Girl in Red’s big quarantine interview: “I just want to go out and have a f**king beer”

Fabian Fjeldvik

Girl in Red just dropped her best song ever (and that’s a fact).

The newly-released track called Midnight Love sees the artist, real name Marie Ulven, take her honest and vulnerable songwriting to new heights, with production that’s punchier than ever. But she had doubts about even releasing the single.

“Is this the right time to be like, ‘Yo, everyone listen to me’? It feels weird to put out content and self-promote right now,” she admits. Several artists including Lady Gaga and Sam Smith have opted to push back new music while the world does its best to make it through the coronavirus pandemic.

“But at the same time,” Marie continues, “I think a lot of people need music and need something good in their lives right now. It would be sad if everything just stopped. So I don’t know, I have conflicted feelings about it.”

We caught up with Marie to chat about life in quarantine, why the process of writing her new song Midnight Love is different from anything she’s done before, and how watching Sex and the City is helping her get through this.

Hello Marie! How are you doing?
I’m good, just brewing some coffee, it’s another beautiful day in Oslo… in a fucking quarantine. How about you?

I’m doing well, but it’s the same here – the sun is shining and I just want to go outside and drink with friends.
You wanna have a little pint! Yo, me too. I just wanna sit by the river and have a beer, but it’s not the right time.

How are you finding isolation? It seems like some people are really thriving and becoming very creative, while others are finding that it’s too much and it’s taking away any motivation they had
I’m a bit in between, some days I’m really inspired, but I do feel like I’m leaning towards the second one. I’m losing all forms of structure and I’m just turning into this ball of anxiety and stress and not really dealing with it very well. But I’m not sure if that’s even the quarantine thing, because I don’t have a normal job so I’m usually sat inside a lot anyway. It’s just really claustrophobic to be inside right now because I know I don’t have any other option.

When you can’t have something, you want it more, right?
Exactly. I was literally just watching tips for working and studying from home, it was this super aesthetic video from a girl living in New York, her desk was super clean with nothing but her big iMac and a steaming hot cup of coffee on it, and I’m just… looking at all the dirt that’s on my desk right now.

I’ve been listening to Midnight Love on repeat since it came out, and it’s really great.
Dude, thank you. I’ve been going through some pre-release stress because of that song.

What’s the story behind it?
Well, I started writing that song in January so it’s pretty recent. I was on my way to meet a friend who would text me sometimes when she was really drunk like, ‘Yo, where are you?’ and she’d only come to me when she wanted someone around. The same thing was happening with another friend of mine, this dude would text her at 3am and be like, ‘You up?’ and even though it was mainly a physical thing it turned into an emotional thing, and it ended badly for her because he was just using her. And then I realised that all of this shit that was happening to me and my friend, I had previously done that to someone else.

There’s a plot twist.
Yeah, and that’s how the song came to be, because I was that person once. And it was a really important person in my life who I still love a lot, I think I always will, but at the time I didn’t see it because I had needs that had to be met, but I didn’t think of how small or insignificant I would make her feel. So I actually wrote the song from her perspective.

There’s something different about Midnight Love compared to your other songs, and I can’t quite put my finger on it…
Well, the music that’s out now is stuff that I wrote in like 2018 or maybe the beginning of 2019, so it’s really old, and I’ve developed a lot behind the scenes and I think this song shows that. The core feeling there is still a Girl In Red song, but it sounds bigger and more developed. I wrote it in my apartment, because I have a really big-ass piano in here, and then I took it to Copenhagen, but the guy in the studio was smoking and it was just really different from me working at home so I became a little frustrated and mad and felt like the dude there didn’t understand what I wanted. I did record some vocals, and they’re the ones that are on the final song. But I had like five hours of studio time left and was just like, ‘Sorry I have to go’, so I went home and carried on working there, and then I wanted to work with this dude called Matias so I went to his studio and recorded some extra vocals and piano and percussion, and it was really fun because it was a whole different process for me. Until now, I haven’t really felt like I was ready to even be in a studio with someone else. I’m so scared that someone’s gonna put me in the back of the studio and be like, ‘What do you wanna do?’ But it’s like, ‘No, bitch, I’m the producer, this is what we’re gonna do’. Sorry, I’m going on forever.

Not at all, it’s nice to hear the backstory of the song. Is Midnight Love leading into an EP or an album?
Erm… definitely not an EP! That’s all I can say, y’all.

