‘Honest’ is a word that Ellinor Olovsdotter (a.k.a Elliphant) used a lot over the course of our fifteen minute phone conversation. Polite, funny and down to earth, Olovsdotter was also serious when she needed to be, and made it very clear that her fans mean the world to her. “You have to be humble,” she said at one point, her voice distinctly sincere.
Olovsdotter’s career under the Elliphant name officially began with the release of her single Tekkno Scene back in 2012. Since then the artist has moved from strength to strength, dropping a brilliant self-titled EP and A Good Idea, her debut Swedish album, within the same year. May 2015 saw the release of her new single, Love Me Badder, a song that shows off everything that makes Olovsdotter’s music great. Intelligent yet primal, the track is deeply based in the language of love and lust.
We spoke to Olovsdotter on the day of her sold out Sydney show about Love Me Badder, the opportunity disaster provides and the changing shape of inspiration.
Joseph Earp: Do you still get nervous before a show or is it just like, autopilot now?
Ellinor Olovsdotter: No, I get nervous…. I don’t really think about it. But like, if I go to the toilet before the show, [then] I know…You can’t cheat the diarrhoea.
I like to drink whiskey before shows. It feels like I need to ground myself somehow….Like, [otherwise] I fly away…I almost become like atoms…It feels like the body isn’t almost there. So usually I have a couple of drinks and land a little bit. But when I’m up there I have this feeling of control. It’s very interesting actually. As soon as you’re up there and you start singing, it’s like, you’re in control over your life again.
JE: When you’re performing…Do you feel like you’re thinking? You’re making every choice? Or is it almost like you’re floating?
EO: It’s something in-between. Like, you are floating, but it’s also scary in the sense that you’re like “oh, if I just stop singing now the whole song will stop.”…Sometimes, especially at the beginning of tours, like when I haven’t played for a while, I can get really like… “Woah. Really, I’m up here?” And then I think: “oh, maybe I’ll forget the next verse.” And then like, I just forget it. It’s almost like this force inside of your brain that is just fucking with you.
All the moments in my shows that I have, like all the small performance moments and stuff – everything, even the interaction with my dj – all that happened naturally. There was never a plan how we were going to set it up. It just turned into like a very tight, good interactive set. All those things have just happened. So there is all that flow. But there’s also a feeling of responsibility. A big feeling of responsibility.
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JE: Have you ever had a show in the early days that did go wrong?
EO: Yeah, I mean, until just recently I’m famous for always doing something. Like, singing one verse two times…That happens all the time.
Actually I also feel like it’s a challenge. If you come a place and you just sold fifteen tickets or something like that, that could be a disaster for some people. But for me, I kinda look at that more as an opportunity to just give those fifteen people the time of their life. I had a couple of shows when that happened and usually I’ll just bring everybody up on stage and I’ll go down and…I do the show from the floor.
JE: That’s awesome.
EO: That just…happened one show and from that day I was wishing it would happen again. [Laughs.] Because you can’t do anything like that if it’s not a controlled amount of people.
The worst shows that can happen are when people are drunk…Too drunk or distracted or…having conversations just in front of the stage while you’re performing. For me, I’m not a professional musician or anything. I can’t get into my music bubble and just forget about the world. I’m very much a performer.
It’s almost like a sexual experience for me. I’m really giving everything I got…And…[performing] is not like bicycling. It’s not like you jump on the bike and you just know. It’s always a new audience, a new energy to pick up on. It’s a big responsibility for both the audience and the artist to make this is a good experience…Exactly like a one night stand, you know? It can be shitty and it can be fantastic, it depends on how much you want to give.
JE: Particularly these days I think it’s people talking on their phones…Do you find that’s the big thing that will bring things down? Like, people sitting on their phones in the front row?
EO: Yeah, if they do that I will kick them, first of all. They’re not allowed to do that at my shows. But I mean, you can’t get away from the fact that people wanna film everything. I feel like in the future if there’s money in the project we could actually have a service for the fans… We [could] have someone that filmed the show and we put it out on the [web]page the next day and people can actually have a good filmed performance of the show…So maybe that would make people stop filming the whole show? I mean, they miss the show. It’s boring for them…They’re just doing it because they wanna grip the moment, they wanna keep it forever…
The world is changing all the time. This is the new world we’re living in with phones and stuff. I think it’s a little bit up to the artist…I think it’s up to the artist to find ways to get your people involved…To make them interactive in a good way.
JE: Do you find that people are trying to get you to act in a certain way, or…?
EO: Sometimes people call me a rapper which is like, obviously a misunderstanding because I’m not a rapper. I’m very much an artist. I’m just doing things. None of this stuff is my lifestyle. The hip hop is not my lifestyle. The pop is not my lifestyle. The reggae is not my lifestyle…This is just me expressing myself.
[Honesty] is the only strength I have really. I’m not amazingly talented, I’m not young, I don’t have a big butt, I can’t twerk. But I’m gonna be honest with that. I’m gonna be true with that…I’m gonna sweat, and I’m gonna spit, and I’m gonna be who I am. I think as long as I stay true to that to my purpose of being here, not trying to be something that I’m not…as long as I’m honest…
For example, the song that is out now, Love Me Badder is the first song that I didn’t write myself. It was the first song I ever sang that was written by another person. For me something like that is also important: to talk about that. “Oh, this amazing writer came in and gave birth to this song…” That’s the thing, it’s very important…You have to be humble.
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JE: I love that because it makes it sound like for you the music is essential. Right? If you couldn’t make the music how do you think you would release that?
EO: I was doing art. I am an artist. That’s what I am. I do photography, and I always wanted to…question the world in some kind of provocative way through art. Music has been the first expression where people want more.
I forced it a little bit on people. Like when people were drunk, I’m like, “hi, are you drunk enough to listen to my poem?” Now it’s more like people wanna hear my music. And as long as people want that…That’s all I’m gonna go for. Like I said, I’m not here to like fulfil my childhood dream of being a popstar or being a famous person… I’m just here to, you know, not make anybody disappointed. I have a very loyal and a very true fanbase and that’s my inspiration.
JE: Are there artists who inspire you?
EO: I didn’t know any artists before I was Elliphant. I never had idols or anything like that…But through this I meet people all the time. All the people I’ve ever worked with…Like when I was with Charli XCX on tour, she really inspired me. I could see how hard she worked, and that this isn’t a fucking kindergarten, this is real…I met Azealia Banks the other day. She’s a big inspiration for me, like the fact she’s putting herself out there…She’s showing the world a real, frustrated young woman. I think that’s more powerful than showing people a straight face.
I mean, everything that comes my way either inspires me or makes me sick. It’s only those two.
Love Me Badder is out now. Living Life Golden will be released on September 25th, 2015.