Following a dizzying projection into pop chart success, the Danish hitmaker felt the toll of a life on the road. Navigating intensive vocal surgery and the standstill of lockdown, the singer now re-emerges into the spotlight to present her most authentic and honest self to date. Accompanied by slick cohesive visuals, brings a sound that bridges the gap between her teen-punk youth and signature Scandipop hits, which you can hear for yourself in her newest album Motodrome – out now!
First off, congratulations on the release of your newest album Motordrome, to get us started, how did the album name arise?
My mum actually came up with the name. It came out of a conversation we had, where I was explaining to her how I was experiencing my mind, right after having taken to step back from the industry after 7 years of going at it non-stop, it was spinning around in a negative and anxious loop, going so fast I couldn’t tell what was up and what was down. She told me it sounded like “en dødstrumle,” as we say in Danish – the dome of death, also known as a motordrome. We then talked about what a motordrome is, or at least what we feel it is: a circle in which you spin around in an endless loop. You have to drive fast otherwise you crash. I then said: “this reminds me of my state of mind these past 5 years.” I then decided to name the album Motordrome.
Following your extensive-time touring on the road you returned to Denmark to recalibrate. How was your experience of adjusting to life off the road? And, how did this influence Motordrome?
It was just such a change. Like going from a one hundred to a zero. Literally. For so many years I had just been riding high on adrenaline and stress – and I had been loving (almost) every second of it! – but all of a sudden, and also obviously, my body just didn’t wanna tag along anymore. It was difficult in the beginning because I realised how far removed I had been from everything going on back home. Even if I had managed to keep close with friends and family, I hadn’t been a part of their lives like this, for ages. And in the beginning, I was really sad about all the stuff I had missed out on in my loved ones' lives, but as time went by, I started just really appreciating that at least now I was a part of their worlds again and appreciating the crazy journey I have had.
Coupled with mental exhaustion, you also dealt with physical rehabilitation following a serious vocal injury. Did the inability to sing during your recovery raise any issues surrounding your identity, one beyond that as an artist?
Yes, I was experiencing panic attacks and my voice was broken. Which was the reason for the one hundred to a zero decision, even though, in fact, it wasn’t like that, I pulled the plug in early 2019 but I still had some commitments, so, while I was winding down, I wasn’t at a zero until the end of 2019. And yes, I most definitely had some sort of identity crisis in relation to all this.
For so many years, I had been the ‘pull through’ kinda gal. When it came to working, to my singing, to my way of being a human. And now, there was nothing more to pull from. So trying to find out who I was, and how to have value, now that I couldn’t be that person anymore, was definitely a puzzle. I think I needed that change though, regardless. I had to find balance. It’s totally ok to be that pull through, a workaholic splatter of passion person, but I also needed to find zen and grounding… And just all those other things in life that bring joy besides music/my career.
“I’m so lucky to have a job that I love – it lifts me up, but I need to make sure not to burn out, otherwise it won’t last. But, on the contrary, I also don’t want to be this perfect pile of wood kindling, lying around waiting for a lighter.”
Speaking on a societal level, we are observing an ideological shift from a lifestyle of corporate burnout to one rife with wellness culture. Would you say self-care is now a practice you integrate more into in your daily routine?
I would say so, yes. I’m just really keen to find that balance between checking in with myself and being mindful versus letting go and just going with the impulses. I think I need both to be happy. If I’m too cautious about ‘how I’m doing,’ I get anxious, but if I let it all sail for too long I get stressed. I’m so lucky to have a job that I love – it lifts me up, but I need to make sure not to burn out, otherwise it won’t last. But, on the contrary, I also don’t want to be this perfect pile of wood kindling, lying around waiting for a lighter.
In the aftermath of overwhelming commercial success with hits such as Lean On and Cold Water, did you feel a certain expectation to contort your sound into songs that would become chart climbers?
Absolutely. Even if my inner voice sometimes was like, “no baby, this maybe isn’t the exact way you want to go,” I was just so energised and excited about the idea of potential adventures there could be lying ahead for me if I went in a more commercial way. After Lean On, back in 2015, all doors opened. But as all doors opened, my brain went into a mini lockdown, and I got a little stuck in-between “let’s keep going and go for the stars” and “let’s take some time off now, and really figure out what the next for Mø is.” But I have no regrets because I was young and green and overwhelmed, and I just wanted everything. I have had so many incredible experiences, and I wouldn’t have changed it if I could go back because all this was part of my process, even if it led me to a bit of a breakdown in 2019.
