Danish dancer turned singer-songwriter Nanna Øland Fabricius—better known as Oh Land—was the toast of the music industry going into 2011. And that was before her album was even finished. Now, after her fantastic self-titled American debut, a smash first single and some trekking around the States, we caught up with our favorite new artist at a tour stop in New Orleans to get the dish on her new single, epic video and conquering the road with Sia and Katy Perry.
It's been a few months since the album's release, but you haven't really had a chance to sit down much! Between touring, promoting, videos, what have the past few months been like for you? It’s been really intense! The day the album was released I actually played three shows that same day. And since then I’ve pretty much followed that routine. I toured with OMD, Sia and Katy Perry, so there’s been a lot going on.
Before your U.S. release even dropped, you were getting a ton of press: Billboard and Instinct both called you the artist to watch in 2011, and you won Logo’s NewNowNext award. Looking back, was that putting a lot of pressure on you? It was definitely exciting and flattering. I had been in the studio constantly trying to make this album the best I could, so to me it was just great that it was actually going to get heard. But that said, I don’t read into all that hype too much, simply because I don’t have time, really. [Laughs] I’m focusing on the music.
Do you read reviews of your work? Hmm, sometimes you can learn from reviews. But for me, it’s important to know who I trust and whose opinions I take in. I think it’s important to listen to everybody, but then know who to really trust. And the fans are the most important! Their opinion means the world to me.
The gorgeous video for your new single, “White Nights,” was just released to massive praise. What was the concept behind it? Whenever I try to explain my music and the way that I write, I often talk about these two extremes that inspire me equally: the organic, nature world and a love for everything electronic. This video shows those two sides as part of my brain. The video is about me imagining and exploring these two worlds and combining them into one universe that is Oh Land. I worked with these directors, Canada, that I discovered a year ago. The way they work is quite an alternative way of making videos, and I always try to challenge my audience a little bit, so it was just obvious to me that I needed to work with them. So I went to Barcelona this past summer, and my dreams came true! [Laughs]
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When you’re in the studio, is it very experimental, kinda mixing stuff up, or do you go in with a pretty clear idea of a track? It’s funny because when I write songs, I kinda write in a folkie way in terms of melodies and lyrics. But then when I go into production, I twist it around and make [a song] completely electronic and use a lot of techniques that are considered quite wrong to do in music. So the way I write comes from a very traditional place, but the way I treat the writing afterward comes from a very futuristic place. I think this album could have easily been a folk album had it not been for the production. [Laughs]
There's quite a bit of fantasy in your songs and I understand a lot of that comes from your childhood, right? Yeah, my parents definitely didn’t encourage me to live in reality. [Laughs]
Anyone who has seen you perform live knows how visual an Oh Land show is. Is that something you’re thinking about early on in the creative process—how can i make this breathe onstage? Yeah, definitely! I’ve been focusing on visual performance for too much of my life to now not incorporate it in what I do. It’s a natural part of me from when I was a dancer for 10 years. I was always paying so much attention to detail and how to visualize a story then, so it’s like a completely incorporated part of how I work with the music. You know, I think a lot of performers would think it could seem pretentious to do that much in a live show, but for me, I think it would be quite the opposite. If I went onstage in jeans and a T-shirt, that would be pretentious because that’s not who I am.
Is there a song in particular you love doing live? Well, that always changes. But right now, “Human” is one of my favorites live. The lyrics mean a lot to me and I think it’s fun that this song has quite a deep, emotional message but then the way we perform it is very high energy and almost clubby. And “We Turn It Up” is always really fun because people always go crazy!
And speaking of live shows, you toured with Sia earlier this year and now are with KatyPerry. Were you fans of those ladies before? Yeah, I respect both of them a lot! Seeing Sia perform every night, I [felt] so privileged to witness such a great performer and singer because she just has the most amazing voice I’ve ever heard live. And Katy’s show is just crazy and amazing! I kinda fit perfectly as the weird girl between the two of them. [Laughs]