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Interview: Girl In Red on her upcoming album, loneliness, songwriting, and more.

Interview: Girl In Red on her upcoming album, loneliness, songwriting, and more.

"I have a folder on my computer that says Album 2020," Girl In Red aka Marie Ulven excitedly shares with me during a phone call late last year, on a trip to Australia which included a sold-out Sydney show, and a Spotify showcase event that she played alongside Tove Lo, Dominic Fike, and BENEE.

Having shared two chapters of music through her 'Chapter 1' and 'Chapter 2' EPs over the past few years, the stories are making waves, with Girl In Red currently boasting over 3.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify, and has toured with the likes of Clairo and Conan Gray.

Having shared a new song 'kate's not here' last month from the soundtrack to 'The Turning' (which she worked on while on the trip to Australia last year), Girl In Red shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

We caught up with Marie during her visit to Australia last year, between her 'Harry Potter' marathons, partying with BENEE, and working on her upcoming debut album...

COUP DE MAIN: Hi Marie! How are you?
MARIE: I think I might be a bit hungover. I went out last night with Stella and her band from BENEE, and that was really fun. She's so much fun, and she has very funny facial expressions. So now I just have two juices to make myself feel better.
CDM: So you should be used to my New Zealand accent if you've been hanging out with Stella?
MARIE: Yes! But I didn't always understand it though. It was kind of hard sometimes.
CDM: Yeah, we like to talk quite quickly sometimes. Sometimes people are like, "I don't know what you're saying."
MARIE: But I think I tried to imitate their accents all night. Okay, not all night, but I did work <puts on Australian accent> on my Australian accent, but it's different from the New Zealand one. I'm trying to work on my accent.

CDM: I've been enjoying watching you watch 'Harry Potter' on this trip in Australia. Have you been enjoying the journey of Harry Potter?
MARIE: I really have! I just downloaded the fifth, sixth, and both parts of the seventh movie on my iPad. Because I'm leaving today, so I'm going to be watching all of 'Harry Potter'. I love Harry Potter so hard.
CDM: Which Hogwarts house do you think you would get sorted into?
MARIE: I feel like I would be in Gryffindor. Because I'm good at heart and I'm a strong woman.
CDM: Gryffindor has the best colours too! I think yellow and red are a good colour combo.
MARIE: Yeah! It's such a fall vibe. I love that. Yeah. So also, for the fashion reasons.

CDM: You’ve been travelling so much recently, but because you self-produce, self-write, and self-release all of your music it gives you so much flexibility to always be working on music. Is working on your music something that you are always thinking about, wherever you are?
MARIE: Yeah, I think so. But I think that I'm not in a creating headspace while touring because so much stuff is happening and it's there's no peace in my mind to make something really good. But I've started on a couple of ideas now in the last couple of days, so I feel like now I'm calming down, and I'm ready to start making music again. I always play around, make beats and stuff, but I don't have those amazing ideas that just blow me away.

CDM: You have to have enough mental capacity to be thinking about playing a live show. And then, I can imagine, thinking about creating, is another thing on top of that?
MARIE: Yeah, touring is a very special experience because you're living within these crazy timeframes all the time. So you've got to do laundry, but you have to load in at the venue at this time, so you don't have a chance to do that. And then you've got to find a bathroom, in a whole different place, because you can't pee on the bus or anything like that. It's so intense. And then it's the meet and greet, and then you've got to try and find food at least two hours before the show or else you're gonna throw up.

CDM: At the beginning of 2019 we did our first email interview and you were about to go on tour and do some of your first-ever shows, it's so cool to watch you go on this journey!
MARIE: I remember that! I feel like a whole new person. Like, who was that person? I don't even know. A lot has changed, and I've grown.

CDM: Important question. Do you ever have any spare time or time to chill out because I feel like you are very busy!
MARIE: I don't know! It kind of feels like I've been working 24/7 all the time lately, but I'm on the edge of really needing a break now. But I have some days off here and there. But one day isn't enough. I will have two weeks off after this tour, and then I will go on another tour.

CDM: You tweeted back in August about your live shows: “i mess up when i play live and i used to be hard on myself abt it but wtf ive done this thing for a year and its so human to not be perfect ! i will work to be better tho!” Which is so true! Have you become more comfortable with your live show having imperfections? Live shows are meant to feel different from recordings anyway!
MARIE: Yeah, I'm totally embracing that. I think it's so much cooler to not play a perfect live show, I think that's so much more real, and it gives me the flexibility to do more things I want during the show. I feel so at home on stage right now, I just love talking, and hanging out with people. It just feels like a big hangout, so I'm just chilling.


