ABOVE: MØ. PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS SKOU
It’s been a while since “girl power” was the catchphrase of choice in pop music, but MØ is ready to bring it back. The 25-year-old Danish songstress—whose full name is Karen Marie Ørsted—has dreamed of making it in the music industry since the Spice Girls hit the pop world nearly 20 years ago. MØ has garnered comparisons to Grimes and Purity Ring for her distinctive blend of electro-pop and nostalgic ’90s pop. Most recently, she covered the popular Spice Girls track “Say You’ll Be There” [below]. After playing with a variety of musical acts, MØ is finally coming into her own.
On her 2013 debut EP Bikini Daze, MØ collaborated with Diplo on “XXX 88,” which resulted in the singer touring with Major Lazer. Her sultry vocals will also bring her to SXSW this coming week. She’s also ready release her debut album, No Mythologies To Follow, this week. We spoke with Karen Marie Ørsted about her favorite Spice Girl, twerking, and bringing back girl power.
ILANA KAPLAN: Where are you right now?
KAREN MARIE ØRSTED: Right now, I’m in my room in my apartment in Copenhagen. Tomorrow we’re leaving for the UK tour, so I’m trying to relax a bit today.
KAPLAN: So, I’m obsessed with your Spice Girls cover. It’s on repeat for me right now. What inspired you to cover “Say You’ll Be There?” How have they given you girl power?
ØRSTED: Thanks! I wanted to do this cover because the Spice Girls were the reason why I wanted to become a musician. I know I was only a little girl at seven or eight, but they were the reason why I started making music. I was so obsessed with them, and I started making music. I didn’t realize it at the time, but music became my way of expressing myself.
KAPLAN: Did you collect the Spice Girls stickers and lollipops that they had back in the day?
ØRSTED: Oh yeah. I had everything you could collect. I had these Spice Girls postcards. I also had the stickers and Barbie girls. I had all five of them. I was a real fangirl. They were actually preaching some cool stuff, the thing about girl power and sticking together with your best girlfriends. If guys couldn’t see that, then you should just stop hanging out with them and hang out with your family.
KAPLAN: Which Spice Girl was your favorite?
ØRSTED: Sporty Spice. I was a bit of a tomboy. I remember back then I used to wear Adidas and sportswear. I could just really relate to her. I also think she sang the best. I remember we did a play and I was Victoria, Posh Spice, because I had the same haircut as her. I was sad that I couldn’t be Sporty Spice.
KAPLAN: I remember I always wanted to be Ginger Spice even though I had black hair, so I would end up having to be Posh or Scary Spice because of my wavy, dark hair. So, can you tell me a little bit about what it was like working with Diplo?
ØRSTED: Obviously I am a huge Major Lazer fan. We hooked up for the first session last April, almost a year ago. Back then, I couldn’t believe that I was going to be in a session with him, and I couldn’t believe I was going to meet him. I was like, “What?!” When that finally happened, he was totally down to work. He was really cool. To him, it’s just about making music and new, exciting collaborations with people all over the world. I really admire him because he’s all about collaborating and taking in new, upcoming artists. It’s not about, “We can’t do this,” or, “We can’t do that.” It’s all about trying out stuff, being creative and making music. It’s about doing what you’re passionate about. I’m very into this attitude, being productive and doing stuff. That’s what the industry is about. Time doesn’t wait for anyone: it’s about being creative all of the time.
KAPLAN: It sounds like it was a great experience working with him. What does MØ mean?
ØRSTED: In the old Nordic language, it means “to be a virgin,” but not a virgin in sexual terms—”a maiden or young, unspoiled person.” It means to be young and inexperienced. I thought that name was kind of funny because a lot of my songs are about being a teen in this period of time where you’re trying all of this new stuff. I thought it was the irony of that: to be this unspoiled child thrown into this crazy jungle of teenage experience.
KAPLAN: Your record No Mythologies To Follow is coming out. What are your favorite songs off of the album?
ØRSTED: Favorite songs are all hard. I wrote all of the songs, and I’m attached to all of the songs. They all fit together, and I feel like they’re telling a story. If I should name one that I think represents the album very nicely, then it’s a song called “Pilgrim.” It’s very simple and strong in its message. Both production-wise and lyrically, it’s very simple and minimalistic, but has some depth to it. The theme for the album is about being young, inexperienced, and being lost in this crazy society we live in these days. This world where everything is about me, me, me, and about being perfect and projecting yourself in the most perfect way on social media. When you’re young and insecure, there’s a lot of pressure to live up to these ideals, and it’s impossible. It’s hard to find your own way and navigate through. That’s the theme of the album: to be young and searching. I think “Pilgrim” is a great song that shows that. It’s about wanting to escape the noise of society and just go somewhere private where you can listen to your own thoughts and figure out what you want to be. It’s about what it’s like to be a pilgrim.
KAPLAN: Will you be performing or working with Diplo in the future?
ØRSTED: We’ve been touring with Major Lazer on their Europe tour. I hope it happens again. We’ve been in contact, so I hope something exciting will happen again.
KAPLAN: Did Diplo have you twerk on stage with them?
ØRSTED: Actually, when we were on tour with them, Major Lazer has these two dancers and they were very, very nice to me. They were like big sisters. At the last show, she took me on the stage and was like, “Now you have to twerk.” I was like “no, I can’t do it!” I tried to dance sexy, but I couldn’t twerk. I couldn’t do it. I would look ridiculous. It was funny. They were all so fucking sweet. I loved them!
KAPLAN: That’s hilarious. Will you be touring the U.S. later this year?
ØRSTED: I’m not sure that it’s confirmed yet, but I’m going to SXSW and I should be there in May. I think I’ll be touring the U.S. in May.
KAPLAN: I can’t wait! How long have you been trying to make it as a musician?
ØRSTED: I mean, seriously, I started when I was very young. It has been my biggest dream and passion ever since. Of course, when you’re a little kid it’s different. It has always just been the biggest dream of mine. I’ve always wanted to make songs. I guess I’ve been in so many bands and projects for many years. It was nice to realize that. When I started working with Ronni Vindahl—who is my producer—that was when I was trying to be myself again in the lyrics. I spent many years trying to make my sound into something it wasn’t. When I was working with, Ronni, I started to be totally honest in my lyrics and music. It gives me a lot of hope to know that people will only listen when you’re being honest and you’re being yourself. It’s something I’m very happy about.