Let me introduce you to the Elliphant in the room. Ellinor Olovsdotter, otherwise known professionally as Elliphant, is an internationally renowned, platinum-selling artist from Stockholm, Sweden. She was discovered by a producer at a party in Paris a couple years ago and since then, she has been a rising success within the music world. She signed with TEN Music Group in 2012 when she released her debut single “Tekkno Scene” for FIFA 13. Later that year, she switched to Dr. Luke’s label, Kemosabe Records.
Now, she has toured and collaborated with major artists such as Diplo, Skrillex, Dave Sitek, Tove Lo, and many more. Recently, she released a new music video for her single ‘Had Enough’. The video was filmed at a rustic cabin outside of Stockholm with an amazing landscape showcasing the beauty of the countryside. It also features two of Elli’s oldest friends dressed in vibrant designer outfits from Sandra Backlund, O.L.D by Linda Lindgren, and Valerie.
The enlightening single, ‘Had Enough’, gives us a look into her upcoming album arriving sometime this year. Her last LP was Living Life Golden which came out in 2016. Interesting fact: this coming album will be produced by Grammy-award winning record engineer Mark Rankin, who is known for Adele and Florence and the Machine. I was able to speak with Elliphant about her journey as an artist and what it means to be one in this age.
Tell me about yourself. What is the meaning behind your name Elliphant?
“The beginning of Elliphant started when…I was never really looking for Elliphant. I was picked up very randomly by a producer because I was doing some spoken word on his tracks at an after party in Paris years ago and he thought it sounded interesting. I was like “okay fair enough” and then I kept rolling around in the techno scene across Europe and he was calling on me. He was saying, “please come back, we need to do something” and I was not taking it so serious but when I finally got home, I met up with him and we started doing some music. I thought it was fun and I’ve always been writing, doing poetry and stuff but it was new to me, to sit and sing the lyrics. It was very liberating that people were asking, like he was asking me, he wanted me to do the art.
All the art I was doing at that point was photography, painting, and poetry. I was always pushing that on other people. “Do you want to hang my art? Do you want to expose my art?” But this time, I’m hearing those people say, “come, we want to make this with you”. So, it was a lot about the collaboration from the beginning. I thought about the excitement of doing work with other people because creativity can be a really lonely place but now, with music, I was finally feeling the family vibe. I thought it was going to be a band, me and this guy with another dude that was a producer. But they became a duo suddenly they were like, “you’re the artist” and I was like “what”. I didn’t really have an idea what I was going to do with this, and I just got a good job. I mean, for me it was a great job, it was a waitressing job at this breakfast place, it was a fancy restaurant and I was there from the beginning and creating a new concept for this restaurant. I was excited about that and I didn’t feel like doing music or becoming a pop artist. I felt that that was off.
I didn’t know what I was doing but suddenly, they told me they had sold a song, like a song was interesting to FIFA games. And now they’re like, “so they have already said yes to this song, now we need to set a name for this project”. My friend that actually, rest in peace, he just passed away a year ago, he said, you should be Elliphant and I was like “really?” and he said “yeah really, you should be Elliphant” and I said “okay let’s do it”. From there, everything was exploding, and I just grew. In the beginning, I named my daughter Lila, it feels really weird now, but she’s going to grow into that like how I grew into the name Elliphant. It didn’t mean anything for me in the beginning, but now it means everything for me. There’s the saying the elephant in the room, I really took it on in a way where I want to talk about things that are uncomfortable to talk about. I’ve also been really uncomfortable as a person, I always felt that I was the uncomfortable person in the room, the one that is too loud and talking too much, so I felt that was cool. I also felt that the elephant is huge but also humble and has a heart of gold and also, I am obsessed with elephants. These old, big, grey animals…my heart is pumping for them. So that’s my name now, that’s who I am now.”
So, you can say you’ve always been an artist because you’ve started out in photography, poetry, and other art forms, then you branched out into music as well.
“I grew up in a very dysfunctional family with a lot of partying, a lot of drugs and a lot of distractions. I felt that it was a natural channel that I picked on early to create something of what I was experiencing, so I was always creating something, even if it was building something from beer bottles to making stuff from shoe boxes when I was small. I was making shoe boxes where you can watch and see this other fantasy world that I was building in there. I was always being super creative. In school, I was dyslexic, I had a lot of diagnoses, it didn’t work out for me, I finished school in eighth grade. I always knew it was going to be the creativity that was going to be my cloud, the way forward. I realize that I’m getting close to a decade working in music now, but it still feels so fresh and new to me. I still feel like a visitor when it comes to music because I’ve never studied it. I’ve never sang when I was a kid, I didn’t know. This is something I’m still learning every day.”
