Since the days of ABBA, Sweden has been a reliable pop music breeding ground. But in the last five years, a new generation of artists has been pushing boundaries of Swedish music on the international scene. There’s still radio-friendly fare (Tove Lo, Avicii), but now also introspective indie (Lykke Li), web-savvy hip-hop (Yung Lean), and danceable electropop (Little Dragon) in the mix.

With the music of singer/songwriter Snoh Aalegra, R&B will soon be a major export, too. Born and raised in Stockholm, the 28-year-old Persian bombshell was reared on the great American soul songbook: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and her all-time favorite, Michael Jackson. With her booming pipes, Aalegra inked a deal at 14, grinded for a minute, and moved to London before landing in Los Angeles.

Now signed to Epic—which released her EP There Will Be Sunshine last fall—Aalegra has been hard at work with Kanye West hitmaker No I.D. on her debut album (she dropped the RZA-produced first single “Emotional” in February). We caught up with her between studio sessions to talk about writing songs and why Sweden has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.