6 May 2021

COVER STORY: girl in red Won’t Stay Quiet

Even though her debut album is called ‘if i could make it go quiet’, girl in red (the stage name of Marie Ulven) is determined to cause a giant storm in the music industry. The hype around Norway’s greatest superstar is real (and justified) because only a handful of artists manage to translate their true emotions in such honest and mesmerizing songs. Inspired by the singer’s music, we jumped on the chance to invite girl in red to be our new cover star.

Since the current Covid restrictions made it difficult to travel, we collaborated with a Norwegian team to shoot Marie Ulven in her hometown Oslo, while the ENFNTS TERRIBLES Studio took care of the art direction and production all the way from Antwerp.

Dressed in outfits from a.o. Celine by Hedi Slimane, Dries Van Noten, and special pieces from Tommy Jeans’ archive mixed with the new Tommy Jeans Summer 2021 garments, Marie really enjoyed her time in front of Ida Fiskaa’s lens: “I’ve done a lot of photoshoots in my life, but this is the number one so far!”

girl in red cover story for ENFNTS TERRIBLES

Michael Olestad shirt and pants. CELINE slides. FWSS beanie.

Release Fever

The 22-year-old singer spent most of lockdown in her apartment and studio working on her highly-anticipated first record, which is being met with much praise in the press. Even global superstar Taylor Swift expressed her love for if i could make it go quiet via her Instagram Stories. During our Zoom call, Marie’s dog Luna is keeping her company, while Marie lays on the ground talking to us: “There’s a significant difference between how I was before and after I got Luna. My anxiety level is much lower, and [Luna] is the cause of all my happiness right now. After getting her, things got better for me.”

“There’s a significant difference between how I was before and after I got Luna”

When we virtually catch up with Marie, there are only a few hours left before the whole world will hear her dearest project to date. The schedule of her release week is filled with interviews and talking about the songs she’s been working on for a long time: “Sometimes, I really think that I couldn’t ever say anything about [the album] again, but sometimes, I really feel that I want to talk about my album. It depends on how I’m doing mentally that day.”

Becoming Mature

Those who’ve been fans from the very beginning will immediately notice that the singer shifted away from the lo-fi indie pop that made her popular. Her new sound feels a bit more bombastic, slightly hectic (in a good way), and nuanced. However, that evolution doesn’t have anything to do with her trying to tell even more intense stories: “The songs are a continuation of what I’ve been making, and I hope I even tell better stories. Maybe not more intense or anything, but I hope that people still understand and relate to my songs.”

girl in red cover story for ENFNTS TERRIBLES

Dries Van Noten suit. CELINE cap. Michael Olestad hoodie and glasses.

What started with her debut single “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” on SoundCloud, turned out to be the music many young teenagers can relate to. Even though the number of fans has grown in the past six years, her perspective on music stayed more or less the same: “I don’t think it has changed, other than that I’m scared that I’m not going to be able to write more songs because people expect new music.” Her approach stayed the same, but you can hear her emotional growth when you’re listening to her new lyrics. Explaining the transition between her first success and now, she says, “I’m not eighteen anymore. I’m twenty-two now, and I’m just more mature.”

“I’m not eighteen anymore. I’m twenty-two now, and I’m just more mature”

With every song she writes, Marie tries to wear her heart on her sleeve, and she hopes to hang on to that rawness in her music for as long as possible: “Mostly, for making this album, I had to be present and couldn’t escape anything around me because I wanted to make the best thing possible.” While Marie admits that making music is fun, it can be hard work too. Especially, when you’re stuck and don’t know what to do.

Figuring Out

On if i could make it go quiet, the “Bad Idea” singer attempts to understand what it’s like to be a human being. To find an answer to that difficult question, Marie tried to further explore her mental health, her sexuality, and relationship politics in her songs: “I was close to an answer at some point, but then you get new experiences that make you question what happened. Honestly, my conclusion is that we’re probably never going to learn what it is to be human.” She doesn’t sound disheartened while saying it because she knows that finding an answer is simply not easy: “Being a human is so uncertain, and there’s no guarantee other than the fact that we’re all going to die. I’m still figuring out how I can live the best life possible. It’s going to take some time.”

“Honestly, my conclusion is that we’re probably never going to learn what it is to be human”

A standout track on her thrilling debut is “Apartment 402”, which she already started in 2019. It took her almost a year and a half to figure it out because she had so many different visions for the song. Explaining the meaning of the song, she says: “Apartment 402 is that place that I resented but also loved. It’s kind of a metaphor for how this place has ruined me, and I felt like I couldn’t leave it—that I could die there.” However, the anxiety she bundled in this song also goes hand in hand with the motivation to get better: “It’s actually a very hopeful song because I’m talking about this room that I’m trapped in, but I’m also talking about the walls cracking and light coming in.” Every song is a journey, and there’s always a sense of hope that comforts us while listening to her music.

girl in red cover story for ENFNTS TERRIBLES

CELINE Homme hoodie. CELINE sunglasses. Michael Olestad skirt and trousers. Our Legacy singlet.

