INTERVIEW: girl in red

From the release of her debut single ‘i wanna be your girlfriend’ in 2018, girl in red has been candidly delivering you queer introspection in its rawest form. The Norwegian singer-songwriter has built a legion of fans through her intimate storytelling and beautiful melodies that have soundtracked the darkest moments of heartbreak and the exciting freshness of falling in love. 

Her debut album ‘if i could make it go quiet’ hears her pushing her sound into a grittier, bolder and bigger direction with lead single ‘Serotonin’ really capturing that initial shift. Contrasting a candid unravelling of her mental health, she uses the production as a way to word vomit all of her feelings out unapologetically. It’s punchy, anthemic, and paves the way for songs like ‘Did You Come?’, ‘Body And Mind’ and ‘You Stupid Bitch’ to really come to life in their own ways. 

But it wouldn’t be a girl in red album without a few more stripped back moments that capture intimacy in a different light. With dreamy undertones, ‘Apartment 402, ‘.’ and ‘I’ll Call You Mine’ tear away the distinct grittiness and find a polish within the vulnerability. Finding a balance of all these emotions, she has honed a body of work that feels very current to how she feels about her place in the world. 

I recently chatted to girl in red about the bold sonical exploration behind her debut album ‘if i could make it go quiet’, stepped into the stories behind tracks like ‘hornylovesickmess’, ‘Serotonin’ and ‘.’, and dived into the importance of knowing what it actually means to take care of yourself. Check it out BELOW; 

THOMAS BLEACH: Your debut album ‘if i could make it go quiet’ is sonically a bold collection of tracks that hears you contrasting vulnerable unravelings with a heavier production compared to what we have been particularly acquainted with in the past from you. When you went into making this record, what was inspiring you to get grittier with your sound? 

GIRL IN RED: Behind the scenes I’ve been making music that people haven’t been hearing and it’s been gradually becoming grittier, bolder, and bigger. When it came to making the album I was really in this transition and change period of my sound getting bigger, so it kinda just happened and was like “of course this is where the songs are sonically going towards”. It’s very much been a natural thing that’s occurred.

TB: ‘hornylovesickmess’ is a song that immediately stands out on the record as it explores your busy work schedule and how that has shifted some of your relationships and what the priorities might come across as. So can you explain the creative process behind this track? 

GIR: I started writing that song around 2 months after my tour ended, and I was just playing these piano chords and thought it sounded really nice. I then started to sing about being in New York and thinking about this person and then realising “oh, this is where I’m going to go with this song”. I started to think more about what it was like to be on tour and missing this person and then simultaneously I was writing this song about how things are really changing up for me right now but all I can think about is this one particular relationship that I screwed up. 

So that’s how the song started, and then I launched it into my Logic project and messed around with the production with this cool beat, and it kinda became this more rhythmical rap thing. I mean, it’s not fully rapping, it’s more singing with more rhythm in the words. But it turned into this funny, witty song about myself, my touring experiences and how that affected the rest of my life. I love that song a lot. 

TB: The album opens with the punchy and honest lead single ‘Serotonin’ which addresses mental health in a very candid nature. The lyric that really stands out is; “I get intrusive thoughts like cutting my hands off. Like jumping in front of a bus. Like how do I make this stop when it feels like my therapist hates me? Please don’t let me go crazy”. As someone who also stopped going to therapy cause they were irrationally feeling so many different things, I FELT that. How hard was that for you to actually verbalise and be like, “yeah lets really give them my inner monologue”? 

GIR: I honestly have no idea. Especially with that line; “Like how do I make this stop when it feels like my therapist hates me? Please don’t let me go crazy”, I had been feeling that for so long but I never knew how to say it. And then when I started to write the song that line just came out of nowhere. I find songwriting very magical as sometimes I don’t know where it comes from or how, or what has been going on in my subconscious for that to come out, but it just does. 

So everything that was coming out of me for that song was really just thoughts that I had been feeling for so long but didn’t know how to say them. I started to ghost my therapist and at first I didn’t know why as I just felt like there was something that wasn’t quite right. Then eventually I realised that I stopped seeing her because I thought she hated me, and I thought I was a burden on her even though I spent a $150 on her for the session. There was just something in me with that song that took me straight to brutal honesty. 