In a way, do you think this is how you got into music because you were always being creative and then once you started collaborating with people, it really became a major thing?
“Yeah for sure, that is how it happened. Definitely. Before I fell in love with music, into the persona of Elliphant and the artistry of Elliphant, I fell in love with the collaboration of art. Because to make music, obviously I don’t produce, what I do is put in my lyrics, make melodies and put a vibe to it. When it comes to music, I’m super pretentious, but for my own music, I was just open to everything, because for me, it was so much about a person sitting there wanting to work with me. I was obsessed with the collaboration of being a part of something and making that favour for someone else, being useful for someone else was the first love I had in this project. Then later, I started to slowly, kind of morph into more of what I wanted to say and what I wanted to do. But to this day, I’m still very open. Some people can come with different ideas my way and I will jump on it, not because I necessarily am interested in that music, but I am just interested in the collaboration and where it can take me.”
Yeah in music, it’s definitely important to be open minded and versatile. Speaking of collaborations too, I know in your latest music video “Had Enough”, you were working with your oldest friends, what was that experience like?
“That was so good, it was the most fun I’ve had on a video set.”
I can tell it gave the video a very authentic and real vibe to it because you were just having a lot of fun with old friends.
“Yeah it was two of my oldest friends, we’re a group of six girls or maybe seven, and there were two of them, we’ve known each other for 20+ years and it was amazing. We went out to my cabin outside of Stockholm that I bought a couple of years ago. This rough and very rustic cabin and we just recorded. We put weird clothes on and filmed for 2 days and had a lot of fun drinking and partying. It was great, we were hugging and building stuff and everything in it was very genuine and pure because it was just real. We didn’t really have a plan. We didn’t follow anything; we just followed the vibe basically. We didn’t have an idea from the beginning.”
You can say it was a music video and a girl’s night out too.
“Yeah for sure, that’s what it was. It was great, it was the last big party night I had before I got pregnant, so it really felt like the last ceremony, the last experience. We were in a haze for two days, just building things, swimming with our clothes on, running on the fields, it was beautiful. We had so much material, we could’ve made five music videos, we could’ve made a whole movie actually. We should’ve filmed the whole thing and made a movie about us. We also made big revelations and there was some pure beautiful moments of friendship in this time that you could definitely write a movie about. That’s what I feel about our video, you feel like you want to continue watching this. You just want to know more.”
What were you inspired by for this video?
“The inspiration from the beginning was a cool documentary called Grey Gardens. It’s about two women, a mother and her daughter that are relatives to the Kennedy family and they live at this beautiful, old house that has everything. Time has done its dues there though; things have run their course because everything is falling apart. They’re getting older but something is not right in their head. It’s a beautiful cultural documentary from America. It’s basically these two amazing characters living in this rough house and it’s very iconic when it comes to fashion. There’s not one clip in that documentary where they haven’t changed outfits, so I think that’s why we brought so much different clothes and went crazy.”
I know you also released different remixes of “Had Enough” with Joel Mull, Cari Lekebusch, Alexi Delano, Lau.ra & more, tell me, how do you come up with different creative renditions for the song?
“I’m so proud of this release because if it was up to me, this is how I wanted all my releases to look. I would love to deliver this kind of content. This music video, the quality of the song, I feel like it’s high and it’s able to touch a lot of people and to really make that even more channelled, I brought in this other side of Elliphant because obviously with this new album, I’m trying to create something more out of wood, something that can stand time. I can feel that when I listen to my songs from the past, they’re all amazing. I’ve loved everything I’ve ever done because it’s part of me, but they don’t stand time. You can feel that they’re dated.”
So, you’re looking to create something classic and timeless?
“I wanted to create something classic. I wanted to create a sound that could work 20 years from now and that was the mission with the album. But, I also have this other side that I’m never going to get rid of and that’s my party side, where I come from, the techno. Sweden’s always been amazing when it comes to night music. The techno scene has always been my religion a little bit, to go out and stand with all these people in this dark place and listen to this priest/DJ. For me, these guys are legends and I was just so happy that they wanted to do this with me. These are not good friends of mine or anything. We reached out and they were open to do this, and I was shaking because these were my idols and they wanted to do it. I feel like they nailed it and it’s so great.
