METTE could well be synonym of charisma, dynamism, self-awareness, curiosity, joy and strength. After speaking with her for a short hour, the multidisciplinary artist – singer, dancer and actress – leaves a mark through her kindness and how connected she is with the world and especially with her audience. After touring as a member of Pharrell’s dance squad, starring in the N.E.R.D. and Rihanna Lemon video and alongside J-Lo in the film Hustlers, she’s finally taken the stage as a solo artist. And with her highly anticipated debut EP METTENARRTIVE, she has well-earned the title of musician and true creator. Although she explains how she’s still in this exploratory journey, she’s now proud to offer her music to the world.
Interview tak­en from METAL Magazine issue 49. Adapted for the online version. Order your copy here.
Born in the small town of Alexandria, Minnesota, and surrounded by music from a very early age, METTE’s first call was performance. Dancing came more quickly to her, but that pigeonholed her. Once she moved to London, she found the freedom and inspiration to start her career as a musician. With an eclectic musical taste, she also escapes the need to align with one genre. She creates a soundtrack to reveal her own humanity for the world, to celebrate life and go beyond the notion of beauty, and make people relate and co-create with her. That’s the magic and fun of music for METTE, and that’s the magic and fun of METTE herself.
Moving her hands as if dancing as she speaks, we talk about her guilty and oddest pleasures, how she copes with internal guilt and external judgement, dancing in the street, crying in the shower, her fascination for the human body, moving as meditation, her EP and what she’s looking forward to – and she even shared her treadmill playlist.
Jacket KANSAI YAMAMOTO x West Archive.
What would you say is your guiltiest pleasure?
My guiltiest pleasure is sleeping in.
How does it make you feel?
I only feel guilty because I know that I have one lifetime to accomplish all my goals and there never seems to be enough time in the day. It’s good for rest, but sometimes, when I get up, I think to myself,  oh, my gosh, the whole world started without me, I have so much that I have to get back on track with, I should have actually been up at 6:30 at pilates today and not waking up at 10 o’clock. But I think that’s years of training and being a somewhat disciplined individual and artist, so it’s not a reality, but I do love sleeping in cosy, with a little a rainbow lamp on.
When did this guilty pleasure develop?
I’ve always been a nap queen. When I was in dance school, I would go home between classes and take naps. But I think particularly this summer, as I've been pretty busy – there’s been a lot of stimuli, I’ve been executing and getting ready to launch the next single, there’s a lot of brain power – I really tried to balance that out with a little bit of extra sleep, so that I can stay a nice person and not turn into a cheddar cheese person and by that, I mean sharp. Or a bit Gouda, or whatever cheese you enjoy, or vegan cheese, whatever. The sleeping in kind of helps me to make my nervous system relax, so I can do what I need to do and just stay in a good perspective.
Do you have an odd pleasure that only makes sense for you when shared?
That’s a really cool question. I think that the best pleasures are definitely shared. Dance parties, booze, cutting a cinnabon in half and sharing it with your best friend. You're sharing a playlist so that everybody in the party makes sure that their song comes on and then feeling this sense of levity and freedom. I think the best things in life are shared, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there needs to be a fullness of space. I like shared space that seems really comfortable and doesn’t need to be forced. My favourite shared space is those intimate, quiet shared spaces. I remember I did an exercise once where I had to look into the eyes of a stranger and not say a word. That was a really beautiful moment, and I actually found a lot of pleasure in that. I love that question, I think it’s my favourite question I’ve ever been asked.
How do you take the guilty out of guilty pleasure?
