Sweden has already gifted us with an embarrassment of pop riches, so it seems almost greedy of us to accept even more. But when that latest offering is the fabulous Zara Larsson, how can we possibly resist? Larsson, who celebrated her 18th birthday yesterday, won the 2008 Swedish version of America’s Got Talent when she just 10 years old, with cooing vocals that felt mature beyond her years. Since then, she joined fellow Swedish pop firebrands Elliphant and Icona Pop on the record label TEN Music Group, and broke out big in 2013 with her single “Uncover,” a stripped-down, heart-swelling ballad that was part of her appropriately titled debut EP, Introducing.
But since then, Larsson’s sound has evolved into an of-the-moment pastiche of pop music trends, with whirring dance anthems like “Never Forget You” and “Lush Life,” the debut single off her upcoming sophomore record. We recently caught up with Larsson, who has over one million Instagram followers, to find out what she was like in school, her ideal roommate, and her favorite thing to do alone (spoiler: it involves a lot of Netflix).
How would you describe your aesthetic/style?
Current, chic, high street, cool, trendy. I’m just starting to think more about what I wear and which brands, but there’s so much! And there are so many amazing designers! But I love Zara and Topshop!
How did your career get started?
It really started when I got signed to my label TEN Music Group back when I was 14. We were constantly working and recording in the studio and then a year later we released “Uncover,” which just took off. It was amazing.
Where do you hope to be professionally in 5 years?
I hope to be really successful and influential. Ideally a strong female inspiration.
What’s your next project?
I’m in the studio at the moment finishing my album (for global release) which we are aiming to release early 2016.
What are you most proud of so far in terms of your career?
Three number one singles in Scandinavia and across Europe. I’m really proud of “Never Forget You” and the success of it—it’s the first song I co-wrote.
What famous person dead or living do you most wish you could have as a roommate?
Rihanna, because she seems a little fucked up, but at the same time she seems very sane and fun. I feel like a day with her would probably be spontaneous and crazy. A great memory.
What is your favourite driving music?
R&B—something with a good beat/bass. I love Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” and the Big Sean track “I Don’t Fuck With You.” You always feel badass listening to that track.
Whose career would you most like to emulate?
Beyoncé. Everything she does is perfection. She works hard, she’s humble, she’s constantly getting better and challenging herself. I feel like all of her hard work really shows, and I want to do that. I want to grow like she has.
If you had to live in a past time, what do you think would be the most fun era and why?
The ’90s, because everything was new. The music was amazing. R&B was much bigger then. I feel like I missed out on the amazing girl bands that came out of that era. ‘90s style was so cool.
What activities do you most enjoy doing alone?
Social media or watching a TV series. Netflix is my best friend. I think I’ve watched every show on there. I’ve seriously seen all of these: Narcos, The 100, Orange Is the New Black, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Bridge, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Lie To Me, Homeland, Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother, Desperate Housewives, The Vampire Diaries, Suits, The Returned, Glee, The Mentalist, Under the Dome, American Horror Story, Bones, Sense8, Orphan Black, and Prison Break. Um, yeah.
How do you wind down before bed?
I usually listen to podcasts or sometimes I’m stupid and listen to scary stories. It’s usually Swedish ones. My favorite are these two guys called Alex & Sigges.
When are you most relaxed?
After a really hot shower or a sauna.
What kind of person were you in high school?
I attended the Swedish Royal Ballet School, so we spent a lot of time together and were like a family. We didn’t have ‘roles’ but I was known for being the troublemaker.
Can you tell me a quality about yourself that you are genuinely proud of?
I’m quite vocal about human rights and things I don’t agree with.
Do you have any phobias?
I’m scared of snakes in the toilet.
What’s a serious side of you that people are unlikely to know about? Either in terms of interests, hobbies, or personality?
I like to read about medicine—I’m fascinated by surgery. I always check out the Instagram page, @
What are some new hobbies you would like to take on?
I’d like to learn how to fly a small plane. Once I’ve mastered that, a helicopter.
How do you hope to grow as a creative person?
I love to be involved with every aspect of albums, but I am really interested in the producing side and would love to learn more about this producing, songwriting, photography, and styling.
If there was a phrase that you think best sums up your approach to life what might it be?
Yesterday has been. I live now. I don’t even know what’s happening tomorrow. I’m here, now.