I've always felt very inspired by my youth. The funny thing is that I'm now 28 and I still have that restlessness. That hasn't changed. I don't know if it will ever change, actually.
Scandinavian artists have long enjoyed a reputation as purveyors of the most forward-looking, catchy pop around. 28-year-old Karen Marie Aagaard Ørsted Andersen—better known as simply MØ—and her genre-stacked musical stylings are in pole position to further this illustrious lineage.
This past Monday, MØ gamboled out at MUV Hall in Seoul, South Korea, to headline the city’s annual Fake Virgin Festival and expectedly tore the roof off the place. The Danish export is a “meteoric rise” story, in due part to the strength of her 2014 debut studio album No Mythologies to Follow, global chart-toppers like Major Lazer & DJ Snake’s “Lean On,” which she wrote and features on—for better perspective, “Lean On” is the most streamed song of all time on Spotify and the music video has clocked 1.5 billion views on YouTube since March 2015—not to mention her unrivaled enthusiasm and spirited stamina on stage. It’s not hard to see why the Dane’s stock as a writer and performer spiked so high, so fast. This rebel demands your absolute attention in everything she does, rounding up your alt-pop expectations and tossing them out the window.
For all the excitement and anticipation leading up to her live set at Fake Virgin, it’s MØ’s apparent elation at the non-Nordic setting that feels most contagious when we meet up to chat in Seoul. In this second edition of our on-going series, Road Trippin’, MØ sits down to discuss her current state of mind, her on-going world tour, and some all-important “road sage” that only she can parcel out.
MØ’s second studio album is set for release later this year via Chess Club and RCA Victor.
You turned 28 this weekend. You’ve spent your past three birthdays on tour, is that right?
Yup! It’s true.
My whole fantasy is that you’re on this never-ending party train year-round. Do you do anything out of the ordinary to celebrate? How do you top the life you live day in, day out?
Well, my boyfriend—he’s a musician as well—and I always talk about this. In a way, touring is constant celebration and our lives are constant parties. So for my birthdays, it’s more about just doing something with my touring posse. We’re all so close and we’re like family. This year, we just snuggled in and hung out and had a good time. We’re a family on the road!
Do you get homesick? You do have this extended family on the road, but—
It’s of course different, but we’ve been touring so much, for so long. Plus, my keyboardist is the older brother of my best friend back home so it’s all kind of connected. I do miss my family very much. I miss my boyfriend and my girlfriends. But this is my passion so I have to do it while I can.
You can create that balance for yourself if you really want to.
It’s all about learning the ways to work around it. You make sure to see everybody once in a while, whenever you go home. You can work around any problem in the world if you just focus.
There have been so many milestones for you already, but you’re scraping the skies right now with “Cold Water” topping the charts. Do you still stop and think, “This is fucking crazy”?
I do! [Laughs] But the thing is that you’re always looking at the next thing. There are still so many more things I want to do and hope to achieve. So even though I’m like, “This is fucking crazy!” I’m trying to make the next move. That’s just my restless brain. I think that’s typical of people who are passionate about something. Wanting more, more, and more is only natural, I think.
I got around to seeing your documentary New Blood last night. It’s an insightful look into your life when you were really starting to gain traction. Were you happy with it?
I love that documentary. It’s really nice that it’s so down-to-earth and casual—very me. I feel good about it because I seem relaxed, you know? It’s not one of those documentaries where things are blown up to be this crazy thing. It’s like, “Yup. That’s me. That’s my mom. That’s my old house.”
I jot something down from the documentary, translated from Danish: “I love tornadoes… A symbol of a young person. A demolishing devil.” Do you still identify with what you said?
Like, being young? Yeah! I’ve always felt very inspired by my youth. The funny thing is that I’m now 28 and I still have that restlessness. That hasn’t changed. I don’t know if it will ever change, actually. Of course, as a teenager, everything is new and exciting because you don’t understand everything. It’s a super exciting place to be, but, of course, also scary. I’m still very inspired by the process of figuring out this journey I’m on towards something… Something. [Laughs]
It appears to me that you were always sort of off-center and thinking outside the box.
