On the eve of the launch of her first album in nine years, Swedish pop diva Agnes speaks with The Forumist about overcoming the past, personal growth and drag queens.
After a promising international career led to a few years outside of the spotlight, Swedish singer Agnes has resurfaced with brand new energy, a new sound and what seems like a new mindset that merges nightlife celebration with spiritual awareness. Striving to unite and conquer, this newly born disco-diva version of Agnes has since her triumphant return blessed the soon-to-be back to normal dance floors of the world with bangers like ‘24 Hours’ and ‘Fingers Crossed’ – death-dropping tracks that explain to us that it is perfectly possible to think and dance simultaneously while caring immensely about the well-being of fellow dancers.
“I have come back after a pretty long break from music, or rather from the public eye,” Agnes says, explaining her recently ended absence from the limelight. “Why I took this break is because I clearly felt that I needed to grow as a person, but also as a creative being. I was so tired of the image I had of myself; regarding what I thought I was able to do and not do, it was so narrow. The insights I’ve gained reflect how important it is to continue to expose yourself to new things, to allow yourself to be constantly inspired and to dare to reflect about what it is you do. I have realised what a fantastic job I have, where a part of it is twisting and turning everything and using that in the music. That gives me meaning.”
In ‘24 Hours’, a heart-warming firecracker of a song, Agnes chants the words, “Choose your future”. The choices she herself has made in order to reach the point of self-awareness she inhabits today have revolved around valuing independent creativity in combination with open-hearted collaboration – seeing one’s own imaginative strength while understanding it can grow through the help of others. Sure, it may sound simple, but practice and theory are entirely different things in such a case.
Being true to and believing in oneself is a message that this ‘new’ Agnes is keen to get across. “Unfortunately, I have realised that some of the worst things I have been through are the ones that have made me grow the most,” she says. “I need to do something that gives me meaning. What is meaningful to me is when I feel that I connect with other people, when you can show your wounds and heal each other. It’s so easy, as an artist, to become full of yourself – your performance, being the best – but when I get too eaten by that, I lose my truth and the meaning in what I do.”
Star American drag queen and modern icon RuPaul recently shared the video for ‘24 Hours’ on Twitter, which Agnes says was “Magical! I feel such love and respect for him” – a shout-out from him of all people was very special. RuPaul’s fanbase, the ever-growing drag community, seems to have taken to Agnes’s music even before their hero mentioned her song, and the affection is mutual, and influences from this world are apparent in her new sound.
“I feel, and have always felt, connected to drag culture,” Agnes says. “I think there are several reasons. A part of me is drag. My artistry is much about strengthening or lifting sides of myself, I do it through the music but also through the aesthetics. I want to create songs that make me feel indestructible. I also feel connected to drag, because I think that if you use it as your expression, it is inevitable not to make the Trip, as I call it. RuPaul has made the Trip, with a capital T. You dig deep inside yourself. Anyone who has done that, I feel connected with.”
Apart from mother Ru, Agnes lists other influences as diverse as free jazz legend Sun Ra, the glorious Solange, fashion mastermind Diana Vreeland and Swedish spiritual painter Hilma af Klint. This wide appreciation and understanding of music and art goes well with the open mindedness that colours her own new work. Speaking of spirituality, she calls her sound “spiritual disco”, and she confirms that the vibe on her two latest singles is indeed representative of her upcoming full-length album, which is in the works right now. “Disco to me is liberation. Being able to talk about life’s issues and being uplifted at the same time.”
Fans on Instagram have speculated on the album being titled Magic Still Exists, a phrase that Agnes could very well utter herself, judging from her answers in this interview. Anything she adores, she calls “magical” – so of course magic still exists!
“I think much of what fuels my music comes from a time during my teens,” Agnes says. “I was excluded for many years, and at that age I had a hard time talking about it. I just wanted to fit in, to be a part of a community. Is there anything more shameful than being the one who is not included? As a teenager, there isn’t. It took me quite a few years before I could deal with it and put it into words, but now I know what it feels like to not be accepted for who I am. As an adult, I look back at it and can see the big picture, but I still have wounds. Through meditation, I have gone back in time and changed horrible memories. Changed cold to warmth. Understanding and unity is that warmth.”
After these strange times we have lived through, Agnes’s point of view is necessary and healthy. “I don’t think there will be any problem revitalizing culture after the pandemic,” she says. “I believe a lot of people will realise how important it is after these months. It’s what dots the i’s, it’s the key to the great magic. For me, these past months have been okay, I’m grateful that I got to spend more time in the studio. I will keep on working the way that I have. We’ll revitalize everything, slowly but surely.”
Words by Filip Lindström
Photography by ELISABET TOLL
Styling by ANNA SUNDELIN
Hair: JESPER HALLIN at Mikas Looks
Make-Up: JOHANNA NORDLANDER
Stylist’s assistant: NAMFON PHETSUT
Photographer’s assistant: MARTIN SIMONIC
Thank you for the studio/ location GULD FABRIKEN
#1 Jacket by NICKLAS GUSTAVSSON
#2 Boots by STEVE MADDE, suit by ACNE STUDIO, earings by PANTOLIN
#3 dress by ELIN MEIJER
#4 Knitted dress by The WOW CLOSET, poncho dress by RAEWINGTON
#5&6 Skirt and jacket by NICKLAS SKOVGAARD, ring by SOPHIE BY SOPHIE
#7&8 Dress and shoes by CHRISTIAN DIOR
#9 Jacket by BY NICKLAS SKOVGAARD
#10 Dress by LOUISE XIN COUTURE