On the subject of your sound, how did your experiences as a teen-punk touring anarchist squats across Europe, coupled with your deep immersion into the Scandipop scene converge into the unique Mø soundscape we hear today?
My 10 years in the activist/punk scene have hugely shaped me as a human and as an artist/performer. No matter what music I make, I can almost always feel that little punk I was, somewhere in it. And I’m glad because I’m very fond of that area in my life. It’s a similar thing with the pop influence, though I was a bit younger, I can also always hear the 9-year-old pop superfan singing along when I listen to my demos. It’s hard to describe this strange marriage, I just grew up being heavily influenced – first by the late 90s/early 2000s pop charts, and then later by punk rock and underground culture. And both areas, at the time, meant the world to me musically and identity wise.
All that said, I think it’s fairly normal to have contradicting sources of inspiration running through your blood. When Mø began, I was still active in my experimental trash punk band MOR, and Mø was just a little emotional solo outlet that I was working on on the side. A good friend told me recently that she thought what worked for Mø, in that early stage, was the combo of attitude and vulnerability.
Your single New Moon is a song about regaining control and withholding from the sway of external forces. Was there ever a time when you felt you had lost control of your agency and authority as an artist?
Well, in the years following the success of Lean On, when I was living life in the fast lane releasing one single or feature after the other, touring the world multiple times, while trying to make an album, and having a not too dysfunctional private life at the same time, I was definitely feeling like I was losing control. Losing control of my agency and authority as an artist, yes, but I think this was caused by me losing control or a sense of connection with myself as a person. Because I was stressed all the time, I didn’t think I was allowed to take a break now that I had been given this exclusive chance. I guess it has something to do with imposter syndrome – I didn’t feel deserving and therefore I was going full speed at all times, never letting myself rest. I know now that this is not right, not healthy, and also not true. But again, work in progress.
Within the music industry, there is a long withstanding trope of the expectation for musicians, especially women, to emerge with an entirely different look, aesthetic and sound with each new release. Is this a pressure you have personally experienced?
I'm quoting Taylor Swift here because she’s so right: “The female artists have reinvented themselves twenty times more than the male artists. They have to or else you're out of a job.” It’s not fair. But, that being said – by all means, reinvent yourself if you are in a time of your life where you need to wash the board clean and set a new stage for yourself. With this new album, Motordrome, I really felt the urge of manifesting a new area for myself, visually and musically, and that all came from an internal, not external force.
The music video for New Moon, directed by London based multi-visual design duo Fa and Fon, is rich in striking visuals. Between enigmatic shots and nuanced imagery, we’re presented with a slightly darker side to your aesthetic. What was the visual direction behind the video?
Thank you! Fa and Fon did amazing! I was so thrilled to be working with them! We wanted it to be this beautiful, futuristic, apocalyptic medieval battlefield.
Your previous work includes an impressive assemblage of featured tracks: from artists such as Charli XCX, Empress Of and Diplo. Yet, conversely in Motordrome, we receive a record devoid of any features. Was this the result of restrictive parameters of the pandemic? Or rather a conscious decision?
The pandemic probably had a little bit to do with this, but actually, I didn’t really think too much about this aspect of things when making the album. I was just so focused on writing these songs and expressing what I was going through. I think because it’s such a personal collection of songs, it just came naturally to perform them myself.
Your second album, Forever Neverland, contends with the woes of growing older. Returning to this notion, years after its release, how have you found the ongoing assimilation to adulthood?
It's definitely ongoing. But I feel like I have landed more in myself and in adulthood. I think the thing is, for better or for worse, I will probably always be a child at heart, but what I have learned, and happily accepted now, is that a few things change over the years – your body and your priorities, etc. – and that you need to listen and adjust, and don’t be so damn afraid. It’s sick to learn new stuff about yourself and the world.
Following the release of Motordrome, you’re back on the road again this year with a run of headline dates in Europe and North America – I can imagine this is super exciting following the past restrictions. How are you feeling ahead of the tour? Are you apprehensive at all about returning to the road?
No, I’m just so excited! I mean, of course, I’m a little bit nervous and anxious as well, but it’s heavily overshadowed by my wild eagerness to get back out there and perform in front of a live audience again!
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