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Responsible for the smash hit ‘Lean On’ with Major Lazer, which is one of only 9 songs to have surpassed 1 billion streams on Spotify, Karen Marie Ørsted (a.k.a MØ) is a Danish superstar and a force to be reckoned with. We chatted to her before her show at The Ritz in Manchester on the night that her latest single ‘Nostalgia’ was named Annie Mac’s ‘Hottest Record’ on BBC Radio 1.
On your first EP and your debut album, you recorded a lot in your bedroom in a very DIY set-up, and that set-up created quite a textured style of vocals. So for your latest EP, especially on tracks such as ‘Roots’, did you try recording vocals in this way again?
It’s true that I do go to sessions in L.A and record on very expensive microphones from time to time but I still prefer to do my own recordings, because I feel like I can get even more into the vibe and the feeling of the track. It’s funny, a lot of people think that because my career has grown over the past few years, but actually the way I record and make music very often happens in the same way.
You worked with Vasco and Vera on your new EP – what were they like to work with?
It’s always really nice to work with both of them because they’re both very quick and have so many great new ideas all the time and they’re just so hungry to create new sounds. There’s an energy around them that’s hard to describe. They’re so aware of the new, cool fresh shit and that’s such a nice energy to be around.
How does being in the music industry affects your artistry? Do you feel any pressure to conform or to make something ‘radio-friendly’?
I’m a person who gets distracted very easily and in the industry, there are so many people and there’s so much talk and noise. There are so many different opinions and I don’t know if it’s really pressure, more just confusion to be honest. I have to try to cut out that noise sometimes so that I can focus. Everyone’s just trying to help and come up with good ideas but I think for me, moving forward, I’m trying harder to cut out the noise and just follow my heart.
From the title track of your new EP When I Was Young, I get the impression that you feel a bit conflicted about whether touring the world has been a completely good thing… Do you feel a little bit like you’ve sacrificed the feeling of safety that you had in Denmark by exploring the world?
Everything that’s happened over the last 5 years has been such a gift, it’s a dream come true and I feel so blessed. I have no doubt about that. But I do think that all of a sudden when my career started, I just dropped everything I had going on and went with the flow of it and I do sometimes get pretty nostalgic about how it was before. But it’s not that I want to go back to being like that, it’s just me looking back because my life changed so quickly. I don’t regret anything. I just like thinking about old days and I miss my friends, who am I kidding? I miss my old friends so much.
My favourite song from your new EP is ‘Bb’ and I love the lyric “Now your eyes look strange / And the sky looks strange / Even the streets look strange”, because it sounds you went through a break-up that changed your whole view of the world. Is that the case?
I’ve always liked that line, that’s exactly what I was thinking because I remember the first time I was super heartbroken, all these things that seemed normal started to hurt. Every time I’d look at the sky or the street it’d remind me of him and I felt alienated to everything and I just felt so sad. I’m so happy that you got that!
‘No Mythologies To Follow’ is one of my all-time favourite albums and it features my favourite MØ song, which is ‘Waste of Time’. Can you talk a little bit about what you were feeling when you were writing that track?
I wrote that song reflecting on a break-up I’d had a couple of years earlier and I just remember feeling that he was being so cold towards me and the whole romance that we’d built up had been a total waste of time…
You’ve previously described your teenage self as a bit of a ‘tornado’ and I noticed that you used this imagery on the sleeve for the vinyl record, was this intentional?
I think I’ve always been really fascinated by tornadoes and felt like they represent the youth, because they’re beautiful and bombastic, but also mass destructive. I think that in my world, they’re two things that go hand-in-hand.
Every NYE, I listen to your song ‘New Year’s Eve’ because I tend to get quite emotional on that night, do you feel the same?
That’s one of my favourites of my own songs, I really like it. I’m always really excited for New Year’s but I also do get a little bit melancholic, so I wanted to make a beautiful, melancholic but still uplifting New Year’s Eve song, because I wanted that in the world. It’s about putting your worries and troubles behind you and embracing the New Year, and then you can talk about all the shit the day after!
You opened my eyes to a world of amazing Scandinavian and Nordic music, which now makes up most of my music taste, so thanks for that! What are some of your favourite up-and-coming artists from Scandinavia that you think people should get to know?
I love Skott, who’s supporting me tonight, I think she’s amazing. I love Tove Styrke, she’s so awesome, I respect her so much. I also love Tove Lo but she’s already big. From Denmark we have Kwamie Liv, she has the most incredible voice. There’s also Soleima and I love Vera so much. Sigrid is amazing too, I love her!
I’m really excited to see Skott tonight for the first time, how did you meet her?
We’re label mates, that’s how I got to know her and then we just hung out a few times. I love her music and her as a person, she’s so real and I feel like on an emotional level, we really connect. I think she’s badass and she has the most crazy voice, she has such an incredible vocal range. I’m like “Give me your voice!” [laughs]. Her new EP is mind-blowing.
You toured the U.S earlier this year with Cashmere Cat – how was that?
It was really fun, it was so nice to be on a tour like that with a friend. I feel connected to him and I’ve known him for years. It’s nice to do a collaborative tour, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
Finally, it’s important to take as long as you need, but as a big fan of you, I am desperate to know… When (roughly) can we expect your new album?
It’s been taking forever and I’ve been saying “It’s almost done” for so long now. I still don’t have an official release date but it’s more or less done now, I’m just waiting to do the finishing touches. Trust me this time! I’d kind of forgotten how long it takes to make an album. I’m a fucking perfectionist too, so it’s taken forever. I want it out now, I don’t want to wait anymore!
MØ’s latest single ‘Nostalgia‘ is out now! Her sophomore album is due later this year.