Long before she released Body Talk, the set of three mini-albums that made up 2010’s most critically acclaimed pop masterpiece, Robyn Carlsson had made a name for herself stateside with a couple late-’90s dance-pop hits. But even Robyn herself had no idea the international recognition and worldwide success she’d receive with her latest (and unorthodox) musical venture, the lead single from which—“Dancing On My Own”—brought her a Grammy nomination. The dance music diva returns to Southern California this month with a much-anticipated White Party Palm Springs performance; Frontiers discusses with her the reasons behind releasing a trilogy, the loyalty of a gay fan base and her upcoming trip to the desert.
I wanted to start out by asking about the Body Talk trilogy, which was amazing and critically acclaimed. What was your reasoning behind splitting the album into three parts?
You know, some days you just feel like having waffles, or you just feel like putting on a certain type of outfit or you feel like sleeping in—there are just certain things that your body just tells you to do. And if they could, I think most people would follow those intuitions. It’s just that usually the structure of things are set up in a different way, and that’s how it felt when I made the album in three parts. I just felt like this was a more natural way of being creative for me, and I felt like it was exciting to think about doing it that way. So I decided to try it, because I have my own record label and I can do those things now.
The structures of the music industry are pretty hard to change, but it feels like people were ready and people are already thinking about music in this way. It’s just that it’s not reflected in the business side of things.
Looking back at the project, are you happy with the finished product?
Yeah. The album got so many good reviews, and people really responded to the way the music was released, and I’ve been able to tour all the way through the release period, so I think it’s been awesome and great and fantastic and everything.
Although, I don’t know if it’s possible to do this as a routine when you have to do so much promo. Before I released Body Talk, my career was in a place that I really liked, and that was really cool, because I’d gone from starting a record company to all of a sudden having an international career again, which was great, and people from all over the world were interested in my music. But I didn’t tour as much as I do now, and I didn’t promote in as many countries as I do now, so I had more time. I don’t think I’ll be able to release three albums in one year again while touring. It’s a very fast pace in the music industry right now. You have to promote your stuff so much. Hopefully I can keep recording and tour at the same time—that would be what I’d like to do—but I don’t think I’d be able to make three albums in the next year while touring as much as I’m doing now. The plan is to stick to shorter albums so that I can release them with smaller breaks.
As you probably know, you have a huge fan base among the gay community—why do you think that is?
I think that the gay community has always had to process the concept of being on the outside of things—whether it’s society or what’s considered to be normal or whatever. And outsider culture is something that I’ve always been interested in, and I’ve always felt like an outsider.
I think the gay community just gets me, and I’m very lucky to have that audience—it’s a very loyal and dedicated audience. But I also think that it’s hard for me to say this is the only reason why, because a lot of the time the gay community gets lumped into this one type of crowd, which is not the truth. I think the gay community these days has a lot of dynamic, and there’s a lot of different types of gay people.
I feel almost ignorant talking about the gay community as one thing, or looking at why gay people like me—I don’t think all gay people like me! [Laughs] I think a big part of my audience is gay because I make dance music and club music, and that culture came out of gay culture—but also because having an understanding of outsider culture has always been in my music.
You’re set to perform at White Party this year in Palm Springs. Have you ever made it out to the desert before?
I’ve been to the desert with some friends who rented a house there for vacation, and I’ve been to Coachella once before.
Can you give us a hint as to what the fans can expect from your performance at White Party?
My performance is going to be what it always is, which is me just going bezerk and trying to entertain and make people dance. It’s pretty simple. There are no special effects with me—it’s just me and my band. We try to bring the energy of the music into the audience and connect to them. It’s pretty basic stuff, but it works.
I read that you’re currently back in the studio. Is that true?
No, it’s not true. I’ve said for a while in interviews that I want to get back into the studio, and I will, as soon as I’m off tour. I’ve been touring since March of last year, and I’m gonna be on tour with Katy Perry in June, and then go and do festivals in America and Europe during July and August.
I think anyone would have to agree that you’re a pretty prolific writer. Have you always been so prolific when it comes to writing music?
I guess you could say that I’m prolific, but my songwriting doesn’t work when I’m on tour, so that’s another reason why I decided to release this album in parts. I wanted to make sure I had a structure that allowed me to be prolific or at least write regularly. I love to be in the studio—it’s my favorite place. But it all depends on how much time I get off the road. And I do love to tour as well.
I recently read—and assume many people might not know—that your backing vocals appear on the Britney Spears track “Piece of Me,” and she of course just released her new album. I’m curious whether you had any interaction with her while she was working on it.
I’ve never met Britney. When people hear me on Britney Spears’ album, they immediately think that it was some kind of collaboration, but I demo’d the song for my friends who wrote it about a year before she recorded it, and they just kept my vocals. I wasn’t even in the room when she recorded the song. But I’ve spoken to her on the phone.
Speaking of collaborations, you’ve done a couple that have been pretty well-received. Is there anyone that you haven’t yet collaborated with but who you’d love to work with?
I don’t keep a list—stuff like that, it happens when you meet someone you like, and you have a good vibe and you hang out. It’s usually a very organic and delicate process. And it’s not something I plan for, ever. I don’t keep a list because all the people I want to work with are people I’m working with already. I usually go back and work with people again instead of trying to find new collaborators, because new collaborators that really work are very hard to find. So for me, Klas Åhlund, who was in Teddybears, or Royksopp, or people like that who I’ve worked with a lot, they’re usually the ones I go back to because I feel like what we have is interesting to build on and I think that’s what usually defines an artist.
Catch Robyn at White Party Palm Springs, taking place April 8-11. For more info, go to jeffreysanker.com.