At just 20 years old, Swedish pop sensation Zara Larsson has already made a name for herself as an outspoken songstress known for her frankness, positivity and penchant for going after what she wants. Her debut international album So Good, released last March, included songs like "Lush Life," "Don't Let Me Be Yours" and "Never Forget You" that introduced us to a songwriter well-versed in the perils of fleeting young love.
Since then, though, Larsson started a new relationship with British model Brian Whittaker after tweeting out his picture and asking who he was, a thoroughly Millennial method of courtship that fans and publications have earnestly declared the start of a "modern day fairytale." We caught up with Larsson, who was prepping for a private gig in her hometown of Stockholm, to chat about her next album, new relationship, and why writing happy love songs is the hardest task of all:
So right now I'm working on my new album and it feels really good. I was in the studio everyday writing a whole bunch of songs and then spending time in the studio.
Is it difficult to maintain a relationship with your totally different schedules?
I feel like it should be, but it's not. I'm so lucky because my boyfriend's dad is a pilot, so he can get tickets anywhere. Also because he's a model, he has a very flexible job, so if I'm in LA, he can go to LA and do a casting there. I'm so lucky and thankful that he's making a lot of sacrifices for me. If he didn't, and his dad wasn't a pilot, I honestly don't know how it would work.
How long have you guys been together now?
It's super new. Ten months. I kind of recently feel like, this is actually for real, you know what I mean? It still feels like new love, but it's also very nice to have that sense of real commitment. I've never been with someone that actually wants to be with me. It's really nice to just feel loved. And because all my friends and family are so close to me, it's always important that someone I'm in love with gets along with them. And he really does.
Is this the first relationship you've had since being in the public eye?
I did have a boyfriend on and off for four years. I wouldn't say it was trash, but it wasn't this. I would never do a photoshoot like this, with my ex, for example. But with me and Brian, it just felt natural like of course! Why not, I'd love to. I don't think I'd bring my ex to the studio, but I bring Brian all the time. We just feel really natural and good together.
You guys have such a cute story of how you met.
Modern, modern; we met online. There was this super cute boy I saw on my timeline on Twitter, and then I found his Instagram and I retweeted the picture with, "Excuse me? Who are you, where do you live? Hello?" At the time I thought he was older — he was 15, a little, little boy. But he was very cute still. This was two and a half years ago, and he was like, "Well, let's meet when you come to London." So I was there and he took the train into the city and we met, and I didn't like him at all! We just didn't vibe. AI don't care how cute your face is, if we don't vibe, we don't vibe.
But then, as a coincidence, we were in Paris at the same time for Paris Fashion Week last April. He was walking for some shows and I was there doing press. And I was so lonely one night, and the guy that I wanted to see didn't answer. I was like boy, my face is beat, my hair is looking cute, my outfit's nice, I'm not staying in! So then I saw Brian was there, and I was like, "Hey, do you wanna go out with me?" And then it was just, so different. It was like, damn, wow, he's a man now. Two years for a teenage boy — a lot happens. It was just different. I felt like, "Ooh, he's funny, wow, I really like him."
Does your [minor] age difference ever come up?
In society it's always seen as — usually you're with an older man, and I think that goes back to the fact that the men are the ones making the money and they can basically pick and choose the beautiful women they want, the more money they have. Like they're the providers taking care of the girls. And I feel like, it's 2018. I never saw myself dating a younger guy, but if I was two years younger then no one would give a fuck.
What's an ideal date for you two?
In general, I'm usually the one who thinks of things. If we're going to go out to dinner, I'm the one to book the table. I'm such a foodie, so basically he follows me wherever I want to go. We also love to go to museums. Not because we love all the museums, but because we love to feel like people who go to museums. You know what I mean? But honestly just a nice dinner is so underrated.
Can we expect more love songs on your next album?
I would imagine it would be a lot of love songs, but strangely enough it's like, really hard to write love songs. I was listening to "I Will Always Love You," and I thought wow, what a gorgeous song it is. But I don't know if I would've liked it if I wrote it today. I don't know if my record company would've been like, it's beautiful! It's a timeless, classic song, but also I feel like everything has to be so cool these days. Most of the songs I'm writing right now — they're not specifically about my ex, but I do take inspiration from that. But every time I play songs for Brian he's like, "Oh, another song about your ex, great!" And I have like, no songs about Brian. This is going to sound cheesy, but I just can't express my feelings in words for him. Oh my gosh, I can't believe I just said that.
Photography: Charlotte Rutherford
Styling: Savannah Baker
Hair: Preston Wada (at Opus Beauty using Hidden Crown Hair)
Makeup: Anthony Nguyen (at Opus Beauty using Oribe)
Assistant: Morgan Kranston
Set: Briana Gonzales
Set Assistant: George Jessel