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CDM: Yeah, I love watching videos of you jumping into the audience at some of the shows. It must be such a fun experience to be so close to your fans.
MARIE: Yeah, I'm so happy I'm so close with them because it feels like it gives me this big burst of happiness. I feel it in my whole body that I'm so thankful for having such great people surrounding me and supporting me.
CDM: Especially in a live environment because it's energy that you can feed off!
MARIE: Yeah, if I play a show, maybe a showcase, and the crowd is just like 50-year-old men who are like, 'I might consider to book this to my festival,' that's the most draining shit ever, because you're just putting so much energy in and not getting anything back.

CDM: ‘Chapter 2’ is such a great step forward from ‘Chapter 1’ - how do you feel that you’ve grown in terms of your writing and musical composition since that first EP?
MARIE: I have become a better producer. I feel like my tracks sound more like produced songs, which I think is really cool - it's on a higher level. I feel like I've grown more from ‘Chapter 2’, the music I'm making right now is even more next level, it's more challenging for me and more fun. I feel like mostly from ‘Chapter 1’ to ‘Chapter 2’ my process has been pretty much the same because I've like been in my room. I made ‘Chapter 1’ pretty much in my hometown when I was still living at home, but I made ‘Chapter 2’ pretty much in Oslo in my new apartment with my sister, so a physical change of environment sometimes can be hard. That's also a different part about making music while traveling and stuff because I think it's easier to make music in spaces that you're comfortable with and where you're 100% able to relax.

CDM: Do you like to always be pushing yourself with learning different styles and how you want your production to sound?
MARIE: Yeah, because I don't want to get bored of myself. I remember when I started playing guitar, for a while it was really fun and exciting but then you get to a point where you are like, 'This isn't challenging,' so then I picked up the piano. Then having songs but not producing them, after a while also that's boring. So then I started producing, and I feel like that's what it's all been leading up to. Because now I can [produce], I'm not gonna stop learning things. Now I have so many opportunities to just keep things interesting with the recordings and stuff. It sounds so much more grown and evolved and it has this more elegant sound; it sounds really cool.

CDM: Is it nice to be able to have these Chapters as parts of your life that you can look back on in song-form?
MARIE: I feel like ‘Chapter 1’ is 2018 and then ‘Chapter 2’ is pretty much 2019, so I feel like they're actual chapters and years of my life. They definitely represent something; two different things. But it's not like I connect the songs really to my life, it's more like what has happened because of the music. So ‘Chapter 1’ was the beginning of absolutely everything, and I didn't know what was going on, and ‘Chapter 2’ is more, 'Oh, my life has changed a little bit right now. I'm suddenly touring.' Do you know what I mean?
CDM: It's like the songs take on their own journey once they're out in the world and kind of have an effect on you back in turn?
MARIE: I like that.

CDM: ‘Watch You Sleep’ is such a heartfelt song - I love the line, “I never get bored of looking at you / 'Cause every time, I see something new.” Why do you think that infatuation and feelings of love are something that humans react so strongly to?
MARIE: Love is a universal feeling for everybody. It's such a powerful thing. I think love is the most beautiful thing in life. I think that's why everybody's living, because it's for love - a passion for something. Maybe you just have a love for life or food or anything. It's such a strong feeling, it's what makes the world beautiful - and that sounds so stupid, but it's true. I guess people listen to it, and they like it and they relate to it because they've probably felt some sort of love for their sister or friend, so it's also different types of love. Because love isn't just like, 'Blah blah blah, I want to kiss you.' There's so much love in this world and it's so beautiful. There's also a lot of hate and that is also very sad.
CDM: Yeah, it's crazy that those two emotions are opposites but are also both felt so strongly by people. Probably the strongest emotions.
MARIE: Yeah, that's true. But I don't like hate. It's not a good feeling. It's interesting that people can feel it though. That they can actually hate something or someone or be hateful. I think there's just one person in this world that I hate, and that's a person who made my first tour a living hell and stole $20,000 from me. So that's the only person that, I'm like, I think I hate you. But other than that, I don't understand that feeling pretty much.