One thing she is sure about is her ability to independently write, record, and produce all of her songs, which is something that has become rare in the music industry. All the tracks of the album were originally produced in her apartment and were later fine-tuned in the studio with her co-producer Matias Télle: “I didn’t want the help of Matias while writing the lyrics, and I always told him that I need to sit there alone for hours straight trying to figure out a song.” Marie’s apartment is her safe space to write about whatever’s on her mind, so she always enjoys going back to her own four walls to write new songs: “It’s easier to be honest when you don’t have to tell anyone else what’s going through your head.”

Carefully Constructed

Putting together a debut album is not an easy task. After some consideration, she picked the ten songs with the strongest DNA and relistened to all the tracks to make the most cohesive tracklist: “I like that the start is more hectic. Then we get some time to breathe and, towards the end, we have an anthemic ending with ‘I’ll Call You Mine’. We’re concluding the album with this movie-credits kind of music where we wrap it all up.”

Another reason to adore girl in red even more is her choice for the album cover. The artwork of if i could make it go quiet is actually a painting by the Norwegian painter Fredrik Wiig Sørensen, which she found on Instagram. “When I saw the painting, I saw me, and it feels like a headspace I’ve been in a lot,” she proudly says, “It’s this dark place of thinking and also represents self-reflection, just like the album.” The original painting is now hanging in a prominent place in her apartment.

girl in red cover story for ENFNTS TERRIBLES

Tommy Jeans hoodie and slippers. Archive Tommy Jeans vest and pants.

Hope and Pain

Nobody can deny that the past few years have been quite a ride for the 22-year-old artist. However, that ride also comes with a price when it comes to her personal life: “My song ‘hornylovesickmess’ is about everything that’s been changing around me. It’s also about this relationship that’s going downhill because of everything that’s been changing. I was self-aware enough to realize that I’m causing this thing to go downhill.”

“My mom gets really sad when she listens to my songs”

Whenever the talented artist is far away from home or feels lost in a situation, she can count on the help of her mother, who provides her guidance in those moments. However, it’s difficult for a mother to hear her own daughter struggling: “My mom gets really sad when she listens to my songs, and she obviously feels it extra hard because she wants me to be okay. It really hurts my mom to hear that I’m carrying all this pain within me.”

Being an artist also affected some of Marie’s friendships because not everyone understands that she needs to travel a lot: “I’ve been struggling with some friendships because of the fact I have to work so much, but I’m trying to keep the conversations going.”

Wild (p)ride

She might be in the early stages of her career, nonetheless, girl in red’s influence on millions of queer teenagers cannot be understated. As a young kid growing up in her birthplace Horten, she felt very safe and welcomed. Looking back on her childhood, she says, “I always dressed like a boy—although that doesn’t have anything to do with your sexuality—and preferred to hang out with the boys because I found girls very intimidating.” While laughing, she adds, “I was a real weirdo but also the class clown that loved to make people laugh, so I would say I had a pretty good childhood and upbringing.”

“Sometimes, I even forget that my music means something to people because I live in my everyday bubble”

There are only a few female singers that openly sing love songs about other girls, but that’s exactly why her fans adore her and can identify with the lyrics so much. Her openness about her sexuality inspired thousands of other young girls to do the same and come out. Her name even started trending on TikTok in the queer community, but Marie stays grounded in her role as a queer icon: “It’s still special to hear all their stories because they’re unique people with a life, head, and thoughts. Sometimes, I even forget that my music means something to people because I live in my everyday bubble.”

girl in red cover story for ENFNTS TERRIBLES

CELINE Homme hoodie and cap. CELINE poncho and sunglasses. Michael Olestad jeans.

girl in red 2.0

Since Covid is still around and touring remains questionable in 2021, girl in red will head on her biggest tour so far in 2022, and it’s already sold out. It’s been over a year ago since she last climbed on stage, so Marie currently feels a bit off her game, but the determination to elevate the live experience is already there: “I want to get in a better physical shape and start working out. I went jogging yesterday and even did a bike tour last weekend. Furthermore, I want to bring girl in red 2.0 on stage, just like I did with the album.”

“I want to bring girl in red 2.0 on stage, just like I did with the album”

Marie will return to the studio in May before she travels the world to perform her album live. She also hopes she’ll get cracking on the more creative sides of the album so she can tell the stories of her songs differently. As for what the summer brings, Marie just wants to make the best of it: “I just want to enjoy life and enjoy the summer. A lot of us probably felt like we didn’t have a nice summer last year, and I want to try to get that youthful energy back in me … (laughs) That sounds so lame.”

girl in red cover story for ENFNTS TERRIBLES

CELINE Homme vest. Michael Olestad pants and sunglasses. Taion hoodie.

Tommy Jeans platform slippers and other pieces worn by girl in red in this cover shoot are available on Tommy Jeans’ webshop. (spon)

Photography by Ida Fiskaa
Production and art- and fashion direction by ENFNTS TERRIBLES Studio, Dries Vriesacker
Styling by Alva Brosten
Hair styling by Sissel Fylling
Photography assistant: Kat Gade

Interview and text by Maxim Meyer-Horn

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