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girl in red Doesn't Give A Shit

Marie Ulven has broken out from behind the walls of her bedroom in Horten, Norway. After releasing music in 2017 as ‘girl in red,’ her single “i wanna be your girlfriend” propelled her to global recognition. The project quickly caught heat on streaming services and social media with honest explorations of identity and emotion. With millions of streams in her track record, it’s difficult to believe this teenager performed her first show just last year in Oslo.

Although her instant internet success parallels the dreaminess of her indie pop tunes, growing up outside the norm in a small Norwegian town presented problematic identity challenges. While the judgements at first convinced her to conform, she now refuses to give a shit. We’re here for it.

Read about the 19-year-old singer-songwriter’s intense pipeline to popularity below.

Congratulations on your upcoming tour! At what age did you start playing music and where was your first show?

Thank you so much! I’ve been singing my whole life, but I started playing the guitar when I was 14 years old, I guess that’s sorta when I started doing music. My first ‘girl in red’ show was the 24th of April at a bar in Oslo last year. But, my first show ever was when I was six or seven. I ran off stage crying and didn’t perform in many years. [Laughs]

Is there a specific artist or genre that inspired you to start creating your own music?

Not really. I’ve always made my own stuff. Even before I started writing songs properly, I always improvised while singing.

Why did you decide to release music under the pseudonym ‘girl in red’ instead of your real name, Marie Ulven?

‘girl in red’ has a sentimental meaning to me, and it just made more sense to call the project ‘girl in red’ than my real name.

What is your creative process when writing music?

It’s different every time. Sometimes I get a lyric idea or maybe an idea for a melody. I sit down in logic and record a bunch of different versions of a song and try to select the best ideas. That makes the best version of what I’m making. It’s not always like that though.

At only 19 years old, your music reflects your profound sense of self and you’re not apologizing for your identity. What was it like growing up in Horten and did your environment play a role in gaining your confidence?

Growing up in Horten wasn’t particularly hard, but not very easy either. Does that make sense? Horten is really small town with 27,000 inhabitants so there wasn’t a lot of queer representation. I think there was one openly gay person at my school. I remember I used to dress like a boy and people would call me “boygirl” and question my gender identity all the time. At the time that really hurt me. My mom and I renewed my wardrobe with girl clothes only because I wanted to fit in and for people to stop asking me all these questions. So I haven’t always been so unapologetic. But my skin grew thicker and I just learned to not give a shit.

What is the DIY music scene like in Norway and did it influence your sound?

I haven’t really been so much into the DIY scene here in Norway. I have a few friends that make their own music at home, but it hasn’t really influenced my sound, at least what I’m aware of.

“summer depression” has 7 million plays on Spotify making it your most played song. At what point did you realize your work resonated with audiences beyond your bedroom?

I think I started to realize it last June last year after I dropped “girls”. My audience grew a lot after that and I sorta realized that there’s something special going on.

How did you feel when you started noticing the impact and connection you had with listeners?

I felt very overwhelmed. And very surprised. I didn’t really think it would ever happen.

Were you ever afraid of being judged by the internet for honestly expressing your emotions? If so, how did you let go and push past the possibility of negative backlash?

Nope, not really. I just didn’t care, cause I didn’t think anyone would listen. But I get surprisingly little negative responses, knock on wood.

You talk about mental illness in your song lyrics, do you have any advice for other young creatives who face the same obstacles when trying to make work?

Talk to a shrink! Get it all outtt.

With access to the internet, almost anyone can post and release music. What are your thoughts on how the internet and streaming services have changed the music industry.

I think it’s awesome. You no longer have to get signed and have an album deal to get your music recorded. There’s so many ways to do it now! Super exciting times to be a musician.

Do you have any advice to other young artists who want to release music, but might be skeptical to put it out there?

Only put out music that you’re genuinely happy with and that you love. If you don’t like it, who’s gonna like it?

Images courtesy of girl in red

Stay tuned to Milk for more from across the pond.

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