Danish singer/songwriter Karen Marie Ørsted, known as MØ (pronounced Moo), is a young musical trailblazer with talent far beyond her twenty-something years. A relative newcomer, she recently celebrated a 12-date sold-out North American tour, which began in Washington DC on May 20th, ended with a June 4th show in Los Angeles, and included a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! [View Jimmy Kimmel Live! performance on YouTube here]. She recently released her debut album entitled, No Mythologies To Follow, on February 21st, 2014, on Sony Music Entertainment. She has been enjoying strong global buzz, wide critical acclaim, a highly devoted fanbase and counts collaborations with GRAMMY Award nominated DJ/Producer Diplo on XXX 88 and GRAMMY Award nominated DJ/Remixer/Producer Avicii on Dear Boy to her credit.
I recently had the honor and privilege of chatting with MØ in person shortly before she took the stage at her sold-out Lincoln Hall Chicago tour-stop Wednesday, May 28th, 2014. [Read "MØ moving music forward for the next generation at Lincoln Hall Chicago REVIEW" here]. [View MØ US Tour part 3 video clip on YouTube from Lincoln Hall Chicago here]. I wanted to learn more about her incredible talent; that remarkable voice, strong songwriting, and positive influence she has on her fans.
William Kelly Milionis: Welcome to Chicago.
Karen Marie Ørsted (MØ): Thank you. I've never been to Chicago. This is my first time.
Kelly: Do you like what you have seen of our City of Big Shoulders?
MØ: So good, so far. It reminds me so much of Gotham. I feel comfortable in a cool way.
Kelly: So, you feel like you are home?
MØ: Yea, at some point, because it has some roughness but it's still delicate, if you can say that.
Kelly: You haven't been in Chicago long enough to participate in eating local foods and visiting the sites
MØ: No, not really.
Kelly: You'll definitely be returning to Chicago?
MØ: I want to. I really want to.
Kelly: You are from Denmark so you've had to learn English. You speak very well.
MØ: Thank you...I gotta tell my parents that (chuckling).
Kelly: Did you go to school to learn the language or did you sing along with the English language songs?
MØ: The thing is, when I started singing back in the days, I was inspired by the Spice Girls. I wanted to sing in English too. So I've always written songs in English. The only time I didn't write songs in English was when I was in this punk band and we sang in Danish. As a child, my parents always took me and my brother on long vacations far away, where they spoke English. And, they are both English teachers. They were both very into getting me and my brother to speak English. But, actually, in school, I was not that good. I mean, I've never been good in school, at anything really...I mean, not really. But I think touring and doing this has actually improved my skills in English (more chuckling).
Kelly: Reading your lyrics and listening to how you put them together is truly very cool.
Kelly: You mentioned you write songs in both English and Danish languages. Which language do you find easier to write in?
MØ: At least it's easier for me to express my thoughts or feelings in a poetic way in English. Because, sometimes when I write in Danish, it's like I can't let go in the same way. I can't give in to the feel or passion. It's different in English. But, I think it's because like I said since I was little, since I was seven, that was when I started making songs and that was my way of expressing myself. It was my way of letting out steam. So, it just seems natural to me to express myself in English in songs. That's my way of doing it, so I guess that's why.
Kelly: Do you write songs to a piano?
Kelly: Do you also play guitar?
MØ: I also play guitar, but not that much. I'm better at piano, so that's usually what I do. Now when we are touring a lot, I actually write in Logic, the music program [music production software] and just use synthesizers to create something. It's so easy to chop it up and do all this stuff. You can do everything.
Kelly: You are the sole songwriter. Would you consider co-writing opportunities?
MØ: I have a producer who produced the music, Ronni Vindahl, the guitarist. He's touring with me...that's wonderful. I write all the songs and all the melodies. I arrange it myself and do all that stuff. I think it would be fun to work with some writers at one point, but so far it's just been myself.
Kelly: You've worked with some of the best DJ/Producers in EDM (electronic dance music), GRAMMY Award nominated Diplo on XXX 88 and GRAMMY Award nominated Avicii on Dear Boy. With your love of the Spice Girls and promotion of the Girl Power message, the EDM electronic dance music genre has been cited by many as being very heavily male dominated. Would you ever consider collaborating with very talented DJ/Producers who are female; for example Annie Mac, Maya Jane Coles, TOKiMONSTA or Nervo?
MØ: I would, definitely. But, talking about the sexes though, I think you are right. It is a male dominated industry. But, I think it's about making good music. It shouldn't be about the sexes. I really don't even think about it. If I feel uncomfortable in a situation, I just leave. I don't want to deal with that. I just don't want to go into that discussion. If people look at me and think less of me because I'm a girl, then I don't want to have anything to do with them. At the same time, I don't want these things to be an issue because I don't want to be like UGHHH you know I don't want to point fingers because if these males are good at making music then I want to work with them. But, I would love to work with some talented females too, of course.
Kelly: Would you consider working with the very talented vocalists in that genre who are also female, like Nadia Ali, JES...?
MØ: Yea, I mean I would love to work with them; and also Sia!
Kelly: Yes, "Titanium" (chuckling)
MØ: (chuckling) yea, yea, she knows how to rock a hook!
Kelly: And, you started singing very early in life?
MØ: Yea. Yea.
Kelly: Are you self taught or did you take lessons?
MØ: I started singing when I was maybe seven years old because I wanted to be a musician, because of the Spice Girls actually. But, I didn't take lessons back then. When I turned fourteen, or something, I had some lessons. But at that time, you know, I was in my teens, so I started getting into left-wing politics, punk rock and I was shouting all the time. So, when I took these lessons, my voice was always AHHHH (she says in a loud whisper as if shouting) so I really didn't get anything out of it. But I'm basically self taught.
Kelly: That's quite remarkable because you have such an amazing voice. Being self-taught is quite a significant accomplishment!
Kelly: While you are on tour, do you use the services of a vocal coach or participate in vocal warm-ups/vocal exercises?
MØ: Yea, now I have. To begin with, since we started this in 2012, I was just like, I don't care. I'm just gonna AHHHH (again, she says in a loud whisper as if shouting) and I didn't think about it. But, you know, we have been touring intensely for one-and-a-half years. Two months ago my voice was ruined. We had to cancel five shows and get some lessons and some massage on the throat and things like that. So, I have some tools that I use now.
Kelly: You are moving music forward for the next generation. And, you have such a positive influence on your fans.
MØ: Thanks. That's what I want. I was so happy for what the Spice Girls did to me back then. I mean, I know it's a bit silly. I was a little girl then. But, if I could at any point make other little girls do music and break free from their insecurities, that's of course something that I would dream about to do. I want to communicate. I want to make something new happen. You want to create something new to blossom. I also have to tell you, another female artist that's been a big inspiration to me is Kim Gordon from the Sonic Youth. In my teen years, obviously the teen years are hard. I should say this about breaking through the glass ceiling, I was like many other girls or boys for that matter, very insecure when I was a teenager. She helped me believe in that it's ok to just f--k everything, f--k all of the polished perfection and just be who you are...be badass. She was, you know.
Kelly: Thank you very much for this interview opportunity. I am so looking forward to your live performance.
MØ: I hope I won't disappoint you then. Thank you for your very kind words.