Four hours before MØ (don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it) took the stage at the Brighton Music Hall, Brighton Ave hummed with the typical pedestrian gab and the eternal vehicular rumble. Amidst it all, seated on a public bench outside Bravo Pizza, MØ stuck out brilliantly against the mundane bustle, and for fifteen quick minutes we talked. Genuine and raw, MØ disappeared for final pre-concert prep leaving me with new questions and a budding crush. Hours later, she rocked the stage.
Adam Kaminski: You’ve been influenced heavily by the Spice Girls, yes?
MØ: Ya! They were the reason I started making music back in the day, when I was seven or eight. I wouldn’t say I listen to the Spice Girls any more, but I was a big big big fangirl back then.
AK: You cover the Spice Girls on your debut album, No Mythologies to Follow. Are you still moved by music in that same way?
M: I get very touched by music. It’s my platform of letting out steam, my way of expressing myself. I try to do that in my own music but sometimes other artist’s music make me feel that, you know? Music is a way of communicating and it’s a way of trying to explain a certain feeling. It’s a way of giving things meaning and we all need to find some meaning in the world.
AK: What do you try to express or communicate about yourself through your own music?
M: Really just my thoughts about stuff – society or my friends. A lot of it is about being young and restless and kind of lost in the crazy society of the modern world. We do still have religion but, more and more, media and the social media are becoming religion. They tell us the how to live and glorify eternal youth, beauty, fame, money and all that stuff.
AK: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m seeing a contrast in your on-stage personality and your personality here talking. Where do you feel like you’re the most ‘you’?
M: I feel like I’m myself in both places. Now, as you say, I’m just being myself and talking about stuff, but when I perform I’m trying to just let go and get into the feelings I had when I wrote these songs. It’s kind of on another level because it’s like you’re giving in to these feelings and instincts; it’s about expressing yourself. Maybe it’s a deeper level of my persona, or maybe it’s even more banal – it’s more about letting go.
AK: It’s like you’re letting go and becoming something others can connect to.
M: Ya, exactly.
AK: So when you’re writing a song, how do you know it’s authentic enough? Or even when you’re listening to a song, what makes you say ‘this artist is conveying to me what he or she is trying to. I want to listen to this.’?
M: That’s a hard question. I love, for instance, when you can hear that a vocalist isn’t perfect. All the time you want to hear the person behind the music. You want the music to not be like a machine. You want to hear the cracks that make it humanized. That’s the fucking soul behind the music that makes it interesting, and that’s what I love about my favorite singers. You can hear the edge and it’s balancing, you know? It’s not all perfect. It can be a beautifully sensitive voice too and still have cracks. I love it when you can hear some personality in music. I like when music has hope in it, but also some melancholy, some hopelessness. That depth is hard to explain, but it’s something that makes you feel. When music makes me long for something that’s when I know that it’s good. You can’t really say what it is. For instance, do you know that song “Lost” by Frank Ocean?
M: Do you know that “deow, deow deow deow”? There’s something melancholic but still uplifting in that tune. That hook just makes you long for something. I don’t know what it is, but ya, that’s what I’m talking about.
AK: You mentioned your “favorite artists.” Who are some of those?
M: The thing is that I don’t really put on music. I do listen to stuff but I almost never put it on, only if I’m at a party or something. There are lots of artists I enjoy and love, of course, but it’s been through the years. I’m still into Sonic Youth and Major Lazer and Frank Ocean and the Spice Girls and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs…
AK: Why don’t you think you listen to music in the typical way?
M: I think it’s because it conflicts with the music in my head. I just don’t do it. It’s hard to explain, but I think that a lot of musicians feel this way. They don’t want to mess up their own music inside. The music that you create comes from this vibe that’s all the things you hear in your life. You take these things in your subconscious, from here and there, and put them in some combination in your own voice.
AK: So when you hear this music in your head, how do you know that that’s what you want to make into a song?
M: They’re just like little bricks, here and there. I don’t really know that they’re what I want until I have the song done. There are parts that are right and other parts that are not right. Sometimes the songs are just there and sometimes it takes a long time to find the right way, you know?
AK: How do you go about writing songs? Are you an instrumentalist?
M: I do play piano and guitar and bass and drums and all that…
AK: So yes!
M: Ya, but I really only play piano. I can just do the basic things on the others. Also, it’s a modern world, so most of the time I use Logic. I have mini-keyboards to make things from scratch and I usually just make the whole song from the start to the end. I record all of the vocals and all of that stuff by myself because I like being on my own. I can get into character that way. Then I send everything to my producer.
AK: You grew up in a fairly isolated town, correct?
M: Ya, in a suburb of another town that’s not very big and on an island. It was pretty isolated. I had a very nice upbringing but people thought I was sick when I started wearing black clothing. They were like ‘oh my god, she’s got herself a mental disorder.’ It was just so wild!
AK: How do you think that upbringing has affected your music? Or has it?
M: All of your life affects your music, you know? Everything that you experience. When I started making songs I realized that that was my way of expressing myself and we all need to express ourselves. It helped me gain confidence and self-esteem because I felt like it was my space and that I was good at it. I expressed myself and it felt good. It helped me develop myself. My parents are not musicians but they were always so supportive. They’ve always been spending their money on traveling with me and my brother so that’s a good thing I think. Even though I grew up in this isolated environment, we traveled so much and got to meet so many people all around the world. That was a good time.
AK: Your debut album No Mythologies to Follow definitely deals with themes of youth and exploration. Do you think those themes will continue in future work, or was this it for them?
M: On this debut album I wanted the end of the track list, “Glass,” to be the conclusion, and in a way you could say “Glass” is, but it really doesn’t offer any solution. It’s not like ‘oh that’s it,’ you know? We’re all lost and we’re all fucked but it’s good anyway. Youth is when you try to find yourself, but really people always search for something and try to find themselves. No matter how old you get I don’t think you have the answer. I think you’ll still be searching and you’ll still be self-discovering. It all continues. And I’m a restless person, so I’ll continue on doing that for sure.
AK: If you could describe your music without using genre or labels, how do you think you’d describe it?
M: Dreamy, energetic, melancholy, something like that.
AK: Dreamy like teenage or childhood dreamy?
M: Sure, teenage dreamy. I talked with my dad (he’s like now 60 or something!) and he told me that no matter how old he gets, the teenager or the child is still inside of him. That naive happiness, or that whatever, that child, is still there. You have to maintain it because you don’t want to get boring or uptight. We all have this, no matter how old we are. I hope. Yes. Dreamy. Teenage dreamy. Childish dreamy.
AK: Do you think music allows people to continually discover things about themselves?
M: Yes, definitely. I see all forms of creative power as things done to communicate and create change in society. These are bigs words but I mean art in general, this creative stuff. It’s out there to change something, to make us want to do something, to communicate.
MØ spoke her mind, and later she sung her soul, communicating with those (myself included) eager for reciprocal connection.