That’s what I always strive for at least. The thing is this: I love pop music and I love mainstream music, but I hate it when nothing sets it apart in an interesting way. Yes, off-center. It has to be “new” in some way, you know? Otherwise, it’s just too boring and I can’t handle it.
There’s a duality about you that I’m very curious about. In the documentary, even your mom says that you have a difficult time saying “No” to things because you want to please people and explore all of your options. And yet, you’re so opinionated, know what you want, and have such a strong sense of self. How do you collaborate so much and remain satisfied?
Saying “No” has always been my problem. The problem with saying “No” to opportunities is that maybe it might be cool to do it. Maybe it will develop me and my music into something exciting. You never know which choice is the right, therefore, I have to fucking say “Yes.” [Laughs] It’s true that sometimes people ask you to collaborate and there’s a part of you that’s like, “Ehhh…” I feel very comfortable when it comes to my creative output. It’s super important to me that it’s all authentic. I do say “Yes” to a lot of things, but it’s also important that my integrity remains intact.
“Final Song” is properly infectious. It leans more into pop than anything else you’ve done.
It’s definitely the most mainstream. When my label told me they wanted to put that out as a single, I was like, [MØ tilts her head back] “Of course.” I was actually a bit scared when we put that out because it is more pop than usual. But I love the song. I really like the songwriting on that one.
I hear that you guys are gearing up to give “Final Song” a big push on U.S. radio starting on August 30th. It’s going to be big. How did that song even come about anyway?
I actually wrote that when I was in Los Angeles. I’d been in Los Angeles for like a month or something and it was the last day before I was headed home. It was with a friend from Sweden, Noonie Bao, who I write with a lot. We decided to do a session and my publisher hooked me up with this U.K. producer, MNEK, and we were all in the studio. It wasn’t one of those things where you’re like, “We need to make a hit song!” It was just three people who really made a connection. That song came together in four hours and we were like, “Yeah, this is fun. This is great.”
What’s the true meaning behind the lyrics?
The song is about reconnecting with your inner passion and your inner strength. You know how sometimes we have creative block? If I’m too busy and working too fucking hard, I sometimes can’t find that fire or the inspiration. In the song, I’m singing to that passion. It’s almost like a love song, like, “Don’t leave me.” If I don’t feel passion, I feel super lost because that’s my thing and that’s what I’m good at—writing songs. If I can’t connect to that place inside of me, I’m super sad.
You’re off to Japan after this and you have so many shows lined up for the rest of 2016. But it looks like you have a small break in September. Do you still go back to your childhood home?
Maybe when I go back to Denmark in September I’ll go to my parents house and just faint. [Laughs] I have a very good relationship with my parents so I miss them a lot if I don’t see them for a couple months. The next album is almost done, but it always takes longer than you think.
How do you keep it together with this relentless touring? What’s your sage advice?
Having a brilliant tour manager, which I have, so that’s very good. Staying positive, of course. I feel like I’ve been super lucky because I love everyone in the band. It all comes down to the dynamic between the people you’re touring with. Even though you have the early flights and the very long nights, it’s all fine as long as the people you’re with are nice and have positive energy.
You’ve given tons of interviews. I’ve seen as many as I can possibly handle. If there’s one thing you want journalists to stop asking you moving forward, what would it be?
That I’m tired of? Ha! Okay, maybe, “What is it like working with Diplo?” [Laughs] Truthfully, I don’t mind answering that question because I love Wes [Diplo] so much. But I always get that one.
I thought you might say something like that, or something about the Spice Girls.
Every second person asks me about the Spice Girls. I’m from the generation of ’88 and everybody in the world from that generation were obsessed with the Spice Girls. We can all relate to that!
How do you feel about the Spice Girls reunion?
But it’s not even a reunion if Mel C and Victoria’s not a part of it. When we were doing playbacks back in the day, I was Victoria because I had the same haircut and Mel C was my favorite one. Now that those two aren’t doing it, it’s just like, whatever. I don’t care. [Laughs] I actually think it’s kind of mean for them to not do it. They were the most successful ones post-Spice Girls.