We reframe a lot of things through language these days. Even my guilt around sleeping in, it’s not real. I’ve just been brought up in a world where, if I’m not doing something or moving towards a goal that is tangible, that is moving material, then for some reason I feel like I’m not on my path of growth. But that’s just a false reality, because from sleeping in, I could get a dream that could then form a song, or by sleeping in and not taking the same train to get to the same pilates class or whatever, I could run into somebody new. I think it’s all about reframing, because guilt is a burden to carry. We can also reframe it through art, make it into something else and bring some kind of brilliance to shame. We would encourage our friends, our loved ones, children, to do the things that they find pure pleasure and joy in, and we wouldn’t want them to feel a sense of guilt or shame, because of that found pleasure. So we should mirror that into ourselves. I certainly try not to feel guilty and reframe it into: I find this pleasurable, I should enjoy it, love it, I shouldn't feel any kind of doldrum or any great cloud coming over me, because that’s siphoning out that pleasure, and that's when an actual joy is retreating, when guilt is brought into the picture. This is a very cool existential conversation now.
There’s been a broad narrative around productivity porn. How do you make sure that you get some rest, that you’re sleeping in? How do you find a balance?
I think I try my best to speak through the knowing and the intuition. In my artist life, I have releases planned, goals, benchmarks, deadlines, and those are important things to keep the team orbiting and moving forward, so I can stay on schedule. But the true schedule is one of intuition and knowing that, if I’m not feeling something in my body and my spirit, I can pivot and feel comfortable in allowing myself to do that. It’s a redirection, there’s nothing to be lost. We live in a simulated world where there’s so much information around how to be hyperfunctioning, over-productive individuals, and I think that some of the freedom of my artist life and journey that I so love can’t be corralled in any of those spheres. I have to be able to exist as a void, free spirit. So, I find that balance to be quite difficult, because I’m at the intersection of art and commerce. Where of course, I’ve been an artist and a working artist for over 10 years now and I really enjoy and feel so privileged for the fact that I can support my life off my artwork. But I also know that in order for that freedom of creativity and inspiration to get to be, I can’t live in a rubric, I can’t live in an equation, and that’s the quality of life I’m trying to balance. Sometimes I find it quite challenging, and other times I find it quite easy, but that is truly the journey of life, right? It’s the peaks and valleys, the sunny days and the rainy days, all the shades in between, all the grey spaces, all the colour full spectrum. I think for me it means becoming more familiar with the window of tolerance that I have in my life, that I can execute and plan, I can live freely and abundantly, and they can all coexist. I'm on that journey, learning almost every second of every day, whether that is an active learning or subconscious learning.
Metallic cap GIACOMO BEVANATI, waistcoat STUDIO Ü, top BURBERRY.
What are some pleasures you’re not guilty about? I saw on Instagram that you like baking.
I love making pies for my friends for their birthdays. I will stay up all night to make the perfect pie, the perfect lemon curd, the perfect meringue pie, all the in-betweens on that. Also, dancing at a music festival and leaving groups of friends to go on my own journey by following the music. Following the music, I never feel guilty about that. I’ve also got no problem with saying I can’t come out tonight, I’m going to go sit in the sauna. And yeah, dancing as ferociously as possible for as long as possible, freestyling, singing in the car, sometimes in the Uber – I’m unapologetic about that.
What is something you get told often as in “I never thought you were like this when I met you”?
Actually, I had someone tell me the other day that they didn’t necessarily hear me in one of the songs of my EP, and I thought that’s interesting because I wrote it. I think that would be the other side of the coin, the other side of the Gemini. I can be very much queen fairy, harmony, joy, peace, happiness embodied. But there’s a side of me that, if I get pushed to a certain point, I will let somebody know that it's not okay. I have a very strict boundary, which I think is very healthy, but sometimes that can catch people off guard, because I do love to be inviting and warm and embrace people. But if a boundary of mine gets crossed, then I say, oh, honey, no, no, no, don’t cross that.
Speaking of the EP, how has the response been so far?
Super-stellar! At my recent live shows in London, New York, and Los Angeles; I’ve been able to see the enthusiastic response in real time.  My fans are my kind of folks!  Witnessing them singing the lyrics back to me and with such passion is a feeling that I’ve longed for! It’s been the greatest gift of releasing this EP.
