He got knocked down, and he got up again, and now he’s a top fixture of the pop charts in Sweden and beyond. The story of Gothenburg-born singer Victor Leksell is one of persistence and resilience, and it’s all paying off with game-changing streams and full-circle comebacks. We spend some time with the star – and his new blue ‘do – to talk heartbreak, secret auditions, and what the next chapter holds
Victor Leksell is a vision in blue. The 26-year-old Swedish singer is bundled up in a blue robe, settled back on a blue vinyl couch, in front of the peeling blue paint of wooden doors – all coincidentally in the same family of cobalt hues. The pièce de résistance? His fresh crop of blue hair, dyed especially for his Vogue Scandinavia debut. “It’s different!” Leksell says with a grin. “But my girlfriend, she’s into fashion, so I asked her yesterday if it was OK for me to dye it.” He’d been given the all-clear.
There are some other firsts underway, with Leksell confirming he has never before posed with a loaf of sourdough or, believe it or not, reclined in a bed of cabbage leaves – as he has done with aplomb for our shoot at an old rowing club in Stockholm’s Djurgården. But for the Gothenburg-born pop star, it’s been more about full-circle moments than firsts lately. Just weeks before our conversation, Leksell took to the Avicii Arena stage for a guest performance during the finale of Swedish Idol – the same program from which he was prematurely eliminated in 2017.
For our story, Victor Leksell was game to appear as he never has before: with blue hair and bread on his feet. Trompe-l’oeil printed coat, €2,335. Keta Gutmane. Tweed shirt. Dior Men. Cotton shorts, €680. The Row. Silver necklace with pendant, €9,200. Louis Vuitton. Pearl necklaces. Stylist’s own. Photo: Cornelia Wahlberg
“It was a bit of a revenge moment, in a way. There is so much rejection in those kinds of shows, so it was important for me to show people that it’s still possible to do what you love, even if you don’t make it so far in a competition,” Leksell says, flipping a packet of snus between his fingertips. “For me, it was more to show that people are bigger than those shows.”
Now that Leksell is a star with songs amongst the all-time highest streamed in the Nordics, that Idol exposure all those years ago is often seen as the starting point of his journey. But things kicked off a little before that, in a classic starting place for a musician: a broken heart. “I remember the feelings of heartbreak that started it all. They’ve healed, but I can still channel back to the emptiness,” Leksell says. “It was just dark, my world was gone. I was just working a job at a local ICA. I had nothing to lose.”
Victor reveals for the first time that he auditioned for Idol two times before he made it through to television. Leather dress, worn as jacket, €700. Yeruul Ariunsansar. Hooded sweater, €160. Archive Supreme. Printed shorts, €520. Off-White. Sterling silver rings, sold separately, €107. Ian Gadelius. Photo: Cornelia Wahlberg
With this mindset, Leksell auditioned for Idol. “I haven’t told this to anyone, but I auditioned three years in a row,” he says. The first two auditions he did secretly with a close friend, keeping it under wraps from the rest of his peers. “I had always been afraid to show that I sing because guys can be pretty mean and rough to each other. I always kept it hidden, I wasn’t strong enough to face the comments back then.”
I had always been afraid to show that I sing because guys can be pretty mean and rough to each other.
Those initial attempts were even more short-lived than his 2017 experience, with Leksell not even making it past the pre-castings to meet the jury. “I had no story, no personality,” he says. So for the third attempt, he played up to the producers a little. “They were very interested in me playing football, so that time round, I was like ‘If you like this, I’ll give you the story. I’ll milk the story’,” he says.
Leksell had indeed been playing football all his life, but he wasn’t as torn over the decision between sport and music as the programme would have had us believe. “When I got into puberty, I grew very tall over one summer and didn’t have any control over my body,” he explains, adding that this physical change caused him to bury any dreams of playing football professionally. But he amped up some internal tension for the jury which worked in his favour. “My friends and I, we still joke about it, like ‘Are you still choosing between music and football?’,” he laughs. “I wasn’t at all.”
