommunications, the connection is initially fraught with errors—until FaceTime proves a natural solution. Ironically, internet-based technologies have also played a pivotal role in the musician’s career to date. Known best by her stage name Léon, Lindgren first rose to fame in 2015, after she uploaded her début single “Tired of Talking” to SoundCloud. “I had no idea how powerful the blogosphere was until that point,” she recalls. “I thought about three people would hear [the song] and then I realized how big and powerful this world really is.”
Stories about the internet democratizing the music industry—or making people “more independent,” as Lindgren puts it—are certainly nothing new. But the contrast between this hyper-modern trajectory and the artist’s classical background is somewhat more unique. The daughter of a composer father and a cello-playing mother, Lindgren was destined for a career in music—just not the kind her family members expected. “I’m the only one in the family that pursued pop music,” she laughs. But that time spent singing in choirs from age three and growing up with a mother who played in an orchestra certainly had a lasting impression.
In many ways, it is this context that explains Lindgren’s arrestingly beautiful voice and experimental approach to instrumentation. But beyond this, it’s clear that the musician also derives unmistakable joy from the process. Not just the creation process, either, but actually performing on stage—which she has been doing for the past few weeks now. In the middle of her American tour, Lindgren says that she is having the best time and now wishes there were more dates lined up. “It has been crazy to play these bigger venues, perform the new songs and see face-to-face how people respond to the music.”
The new songs she is speaking of come from her third and most recent EP Surround Me. Tracing a striking soundscape, the music feels like the perfect culmination of a specific chapter in her career. “All of the EPs are like a trilogy now,” she explains. “I feel like everything is kind of coming together with Surround Me.” Much of this probably has to do with her efforts working with new producers and experimenting with different sounds on this latest release. “Soundwise it feels very spread out,” she elaborates. “One song will be very soulful like ‘Surround Me’ and then another song feels retro in a different way.”
This retro sensibility isn’t only present in Lindgren’s music though; it is an integral part of her approach to style as well. “I like to wear what I feel comfortable in on stage and that’s usually a mix of Seventies-chic clothing combined with more modern pieces,” she says. The practicality of this performance uniform is what appeals to her most, but she also believes that clothing is “super important” as a vehicle for communication. “I think wardrobe and clothes are essential, because [they represent] such a cool way to express yourself.” This statement alone captures the raw honesty of Lindgren’s approach to music and style alike.
Joking that she always sings about love and relationships, the musician says that she has also made a concerted effort to explore new topics with Surround Me. “The songs I put on this EP are all songs that I wrote this year, so they still feel very fresh for me emotionally.” Lindgren is frank about the fact that what she sings about directly reflects her personal experiences and there is something ultimately refreshing about this—especially in an age of overt mystery. That said, Lindgren also values a little mystery in some areas of life. When it comes to social media, in particular, she is baffled by the overload of personal information today and the way that things can get warped beyond your control.
“Maybe ‘scary’ is the wrong word to use here, but people post so much about their lives on social media today and I feel like a lot of things can get twisted,” Lindgren elaborates. While she is eternally grateful for the opportunities afforded by these platforms, she also feels that it’s important to create some distance from time to time. Which is perhaps why the songwriter is looking forward to spending some downtime in Sweden after she wraps up her American tour. “I’m going to spend some time in Stockholm and go back into the studio, but also catch up with some friends and family,” she says. “I feel like whenever I’m on tour, I’m never really home for more than a week. And I do spend most of my time in America now, but I still call Stockholm home. It’s my home home.”
Surround Me is out now. Léon’s American tour continues Friday at Le Poisson Rouge, New York.