Swedish dance-pop diva Robyn — nee Robin Miriam Carlsson — waited five years after her eponymous 2005 breakthrough album to make her next move. But once her momentum got going, she turned into a virtually unstoppable juggernaut.
Last year, she issued a trilogy of Body Talk records, pushing the stylistic envelope with crafty experiments like the reggae-tinged "Dancehall Queen," the techno-thumping "Dancing On My Own," and a chugging duet with Snoop Dogg, "U Should Know Better."
As if that weren't enough, she also appeared on TV's Gossip Girl, performing her willowy ballad "Hang With Me"; she recorded a new track with her Stockholm chums the Teddybears, "Cardiac Arrest," for their new album; and she's already well into a follow-up album expected out by year's end.
So is that enough? Apparently not. Robyn also oversees her own entertainment empire called Konichiwa (she nicked the name from a Method Man/Dave Chappelle comedy sketch). She built the DIY label from the ground up after an eye-opening stint in teen-pop showbiz that started with her fizzy Robyn Is Here debut in 1995. She even has an entire line of Konichiwa merchandise — from hoodies to high-top sneakers — featuring her bright-eyed flying-bird logo.
So when she snarls, "Don't fucking tell me what to do," on her track of the same name, the brainy businesswoman is not kidding around. "I wasn't brought up in the indie world," she says. "I was a club kid who was catapulted into the pop industry at a very early age, and it took some time for me to figure things out. But I figured it out for myself."
As it turns out, Robyn runs her varied enterprises out of her Stockholm kitchen, hiring all necessary help on a project-by-project basis. Back home in Sweden, she explains, "I have a distribution deal with EMI, so it's very much my own money that goes into it and then comes back to me. And in the UK, I have a joint-venture deal with Island, which is still very different from the way I used to work. And in America, I work with Interscope, and it's a more traditional artist, or license, deal.
"But the important thing for me is not how much money I'm making," she adds. "It's how I protect my creative process. And that's still very intact. I make the album in Sweden, with the people I want to work with, and then I deliver the album to the people that I'm working with around the world."
Robyn got her show biz training early. Her parents ran a traveling independent theater troupe, and they started bringing her along at 6 months old. Watching them do what they loved, night after night, was all the inspiration she needed to pursue her own career. Signed at 15, she found herself on grueling year-long radio tours when all she wanted was to book more studio time.
"I felt like this pop world I was in was very much one thing, a stereotyped way of being for a female artist that I didn't really like," she recalls. "So now with my own record company, I can say 'No — I'm not doing those radio dates.' Because I know I can do three of them and it'll be more effective than doing 15.
"It's those small differences," explains Robyn. "But in the long run, all of those things add up to something entirely different."