This summer, I went on a mini road trip with two of my best friends. We rented a car and hit the road and I had the privilege of being the DJ. Obviously that is a lot pressure, but it was easy to pick good songs when Oh Land exists. If you don’t know who she is, well, you should. Oh Land features Nanna, an effortlessly cool former ballerina from Denmark who now lives in Brooklyn. Pretty cool, right? You may have heard her song ‘White Nights’ in an episode of Girls last year. I blasted her albums the whole trip and now my friends are hooked too. So you can imagine my excitement when I got the chance to interview her for HelloGiggles. You can read it below and be sure to check out her new album, Wishbone, in stores and on Spotify now!
So, how are you?
Nanna: I’m good! How are you?
I’m good! So I do the HelloGiggles Playlist of the Week, which is how I found out about you!
“Oh how fun! Which song? ‘Renaissance Girls’?”
Hmm, for you I think I had put ‘White Nights’, because I had heard it in Girls and needed to know what it was.
“Ah, that’s awesome!”
So, you have musician parents, right? And you were originally a dancer? What drew you to dancing?
“Yeah, yeah. I think actually being very physical and getting a lot of energy out there. As a child I was very wild and found it very hard to sit still and in dance I suddenly got to control all that energy and movement and it was a really beautiful thing to be able to contain your energy.
Ah, yes, I know what that’s like.
“Do you dance?”
I danced as a kid, but I was never very good at it. I think I just don’t understand rhythm very well so it took me a little while to get into it. But I loved it and I love watching it.
“I also love that it was something that had no purpose at all. You take a glass because you have to take a drink or you do the dishes. But with dance it has absolutely no point. And I love that about it.”
So when you were dancing, was becoming a musician on your radar?
“No, not at all. I did play when class was done. I sat at the piano and played. I was really drawn to the piano and I’ve always been. So I did play but I didn’t think anyone else would care to listen. It was a very personal thing. So it wasn’t until I was much older and started dancing that I thought maybe somebody else would want to listen.”
What’s your songwriting process like?
“It usually starts with a silly idea. Something when you have a conversation or notice somebody on the subway who has a certain expression and it just makes you have a little glimpse into life. Those little moments or little mistakes that you can’t stop thinking about and then a song comes out of it. but it usually comes from quite silly ideas and even sometimes jokes because most jokes are only funny because they are serious underneath.”
Yes! I saw a guy on the subway and he had a shopping bag with him and I thought nothing of it. But I noticed there were office supplies inside and I thought maybe he just got fired and cleared out his desk. That’s so depressing.
“Yeah, exactly things like that when you see into other people’s life and it makes you confront your own life. Those are the most inspiring things. Or like seeing, for example. I have a song called ‘Bird in an Airplane’ and that song was just inspired by a bird in an airport in Germany. You rarely see birds flying around and I was wondering what you doing an airport when you can fly yourselves.”
Yeah, that’s a great point. There are always birds on the ferry between Staten Island and Manhattan and I’m always asking why are you here when you can be anywhere!
“Yeah, exactly! Or thoughts like that make you think about yourself as a person and all the things you do that are unnecessary or how weird it is to sit on an airplane as a man and machine and that was a big inspiration for the album.”
The whole album?
“Yeah. Like how Man vs. Machine is a constant struggle and also how we can’t be separated.”
So has dancing influenced your music?
“Yes! For sure, mostly because I see melody very much as movement. Whenever I sing or make up a melody I see it as well. It’s almost like little choreography for the melodies. And it’s the same way I danced. I heard the notes as movement. And that’s my way to remember. I think also a lot of memories are pinned up on sounds or music for me. Yeah hearing and doing something is good for memory.”
When you are writing your music, what is the most inspiring?
“It’s the little things and people around me. It’s more people than places and obviously my own interactions. And also those little awkward moments that are not perfect that make you wonder about yourself. For instance, when I had to take a blind lady across the street in London and I didn’t know what to do and took her hand and I led her over her the street and in the middle of the street she said, ‘Do you mind if we don’t hold hands?’”
“Yeah! So little awkward things that make you think about yourself and relationships and that’s in the song ‘The Boxer’. But then also obviously love is a big influence.”
Yeah, that’s a very common theme but it’s also a very powerful emotion too.
“Yeah, exactly! But not just the symbol of desire or infatuation, but also the deeper feeling of love and the selflessness in it and compassion. When you put yourself aside and put your stubbornness aside and feel real love, it’s so beautiful and strong.”
Yes, I agree. So, what are you excited most about for your new album?
“I am excited about playing live and I’m going to go on a five week tour in America and I’m very excited to play for them. And I’m excited to just have the album out and not change anymore!”
Have there been a lot of changes?
“It’s hard not to keep correcting yourself? Because like, what if? At some point you just keep over-complicating it for yourself. Like, before you go out, picking your outfit is the most important thing and then when you are out, it couldn’t matter less. You could have worn your pajamas and it would have been the same outcome.”
So my last question would be what advice you’d give to any other aspiring artists out there.
“The advice I would give to any aspiring artist is probably to insist on your mistakes. Don’t correct them. A lot of people will tell you how to do things and sometimes you have to prove them wrong. If there is something very personal for you, insist on it and eventually you will be heard. It might take a little while but keep insisting and people will see you are actually repeating this, it’s not a gimmick and they’ll say okay.”
Great! I love that! Thank you!
Check out Oh Land’s newest album, Wishbone, and see her live! For tour dates, click here.
All images from ohlandmusic.com.