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AWA, pronounced ah-wa, is an African name derived from Eva, meaning ‘life’. The 21-year-old Stockholm born artist is too polite to correct my mispronunciation on our telephone call, but I am grateful to have checked because it really is a beautiful name which deserves to be pronounced right. The first part of our interview began with emails where we got lost in translation over the meaning of the word ‘haunts’—odd phrasing on my part, but AWA shined back with a list of West London’s finest spots she frequents, all worth noting.

AWA is doing her hair when we get to speak, an entire global lockdown later, and we both laugh about it. Like most Scandinavians, AWA’s English is naturally perfect. A student of classical music and the winner of Sweden’s X Factor aged 15; we talked with AWA about the power of forgiveness; new life habits and the one Swedish phrase we hope might find its way into the English lexicon.

Hey AWA! How are you? And as a native Stockholmer, how are you finding life in London?

 Hi! I am good thank you. I’m settling back into London after a few months in Sweden. I experienced both lockdown in London and Sweden. Although I’ve had such respect for this virus, so I’ve been inside most of the time, writing songs and really evaluating my priorities and routines in life. Living in London is a dream and I am confident I will have kids and be married in this city. I absolutely love it. I’ve been here for 3 years and have started to really create my own life here. It’s important to have a safe space to call home and good routines and friends to not get lost in the sauce. I would say that after this period of lockdown I’ve definitely adopted some really healthy habits that I’m excited to continue.

What have you been up to since coming back?

After lockdown the first thing I wanted to do was get back into the studio with people I have worked with and am comfortable with; and to do 3 to 4 days in a row and give myself time and digest what has been going on this year. I feel more confident than ever in my song writing which feels really rewarding and I know that my debut album will be powerful, at least for me, because it’s very honest and it’s a very exciting journey to embark on now.

One positive aspect of this entire global pandemic seems to be how art is thriving…

Definitely! I’ve been taking a lot of time to self-reflect and to look at my life and prioritise putting myself first and stepping into my power. I think that’s going to be the journey for everyone’s lives. As an individual I have become more myself which is a great feeling. I must say, I was a little nervous working with new people coming out of lockdown because you have been by yourself for such a long time. But I have had a few new people in the room recently that I didn’t know, in an environment with other people I did know, and people went into much deeper conversations than normal, not so much of the surface, excuse my French, bullshit anymore which feels good.

What are your favourite haunts in London? Are you an East or West girl?

I’m a West girl. So….
95 portobello road – great food.
Holland Park – beautiful stroll.
Hummingbird bakery- the red velvet cupcakes.
Wholefoods- I can be in that store for hours.
Nobu- just fantastic!
Chinese Medicine Yard- fantastic acupuncture.
Psychic sisters/ Selfridges- lovely crystals and mists/ essential oils.

Could you tell us a little about growing up and family life?

I grew up with my mom in Sweden, I have a brother 11 years older than me. My mom has always been super supportive of me expressing myself through music and dance. Despite being a single mom she made it possible for me to explore different hobbies which I’m super grateful for.

What inspired you to study classical music and how was your time at Adolf Fredrik’s Music School?

I wanted to learn technique and Adolf Fredrik was the school with the best reputation and discipline. My time at Adolf Fredriks was amazing, singing in a choir, making sure you keep a balanced harmony in your tone of voice, but also working on your own uniqueness. 

You won Sweden’s X Factor at the age of 15, how was the experience for you?

I know, I still can’t believe it to be honest. It was a crazy time, super fun but also so exhausting for such a young girl. The music industry is a tough business especially when you are young but I’m super grateful for the doors it opened and I saw every Friday Live show as a school to prepare myself for the ”real” world. I didn’t really ride the X-factor wave after winning though, I took 5 years out of the spotlight and just focused on making money to invest in my career since I only could rely on myself at that point. I made sure I went to LA and London to perfect my song writing skills and my craft.

How has it shaped your music career today?

It has def taught me what I don’t want to do..

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If there was one Swedish word or phrase you could make catch-on in English, what would it be?

It has been so hard to keep up with the slang here in London! Hahaha! The one thing that I use a lot with my team that is a Swedish saying is ‘red thread’ or röd tråd as we say in Sweden. I guess it kind of means ‘consistency’, so for example, I will say that I want a “a red thread going through the project or campaign or photoshoot”—I want a röd tråd.  My team know exactly what it means now.

What are your plans for the next few months?

I have two small gigs booked, I think, and then we’re going to do some more home recordings. We did some live sessions from my EP when I was back home in Stockholm which was great. It was quite exhausting building the set and filming, but I did have my team on Zoom which was good. To be honest with you, I personally really like these kinds of intimate performances.

I like your song “F**kin’ Love Songs”, what inspired the lines?

Thank you so much! I mean this one is def not a guidebook to how to view relationship, you can use “Like I Do” for that. BUT it is about taking something negative and working through it to finally transform it to something positive, in my case a song blessed w the presence of Ebenezer the genius.

What can we expect from your upcoming album?

The concept of the album is based on forgiveness—the power of forgiveness and forgiving yourself and others. And for the rest, you will have to wait and see! I am so proud of my album and how it highlights love from different perspectives, with self-love being the most important one. I’m definitely growing up physically, but I feel a huge shift mentally and spiritually too. So I will continue to put emotions into words and tell my story, one day at a time.

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