I feel that Elliphant wants so much to express that you don’t have to always choose one direction in life, you can be a diverse person. A lot of people find it almost unreliable and weak to change. People wants things to look the same and sound the same. They kind of create an idea or quality around that but I want to represent change because one of the realest moments of my life was when I learned meditation and realized that everything constantly changed. We’re not in control of anything and we need to be a part of this change to get the most out of life. So, I feel like I want to challenge that idea. I don’t want to stagnate, so I hope to be able to do that on most of the releases of the album, to create a night version of the song, so I don’t have to be put in a box because I don’t want to be in a box. I want to be free.”
You’re saying Elliphant is about different meanings, it’s about change and not being the same, not staying put?
“In all my interviews and ever since the beginning, people always wanted to put me in a box, like “oh you’re in the M.I.A, Diplo box” and then suddenly, I make a song and they’re like, “oh you’re making a song with Twin Shadow, that’s weird”. Even people in the industry have been like that, or the people in management and record labels, they’re always confused with how I constantly want to change. They don’t want me to be more than one genre but that’s the whole idea of Elliphant. That’s the blessing I have because I’ve never, like I said before, I’ve never had the plan of becoming an artist. I was given this by life. This was a road for me that was given later in life. I never as a child, also as a teenager growing up, I didn’t have a genre. I knew a lot of people who liked hip hop. They love hip hop growing up, they know the game, they know the scene, and they know the icons of that. They follow that and they want to be part of that or the people in pop, maybe they listen to Spice Girls and Britney Spears growing up and they love it and they want to do that. But I never loved any particular music like that, so this is my mission. I feel that I need to surf around and never stagnate and never make that type of decision.”
I understand, so you never felt like you were connected to one particular type of music, right?
“No, I wasn’t. I feel like that’s the cool thing about the 20s now because when I grew up, it was very much like the rockers, they had one style, they would listen to one music, and the pop girls were into Spice Girls and the hip hop guys were wearing their clothes and doing their thing. I feel like the cool thing about the 20s is that they’ve basically caught up with my vibe which is never choose. I love rock music, I can love a pop song, I can love and enjoy hip hop and electronic, I love all of this and I’m going to be a channel for that. The world is catching up, I feel like a lot of people are doing that now. People are suddenly making a country song, or reggae artists are going to pop.”
A lot of artists are doing that, they’re branching out and trying other forms of music too.
“Yeah, so it’s time for that now. It’s probably what the 20s is about. Also, when it comes to fashion, people are picking and choosing a little bit from everything and they put together something from all these other styles. It’s just a mash up moment in history.”
When it comes to your own music, what is your process when it comes to creating a song? How do you think of the beat or lyrics for it?
“Sometimes I write something, and I know this should be a really fast beat or I know this should be more of a rap song. Basically, I know when it’s a singing song or if it’s going to be more of a spoken song, but the beat is basically whose first. The one who grabs me first. The one I end up in a session with. Usually, I don’t know who I’m going to do a session with. I’ve been doing music a lot in Los Angeles and I have people setting up sessions for me. In the beginning, I do my research but now I usually end up in this place with a guy or girl and we make songs.
My process is that I live life. I go in Ubers or sit in the subway here in Stockholm. I live my life and I see things; I feel things and I write it down on my phone and I usually, I never, very rarely, go to a session with a full song but I have an idea. I have a couple of words I wrote down.”
You were inspired by the life around you or what you do in your own life.
“Yeah because I’m not a professional song writer. It’s my life. It’s thoughts from my own experiences and yeah that is my biggest inspiration, it’s life. I come with an idea, I talk this idea back and forth with the producer and that’s when the journey starts and the song creates itself, which is one magic moment when it comes to making music. And the collaboration because you had nothing, you had a word or two, and then you leave and you have a song to listen to in the Uber on the way home and it’s very confronting and amazing that you created that in a couple of hours. Something that wasn’t here before.”
I know you also collaborated with other big artists too such as Doja Cat, Tove Lo, Charli XCX, Major Lazer and more? What was that experience like?
