When 19-year-old Norwegian songwriter Marie Ulven began making music in her bedroom, she had no idea that after a few years Girl In Red would blow up and genuinely change peoples lives.
Starting with a few songs uploaded to SoundCloud and progressing to a sold out headline London show, it’s been a whirlwind couple of years for one of pop’s vital new voices. As with many great artists though, Girl In Red’s ascension was born through adversity.
“I’ve always been singing and always been into music,” begins Marie. “I just made a lot of shitty songs for a long time. In 2017 though I was going through a heartbreak and I had a lot of feelings about this girl, so I made a lot of songs. I got the name Girl In Red after an experience with that girl. I then started putting out the songs that I made on SoundCloud.”
Fiercely independent and with a desire to pursue her own vision Marie began to build the Girl In Red project online by herself.
“I’m a very impatient person; I don’t like waiting for other people,” she explains. “I had worked with producers before on the Norwegian songs I made, but it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t the sound I wanted. I started playing around with Garageband and trying to figure it out my way.
“That’s what I was doing with these new songs. I wanted to do it myself instead of going through some random guy. I have such strong opinions, so it’s sometimes hard to let people in. I like being in control and not scared of someone fucking it up.”
There are lots of reasons why Girl In Red has caught so many people’s imaginations. Primarily though, it’s her relatability. “It’s all about capturing some sort of feeling,” is how Marie describes her music.
Of all the songs she has collected online, none more have struck a chord with people than her empowering fevered rush of excitement that is ‘Girls’. It’s a song that has already become an anthem and one that is deeply important to Girl In Red and her fans.
“That song has a lot of feelings to it,” explains Marie. “I think that’s why so many people have reacted to it. It’s a feeling that a lot of people have. It’s a very important song that needed to be made and needs to exist. It got a lot of reaction from a whole lot of people which made this project take off.
“It’s been awesome to see how people have reacted to it. I get tons of messages from girls saying, ‘Yo, I came out to this song’, ‘I played this in front of my mum, I’m gay now’. I get so many messages. Even though I don’t see them, real people are listening to my music, and it’s so weird. That song changed someone’s life. I didn’t expect that to happen.”
Songs like ‘Girls’, or the similarly affecting ‘Summer Depression’ collected on last year’s ‘Chapter 1′ EP, have propelled Girl In Red to a massive new audience.
“When I wrote these songs, I didn’t have an audience, so I didn’t have anyone to think of. Now, I have like 1.2 million listeners. That’s pretty wild,” exclaims Marie excitedly.
“With increased success though comes added pressure. I’m not writing for an audience, but I’m definitely thinking someone is going to be listening to this. I’m probably getting more self-conscious about my music and being a lot more critical about everything. Sometimes it gets kind of scary to write because I want people to like it.”
The boundaries and roadblocks in the way of musicians wanting to make it big are slowly being chipped away, and for Girl In Red the vista of opportunity is now wide open.
“I’m very lucky to be in the position I’m in now. I can do what I want,” she says. “You don’t need a big ass team or a record deal anymore.”
What you do need though is songs, and Girl In Red has loads of them – like the tender, dreamy ache of recent single ‘Watch You Sleep’.
“I just sat down with a guitar and started remembering this old memory and wrote what I saw. It was really emotional. I welled up listening to it and thought, this is so beautiful. It was a special moment.”
So far the most complete example of Girl In Red’s charms is on her ‘Chapter 1′ EP, which remains an important collection for Marie.
“It represents a beginning,” she says. “It’s a chapter in my life which I’ve stored into this little collection of songs. It’s special for me because that collection of songs changed my life. It has a lot of feelings, and I’m all about feelings.”
The rush of feelings and emotions that characterises Girl In Red’s music was at fever pitch when she played her first London show in January at the Camden Assembly. It was on that night more than ever that it was clear we have a new star on her hands.
“That was awesome,” she exclaims excitedly before pondering why so many people are so excited about her. “Well, obviously, it’s not completely shit!” she laughs.
“It’s because of people listening and sharing it. It’s because of them that I was even able to play that show in London so seeing all these girls and boys jumping up and down and screaming the lyrics was awesome. You realise then that this is real. These are real people and not numbers. That’s been the coolest thing so far.”
Taken from the April issue of Dork. Girl In Red’s new single ‘I Need To Be Alone.’ is out now.
Words: Martyn Young