Photos: Mike Massaro
MØ has just wrapped up a set at Bestival, and she’s due to perform another later tonight, this time as a guest for Diplo’s dancehall project, Major Lazer. Somehow, she has the time to talk to me on the phone in the middle of all that.
To say her career has been a whirlwind would be an understatement; in the very short amount of time she’s been making music under the MØ moniker, Karen Ørsted went from a buzzy underground electronic act with punk roots to working with the world’s biggest producers, such as Major Lazer and DJ Snake. Amassing 1.6 billion YouTube views on a single song, ‘Lean On’, she could barely find the words to describe the experience, telling me, “that was definitely a game-changer and a life-changer for sure, it was just so insane.”
No matter her preparedness, her rapid acceleration into electronic pop stardom was always going to be overwhelming. Thankfully, her childhood obsession with 90s girl bands eased the process. “It wasn’t like I woke up one day and was like the new Katy Perry, you know? I felt like I had had a long build up, actually. The transition was okay because before I got involved in the whole activism and punk environment, I was super into pop music.” It’s certainly evident in her style too. Notwithstanding her pop appeal, every grain of Ørsted’s visual aesthetic is extremely artistic, perfectly complimenting her message: Roughed-up, teased plaits, and biker shorts are juxtaposed with bleach-blonde hair and baby pink organza.
“It wasn’t like I woke up one day and was like the new Katy Perry”
“I try to involve myself in everything from the fashion and visuals to the music, so everything goes along hand in hand. At the same time you also have to be realistic, you can’t do everything yourself all the time,” she explains. “I think as long as you have some good people to work with, then it’s just about letting them know all your inspirations and what you vibe on, then working on creating the best and most cohesive output possible. I try to stay as authentic as I can be, but part of that process means experimenting.”
MØ is much more than one concept you could summarise though; she’s a melting pot of so many different influences and, in a way, accurately represents the many phases of life we experience while trying find ourselves. Ørsted celebrates every inch of her being, allowing for a sense of vulnerability that distinguishes her from other more tightly-controlled pop star images.
Her second album, which doesn’t even have a name yet, let alone a release date, is highly anticipated by listeners and critics alike. Part of Ørsted’s appeal is to create intoxicating music that somehow also has an air of carefree effortlessness about it; you don’t lose yourself to the music, but MØ herself. It’s her perfectionist attitude, however, that gets this done. When asked about her new album, she explains: “I feel like I’ve been finishing up for ages but it’s like, you want to change something, then you want to write a new song and then you’re busy.” She says it’s her vocals, the very means to convey her message and emotiveness, which lead to multiple re-recordings, “I want to project the right feeling, the right vibe, and the right emotions.”
“I love pop, but for me it’s very crucial that it has some kind of edge or balls”
MØ mines her personal experiences to form new art, seeing herself as a sponge, absorbing and evolving as she’s thrust into new places. “I’m growing and you get inspired, learning and hearing new things. I feel like I’m still very much myself, but obviously my life has changed so drastically, so I’ve personally changed. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly has changed, what has evolved and what hasn’t… I’m kind of just in this world that’s difficult to analyse” she reflects.
This time around, MØ has so many more components working together to create her sound, which was a bit of an adjustment for her at first: “[Recording the new album] has been a lot different, actually. The first record was only me and my producer, Ronni Vindahl, whereas this time around I’ve been working with loads of different people to achieve my vision.”
The challenge here was ensuring that the music is truly MØ: “I have to feel it. It has to be my personal taste and not just like whatever pop sound. Yes, I love pop, but for me it’s very crucial that it has some kind of edge or balls. I strive to do something different.” As for Ørsted’s ultimate goal for MØ? “That the music feels natural; that it goes with the flow and reflects personality. If music doesn’t have personality, why bother listening to it?”
MØ’s current album No Mythologies to Follow is out now on Chess Club Records. She plays SWX on Thursday 20th October. Check out ‘Final Song’ below.