HOW much can change in 20 years? Maybe everything. Maybe nothing at all.

In 1998 the Swedish band The Cardigans were at their height. On the back of their worldwide hit Lovefool, they had made an album Gran Turismo that everyone loved, that yielded three hit singles (most notably My Favourite Game), while frontwoman Nina Persson was an indie pin-up by virtue of her blondeness, her coolness, her Swedishness.

It is now 20 years since Gran Turismo was released, 19 since Persson duetted with Tom Jones on a version of Burning Down the House, three since she and her husband Nathan decided to move back to Sweden from the US, 22 since Lovefool appeared on the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Persson is sitting at her desk in her home in Sweden blowing her nose and talking about music and frustration and thinking back to the woman she was back then and talking about the woman she is now.

In Malmo this afternoon it’s damp, overcast and there’s a chill in the air. “It’s the kind of weather that can creep inside your coat and grab you by the spine,” Persson admits.

The band, all Malmo residents, have been rehearsing. Soon they will be travelling the 670-odd miles to Glasgow to perform. The Cardigans are spending December touring that 1998 album Gran Turismo in full from start to finish.

Does Gran Turismo feel a long time ago? “Well, it does, and it doesn’t. Now that we’re working with it again it feels like it’s not that long ago. It’s the first record we made where all the songs still feel relevant. We did a good job. It also has a timeless quality to it. I feel I can still sing those lyrics and feel like I’m expressing something that is real.

“We have some songs which we don’t play because it feels like we’re doing covers of ourselves. They’re just from another part of our lives.”

Not Gran Turismo though. “I think it’s a good one.”

It certainly marked the moment when the band began to take control of their image and music and pushed back against the sugariness that Lovefool, which appeared on their third album First Band on the Moon, coated them in.

For a time, they had struggled with the pop image that they were landed with, in part because they saw themselves as something else. They were Black Sabbath fans after all.

“We were super frustrated about the impact of the song Love Fool. It was so big. People have attached this image onto us that we couldn’t identify with. Yes, we did make that song and, yes, we like that kind of music and we’re capable of it.

“But that song was not even representative of the record it was on. So [with Gran Turismo] we did feel like we needed to pay more attention and the choices we made.”

Their fourth album rebooted their pop aesthetic adding a metallic glitter and a rougher texture to their sound. The lyrics, too, took a darker turn.

“It was true experimentation,” Persson recalls. “It was the first time we used computers to record. We literally had a truck with computers back up to the studio. And we had no idea how to use them so the whole production idea for the record in retrospect was abuse of Pro Tools.

“It was really fun, we were excited to sit there and not just be working with guitars and vintage instruments.”

“Really fun.” To be honest, this is not what I expected. In the past Persson has talked about where her head was at during the making of the album. It wasn’t a good place. “I was very f*****-up throughout the entire recording," she said back in 2009.

I had assumed, I tell her, that fun would have been the last word that came to mind when talking about the album.

“I had a great time,” she corrects me. “But I was not happy. I think those are two different things. In a way it was the best thing I could do at the time because I wasn’t super well.

“I was sad and lonely. Certain things weren’t functioning within the band. In some ways we shouldn’t have gone on to make the record so quickly after wrapping up First Band on the Moon because that was draining.

“But the art that came out of it was still good.”

The art was good. And it sold. Which didn’t help really, she says. Success is not freeing, she found.

“We were always in the grind of major record labels. We were given ultimatums at certain points. ‘If you don’t do this TV show we’re going to stop prioritising you.’

“That’s not a freedom. Freedom to me would have been: ‘I’m going to go on a vacation.’ And that was impossible.”

The thing is, Persson says, that being in a band was not a life she had particularly wanted to lead. “I think the story of my life is doing things which I wouldn’t choose. That’s the cause of my sadness or frustration or depression. That’s who I was then. I can’t say I was objecting to making the record. You are also super grateful, and you acknowledge you are on a roll and you get given all these budgets and people are psyched for you to do more stuff. You are privileged.

“But I didn’t aspire to do music before I was in the band. It wasn’t the dream. I loved music and I enjoyed it. But I thought I was going to do different things and then suddenly I was 10 years into my career.

“That’s where I was. I think I was just a little dumbstruck the whole time and too tired to object.”

There’s maybe a sense that everything that has happened since has been a reaction to that time. The Cardigans took a holiday from each other, came back and made other records (including Long Gone Before Daylight in 2003, possibly their finest hour). Persson has also recorded under the name A Camp, working with her husband Nathan on the album Colonia in 2009 and worked in theatre more recently.

She’s also become a mum. And there was a cervical cancer diagnosis in there too. A life has been lived. Everything’s changed because life is change.

It was being a parent that prompted her and her husband to move back to Sweden. When their son was old enough for school they struggled to find one they liked and could afford.

“And I’d been sick and in the health care loop which was bananas too. When we had a kid, it became more apparent to us that not only did we live in the amazing city of New York we also lived in the United States. You become more of a citizen when you have a kid.”

Have I made her sound ungrateful? She’s anything but. Persson says she is looking forward to singing the songs from Gran Turismo again. “There is something very lovely about playing songs that are this old. They’re so in us that we can play around with them.

“We are aiming to be very true to the originals, but we can relax into it and do it well and have a good time with the audience.”

What it will not do, necessarily, is lead to new music.

“It’s not a priority for me. I feel quite lost as to what to do to make records. It’s so strange to me. I really don’t know what I would do.

“Music is not a priority. It doesn’t come easy for me right now. It might again. But I feel to force it because people are expecting it that would kill it for me.”

The Cardigans play the O2 Academy in Glasgow on Tuesday.