It feels to me like a celebration of humanity through your unique experience. Am I right? What message do you want to convey?
That’s exactly it. . . Through these songs I’ve relished and met my own humanity.  My narratives are rooted in my experience and through my music I seek to mirror a-likeness with others.
A little bird told me you like to turn your treadmill sessions into a chic Parisian runway show. What are some songs that set you in the mood? What does your treadmill playlist look like?
Heated (Beyoncé), Impact (Robyn, SG Lewis, Channel Tres), I Wanna Be Your Lover (Prince), I’m Every Woman (Chaka Khan). I metabolize music at a rate that is so crazy. Morning: every speaker in the house is just ready to get me activated. Music is my time machine, can take me to certain places, can push me into the future. It’s my mood booster, my mood equalizer. Right now, those are the songs in my rotation, making sure my treadmill goes up a notch.
Does that happen strictly on your workout sessions or also in the street?
I tend to do a lot of walking, which is also funny, because when I am in LA I’m the only person walking on the street. Sometimes I’m doing like little gestural choreography while I’m walking through a park, but it just gives me a rooted and grounded feeling. I just like the experience of being like flying over the Earth’s crust at sixty miles an hour. Although I do love singing in the car, I just prefer to walk and listen in my headphones. There’s also a song called Petals by Tops, which I’m really loving right now. That’s kind of my feel good.
And in the shower?
In the shower, I want all of my emo music. Never Gonna Be Alone by Jacob Collier feat. Lizzy McAlpine and John Mayer. Sometimes I cry in the shower, because I feel like it’s the perfect place. I rinse out whatever I'm going through.
Are you more a shower or a bath person?
I’m a shower person, and then a bath person, and then a shower person. That’s the rotation. You rinse, you soak, you rinse. That’s a lot of water.
Did you ever dance on a first date?
This would be a dream of mine. Don’t take me out for dinner, take me to a dance party. Or take me to a picnic and then let’s turn the meadow into a dance party. I would love to dance more with a lover.
Metallic mesh t-shirt JUNYA WATANABE and corset VIVIENNE WESTWOOD x West Archive, hair trousers and shoes TAIBA.
What embarrasses you the most?
People knowing I’m embarrassed, revealing that quality of self-consciousness. Sometimes I can get a bit defensive to people calling me out on it and saying, are you okay? I feel like I have to stick my chest out, because I’ve seen myself as a strong woman in so many ways. I know it’s beautiful to see that more vulnerable side of one another, because it’s something we all go through as part of being human. But sometimes I catch myself in a false narrative of, oh, I have to assume the position to let you know that I'm strong. I'm working on that.
Who is someone with whom you feel confident being your most vulnerable version?
Honestly, my best friend John Mark. I’ve known him for years. We go all the way back to dance school in Minnesota, and that’s someone who’s really been with me my entire journey. There’s no putting on any fronts with him and it’s a beautiful experience.
What is it a guilty pleasure during your teenage years that you wouldn’t tell your parents?
I was a goody two-shoes. I was at home, I had curfew, wasn’t swearing, wasn’t going out and doing any illegal activities. I just loved to dance naked in my room. I loved to observe my body changing, becoming a woman. That was such an interesting physical phenomenon that I just really enjoyed moving through. So I kept my door closed quite a bit, because I was just in awe of this physical feat that my body was going through puberty. I would look at myself in the mirror for a long time, and I know that classically they say, “don’t look in the mirror, you’re going to become vain or whatnot”. But I was just so enamoured by biology. I loved how suddenly these curves started to appear.
With an eclectic musical taste, you began taking musical theatre classes, learning to play the bassoon, and attending youth choir. I know you started your journey as a musician later when you moved to London, but did you already play around with doing music?
Yes, I did. Back in 2016, I was writing and started to dabble with some friends on a few records, mostly for fun. I actually wanted to show it to a few people, but I was a bit nervous. But then, after I did Lemon video for Pharrell and Rihanna, I garnered a lot of confidence from that experience, dancing as a soloist on stage, and I realised that I kind of had it in me to go after what I always wanted. So that's when I started taking it seriously after 2018, getting in the studio, creating these sounds and going through this explorative journey, which is in the EP, which I’m so excited about.