Are you planning on releasing a video for the song? It’s difficult right now but I imagine you could come up with something creative.
Yeah, me and my friend Isaac, I tell him every creative idea I have for artwork and videos and stuff, so I’ve shared a couple of ideas with him and we’re working on that, but now it’s definitely harder to get it done. But yeah, I wanna do something bigger so I need to go into my thinking box and get that genius out and do something cool.

There are some artists who have delayed their music because of everything that’s going on right now. Did that thought ever cross your mind?
Well, I actually did consider that, is this the right time to be like, ‘Yo, everyone listen to me’? It feels weird to put out content and self-promote right now, but at the same time I think a lot of people need music and they need something good in their lives right now. It would be sad if everything just stopped. So I don’t know, I have conflicted feelings about it. I just don’t want to be perceived as being unaware of what’s going on right now.

I think when everyone’s stuck inside, it’s music and film and art that’s going to get us through.
Yeah, exactly. Everyone is turning to books or movies or whatever.

You’ve done some online concerts which were really cool, and a lot of artists are doing that now. Do you think these virtual performances can ever come close to the feel of a live gig?
Not really, no. I know at least for me, not as part of the audience, I was actually a little bit nervous, I had some of the same feelings I get when I’m about to perform a show. But the energy you get from a live show, I don’t think you can get that through a screen. It’s so filtered, like the sound and everything. But it’s a fun concept and it’s nice how much money people have earned from it! It’s insane. So who knows? This might have been a catalyst for more online performances in the future.

It is interesting how the music industry is responding to this pandemic. How do you think artists can continue to thrive during this, especially as so many make a living through touring?
That’s a good question, because it’s what I’m thinking about every single day. The thing is, the entertainment industry is so reliant on having an audience, so I’m worried that now everyone’s trying to find ways to keep things interesting, and everyone’s screaming so loud that it becomes just this big ball of noise and at the end no one’s really listening, if that makes sense? I feel like a lot of people are already making jokes about live performances, because even people who don’t live off being an artist are playing live shows and it’s becoming a thing that people joke about, especially if it’s not done properly, so I’ve said no to a lot of different shows. When I go to Instagram now, the 10 first people at the top are all doing lives.

There’s a lot of concern about the way self-isolating is going to affect people’s mental health, especially queer people who are statistically more likely to struggle with that anyway, and are now missing their chosen families. As someone who’s been open about this in your music, are you feeling the effects of that?
Yeah. I made a video the other day where I talked about how mentally unstable I was and put it on YouTube, but I took it down because I was like, ‘Oh my god this is totally oversharing and I’m making bad decisions right now’. But yeah, I’ve definitely been affected mentally because I have a lot of health anxiety and OCD with the health anxiety, so now suddenly the whole world is a health freak, and it’s not helping, honey. I haven’t been able to sleep by myself, my sister has to hold my hand every night because I’m worried I’m gonna die. It’s been hard, but I hope people have family or friends on video chat or whatever, anything to keep them going. Because isolating is the worst thing to do when you’re depressed, and I’m depressed, so this is not serving me well. I know that I need friends, but now I don’t even wanna be with my friends anymore, but I know that’s not what I should do. You know what I mean? I’m all over the place, but I just hope people have someone they can turn to.

What have been your ways of coping with this?
I’ve tried reading more, actually. I think reading is really good for your brain, and a friend told me – I haven’t fact checked this – that it’s actually the only way you can get new ideas, so I definitely wanna pick up reading more, I think it makes you smarter. I’ve also watched a lot of Sex and the City, which definitely contradicts everything I’m saying right now – but that’s fine! You gotta have some of that mindless entertainment.

Sometimes you just need to take your mind off everything. I’ve been watching a lot of horror movies because the fear makes you forget what’s going on in the world.
I’m so scared of horror movies, but sometimes I start laughing also. That’s so weird that you’re watching them though, if I was alone and watching scary shit that would trigger nightmares as hell.

I usually watch something fun afterwards.
Is that like when you offend someone but you say a compliment at the end to make it better?

Exactly. To wrap things up, what is the first thing you’re going to do when this is all over?
I just wanna go out and have a fucking beer, am I right? [Laughs] I don’t know, I wanna be with friends and get back to being good at being social, or wanting to be social. Right now I don’t want to be social but I know that’s important for me, so I want to work on that. And then I wanna go on tour again, man, I wanna see my fans and I wanna hug them and do what I love. I just want people to be happy and we can vibe. I just wanna vibe.

Girl in Red’s new single Midnight Love is out now.

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