TB: Normalising mental health, you break it down to the actual definition by singing; “I’m running low on serotonin. Chemical imbalance got me twisting things”. With the ongoing COVID pandemic changing the structure of your life quite intensely, how have you tried to make sure you are looking after your mental health and acknowledging when your serotonin is low find how to fix that? 

GIR: I literally think there was like a one time fix that has now been stabilising me throughout the whole pandemic, and that was getting a dog. I literally say this all the time, but I don’t think I would be able to take care of myself if it wasn’t for the fact I had to take care of this other thing in my life. 

I’m still trying to figure out how to take care of myself when I’m completely alone because that is HARD. Taking care of yourself is not drinking tea in a hot tub, like that’s not it. Taking care of yourself is setting boundaries, knowing your limits, not pleasing other people, and saying no to stuff you really don’t want to do. It is really hard, and I don’t know if it will ever be easy.

I talk to my mum about this shit, and she sucks at taking care of herself, and that’s not really inspiring at all. She’s 52 and she out here being exhausted and not doing what’s good for her, and I definitely think we all need to be more aware. Good luck to everyone *laughs*. 

TB: Segueing into ‘Did You Come’, this is sonically the sequel to ‘Serotonin’ as it has a very similar production progression. What inspired you to continue that creative flow?

GIR: I guess it’s all been on purpose, but the further I get away from the album process the more I don’t even know anymore. It never feels deliberate but I guess I just have this over-all gut with what I wanna do, and with making music I think there is a lot of things that happen in your sub consciousness. Ever since ‘Serotonin’ I’ve really been growing as a songwriter and producer, and ‘Did You Come’ was a representation of that. I think the production on that song is really dope, and it doesn’t really have a proper chorus but it’s just like a full on vibe throughout the whole song. 

TB: ’.’ shows a lighter side to your vulnerability with the vocal layering and production that has this dreamy feel to it while you confess “honey I’m not doing so well”. What was your main goal with the feeling and embodiment of this track? 

GIR: This song is really just a sad love story about something that never really got to happen, but also being aware that it was my fault too and it wasn’t just a one-way thing. It’s a song about hurting like ‘The One That Got Away’ by Katy Perry, love you *laughs*. It’s also reflecting on why it turned out like that and taking ownership, and also confessing that I’m not doing very well and the reason I don’t want to see them or be friends with them right now is actually because I’m heartbroken. That is definitely one of the more sadder songs on the record. I think the vocals on the song are very good. They’re so dreamy!

TB: ’Call You Mine’ has this road trip reflection vibe to it that makes me want to cry while driving down a coastal road. When you hear this song, where do you want to cry listening to it?

GIR: Maybe somewhere where no one can hear me. I’d drive down to the ocean and cry into the waves. Nobody is going to see girl in red cry *laughs*. I love referring to myself as girl in red, it’s very fun for me *laughs*. 

TB: A bit of a trend on Gay TikTok is “but, does she listen to girl in red”. Have you watched any of these videos and is there one that particularly stands out?

GIR: I watch so many TikTok’s so it’s hard for me to remember. It enters my brain, I get dopamine, and then I go onto the next one and it’s a cycle. Like, I can’t remember the TIkTok’s I watched last night *laughs*. But I think it’s really funny when I see a video from a random person where they’re being really serious and then in the comments the most liked comment is “does she listen to girl in red?”. I think that shit is so funny. I live for comments on TikTok. Immediately when I watch videos I go to the comments to laugh at how great people are at coming up with jokes. 

TB: As a queer artist, you really have created a safe space within your music and given a voice to so many people that needed it. So who are some other queer artists that you think people should discover? 

GIR: I think people should listen to Arlo Parks, Claud, Clairo, Adrienne Lenker, Phoebe Bridges. Listen to them all! There are so many great queer artists these days. People are so much more open, and it’s so great. 

‘if i could make it go quiet’ is out now!