QSC Aspiring Interview: Hanna Ögonsten questions if she’s lost it on new EP

Swedish-born artist Hanna Ögonsten is back with her latest release Lost It, a zippy, synth-ridden alt-pop track that sees her delving into her own insecurities and ultimately losing control of her own mind. The new single is taken from her debut EP, have you seen my mind cause' I've lost it, which blends a hint of sarcasm, but also anxiety as to the state of the world around her in Sweden.

Ögonsten explains how Sweden’s political situation got her wondering if she’d lost it, and how that led to the creation of her upcoming EP…

What are your earliest musical memories and influences from growing up in Akersberga?

My mum listened to a Swedish band called Kent, as well as lots of Swedish rock music and punk. When I got into my teenage years, I wanted to find a music style of my own so I started listening to the complete opposite. I had a James Blunt CD that I just loved, and later I became a huge Ed Sheeran fan. Now I feel like I'm just a mix of everything.

When did you discover your love of electronic music?

When I was around 19 I got into electronic music – before that I wasn’t that into producing or electronic music overall. When I listened to Charli XCX I became drawn to the electronic music world and I learned how to produce vocals – it was a new world opening up. It was a huge moment for me because I started creating so much more and recording and producing overall. That was inspiring.

I always had this big dream that when I do music full time, I would be the happiest person in the world.

You play the guitar and used to favour the indie scene before you discovered electronic music; how do you see your musical style evolving from here?

Lately I've been more into music that you can dance to. Before I was more into music that you could play guitar and harmonise to. That’s developed into me wanting to find new beats and creating more danceable tracks. 

I think that has something to do with the pandemic when there was a big lack of going out and partying and meeting new people. It’s developed into me creating pop music on my guitar or piano, translating it into the computer and then trying to find new ways to make a universe out of it using production.

What tends to inspire your songwriting and what does your songwriting process look like?

It depends. When I write for myself, I often go from personal experience, but when I write for others, I often go into a storytelling mode. Lately, I've been doing it from experience.

On my iPhone, I kind of write a journal, so every day I write down things I've been thinking about just to get it out of my head. I overthink a lot, but it also works as inspiration. 

When I'm in the studio, I often go through the notes on my phone just to see if there’s anything to pick from to write a song. That's where I got the inspiration for my EP that’s coming out in April.

that's the nice thing about music – you can see a problem, take inspiration and write something instead of just feeling angry.

What inspiration, specifically, did you find in your phone notes for the new EP?

I quit my job to do music full time and after reading through my notes, I realised that it was not quite what I expected it to be – from the point of being a producer and being female in the industry, seeing the lack of job opportunities that I have compared to males in the same position – I realised that I almost sounded better in my notes! 

So that became the inspiration for this EP, or at least a few songs on there. That was surprising because I always had this big dream that when I do music full time, I would be the happiest person in the world. Then I realised that it's a struggle in the industry – it's not personal towards me of course – but it still affects me, personally.

It’s common knowledge that female producers are still very much in the minority; it sounds like this really hit home for you once you became committed to music production full time…

Yes, because even though I'd heard about it and I'd been in those situations before, going through my notes and just seeing that it happens so many times…When I started doing this full time I didn't really think the reality would look like that so completely. 

But that's the nice thing about music – you can see a problem, take inspiration from it and you can write something in the studio and do something with it instead of just feeling angry. So that's the good thing that came out of that.

You’re confronting issues that are close to your heart in your music; do you find it easy to be vulnerable through song?

It's a bit scary, but it's almost always worth it. It's also a way of letting go of things. 

I mainly write with my friends, so because they know everything that I'm going through it's easy to be open with them, so translating it into lyrics for a song doesn't feel that scary. Releasing it into the world is more challenging as it’s your own feelings and thoughts – but it's also a relief.

Have we lost it, or have they lost it? That's the story behind the title.

What is the song you're most proud of writing?

I'm proud of them all, but I feel like the debut single is always the scariest. When I released Bang My Head, it was the first song I released under my own name, so that was really scary. 

It's quite personal, so even though it's about an old experience, you're always curious if the person it’s about knows that it's about them. So that one was the scariest one, but I'm also most proud of it because I dared to do it.

Tell us about the inspiration behind your new single, Lost It?

It was around the Swedish election. So me and my boyfriend – who also writes and produces music – and my best friend, who also is a songwriter, were all in the studio. We talked about going into our 20s – we never expected the world to look like this. 

In terms of the pandemic, the war that's really near Sweden and the whole right wing wave that's happening in Sweden right now. That was the inspiration. 

I was thinking about this a lot and was feeling kind of sad, so we wanted to write about this subject, but we didn't want it to feel too depressing. So we started making it fun. I found a bassline and some up-tempo drums and we just continued from there.

Your EP, have you seen my mind cause' I've lost it, is out April 28 2023. Was this also inspired by the political situation in Sweden?

The name is taken from Lost It, which is the first track from the EP, so it’s kind of a joke between the three of us that wrote that song. We used to live with each other, and we shared an apartment for one month with another student who lost her ID or something. 

So it started out a fun joke, like, ‘Have you seen my mind? Because I've lost it.’ Then when we were in the studio, I said – deadly serious – to the others, ‘If I ever lose it, you need to tell me.’

We were also so confused about everything that was happening in the world, so we were joking about it, but at the same time being serious, like, ‘Have we lost it?’ 

Especially thinking about the right wing wave – are we missing something? How can there be so many that vote for something we completely disagree with? What have we missed? What have they missed? Have we lost it, or have they lost it? That's the story behind the title.

What can we expect from your new EP?

In terms of the sound, it's edgy pop. It's a lot of up-tempo music and songs that sound uplifting, but the lyrics are talking about difficult things about being in your 20s. I'm writing lots of new songs as well, so hopefully, there'll be new releases this autumn…