For Swedish artist Lykke Li — who runs her own label, LL Records — signing a deal to be the face of Levi’s new Curve ID denim collection was a curiously corporate career move.
“I don’t even wear jeans,” she says. “But it involved a massive paycheck, so it was really hard to say no to, since I was starving and broke at that moment. So that was just something I did to get by.”
But listeners don’t hear hunger in Li’s new sophomore album “Wounded Rhymes,” which she’ll play in Oakland in concert next week.
Produced by Peter Bjorn and John’s Phil Spector-shrewd Bjorn Yttling, the sweeping work parlays exotic percussion and oblique melodies into singalongs like “Get Some,” “I Follow Rivers” and “Youth Knows No Pain.”
Even her quiet songs — such as “Possibility” from “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” soundtrack — sound plush.
After her 2008 debut “Youth Novels” was released, fans made instant assumptions about the Stockholm native.
“I think people, when they see you, think, ‘Oh, she must be doing really well!’ But you know, I don’t sell any records,” says Li, 25.
That’s the downside of being the LL CEO. She says, “I didn’t make any money from that album, because I had to pay all the musicians, pay for our flights and hotels. I would spend my own money for my videos, too. I’m like, ‘Where’s the profit? Oh yeah, I just shot 10 hours of black-and-white Super-8 film that I paid for myself!’”
Compounded by a romantic breakup, the account-draining affair left Li (birth surname: Zachrisson) with a severe case of writer’s block.
She sought serenity — and anonymity — in New York City for a while, which was a big mistake. She tried California, where she got her driver’s license, rented a car and went tooling alone through the desert, visiting Joshua Tree, Death Valley and Pioneertown.
“That’s when I finally get to have fun — when no one is watching,” says Li, who then spent time in Jamaica before setting up songwriting shop in Los Angeles, where “Wounded Rhymes” coalesced. “I gave myself time to breathe, and then slowly but surely, things got better for me,” she says.
Another misconception Li wants to correct is that she’s as tough as she appears to be onstage.
“The stage isn’t reality,” she says. “I go through what every person in the whole world goes through — love, loss, longing, heartache. I just made a record out of what I was experiencing.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com