- Fri, 2011-05-27 12:06
Following a severe back injury, Nanna Øland Fabricius was forced to give-up her career as a professional dancer. Stuck recovering in bed she slowly discovered the healing properties of music, turning diary-style entries into songs. Convinced by friends to put them up on myspace, she was quickly snapped up by Danish indie label Fake Diamond, leading to the release of her 2008 debut Fauna under her stage name Oh Land.
Hugely influenced by the world of theatre, Oh Land has gained a reputation for her colourful live shows, blending multi-media antics with her experimental take on pop. With rave reviews at SXSW 2011 and over ten million views for her latest youtube video, I Like Music caught up with Oh Land to chat about the release of her second, self-titled album this summer, leaving the world of dance for music and her incredibly active imagination.
"I Like Music because… it’s my reality.” Oh Land
ILM: Your single Sun of A Gun is out now and it's had an amazing response so far - over ten million views on youtube! Can you tell us about the track? How did it come to be?
Oh Land: The song was written in L.A. I travelled there in 2010 to write, record and produce the album. It was about a certain experience in my life with a man that I was madly in love with. He had such a strong persona, it was kind of taking over my whole world. I felt like I was becoming so dependent on him, everything in my life was circulating around him. It just became destructive. I couldn’t focus on anything else really, I just wanted to get away from it. I wanted to be independent again.
ILM: How did you relate that to the sun?
Oh Land: I thought of the sun as a metaphor, how we orbit around the sun, we depend on the sun, but when you look straight at it, if it shines too bright, you can get burned. It’s something that we depend on, but it can also be hurtful in big proportions (laughs). I just like to write songs that have different layers of meaning!
ILM: It came from a very personal starting point. How do you feel about sharing so much with so many?
Oh Land: You get very vulnerable when you pour your heart out in songs like that. For me, a way to make that easier and more honest is to make these characters, for instance the sun. It’s not about that specific person, it’s about a concept. In my song Wolf & I, I write about a love story, but instead of saying ‘you and me’ it's the wolf and the moon. That way it’s easier for me to be honest and not censor myself.
ILM: Though a lot of people have just discovered your music, you released your debut album Fauna in 2008 on Danish indie label Fake Diamond Records. Can you tell us about that record?
Oh Land: With Fauna I wrote everything from a very dark place in my life. I’d been dancing for ten years of my life and working professionally and then got a really serious back injury that forced me to stop. That album was written as a diary, it became escapism. Everything I couldn’t do in real life I could do in this world, which was Oh Land. I could dream away and write all these stories. It kept me motivated. It was really the only light in my life at that point and it wasn’t really meant to be exposed to an audience. It was more like my own little dream world. When I showed it to my friends they encouraged me to put it out on Myspace. It was a big surprise to me that people wanted to hear it! Then I got signed by a Danish indie label, Fake Diamond Records, really quick.
ILM: Since then, how have you developed as an artist? How does your new album Oh Land reflect that?
Oh Land: Getting the experience of playing my music live to an audience led me to figure out how to communicate with music to people. I realised it wasn’t just my own little private way to express myself. That was a big discovery. I really took that experience into writing this album, which is much more extrovert, I communicate much more with the audience on this album.
ILM: How do your songs come together? Where do you start?
Oh Land: For me, the whole story pretty much comes together with all the aspects at once. I get this whole little idea of a film and then I try to put that down in words and melodies. It’s a very 3D way of writing. If that make sense... (laughs)
ILM: Yes, yes. You must have a very active imagination!
Oh Land: I do. I’ve always been in my own little world making up stories. When I was playing as a child I wasn’t just playing one game one day and another the next. It was like I was always building up this little universe, always making up characters with my friends. It’s not much different from what I do now, although it’s not just my friends, it’s my whole fan base that can be a part of it!
ILM: How do you go about translating that to the stage, your live show?
Oh Land: I want it to be a multi sensory experience. As an audience, I want people to dream away with their whole body and all the senses, not just their ears. So with my show, I always try to dress to the music, dress for the characters in the music and kind of create a landscape for the music to live in.
ILM: You recently toured in support of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, how was that experience?
Oh Land: Yeah, it was really fun to tour with people that have that much experience. They're kind of the pioneers of synthesizer music. I definitely learned a lot from watching them each night, they had such an energetic show. It was just amazing to see how dedicated their fans are to their music. You know, they’ve been active for so many years, that’s just really comforting! (laughs) It was a great motivator.
ILM: You also recieved a great reaction at SXSW this year. How did you find your time there?
Oh Land: It’s very challenging to do something like SXSW which is basically a marathon. I played three shows a day and of course when you play three shows a day you don’t get to do sound check, you just do a quick line check. I’m very ambitious about my show, I always want it to be how I envision it should be and it’s not always possible to pull that off when you only get five minutes to set up. I just try to bring the most essential elements from my live shows and not compromise too much with the asthetics.
ILM: How did you manage that at SXSW?
Oh Land: I had this cluster of balloons that I was projecting visuals on to. All those visuals were triggered by the music that we played live, so for instance we had a film of my head that was projected on each balloon that was singing along with me – you know it’s very interactive!
Oh Land: Haha! It all comes from a very simple idea that can be put onto any stage really quickly. To me it’s always about finding something that has a big effect but that is very simple.
ILM: Though you said you came from professional ballet, have you always been a singer?
Oh Land: I was always singing. It wasn’t really something I was conscious about, it was just something I did. I’ve just always been surrounded by music, even when I was a baby. My mum was singing and I was at rehearsals with her, I was running around at the opera house and seeing the ballet dancers, people in crazy costumes, men in makeup, symphony orchestras and the opera singers. The theatre and the fantasy world became my reality, there was nothing odd about it. I think I’ve really taken a lot of that into what I do now because that’s where I feel at home.
ILM: Did it feel natural to step from dance into music?
Oh Land: To go from ballet to music was a painful transition, of course. I was suffering physically from the injury. Music helped me out of that, it was like the only optimistic and bright thing in my life at that time.While I was healing in my back music sort of took over, it became too important and what I wanted to do. It was pretty late that I started making music in a serious way.
ILM: Did the Danish music scene influence you at all?
Oh Land: I’ve never really considered myself part of a certain music scene. I wasn’t really influenced by any certain type of music except for the music that I was surrounded by in ballet, which was mostly Russian ballet composers and some electronic music with the modern pieces. I think I came out of nowhere in the Danish music scene! I wasn’t really part of any particular wave that was in the scene at that point.
ILM: What have you been listening to recently?
Oh Land: I’m always completely out the loop with what’s going on in music. I suppose I'm also shielding myself a little bit, (laughs) towards what’s going on right now, because I feel like...well, it’s a bit like you don’t want to wear the same as your sister! You want to be your own. Recently I’ve tried to catch up with what’s going on around me and I’ve been listening a lot to Caribou and Tame Impala. I’ve also been listening to classical music which is always what I put on when I want to relax and then...I’m kind of obsessed with James Blake.
ILM: What are your future plans, what's next?
Oh Land: My album will be released in the UK on 14th of July and on the 15th of May Sun of a Gun was made available. I’m going to tour a lot this whole summer. I’m doing festivals in the UK, I’m doing Glastonbury! I’ll just be playing as much as possible. Then in the fall I’m going on a UK tour...