“They’re all different experiences. Doja Cat, I was listening to her when she was on SoundCloud years ago. When I heard she was working with the same people I was working with in Los Angeles, I heard her name and I said, “I love that girl, I want to work with her” and they reached out to her and we had a meeting in her studio and we kicked it off. We liked each other and had a great moment. Tove Lo, I know her from Stockholm, from the first show I ever had here in Sweden in front of an audience. Tove Lo was also playing, she was doing her thing with her band and I was doing my thing. We have always been on the same journey, then she kicked it off. I consider her a good friend. Major Lazer was obviously from Diplo reaching out early in my project and wanting to work. We made a lot of songs, me and Diplo, and then it was natural to do something for Major Lazer too. With Charli XCX, she was on the song ‘Bitches’ with me. I was on tour with her and she’s a great girl, I would like to do something more punky rock with her.”
Who else would you like to work with? Who are you inspired by?
“Serpentswithfeet is amazing. I would love to do something with him. I think he’s going to blow up. Mykki Blanco, I’ve been following him for years. It’s amazing to see how he’s growing and he’s such a wise man, so talented. I would like to work with anybody who comes my way. I am a sucker for 90s. I would love to work with Gorillaz.”
Let’s talk about your single “Time Machine” releasing this Friday? What can fans expect?
“It’s probably one of the most simple, happiest songs of the album. If you have a friend for a long time or you have a group of friends, you can expect them to be your time machine through life. When I see my friends, we are travelling in time. I can be 14, I can be 13, I can be 25, I can be all these things. I can be someone long before I was a mother. We will always be young through each other’s eyes and every time we get together, it’s like nothing has changed. That’s the meaning of the song. It’s a vibe, it’s happy. Coming from two very serious tracks, I felt that we needed to shake this up a little bit with something a little bit easier to melt. I felt that it connected with “Had Enough”, the music video with my old friends. Now, this whole release from Time Machine is basically based on pictures of our youth and how we grew up together with this crew of girls. We were trying to be a little bit more creative with this release and reach out to a younger crowd and see if we can become a time machine with all these new kids in the Tik Tok world. We’re actually trying to sniff a little bit into that, into the youth world which is kind of cool because the song is called time machine and I am time machining myself into that.”
You certainly can connect with them with this song because the song feels very timeless and you can tell it’s about living in the moment and being happy.
“Yeah, it’s about putting one of these old vinyl’s on and standing under the fan and having that kitchen quality moment with the girls, drinking wine, smoking, talking, being with them.”
It’s about not worrying about anything else and enjoying the company. I know I have read that your way to relax is by drinking a lot or watching TV shows.
“Yes, it used to be like that. I’m a Viking, we drink beer for water over here since generations. I love to drink and release my head. I look forward to my first sit down with the girls to melt the fact that I now have a child. I’m in it every day and I love her so much. I try so hard to grip this moment like “is this really happening?” It feels like the moment I sit down with a glass of wine with my girls and I’m having that first night where I can let go a little bit. I feel like that’s going to be a moment where I process this experience and melt the fact that it’s a new place. I do get a lot of creativity and thoughts and it’s almost like I connect with the demons of humanity also when I’m in that drinking and partying place. I do believe in demons and I do believe in a lot of creativity. It’s hard to be interesting and creative when you’re happy. You need to be on the edge.”
You need to experience life.
“Yes exactly, who wants to hear a song about me waking up and taking care of my baby, eating breakfast, you know, laughing with my baby. That’s not so fun. But as soon as you have a fight with a doorman or kick a taxi window in or something like that, you have a song.”
My last and final question is what is a message you would like to say to your fans?
“Relax, you’re okay as you are. Everybody has a journey and don’t stagnate, keep changing. If you’re not happy with who you are or where you are, just make that change. Move on. Colour your hair, cut it off, just keep changing until you’re happy. Do whatever makes you happy. Don’t forget you’re on a rocking space. That’s something I need to think about sometimes because you get so overwhelmed by all these silly, non-meaningful things that don’t matter at all but in this society, it’s very easy to get lost in stuff that don’t matter. Be aware that the journey in the inside is also as important as the journey on the outside. Even more important. Love yourself and remember that every time you don’t think that you’re enough, you’re actually spitting the universe in the face. You’re on a rocking space and this is where you belong.”
Listen to Elliphant’s brand new single “Time Machine” below.