Rising Star girl in red Interviewed: “It’s So Cool to be Alive!”

When girl in red worked on her debut album ‘if i could make it go quiet,’ she tried figuring out what it means to be human. What she learned most about is what it means to be Marie Ulven and it gave her confidence.

girl in red by Jonathan Kise
girl in red by Jonathan Kise

Marie Ulven aka pop phenomenon girl in red still isn’t sure what to think, when industry people and music writers like myself call her things like “the voice of a generation.”

– I mean, it feels a little bit far-fetched for me. Cause honestly, I don’t even know what that means, she says when we connect over zoom just a few weeks before her anticipated debut album, if i could make it go quiet, hit stores on April 30th. I’m in the Girls Are Awesome office space in Copenhagen, and she’s some 500 kilometers north of me in her flat in Oslo, Norway. 

– Obviously, I kind of get it, like someone is telling the story of a generation… I guess. But I really don’t know what to think about it other than: “Okay, if this is something that people see me as, it’s something that I have to accept.” It’s kind of weird, but it’s also kind of cool. I’m not sure, I’m still trying to figure it out.

For Ulven it’s also about coming to terms with the fact that other people that aren’t her family, friends or fans all of a sudden have perceptions of her. It’s sort of the same with being called a role model which is something she’s had to think about after getting millions of fans on platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

– I see myself as a good person, and I think I have good values. So in a way, I wouldn’t be like: “I can’t be a role model” or some sh*t. But I also just see myself as Marie, so it’s also just how other people see me. I think in some way, I can understand that someone needs someone to look up to, cause I’ve been in that position.

The conversation quickly turns into a moment of admiration for Taylor Swift. 

– I’m a huge Swiftie – You like Taylor? she asks me.

I reveal to Ulven that I’ve never really been resonating with her music, but that I totally admire and respect what she’s accomplished. 

– That’s great that you can acknowledge that even though you don’t listen to the music you’re not like: “Yeah, I hate her…” There are so many people that are like: “I don’t like the music, so I don’t like the person.” But she’s such an incredible artist, being able to write music for like 15-20 years and still being at the top of her game and winning Grammys and putting out like A-level records!

If you’re a Swiftie like Ulven, there’s a good chance you’ll like girl in red, although her sound and lyrical universe at some points differs quite a lot from that of Taylor Swift. Her music has often been labelled “bedroom-pop”, but on if i could make it go quiet, she’s experimenting with all sorts of influences ranging from indie rock to EDM. With lyrics touching upon everything from queerness and relationships to feeling depressed and having anxiety, girl in red is writing her way into the hearts of millions of teenagers and young people all over the world who feel the same.

“I’m gonna stop talking sh*t about my old music”

Ulven has officially been releasing music under the moniker girl in red since 2018, where she unleashed her debut single “i wanna be your girlfriend”. A track that now counts close to 173 million streams solely on Spotify.

But it was way before then, she reached the point where she felt confident putting her music out in the world.

– I reached that point waaaaaay too early, she laughs. – I reached that point in 2015. I’d been making music for about two years and I was like: “I loooove my music, I want this sh*t to be out!”

Ulven definitely had a level of artistic confidence back then just as she has now, and although her own description of the music she put out in the past isn’t packed with positive adjectives, she reminds herself that it’s still important to acknowledge the importance of her old songs.

– I’m gonna stop talking sh*t about my old music, because I wouldn’t be here without it.

What does it mean to be human? 

With the massive success, girl in red is experiencing, it might sound like she’s “figured it all out”. But it’s never as simple as that. She’s previously described the album as her attempt to learn what it’s like to be human and while that question remains unanswered, the process of making the album has definitely taught her a bit more about what it’s like to be Marie Ulven.

– I don’t think that being human is this absolute thing. I think it’s something that changes. I really don’t know what it means to be human other than to exist and then die, she says. –  I feel like for now, I’ve gotten to know myself more and in a way I feel more comfortable and confident and I don’t feel as anxious about certain things.

girl in red by Jonathan Kise

– I’m happy for anyone to just get to experiencing anything really, cause it’s so cool to be alive!

Ulven’s acknowledgement of the fact that all she really knows is that we exist and then we die seems to make that whole “exist”-part a bit more interesting.

– We’re alive, luckily, she says. And when our conversation at some point lands on SoMe, and I ask her if she’s happy she didn’t grow up on Instagram like kids younger than her did, she makes a clear stand and calls bullsh*t on people clinching to the past.

– I’m happy for anyone to just get to experiencing anything really, cause it’s so cool to be alive! I really hated it, when my dad was like: “Yeah, I didn’t have this while growing up”. I was like: “Okay, too bad, what are you gonna do about it?” Like: “I’m gonna watch Disney, stop saying that you didn’t have Disney so therefore I don’t need Disney!”

“YES! girl in red has GROWN”

With if i could make it go quiet, girl in red is off to a brilliant start of her record-adventure. It’s an album where she’s credited as the only songwriter as well as the co-producer of every track. The record oozes with artistic confidence and there’s no doubt that Ulven is extremely proud of the result.

– I feel like I’ve grown so much as a songwriter, so I really hope that people notice that. Just how much better I’ve gotten since some of my earlier songs that are made four years ago. I hope people are gonna open their hearts and minds and be like: “YES! girl in red has GROWN, that’s so good for her!” she says, stressing the word grown.

When asked what she thinks listening to the album 10 years from now will remind her off, she says that the memories of just being in her 20s will probably stand out. As well as the memories of life in the apartment, where she’s been making music in her bedroom.

– I’m gonna think back on how the mornings were here. Just how life was in this apartment, she reflects before another thought comes up.

– What if my life turns into this crazy journey, and I’m just gonna be like: “Wow I did not know anything about what was going to happen.” I don’t know. I’m really excited to see what happens. Life is the most exciting movie I’ve ever been in.

Stream if i could make it go quiet here.

We’ve previously featured girl in red on our Best New Music playlist on Spotify – Get your weekly fix of new music here.

girl in red by Jonathan Kise
girl in red by Jonathan Kise

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