INTERVIEW: girl in red releases second EP 'chapter 2'
Norwegian singer, songwriter girl in red - born Marie Ulven - first appeared on the music scene in 2018 with the release of her debut EP chapter 1. Writing, recording and producing all her music in her bedroom, her lo-fi, jangly, indie shot through with a dose of meloncholy quickly gained a loving audience with over 70 million streams worldwide to date. Critical acclaim soon followed, with outlets such as Vogue UK, Billboard, The Guardian and BBC Radio 1 lauding her work and with her unflinchingly honest lyrics, she has also gained a reputation as a queer icon.
Her second EP chapter 2 is released on September 6 and will be followed by her first ever shows in Australia (tickets on sale now here). We recently sat down with Marie to chat more about her music, her upcoming gigs and life.
Hi Marie, thank you so much chatting with us. I guess the first thing to say is we're really excited about your upcoming Australian gigs. Have you ever been to Australia before?
Thank you so much for talking to me! I've actually never been to Australia before, never been on holiday, never done a show there. But I will soon!
Can you tell me about what you're most looking forward to about Australia?
I'm most looking forward to obviously playing the shows, but also just seeing how it is there. I think the environment and climate is always very interesting. I also really want to see a koala. But we'll see. I kind of want to take one of those ugly greasy pictures with one!
You can talk to me a little about how Marie Ulven became girl in red?
In 2017, I fell in love with a straight girl which made me really, really sad. And then as a way of coping with that I started making music. I posted it on Soundcloud, put it up on Bandcamp, and I was just trying to be very visible and trying to get my music out there. Then suddenly this YouTube channel reposted my song ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’ and then everything just started snowballing and my life turned upside down. So now I'm in my bed doing an interview instead of going to school. I make all the stuff myself - I produce it all, I write it all. I'm a superwoman! That's what I call myself. I'm a superwoman. Okay. I'm going to stop there…
You are like super popular amongst the young queer music loving crowd and your songs are so blatantly girls who love girls. You're not using ambiguous language so people can project strictness onto it. How core do you think being queer is to your artistry?
I'm definitely always going to be a queer artist. I think my songs will probably have different perspectives and capture different feelings. I don't think my future songs will capture the exact same feelings as like ‘Girls’, which is this big accept yourself, fuck you, I like girls, anthem. Or something as obsessively longing for someone like ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’. I don't think I will make the same type of music, which I think is good, but it will still be about my experiences as a queer woman and umm. I’m going to grow as a person, so my music is probably going to grow. I feel like I have most issues with myself really, than with other people.
What's the significance of being a rising artist in the world today representing queer issues? What's the power of what you represent?
Being a queer artist in this very splitting world is interesting because there's countries that are literally going backwards. There is a country in Africa and they made it legal to stalk gay men or follow them, which is like similar to what it was like 60 years ago where gay men would be followed and beaten. That shit scares me. I think in these times, we just need some very good representation from both men and women that are healthy human beings and living their best lives and just writing about it very bluntly instead of writing very ambiguous. It's not about being gay. My songs aren't about being gay. It's about my experience with love and that happens to be queer. I think we need that kind of representation, not make all a big deal out of it. I think we just need to live, just be human beings. First and foremost, we're all human beings.
I read recently that you grew up thinking you'd be a teacher and you never really considered music. So how do you go from that to being able to play instruments, sing, write songs and also produce?
I wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a little kid up until tenth grade. That dream was kind of crushed by me getting my guitar a few years before. I was very obsessed with writing songs and that sort of turned into me eventually wanting it to be a career. I just really want to make something because I feel like that's a good way to spend my time instead of just giving my time to something and then not getting anything back. like watching Netflix.
What's it like to be on a stage with a live audience? Was it what you imagined when you were performing in your bedroom?
The whole live aspect has been a pretty new experience for me. I played my first show on 24th of April last year in this very little bar and it was completely full of business people. It's a weird thing because personally I enjoy the song-writing the most and writing and creating something. The live aspect is something that I've learned to like. I've realised that I'm not doing it for myself, mostly I feel like I'm doing it for the people who listen to my music. if it was 100% up to me, I'm not sure if I would go on tours. Touring is not as meaningful to me as making music. Playing live is more momentarily a sense of joy instead of like a deep meaningful sense in my life.
Do you want to start collaborating with other people, like woman producers or other artists?
I would like to keep it like this for as long as I can because I feel I've always had for some reason issues with trusting music that's not coming from one person. I like a lot of music that's coming from more people, but I always feel like I trust music that's coming from one person. I don't think I'm going to trust my own music if it comes from more people than just myself - I don’t think I’m going to feel that it's valuable to me if it's not coming from me. I know what I want and I'm going to do it how I want it.
Your new EP chapter 2 is out September 6. Can you tell me a bit about that?
I've been releasing songs this whole year that's sort of been leading up to this EP. So all the songs are out pretty much except for this last one. For the EP, I'm going to go on a tour in the US for a month in September and then I'm going to go to Australia obviously. Then I'm going to go to Europe. That's going to be really fun. I'm excited to do that even though I just said that touring isn't as meaningful to me as music making. But it's still fun!
What else do you have planned for the future?
I'm going to try and make my album… I'm not going to try, I am going to make my album and it's going to be fucking fire! I got some touring plans and I got some song writing plans and I'm just going to hopefully continue to make this project grow in a positive way. Other than that I don’t really make goals for myself. I'm just one person, I always have really low goals for myself. So, I'm just going to continue to do what I love and hopefully that takes me somewhere cool and somewhere fun and somewhere interesting. That's my goal to just follow whatever happens.
girl in red is playing a headline show at The Lansdowne Hotel on Tuesday October 8. Tickets here.
She will also be appearing at Spotify’s Front Left Live in Melbourne on Wednesday October 9. Tickets here