You Might Know MØ From Her 'Lean On' Vocals But There's A Whole Lot More To Learn

24 April 2019 | 4:38 pm | Cyclone Wehner

MØ, aka Karen Andersen, tells Cyclone about turning fans of her guest work into fans of her solo output, and how she's getting into the art of collage now.

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The Danish electro-popster MØ (aka Karen Andersen) has emerged as a megastar on the back of song features – notably leading Major Lazer's Lean On. But now she's reclaiming her own identity, promoting 2018's bittersweet album Forever Neverland. And Andersen is touring.

The singer-songwriter is on the phone from her Copenhagen base, sipping coffee at what she insists is a "not crazy" 9am. Andersen is anticipating an imminent Australian tour with Groovin The Moo, plus sideshows alongside Californian rapper DUCKWRTH. "I'm very excited to see Billie Eilish, as most people probably are," she enthuses.

Andersen is unusually chatty for a star, defying the 'question and answer' interview paradigm. She exudes a natural amiability, exuberance and candour, frequently laughing. It's no wonder Andersen is in such high demand for collaborations: she's fun.

While Andersen's ambitious new live production is "focused on" Forever Neverland, it spans all facets of her career – with "blasts from the past". She loves performing. "I tend to be very energetic and, I guess, kinda dramatic on stage." Andersen semi-jokes about every vocalist's anxiety, blanking on the songs. "That's my worst nightmare: forgetting lyrics on stage. Lucky me, it hasn't happened a lot of times, but I'm so scared of it!"

As early as 2013, Andersen appeared at the Sydney Opera House – a guest at the Danish Crown Prince Couple's Awards, coinciding with the building's 40th anniversary. "I just remember that I was so excited to go to Australia, because I'd been to New Zealand as a kid, but we flew right over Australia. I was like, 'No, I wanna go there and see it!'" 

She felt at home. "Sydney reminds me a little bit of a mix between actually New York and Copenhagen… It was like this weird, familiar mix for me." 

Andersen tasted kangaroo. Two years on, she hit Splendour In The Grass. Andersen then supported Sia here in 2017, herself surprised by the Adelaidian's contentiously obscured stage presentation, where she employed dancer Maddie Ziegler as an avatar. "I loved that show," Andersen raves. "I am such a big Sia fan. I think it's so cool that she's doing this, kinda like, artistic way of doing her show, so I was completely blown away. I was just like, 'Oh!'"

Andersen grew up outside Odense in southern Denmark – her first musical fix the Spice Girls (she has covered Say You'll Be There). As a teen, Andersen fully embraced punk. She formed the electronic noise combo MOR with a pal before going solo. Signing to Sony, Andersen collaborated with Diplo on 2013's buzz XXX 88. It was the beginning of an enduring creative partnership, the DJ recognising Andersen's nous as a songwriter. In 2014, Andersen debuted with No Mythologies To Follow, bringing her Scandinavian countercultural cool into popdom. 

She also contributed to others' tracks. Andersen featured on Iggy Azalea's hit Beg For It and Avicii's album True. She again linked with Diplo (and DJ Snake) to co-write and sing on Major Lazer's trop-house banger, Lean On, a streaming sensation. The next year, Andersen graced Major Lazer's Cold Water with Justin Bieber, boosting the Canadian teen idol's club cred. In 2018, she rocked the defiant We Are Fucked with the "dope" Noah Cyrus. "I went into the studio, I cut my parts, then I met her – she had, I think, a show in LA. I hung out with her and she was just so lovely." 

Andersen even blessed Jack Antonoff's Never Fall In Love for the Love, Simon soundtrack.

Between collabs, Andersen did air her own material – like the Diplo-helmed Kamikaze. But, in transitioning from indie-pop rebel into dance bohemian, she struggled to adjust. In October, Andersen issued the conceptual Forever Neverland, allegorising JM Barrie's Peter Pan for herself as a Lost Girl. She teamed with Diplo for Sun In Our Eyes, but her primary studio cohort was Stint. Andersen personalised her curation, recruiting friends Charli XCX and Empress Of.

Still, Forever Neverland was among 2018's most underrated pop releases. How does she feel about it retrospectively? "I think, because it did take me a really, really long time to write that album and to do that album – like four-and-a-half years – it was a very up-and-down process. It really took a long time… It was a bit insane, almost – that was how it felt a little bit. So I love that album so much but, when you ask me what I feel, I will say I'm just so happy that I finally managed to finish it, because I was really stuck from time to time during making the album."

In fact, the single Blur deals with writer's block. Andersen's US label suggested that she remix the song with Foster The People frontman Mark Foster. "I love Foster The People, but I hadn't really thought about taking it in that direction," she admits. 

Andersen's dilemma has been how to reconnect with pop fans as an individual act. "I guess I am very famous for being a featured artist, because of Lean On, for instance. I think those kind of things take time, because you cannot expect everyone to just love your solo stuff as well. So it's something that takes time and hard work. You do good music and then, hopefully, eventually one day they'll know you for both."

Late last year Andersen revealed that, being on a roll, she was keen to commence album three. She laughs now. "Honestly, actually, I have been writing quite a bit," she shares. "I've written, like, maybe ten songs or something that I like." 

Nonetheless, Andersen ponders if it's "too early" to return to the studio intensively. "But who knows? I don't know! I try to take it day by day."

Andersen enjoys downtime. Lately, she's been listening to music. Andersen is "obsessed with Lana Del Rey": "I love all her new songs." 

And she's pursuing activities outside music. "Obviously, I love hanging out with my friends and my family and my boyfriend – that kinda social stuff. But, if it's more hobbies or TV, I'm obsessed with RuPaul's Drag Race, like completely obsessed. Then I love cooking and I love running. 

"Another creative thing is I'm doing collages… And then I'm also knitting." 

Andersen follows world events, too. Many pop acts are wary of making political statements. Indeed, Taylor Swift was roundly criticised for her supposed neutrality. However, as a sometime punk, Andersen considers it obligatory. "I think people should definitely speak up, especially if you have a big platform, because, again, this political scenery in the world, to me it seems pretty messed up at the moment. So I think it's good that people use their voice. But my one thing that I always say when I get asked this – and that counts for myself, of course, as well – is that I really wanna make sure that, before I make heavy statements or anything, I am aware of the whole situation. Because if I'm like, 'Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,' but I don't know the depths of an issue or a situation, then I think I'm contributing to a culture of just talking without knowing what the fuck you're talking about."