Danish dance-pop singer Nanna Øland Fabricius (better known as Oh Land) is no stranger to the arts. Growing up in Copenhagen with two musical parents, Nanna was a trained ballet dancer up until a devastating back injury caused her to hang up what she thought would be her future. Instead, she managed to pour all of that energy into another form of self-expression—music. Now, Nanna is releasing her third album, Wish Bone, and has a five-week headlining run that kicked off on September 20 in Brooklyn, where she now calls home.
The 13-track album was a collaborative effort with TV on the Radio’s David Sitek, someone who Nanna praises as a “brilliant instrumentalist.” From the glossy “Green Card” to the acoustic apologetic “Love You Better,” this album still has the same catchy hooks and pulsating beats as her debut, Fauna, but intertwines singer-songwriter type songs throughout, showcasing Nanna’s artistic range.
Oh Land is an artist in every sense of the word—with her crazy-colored hair, effortlessly stylish outfits, chameleon-like vocals and, yes, she even rekindles her affair with dance in her “Renaissance Girls” music video.
Hive sat down with the blue-haired songstress to discuss the making of her third album, feminism and why she loves Tim Burton films.
So I’m sure you’re very excited about the release of Wish Bone. How would you say this album is different from your debut and second album? What changes did you make lyrically/sonically?
I think it’s definitely the most directly personal album that I’ve done to date. The lyrics are very vulnerable—when you stand out and you really say things as they are, it takes a lot of courage to do that. In that courage, there’s a confidence but it also makes you twice as vulnerable.
Does that vulnerability make you uncomfortable or do you just embrace it by laying it all out in the hopes that someone will relate to it?
I think definitely people see themselves in me and feel some kind of connection. In that, I can also feel some comfort because it’s almost like throwing out a little light and then hop[ing] someone else sees it. People can find comfort in me, but I can also find comfort in the listeners who react to it.
So you chose “Renaissance Girls” as your single. The message behind that song feels sort of feminist. What made you write a song like that?
The inspiration is taken from my own life, but also all my girlfriends who are very strong, confident girls who want to be their best in all levels of life. They’re kind of like overachievers and never seem to be satisfied with how [much] they achieve in life. I can see that with myself as well because you expect so much from yourself. You expect yourself to be the best friend, have a great career, be really talented and be able to cook—you just have to be great at everything. I think genders have been washed out a little bit -- like you have to have masculine qualities as well as feminine. It’s just a song that recognizes what it takes to be a girl today, and it’s quite a lot.
Yeah, it definitely seems like there is a pressure on women today in terms of what we need to achieve.
I just think a lot of girls do so much at once that they have tendency to spread themselves thin. Realize what you really love doing, and then do that. Be the best you can be at that and don’t try to be everything at once. Don’t try to be the girl next to you.
You worked with producer David Sitek on Wish Bone -- what was it like working with him?
It was great fun working with him. He’s such a brilliant instrumentalist and has such a freeing energy. He is very open-minded and doesn’t try to decide where something is going to go before it’s done—he’s very intuitive. That inspired me a lot and gave me a place to relax. I think it definitely made me trust myself a little bit more and trust what we love and not think too much about what everyone else loves.
What was it like growing up in Denmark? I know you had musical parents and you were very involved in dance but then had an injury. That’s very inspiring to people to see you continue on after a setback like that.
I think it’s a very empowering experience in life when you get up again. If you have some kind of trauma in your life, the most powerful thing you can experience is finding happiness again and finding yourself again. I had that at a very early age. I experienced my body failing at an age where everyone is young, flexible and strong. You think you’re Spiderman.
It was really weird to be 18 and suddenly have difficulty walking. It’s such a foreign thing. It makes me very hopeful to know that we are a lot more than we think we are. We can do a lot more than we think we can do. Sometimes your biggest fear of something—like my biggest fear was that I could not dance, and then I couldn’t, but now I do something that I love more than anything. To have that knowledge makes you braver.
From having the background that you do, is it important for you to put on a big performance and entertain people?
I think I’ve definitely done that a lot in the past up until recently. I think more and more I’ve performed less and less. I’ve been more absorbed in just playing and singing, but I do have it in my blood because I’ve been on the stage since I was ten, and I love it. I love showbiz. One of my biggest idols was Ginger Rogers -- and Fred Astaire.
It does seem with this album it’s more stripped-down—still dance-pop/R&B—but do you think that since you made your debut and made a name for yourself that you can get be honest with the lyrics/music?
I think because now some people have an impression of me or know a little bit, now is my time to insist on what it is I want to do. With my last album, I made my imprint but now I am doing it again but harder.
I read that “Edward Scissorhands” and Hitchcock films were big influences of yours, so what’s the correlation between those movies and your music?
What I love about Tim Burton is his films are funny and pretty on the outside, but there’s quite a dark, underlying deeper message. To me, humor and silly things are very close to very serious things. They go hand-in-hand. Whenever I crack up laughing, it’s usually because of something absurd that had happened—something a little darker.
It’s like dark humor, where you’re not supposed to laugh. In Denmark, we call it noose humor. It sounds really dark but it’s not, it’s just a silly thing. When something goes slightly wrong, like blind luck and when things aren’t perfect, that’s when you get a little sneak peak into reality. That’s hilarious. “Edward Scissorhands” is such a sad movie but so beautiful.
Did you ever watch any Disney movies growing up? The Wish Bone cover art has a bit of a “Little Mermaid” thing going on, and now you have blue hair.
Ah yes, Seapunk [hair] I think they call it. My favorite Disney movie is “The Sword in the Stone” but I also love “Snow White” because that was a first.
On the song “Next Summer” were you talking about anyone in particular or was it made up?
Yeah, I was talking about how you know when you meet someone and you say, "Oh, it’s just bad timing." I also hear my friends say, "Oh he’s so perfect and beautiful but its just bad timing." It’s just this vague excuse. “Next Summer” is a song where you realize that this thing can’t be lived out right now, but you’re hoping it can next summer. You’re hoping it’s not going to end here—giving it another chance, although you have to go through this process.
It took me a year to get together with my boyfriend. Most love you find doesn’t work out at first chance. It’s very rare that it’s like that. A lot of things you can postpone, but it’s a little hard to postpone love.
Wish Bone is out now via Federal Prism.