"I have to find my own path again..."

At the business end of the charts, the music industry is sufficiently homogeneous that we know the tried and tested routes to the top, and an artist’s backstory rarely contains much of interest. It’s all stage schools, X Factor auditions and a sleek grooming for success from an increasingly young age. Most pop stars, on their way to stardom, haven’t released punk EPs called ‘A Piece Of Music To Fuck To’ and ‘Fisse I Dit Fjæs’ (in case your Danish is a little rusty, that translates to ‘Pussy In Your Face’). But then again, most pop stars aren’t .

“It was more like an art project back then. It was songs about being super young and dumb, about fucking up your life - stuff like that, you know.” It’s a summer’s morning in Melbourne, and MØ is on the phone from a city centre hotel, having flown in from Singapore the previous evening. The relentless schedule of an in-demand artist means she’s in limbo, with not enough time in the Australian city to properly enjoy it, but still with some downtime to fill.

She confesses she can’t decide whether she’ll spend the remainder of the day on the beach or holed up in her room sending emails and chain-drinking coffee. Later in the week she’ll play a stadium gig in support of Sia, before heading to Sydney and Auckland to do the same, but for now, she’s preoccupied with her more confrontational beginnings. “I miss being around that environment a lot,” she explains. “I can always put on Black Flag or Sonic Youth and I can always dress up in full black leather if I want, but it’s more about me becoming who I am and those memories from that time. I feel very nostalgic about that.”

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The concept of nostalgia is something that percolates throughout MØ’s work. As well as her chosen sobriquet being the initials of her artist grandfather, the word “mø” translates as “maiden” in English, and she started performing under that name nine years ago to represent those more backwards-looking songs from the time. Her Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, website and Soundcloud all operate under the username, ‘MOMOMOYOUTH’. The EP she put out towards the back end of 2017 was titled ‘When I Was Young’. It’s fair to say that there’s a strong theme. “I find that I do often write about the nostalgia of being young and about doubt. I thought it made sense to pick a name for someone that’s young and inexperienced.”

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I love the fact that they’ve been doing this for so many years and developing...

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This all seems unassumingly self-deprecating for someone whose star has risen to such heights over the past few years. Her UK breakthrough came in 2013, when her track ‘Waste Of Time’ received heavy rotation as the soundtrack to a Kopparberg advert. Despite the exposure, MØ’s subsequent debut album, ‘No Mythologies To Follow’, was released to criminally little fanfare. That was before her involvement in a track that, for nearly the whole of 2016, held the record for Spotify’s most streamed song ever.

“Obviously, since ‘Lean On’ happened, my career changed. I have to find my own path again.” ‘No Mythologies To Follow’ was nearly four years ago and fame as the vocalist on Major Lazer’s ginormo-smash has proven to be something of an albatross around MØ’s neck. Actually, make that two albatrosses. Major Lazer’s number one hit, ‘Cold Water’, which featured Justin Bieber, was also co-written by the woman from Odense. It’s a working relationship that began five years ago, fuelled by MØ’s admiration for ‘Get Free’, Major Lazer’s dub-influenced collaboration with ex-Dirty Projector, Amber Coffman. “I love their sound so much. I love the project. I love the fact that they’ve been doing this for so many years and developing,” she enthuses. “And they’re funny as fuck, you know?”

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While her solo work retains an undeniable quality, it’s alongside other artists that MØ has achieved most. Her credits read like a who’s who of 2010s pop - as well as the aforementioned Diplo and pals, MØ has released tracks with Snakehips, Iggy Azalea, Charli XCX, SOPHIE and Cashmere Cat.

“Collaborations offer you a little bit of freedom, in a way. You make the best stuff when you don’t feel trapped in a corner and you have fun with it. It can be a little more playful because you’re not committed to this thing forever.” But for the coming year, reminding people of who she is and putting down a marker with album number two is very much the priority. “Everybody nowadays is putting out mixtapes or EPs. In a tiny way, I think there’s a lack of commitment to the actual big piece of work. That’s why I want to do an album; I want to commit even though it’s scary.”

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You make the best stuff when you don’t feel trapped in a corner and you have fun with it.

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That “difficult second album” is yet to be completed, though it’s due with the label soon (“I’ll probably be stressed as hell”). MØ has been finding inspiration in other artists, particularly SZA. “Her album [‘Ctrl’] is so vibey and so personal, but in a way that invites everybody into it,” she says, excitedly. “I love the mix between great pop songs and that coolness and attitude.” Over the course of our chat, MØ professes her love for not just SZA, but also Elliphant, Sia and Kim Gordon. Strong women clearly enthral and galvanise her, and it’s been a common element throughout her life. “As a little kid, The Spice Girls were my biggest heroes in the world… they were super punk in many ways.”

It’s with this statement that you’d expect a freeze frame and a record scratch. The Spice Girls. The Simon Fuller-managed manufactured girl band that were never out of the tabloids in the late ‘90s. Sure, there was “girl power,” but still, those Spice Girls? MØ clarifies. “In their attitude. The whole ‘Argh! Fuck yeah!’ thing. I mean, they are the most pop of the pop of the pop but I’ve always loved them for that craziness.”

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I’ve always loved them for that craziness.

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If you’re of the right age (MØ is 29) then it’s perfectly conceivable The Spice Girls would be your punk Year Zero. The outer fringes of riot grrrl aren’t exactly an easy entry point for a kid halfway through primary school, but in a way they’re the ideal gateway drug. From there, MØ’s ascent, while still taking a fairly non-traditional route, makes much more sense. She’s always kept that edge, that demeanour throughout her career. Living up to her original idols may make it look like she’s back where she started, but she’s picked up an awful lot along the way. Sure, she may be duetting with Bieber nowadays rather than creating DIY, lo-fi genital/face-interface jams, but like us all, her experiences have made her who she is and, more than most pop stars, she recognises and utilises this.

You wouldn’t bet against MØ’s second album hosting some of 2018’s biggest hits, and being the catalyst for her replicating her collaborative success in her own right. In an industry built on instant gratification, MØ’s slow burn of career almost feels like something of an anachronism. Given her predisposition to fondly look back into the past, you sense she wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Words: Joe Rivers
Photography: Maxwell Granger
Fashion: Van Der Welle
Creative Direction: Rob Meyers

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