The Norwegian pop singer's rise in the business began with a successful turn on her country's version of American Idol in 2013.
The young songstress, born and raised in the center of Norway, has been playing music since she was five.
Following her TV appearance on Norway's version of American Idol six years ago, she's toured with Zara Larsson, received over 1 billion global artist streams, and was named one of Vevo's 2019 artists to watch.
This interview found her on the tour grind, supporting, among other things, her new single, "The First One."
The First One
What are you doing in town?
I'm on a tour with Zara Larsson. We played a show yesterday at Irving Plaza!
How did it go?
Really good! I was a little bit nervous because New York crowds can be very "cool."
Yes! I was a bit scared, but they were really into it.
Tell me a little bit about your journey from non-musician to musician, and from Norway to the rest of the world.
It started with me being on this Norwegian TV show when I was 16. Before that I hadn't done much music. It was more of a hobby. After that show, I decide this is what I'd like to do. So I quit high school and moved to Oslo, got management, a label deal…
What was that TV show?
It was the Norwegian version of American idol.
So you just put your name in one day, like, "What the hell, why not?"
Well, I remember the first season of that show back when I was only six. I had told my mom how I really wanted to be on the show, but she told me I couldn't do it until I was 16 years old, in ten years. And exactly ten years later, it made a comeback! So It was fate.
So you got an agent, and then what happened?
Before that show I didn't write music, but afterwards I started getting into songwriting, and finding producers. I spent a year doing that, and then my first single, "2 a..m.," came out. And after that everything just started to kick off.
How do you normally write? With a piano?
Yeah, I started playing piano at the age of five. And when I was 14 I started listening to John Mayer, so I got a guitar. But writing with a piano or a guitar is something I used to do a lot of at the beginning, but now I'm more inspired by a cool beat, or a track, or a cool synth sound.
Did you find, growing up in Norway, that artists and the arts are respected there?
Sorry, what do you mean?
Well, in the U.S. there isn't a whole lot of state funding or kinds of support for the arts. So is Norway a nurturing environment for an artist?
That's a hard question to answer, because I was so young. In general, I'm a naive and happy person. I was floating in this happy wave of having figured out my life at such an early age. My view on it is, yes, it's very nurturing in Norway. Again, though, I was so young…I had great people that I worked with me and who trusted and respected me as a musician, and always felt like my voice was heard and I was in control of my own music.
Speaking of your own music, do you work with a regular crew of musicians and/or producers, or do you change it up frequently?
Most of my songs are different producers and different songwriters. I'm still trying to find that one person who I feel like I was born to collaborate with. It's kind of like speed dating. [laughs]
Who would your dream producer be?
That's a good question. I've worked with so many great ones so far…I have no idea. [laughs]
How about somebody out of left field, someone who would take your music in a different direction. Like, I don't know, a Mark Ronson.
God, I would love to work with him! A producer that isn't just "pop," necessarily.
I was listening to and watching the video for "Emotion" and there's a depth and emotive quality to it, to the video especially - and the production is quite something. Who was involved in that?
It's been a while, but let me think. I was into a lot of 80s music while writing that, and listening to Elton John and Queen and Toto. A lot of songs from the 80s, you put them on and right away you know what it is.
The hook is right there at the beginning.
Fast forward to "The First One." What was the approach there and how did it differ from "Emotion"?
Lyrically, it stands out from the rest, it's more intimate. I got to work with Jason Gill, who I had worked with several times without releasing anything, and finally we did something that was released.
The single is dropping May 24, correct?
And then you're touring in support of that. Are you supporting any other music?
Well, I'm also touring just to generally play my music live, be in the States, network, meet fans, etc.
Where is the tour taking you?
So far, I've been in L.A., Boston, New York, we're going to D.C. tonight, then Philly.
Are you getting to any smaller cities?
Not on this tour. It's just two and a half weeks.
I see you were on a Fendi campaign: did you get a bunch of swag?
[laughs] They gave me nothing, actually. All my friends think they I got so many clothes.
Are you a designer clothing wearer, or a thrift shop diver like me?
I'm more the former.
What was that experience like? Had you done any other high profile commercial work?
No! It was very outside my comfort zone, those kind of photo shoots.
Was it a stereotypical fashion shoot you see in movies, where the photographer is yelling at the models and gesticulating?
Yeah, I got yelled at all day. [laughs] No, but it is like you see it in the movies, with a big crew who speak kind of Italian/English..it's an experience.
One last question: If you weren't a musician, what would you be doing instead?
I would probably study…I don't how you say it in English. It's a very specific thing, studying different species in the water. [laughs] I sound so stupid!
Matt Fink lives and works in Brooklyn. Go to organgrind.com for more of his work.