MØ is an artist that is no stranger to the top of the charts and the never ending touring cycles. The Danish singer-songwriter has soundtracked your nights out and euphoric breakdowns with tracks like ‘Lean On’, ‘Final Song’, ‘Don’t Leave’, ‘Cold Water’ and ‘Nights With You’. She’s played to Australian audiences multiple times over at festivals such as Splendour In The Grass and Groovin The Moo, as well as headline shows, and a major support slot for Sia’s 2018 stadium tour. With a non-stop global itinerary and release schedule, she found herself eventually struggling with the real mental and physical reality of burnout.
Taking time during the global pandemic to unpack all of the mental and physical attributes of burn-out, MØ focused on herself and her relationship with her partner of eight years. Finding time to question what sort of music she wanted to create, and what she wanted to specifically write about, she began to find a catharsis in writing again. ‘Live To Survive’ opened a new chapter in her story which paved the way for her dark and pulsating third studio album ‘Motordrome’. After writing that first song came nine other bold and explorative tracks that are deeply cemented in those important retrospective moments.
I recently chatted to MØ about the personal breakthroughs that led to her new album ‘Motordrome’, explored the creative processes behind songs like ‘Cool To Cry’, ‘New Moon’ and ‘Hip Bones’, and found out what songs of hers she would put into a classic Brad Pitt film. Check out the full chat BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your new album ‘Motordrome’ is a dark yet pulsating body of work that carries a lot of punch with its hook writing and production. What was the biggest artistic breakthrough you’d say you had on this record?
MØ: I think for me on a personal level, it was having time to dive into a really focused songwriting and production process, and really think about what was important for me to talk about. Having the time and the space to do that has really made me also think about what sounds I like. For many years I was on the road, and with writing music there wasn’t a lot of time as everything was going so fast, so it was amazing for me to experience this very different kind of process where you actually have time to go really deep into it.
TB: ‘Cool To Cry’ is a track that immediately stands out with its gritty production and its sentiment of “I think it’s cool to cry”. Can you explain the creative process behind this particular track?
M: That was one I wrote with my Scandinavian group of friends who were also stuck here in Copenhagen during lockdown. We were having a long conversation about the music industry and particularly being a woman in the industry. Through this conversation we got onto the topic of showing your emotions and how it’s fucking cool to cry. Caroline Ailin was like “we should write a song with that title”. So we wrote it in about an hour, and that’s how it started. I’ve always dreamt about working with Ariel Rechshaid who produces for HAIM and Vampire Weekend. So I really wanted to hear his take on this song because when we initially wrote this song it was just on a piano. But Ariel made this really fun and big production on top of it which I’m really proud of.
TB: When has been a time recently where you had to personally remind yourself that it’s cool to cry and not get sucked into social norms?
M: I often still go into that defence mode where you just put on the persona of “it’s okay, I can take on whatever”. So this song is definitely a reminder to myself that it’s okay to be vulnerable, and that it’s powerful to be vulnerable, so don’t see it as something bad. It’s also a reminder to just be honest, as I do think we forget that sometimes.
TB: ‘New Moon’ is an absolute synth banger with its floorfiller production. What was inspiring you specifically production wise for this song?
M: That was one of the last songs I finished for the album. I already had a song like ‘Live To Survive’ which was also this 80’s dark-synth kind of thing, and then I also had these other songs with heavier guitars. So with ‘New Moon’ we decided to continue in this dark bass, The Weeknd, inspired universe, while still being an absolute banger. I said pretty much that as an explanation of the sound I wanted to my producer, and a day later he sent back this mix and I was like “oh, that’s great!”. It was actually quite an easy process.
TB: And talking about anthems, ’Live To Survive’ is one that has heralded this new project for you. What is a fun fact about the creative process behind this track that people may not know?
M: I don’t know if it’s a fun fact, but a fact about this track is that it was the first time after stepping back and dealing with this burnout mentally and physically that I started to get on the other side of it. I was starting to turn this sadness into an energy and realising that I was going to be okay. It was an important part of the process to write this song which was a stepping stone for ‘Motordrome’.
TB: I love the songwriting of ‘Hip Bones’ with the echoing of “I don’t know, just hold me close to your hip bones”. What is your favourite lyric from the song?
M: I wrote that song by myself in about an hour. It all just came out so fast. Even though it’s quite benale in a way, I really like “we will remember ourselves, as we forget yesterday”. That song is specifically written for my partner. We’ve been together for eight years and it hasn’t always been easy for them being with a pop star. So it was really about putting the past behind you a little bit and looking forward. Sometimes a present situation will get damaged by the past as you allow the past to influence the now too much. That was one of the things we were both stuck in, and we learnt to not think about it anymore, and not to suppress it, but instead to look forward and be present.
TB: “Motordrome” is a lyric from ‘Punches’. What was it about that word in particular, and that song that made you feel like it perfectly summed up what this album means to you?
M: For many years I had been running around in this hamster wheel that felt like a motordrome. It was an internal spiral in a way that wouldn’t stop. It’s not like I was judging myself for not being able to stop doing what I was doing as I love my job. But there was this fear that if I took a break then I would lose what I had. Obviously when being creative, or doing anything in life, you shouldn’t be working out of a place of fear. You should be able to trust yourself that you’re okay with who you are and what you do. So in a way a motodrome represented this toxic loop and wanting to move away from it while also acknowledging that it’s a part of my past and in a way it’s probably a part of my future. But in the song it says “in the motodrome or on the highway” as it’s like sometimes I will be free and sometime I will be stuck and that’s okay, it’s just a part of life.
TB: If you were able to insert one of your songs into a Brad Pitt movie, what film would you choose and why?
M: Hmmm, that’s a really great question! I would probably pick 12 Monkeys as that’s one of my favourite movies of all time. And I would put ‘Youth Is Lost’ in it, or ‘New Moon’.
TB: Ooooh I love that choice! I could even imagine ‘Live To Survive’ in Mr & Mrs Smith!
M: Oh my god, I love that! I haven’t watched that movie in so long. You are right though, those two would work perfectly together. Let’s go with that!
TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions about the album. Are you ready?
M: Yes please, I’d love that!
TB: The emoji that best describes ‘Motordrome’ is…
M: Definitely the spiral!
TB: The song that nearly didn’t make the album was…
M: There were actually two songs; ‘Wheelspin’ and ‘Youth Is Lost’ I was in doubt with.
TB: The song I’m most excited to perform live would be…
M: ‘New Moon’!
TB: The first song from the album I’d choose for you to play to your friends if they’ve never heard of me or any of these new tracks would be…
M: Maybe ‘Kindness’ actually! It’s quite an intriguing song.
TB: The lyric that hits me deep in the chest still is…
M: “I live to survive another heartbreak, I live to survive another mistake” is really simple but it still hits me in my chest.
‘Motordrome’ is out now!