Molly Sandén on balancing partying with motherhood and her new red era

By Allyson Shiffman

Photo: Zoe Que

On the occasion of her latest single ‘Hålla Mig”, we catch up with Swedish pop sensation and new redhead Molly Sandén

Molly Sandén is seeing red. That isn’t to say that she’s mad; she’s seeing red quite literally. “I always see colours,” she says. “For me, songs have colours that they go with.” I suggest that she probably has synesthesia, a condition in which certain senses become linked in a peculiar way (Frank Ocean has it, too). “Oh yes, I’ve Googled this… So it’s not just OCD,” she says, half-joking.


Anyway, for her latest banger of a single, ‘Hålla Mig’, which comes out today, the colour is red, which is why Sandén has shown up to our interview at Stockholm’s Soho House with freshly-dyed copper hair. So fresh, it hasn’t even popped up on her Instagram yet (I’m looking for a blonde, so it takes me a moment to recognise her). “I’m still getting used to it,” says Sandén, who finishes her look with a relaxed Acne Studios T-shirt and leather blazer. She places her Platt bag on the table between us and orders an oat milk latte.

Photo: Zoe Que

The new song and the new hair marks something of a new era for Sandén – one that’s a little wilder, a little more booze-soaked and a little more likely to be out at the club until the wee hours of the morning. It’s the exact opposite persona one would expect from an artist who recently became a mother. “I’m 30, I’m a mum – I thought I was going to have it all sorted out and be this cosy, grounded sort of person,” she says. “But I realise I’m still going to be the same me, always wanting to challenge myself and go further. Further into the night, to the next party and the next big thing.” On the track, Sandén naively suggests that she can exercise restraint before ultimately giving into her baser impulses.

I realise I’m still going to be the same me, always wanting to challenge myself and go further. Further into the night, to the next party and the next big thing.

Molly Sandén

In fact, having a child – a son – changed Sandén “less than she thought it would”. “I just have less time, that’s basically it,” she says. “But I feel like when I’m in the studio now, I’m enjoying it more, because I’m like, ‘This is me time’.”

Sandén’s career has seen several eras, unsurprising given that it kicked off when she was a teenager representing Sweden in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Even before that she was performing sort-of-professionally at various events. “I got to sing at people’s weddings and funerals,” says Sandén. “I had a business when I was seven years old.” Her patrons paid her in movie tickets and candy, mostly.

Photo: Zoe Que

In fact, when I ask Sandén if she can recall a time in her life before she knew she was good at singing, she can’t. It’s always been her “thing”. “I was kind of a lonely kid, but not necessarily in a sad way,” she says. “I was walking around singing in the forest – I thought life was a Disney movie” (later, she assumed she was a wizard, waiting patiently for her letter from Hogwarts). Her sisters, Frida and Mimmi – both professional artists – have the gift, too. Their parents, however… “They always listened to music, but they really can’t sing,” says Sandén. Whether or not her son inherits her singing talent, she hopes he will be drawn to music. “Maybe it’s better if he’s a drummer or something, then we can have a whole band,” she says with a laugh. Sandén sings to him constantly, even while pushing his stroller through the streets of Stockholm.

Though the Hogwarts letter never arrived, another sort of magic did. While practicing for her first Eurovision competition in her family’s basement (she would go on to compete in Melodifestivalen three times), Sandén was hitting a high note in Celine Dion’s ‘My heart will go on’ when she started seeing stars. “I saw gold stars coming from the roof – like gold glitter. And I was like, ‘Woah, okay, this is my magic’,” she says. Her hunch was confirmed when she won the competition and gold confetti rained from the sky. A few years later, however, she had a sobering realisation. “I was in the gym and I saw the same gold stars coming from the roof and I realised it was just a lack of oxygen,” she says.

Photo: Zoe Que

Photo: Zoe Que

Sandén’s life may not be a movie, but one of her most memorable moments was due to one. In 2020, she lent her voice to the Netflix film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, performing the singing parts for Rachel McAdams’ character. It led to Sandén performing live at the Oscars. “When I lived in LA, we had Oscar parties and I of course dreamed about performing there, but since I was singing in Swedish, I never thought it would happen,” says Sandén, who lived in LA for two years in her early 20s. “I didn’t like living there, it was too shallow,” she says. Following a bad breakup, which found her sleeping in her car for one tragic evening, she moved back to Stockholm.

That’s the thing about Sandén; through all of her eras, she’s stayed true to her Swedishness. While fellow Swedish talent circuit alum Zara Larsson (“We were always competing,” says Sandén) sings in English, Sandén has always preferred her native language. “When I lived in LA, I tried it out,” she says. “But I felt it was taking me back to performing music again. In Swedish, I feel like I have no skin.” This rawness is felt in ‘Hålla Mig’ – a prime example of Sandén’s emphasis on emotion over technique. “My first album, I can’t even listen to half of it because it’s like a princess cake on a princess cake with a marshmallow on top. It was all about showing the world that I can sing,” she says. “Now when I’m creating music, I’m only thinking about communication.”

On this track, she’s communicating a sense of passionate abandon, letting out the wildness that hides just beneath her surface. “I like alcohol sometimes because it lets it out,” she says. “Sometimes it’s nice not to be in control.” Sometimes it’s nice to see red.