In Lemon Rihanna shaved your head in a motel room. With or without curls, you look fearless. But I’m sure you also have some fears. What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear would be to be in my later years in life, look back at the incredible physical ability that I have, the creative point of view that I have now, and to think that I didn’t go for it. That I didn’t at least try. So much of dancing is how you fall off your axis and off your centre, and sometimes you’re able to catch yourself just before gravity takes hold of you. That’s like the metaphor for my experience as an artist, where I want to fall through space. I will catch myself sometimes, other times I may not, but I want to live abundantly, fully as myself. My biggest fear would be to be at a point in my life and look back and think that I didn't do that. Because what do I truly have to lose?
You’ve come a long way shaping your own artistic identity. How was that process, that journey?
It’s one that I’m still on. I’ll forever be on it, it’s part of the process. I have to say that this year especially, coming out of Mama's Eyes, that video really shapes a lot of the visual language through which I want to convey my artwork, my music. I think I’ve just found the sense of celebrating life, getting beyond the notion of beauty, and really knowing that my artistic statement is one where I want to reveal my own humanity to the world. And hopefully that humanity boomerangs around the world and people feel like they are mirrored in the work. It’s constant back and forth between myself as a creator and then the audience, creating this beautiful mother piece. That’s what I love. I was creating a lot of music in a vacuum, and now that I'm able to release it, the joy comes not only from, oh, I made an amazing song, but living in the world and becoming a soundtrack to people’s lives. Sometimes there’s meaning that reveals itself to me once it's out in the world, with the audience. So I have to continue to create, and then it will be articulated in the work. It’s a fun, magical journey. I love that.
Is there a taboo or fear that you are proud to have overcome?
Yes, I’m so proud to be a musician, to claim that title for myself. To be comfortable in saying that and doing it in a way that’s authentic to me. Not holding back, not being concerned about if everyone’s going to like it, just knowing that I love it and I think it deserves its place in the world. It’s my little offering.
You’ve worked with amazing artists who are at the same time iconic women who we all associate with strength, self-confidence and power. I’m thinking of Rihanna and J.Lo. How was working with them?
These are women who walk in the room and the room just feels like it’s got grander and bigger. You get the sense of deep rooted, self-unapologetic centre. From my experience. I love how Viola Davis talks about representation. You know, I was born in a small town, I made my way to LA, I started making music – I didn’t know a lot of people until I went to Los Angeles who actually did this for their career, and it was when I had the opportunity to be with teams that orbited around artists, and when everyone’s in cohesion, the biggest dreams are possible to be tangible. And all of a sudden, I’m on a set because someone had an idea. It’s kind of remarkable to me that I got the opportunity to work with them.
What is one of your favourite indulgences before taking to the stage? Do you have any rituals?
Burpees will be done. I have to be physically warm. I love to put my headphones on and get kind of insular, really close and connected to myself, because then I feel like I can burst out when I’m getting on stage. I like to have this internal awareness and almost like moving meditation, this practice before I go on stage that warms up my body and my mind in real time with this energy, I can feel superhuman once I get out there.
You speak of dance as a moving meditation for you. How close do you think you are from what the Greeks called ekstasis, that stepping outside of yourself?
I think once I’ve rehearsed my live show to the point where I can become it, and it becomes me, so I’m not singing but I am song itself. That is the closest I’ve ever felt. That feeling is what I chase as a performer, as an artist, as a musician, and to hold it for as long as I can. This pure enjoyment, pure being. I become more than even my own name. I'm existing as an effervescence spirit.
And during a performance, do you have a recurrent thought, a phrase you repeat yourself, an image you picture or something that helps you stay focused and enjoy the moment?