Though he was voted out of the top 21 before making it to the final rounds, Leksell’s inherent talent and appeal proved a recipe for success. In 2020, he dropped the studio album Fånga mig när jag faller, which topped the charts in Sweden and went to number three in Norway. The album’s single ‘Svag’ (‘Weak’) dominated charts and set a Spotify record for the most streamed Swedish language song of all time. “I feel more comfortable singing in Swedish,” Leksell says, “I can just pronounce the words better.” It’s a choice that has struck the right chords with his local fans. Recently, he’s doubled down by tapping popular Swedish sounds, reinterpreting Veronica Maggio’s 2011 hit ‘Snälla bli min’ (‘Please be mine’). Covers were Leksell’s initiation into the world of music; his father, Andreas, played well-known songs at clubs and weddings. “That’s how I learned to play the guitar. All the songs I learned were through his cover book,” he says. The familial musical bond is still shared, with Andreas joining his son at Lollapalooza in Stockholm in July to contribute his vocals and guitar skills in a performance to the packed crowds.
In addition to his inherited love of covers, Leksell boasts a repertoire of high-profile collaborations, including his song with Nils ‘Einar’ Grönberg, ‘Din Låt’ (‘Your Song’) released in the summer of 2022, not long after the award-winning Swedish rapper’s death. “We came from such different worlds,” Leksell says, through tears. “For me, it’s just so much about taking care of yourself and staying strong.”
He’s maintained his stride since the tragedy, teaming up with Danish pop sensation Tobias Rahim (“He’s amazing, he’s something else. I’ve never met a person that big!”) and regularly performing alongside Zara Larsson (“I’m kind of shy in her presence, she has this superstar aura. She’s a superwoman”). Though heartbreak kicked off Leksell’s career, it’s no longer a factor; he’s been with girlfriend Lisa Magnusson for almost four years. Previously splitting their time between Sweden and LA for her work in communications, the pair have just spent the last few months together in Stockholm, sharing an apartment for the first time. “It’s taken years to come to this stage and it’s been amazing... But I can probably contribute a bit more to the chores,” he says. “We watch each other grow every day and we’re starting to become adults together. She really carries me.”
The artist’s high-profile collaborations have included the late rapper Einar and Danish sensation Tobias Rahim. Cotton shirt, €520. Valentino. Printed trousers, €320. Stüssy. Tie, €220. Valentino. Silver rings, sold separately, worn on right hand, €420. Pera May via The Forumist. Silver ring, worn on left hand, €220. Agoston Balazs via The Forumist. Pearl necklace. Stylist’s own. Photo: Cornelia Wahlberg
Between the Idol days and the present moment, Leksell’s persistence and resilience have brought well-earned success and validation of talent his way. But some of his biggest challenges yet are imminent, including the release of his next album. “There is proof that things can turn around if you give yourself time and faith,” read the press notes for the release – fittingly named Tid & Tro (Time & Faith).
Not only does the second album signify something of a new chapter for Leksell, it also provides ample content for the setlist of his forthcoming first-ever solo stadium show in Gothenburg. “It’s definitely my biggest and scariest dream,” he says of playing on home turf at the end of May. “I’ve always found comfort in doing festivals, so if some of the audience isn’t happy with my show, they can still enjoy other parts of the whole night. This is the first time I’m doing it by myself.”
On paper, Leksell is enjoying a well-earned come-up, but it doesn’t equal an escape from the mental health demons he’s openly talked of throughout his career to date. “I still doubt myself in many ways,” he says. “I had this picture in my head that top artists had the perfect life and no mental struggles, but they are still there. I’m learning, though. Learning how to find the balance between work and my friends and family, and being away a lot on the road. But I’m so thankful to be able to do what I love the most everyday.”
I’m looking forward to when I’m older because I have it all on video. I will sit down and watch it all back.
Asked about the greatest milestone of his journey so far, Leksell pauses and looks around the set. “This is a cool thing! I’m here with blue hair and crazy outfits!” he exclaims. But after further reflection, he pinpoints being a guest of fellow Gothenburg native Håkan Hellström on stage at Ullevi, one of Scandinavia’s biggest stadiums, for a duet performance of ‘Svag’. “I had been to his shows when I only had the dream to sing in front of people. So it was one of the absolute craziest things,” Leksell says.
“It’s all been a ride, but right now I’m in the middle of it,” he says. “I’m looking forward to when I’m older because I have it all on video. I will sit down and watch it all back.”
Photographer: Cornelia Wahlberg
Stylist: Emma Thorstrand
Talent: Victor Leksell
Grooming: Karolina Liedberg
Set Design: Angelica Nyman
Photographer Assistant: Mehran Pakgohar
Production: XO Studio