Molly Nilsson's sixth record, Zenith, focuses on her ascension as an artist. As the title suggests Nilsson gave herself the goal of reaching new and unexplored terrain with her new body of work. She previously scrapped a completed album late last year to ensure her next move touch on something broader and bigger than before. On Zenith, her lyrics move towards the wider world and where she stands in it. She questions the nature of happiness and melancholy, both with a sense of hope and charismatic wit. The record's spectrum has moments of opulence, meditative calm, uncertainty and passion for life.

Since 2008, Molly has established a cult following with her homespun electronic pop. From the outset of her career, she has maintained a do-it-all-herself approach. The music, production, mixing, packaging, promotion are all self-produced, meaning that nothing in her vision is compromised and that the final record listeners hold is exactly how she intended it to be.

Her music thrives with lush synths, melody and thought-provoking lyrics. Andrew Darley chatted to Molly about pushing her sound forward with Zenith and how she "would rather listen to shit-produced masterpieces" than perfectly polished songs that say nothing. She further explains how her music is more about her listeners than it is about her.

What was it you wanted to do with this new record?

I wanted to make the best album I'd ever heard. Something intelligent yet hopeful. Dancey and equally peaceful. In some of the songs I tried to catch the whole world in one melody.

Some of the songs on this album examine the wider world and your place in it, such as '1995'. Do you feel that you have had a personal change in perspective since the last record?

I tried to face the world with open eyes without being frightened by it, which seemed very difficult at times. A friend noted on this album how "I" is much more frequent, something I had not noticed myself.

How did you arrive at the title Zenith for the record?

I usually give myself a title that I work towards and sometimes in the end I change it once the album is done, and in this case I wanted to have a title that would inspire me to make my own kind of masterpiece - my summit of sorts.

Your approach is quite admirable in that you write, produce, mix all your music as well create the artwork and distribution. Essentially, every aspect of your music is all you! What sparked your ambition to work in this way?

Well I'm just very driven when it comes to certain things and that in combination with my artistic pride and distrust in the industry just landed me there. But of course, despite all that I have had some amazing people surrounding me, inspiring me and encouraging me over the years.

Would you say that you always had that autonomous trait in you?

Yes, ask my teachers.

When you started this DIY approach, were there any other artists that you took direction from or even guided by?

Well yes, not necessarily in the same field or contemporaries but there have been plenty of people who inspired me to keep working to be the best, regardless of success and vanity.

Does the process ever feel lonely?

The artistic process has never felt lonely, on the contrary. But of course the "boring" work, such as administration has been tedious at times, but that's something else.

When creating a record, do you have people close to you who you play songs to or show them ideas?

Yes. It's very important to find people whose opinion you trust. I have been very lucky to have my very muses.

I figured since I am only responsible for myself and my own work I can take a lot of risks, that I would not want to subject others to. I always knew I can sort myself out, and so far I have.

Have you considered the idea of collaborating with another producer or musicians? I imagine that if you ever did it would have to be based on a genuine connection and understanding of what you do.

At the moment I am working on an EP together with another musician and singer, but the work itself is just play. I like to generally start every project presuming nobody else will hear it and thereby be free to make ridiculous choices.

There's a freedom in the many styles on this record from early '90s rave to jazz and ambient music. Do you feel you have broadened your palette?

With every album I make a few more steps. It's a way of learning, and changing at the same time. Sometimes you feel as though you keep stomping on the same step hopelessly, and those are usually the frustrating but most rewarding times, until you finally push it over the ledge and proceed.

In terms of production, has there been anything that you have technically had to teach yourself and get to grips with?

In the last few years I have become more interested in production itself but I still feel that the idea and the song itself is most important. I hear a lot of well-produced shit these days, but I would rather listen to shit-produced masterpieces anytime.

'Mountain Time' was the first song that instantly stood out for me. Can you tell me about it and the sound you wanted for it?

It was actually the one song I wasn't sure to include on the album, thinking it was too "Molly Nilsson". There is something so naïve about both music and lyrics, but usually the parts you want to hide away are the most genuine and now I'm very happy it made it on.

All of your album covers are designs in black and white, is there a specific reason for this? Have you ever thought of you putting yourself on a cover?

I tried to find ways of making figurative covers that would leave as much space as possible for the listener's own imagination. I hate the idea of someone listening to my songs looking at my face. I'd rather make a mirror-cover so that each one can look into their own eyes instead. In the end, when someone listens to my music it has nothing to do with me anymore. I'm only the projection, and it's all
about you.

There has always been a sense of humour and wit in your lyrics, even when you deal with heavier subjects. 'I Hope You Die' is an intense song about pure devotion, but it almost feels like a black comedy in how morbid it is. Have you found that people can take you very seriously?

I never know if people understand what it is I am singing about or not. But once again, I suppose it doesn't really matter if everyone hears their own song. Sadness and happiness are such basic human emotions they can only exist beside each other and I just can't help throwing a few humorous jokes in every once in awhile. Personally, I laugh a lot more than I cry and I wish that's true for most people.

Do you consider yourself a pop artist?

I guess so? On an existential level, maybe not.

What was the happiest moment for you in making this record?

That I was able to finish it and that now people can hear it. Forever.

Did you learn anything about yourself making Zenith?

Yes. That I still have many more albums to make.


Zenith is out now on Molly's label Dark Skies Association.