mø: the sound of no-fucks-given electro-pop
We catch up with the Danish singer tearing up the charts with her Major Lazer collaboration, Lean On.
When we call Karen Marie Ørsted, she's sitting in the sunshine outside her family home in Copenhagen, enjoying not having jet lag for the first time in ages and planning to run away with her musician boyfriend. "I've been in a kind of lucid dream for the past few months, but now I have a week off, so we're going to go hiking in the mountains of Norway. I love going away without a computer, just being in nature with nothing to do but walk, so I'm super excited."
At 26, she's been making music as MØ for almost three years, having spent the former five giving herself stick and poke tattoos and rocking the fuck out with her punk band MOR and a Peaches-inspired rap alter-ego. Put simply, she's been making impressive waves of varying sizes in the music game for some years now. "It's funny, I really feel like I've learnt a lot in my career but I still feel like a child. Like, an 11-year-old?" she tells us, coming across completely wide-eyed. "I think it will be like that all my life, actually. When I talk to older people, they're like, 'you know what Karen? Life will always offer you new situations where you'll feel totally inexperienced'. But I think that's a good thing because without struggle you don't learn anything, and if you stop learning, you stop living, you know? It's so important that you are constantly moving. And when things are hard, it will just make you fight harder - that's what you need to develop as a person, I think."
Throwback to when she was in fact 11 and growing up in the suburbs of Copenhagen: "I'm not from a wealthy family, but we would spend all of our money on travel. Instead of a new TV, we would sail on a boat in Sweden or go explore Rome or something. I'm really grateful for that. It stuck with me, I can feel it." Growing up, little MØ wore all black everything and caused quite a stir in her quiet neighbourhood. At school, contrary to her i-D produced music video for Walk This Way, she wasn't the leader of a badass girl gang but instead the sidekick; "the most popular girl's funny tomboy friend". It was her teens that her 2014 debut album No Mythologies To Follow explored, "those years where you become a psychopath from all the hormones in your body!"
Karen had already decided on her career path back in 1996 when she let go of plans to become an astronaut after hearing The Spice Girls for the first time. "I remember when Geri left the band. I sat at the desk in my room crying a lake of tears. Maybe that illustrates how nice a childhood I had, because Geri leaving the Spice Girls was absolutely my biggest crisis." MØ says she would've happily replaced her, laughing as she coins Awkward Spice as an appropriate moniker. But it's her likeness to a certain sporty member of the band that is often noted and she jokes that she may well be slowly and subconsciously evolving into Mel C.
We wonder what the young MØ would have made of the star she has become? "Seriously you have no idea how hard I wished to become a musician. The dream was so strong in me that I think it was kind of fate. If I'd known, I think my heart would have exploded or something!" But it's our hearts that explode when MØ performs live. Clad in sportswear, she swings her signature high ponytail and dances, legs square, primitive, powerful and impossibly cool. "I love to watch people not care too much about the choreography, or if they sing perfectly, or if the right label people are there to watch them," she says. "It's just about letting go and being crazy and engaging people in dance and madness — being a human instead of a doll. Of course it's nice to watch a great show but fuck man! It's good to feel that it's a human up there that you can relate to and know that you don't have to be perfect. You can be yourself and still be great, you know?" We know. And this is why MØ, with her raw and positive energy, is an incredibly welcome role model in the music scene.
As she works on her second album with producer Ronni Vindahl and new music mate Diplo (their collab on Major Lazer's Lean On is currently killing the game), we can certainly look forward to something special. But hey, if this whole music thing goes up in smoke, there's always space travel. Seriously. "I was just speaking to Elliphant about whether we'd go to space if we had the chance, and I'd actually be a bit scared doing it now, but when I get old I would like to go. If I'm gonna die I might as well die in space. It would be cool at least." Not as cool as you, MØ. Not as cool as you.
Text Francesca Dunn
Photography Matt Jones
Styling Intensity Gornes
Make-up Angie Parker