CDM: ‘I Need To Be Alone’ is such a relatable sentiment. I was just reading this blog post that Nick Cave wrote in which he compares being alone and loneliness. He describes being alone as, “For me, it is an essential place that intensifies the essence of oneself, in all its rampant need. It is the site of demons and sudden angels and raw truths; a quiet, haunted place and a place of unforeseen understandings. A place of unmasking and unveiling. It can be industrious or melancholic or frightening, sometimes all at the same time, yet within it there is a feeling of a latent promise that holds great power.” Do you have the same feelings about being alone?
MARIE: I guess my perception of loneliness and being alone is like... Loneliness is this deep feeling that feels like it's the bar at the bottom of the spectrum of my feelings, and for a while, it's been constantly there. I feel like you can be lonely all the time, even though you're touring 24/7 and being with people 24/7, and just in your daily life hanging out with people. I've actually drawn this because I was trying to understand what I was feeling... I was just drawing this straight line and that's the bottom of how I feel - if I visualise in my head, that's the complete bottom and then maybe you go out and you know when you're plugged into something and it tracks your heart rate, and you see the thingy that goes up and down? On the day maybe you're hanging out with friends and you have fun, and then when you go back home, being alone is like this momentary thing of having some physical space for yourself. So I guess that's what I meant with that song, is that I just need to be alone from everything around me because this world is really intense, it's so many things all the time. So I guess that's where that was coming from. But I really like being alone. It's so good.
CDM: Yeah, I feel like it can be quite empowering to feel comfortable being by yourself.
MARIE: Yeah, I think it's so important that people are comfortable being by themselves and being happy on their own and doing things that they like by themselves, like painting or drawing or just hanging out with yourself and having fun. In the end, you really just have yourself - you only have you technically in your life and everything else is a bonus, like anyone can disappear all the time. So it's important that you can be dependent on yourself and not other people. It's super important to find a good balance. Like being strong but also being strong enough to ask for help if you need it.


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CDM: In the second verse of ‘bad idea’ you mention “I need to be alone” - was that a purposeful shout-out to your other song of that name? It’s cool that these songs all live in the same world.
MARIE: Yeah! I have two references in that song. I have, "Darling, you're so pretty it hurts," which is a reference to my song girls from ‘Chapter 1’. Then I have, "I need to be alone," also because that song had something to do with what I was going through with 'bad idea'. I mean, it's all coming from me so it's what I felt - that idea was going on at the same time as what I was feeling when I wrote 'I Need To Be Alone'.

CDM: I like that people can hear that your songs all live in that same world and when they're listening they can kind of hear those like easter eggs to other songs.
MARIE: Yeah and I think it's really fun because it draws this little connection between all of my songs.

CDM: 'Bad Idea' looks like it must be so fun to perform live! It's like a punk show.
MARIE: It really is. It's the opening song for the set and it's such a fun song to play live. It goes so hard. I love it.

CDM: What are you working on music-wise at the moment? Are you still working towards an album for this year?
MARIE: I definitely am! I have a folder on my computer that says Album 2020. I'm pretty sure that all the ideas I'm getting now, I see them in this big body of work. My state of mind before, I've sort of been making songs as I go along, and I don't see these songs in an album format, but now with all my ideas, I'm just like, 'Wow, this is track seven'. I'm just getting so many ideas right now. I can't wait to be alone and make music 24/7 for months, it's going be so awesome.

CDM:  It’s so cool that your US tour is one of the first-ever climate positive music tours, and that you’re going to be carbon neutral! Why is this a cause that you feel so strongly about?
MARIE: Because it's something that's so important for everyone on this planet. I feel like if there's something I can do to make my climate footprint smaller, especially when I'm flying so much and doing all these things, no hesitation I will do that. We only have this planet and we are really fucking this planet so hard. We're trashing this planet. I just feel like it's my responsibility as a human being to be respectful of where we live and our planet. I also want to make the most of my life which is to make music and do what I love. But I also know that doesn't mean shit if everyone's dead, so...

CDM: So I was on your Instagram and I noticed that you follow a lot of Bernese Mountain Dogs accounts. Are Bernese Mountain Dogs your favourite dog breed?
MARIE: <laughs> Oh my god, I love Bernese Mountain dogs. I'm just watching them all the time. I think they're so cute, and I am considering getting one. I contacted a breeder, so I really want to get one, because it gets lonely being a musician - making music all the time, it's not all fun and games. But yes, I want to get that dog!
CDM: Then you can make its own Instagram account and then we can see updates.
MARIE: Or maybe just turn my current account into a dog Instagram and then my Instagram activity goes insanely down and everybody's like, 'This is not why we came here Marie, sorry.'

CDM: So I just have one final question for you and it is a question from your friend Bea[badoobee] who just messaged us this question, so she wanted me to say it in exactly these words: "mate when you coming back to Soren's grannies?"
MARIE: Oh, I miss Bea so much! She's so cute. Okay, I'm coming if they can invite me and I'll come over and we'll have a dance and things to do there. She's really nice, she's on tour now with Clairo and they're taking over the world, and it's fun because in 2017 everyone was like tiny babies and now everyone's thriving and living their best life and I'm just so happy. I'm so happy that they're happy, hopefully, and that they can live their best life.

Watch the 'kate's not here' music video below...

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