One of my dance teachers, Marciano Silva dos Santos, used to tell us before we went on stage, “Nothing to prove, only to share.” To me, that just makes way for this endless possibility that there’s truly nothing to prove, because a lot of things have been offered before. But we offer it from our authenticity, and I offer it from my point of view, or from my body. I just love what he says, it gets me really present to the joy of it all.
What is your favourite pastime in London?
Walking through the parks, headphones on, long strike, even in the rain. I just enjoy it.
What is your favourite take-away food?
Do cookies count? And I love ice cream. There’s this place called Avolato, where they do this avocado with cookie crumbles on top and ice cream. I'm just obsessed with that.
You’re a dessert person.
100%. I love dessert. I love all the things that a child likes. I probably didn’t get enough of as a kid, because my parents were looking out for my teeth, and those are the things that I love now.
Do you procrastinate?
Not anymore. I keep a calendar with lots of alerts. I don’t like the feelings of procrastination, it brings me down. So, I don’t want to put myself in a place of feeling awful or worry or anxious, because I procrastinated, if I could stay on top of it. But this is a coming of age thing for me – it took a long time to get there.
What do you do before bed?
I light incense, do a little massage on my legs for circulation, and I usually text back family and friends who I haven’t got back to during the day. Checking in with people one last time before I go to bed is important to me, because it makes me feel a little less alone in the world.
I also heard that you forget to charge your electronics, so you have no choice but to be present. Does that happen very often?
Yeah, that happened yesterday as well at my friend’s birthday party. We were about to pay the bill and realised I had to charge my phone and I didn’t even have a charger. I do realise how attached I can be to my phone, especially around a release. There’s a lot of assets to approve, edits. So sometimes I just need my phone to go dark and have an excuse to not be on it.
I read in an interview that your uncle inspired your love for music, when at 5 years old you watched him accompany the dancers at the Baltimore School for Arts as a violinist. Music has had a big presence in your family. Did you always have the support of your family professionally speaking?
Yes, I didn’t have stage parents or stage family. Sometimes my mum would drop me off at like a dance competition, she’d go read books in the library and I was doing my makeup myself. It was a real sense of autonomy and to not feel like I needed someone right next to me all the time. They’ve been super supportive. I’m so glad they’re proud of me, but any goal that I have is kind of like icing on the cake to my relationship with them. I’ve never felt pressured, I felt supported in a really healthy way. They also say that, if this isn’t something that I want to pursue at any point, they love me and support me no matter what. That’s really nice.
Although I’m already obsessed with Van Gogh, I have to say that my favourite song from you so far is undoubtedly Mama’s Eyes, longing for home in a very emotional and powerful way. Do you ever feel guilty of not calling your mother more?
Of course, I do. Who doesn’t? But then I also know she’s with me, always.
I feel like we’ve seen a lot of METTE but there’s still so much to find out. What is something you’re really looking forward to?
Touring in the autumn. I’m living for that.
Are you already thinking about what will come next?
I would love to do a festival, and I want to get back in the studio and start working on a larger body of work, which is really concise and beautiful. I have ideas for what that would be. Continuing the journey. Most presently, it is the EP and going on tour and making the world that I’m building sonically, bringing it into our realm and being on stage for people to enjoy. Performance is one of my favourite things in the world. It’s been a minute since I’ve been on stage, so I can’t wait to get back there.
I hope at this point I have earned your trust. Tell me a secret.
I don’t know. I feel like I've been an open book here. The reason why I call myself Narrative is after the literary theory the meta narrative, because the way that I feel most alive is when I’m present to how art can be a vessel for the human experience, and revealing that experience. That’s the name for the EP and it’s all these little songs and sounds that I’ve built for the last four and a half years. Each one of them is a different human emotion that I think spans globally, cross culturally. And I can’t wait to fall in love again. That’s a nice secret.
Jacket KANSAI YAMAMOTO x West Archive, trousers PAULA MIHOVILOVIC, shoes PRADA.