girl in red talks collaborating with Sabrina Carpenter, opening for Taylor Swift, and her second album 'I'M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!'

Interview girl in red: Baby One More Time

Following a wild stint of milestone-ticking, girl in red is back with second album ‘I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!’. An LP as joyous as its title, it finds Marie Ulven embracing her next phase of life.

The pressure of following up a massively successful breakout debut album isn’t lost on Marie Ulven, better known as girl in red. The Oslo-based musician burst into the mainstream with her 2021 record ‘If I Could Make It Go Quiet’, and now, three years later, the 25-year-old artist has signed with major label Columbia, collaborated with The National’s Aaron Dessner, and was hand-picked to support Taylor Swift on her Eras Tour last summer. Not bad for an alternative act from the tiny port town of Horten, Norway.

This month, Marie returns with her hotly-anticipated second offering ‘I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!’ and, following the youthful explorations of her debut, it showcases a more playful side to girl in red. “I do feel like a totally different person, actually,” she admits, while also walking her dog. “In a good way. I’m settling a bit more into myself, but I haven’t fully figured it out. That’s probably the most common experience of your twenties: you spend ten years being fucking lost and then you get into yourself in your thirties. Honestly, I just want the world to know who I am now instead of who I’ve been before.”

In previous interviews, she’s compared the transition to that of Billie Eilish between debut ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ and ‘Happier Than Ever’. “I can relate to Billie’s journey, in a way. Not her career journey, but just her mental state,” she continues, nodding. “You can feel that her early music is quite dark, and now it’s more optimistic. I feel like I matured very quickly because of my parents’ divorce and my dad was hit by a car, and I was met with a lot of hard and difficult questions very early on in my life. It made me grow up fast. It also takes a lot out of you to tour and constantly have to meet your fears while travelling - which for me is flying.”

Alongside her aerophobia, in 2021, the musician was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and OCD, following a series of mental health struggles. Although conditions which can present barriers for taking her music to the live stage, “things are getting better for me in that regard,” Marie says, sounding hopeful. “We’re making runs that are more doable. My team is getting to know me in a touring setting.

“I’ve had some pretty uncomfortable experiences,” she continues. “We were involved in an accident where a car almost hit us but flipped over several times and hit a tree. We’ve got bigger cars to protect us a bit more now. We’re limiting my anxiety as best we can, because I do low-key feel like I’m risking my life by leaving for a tour. Especially with Boeing!” she laughs nervously, referencing the aircraft manufacturer’s recent spate of safety issues. “Doors be flying off!”

girl in red talks collaborating with Sabrina Carpenter, opening for Taylor Swift, and her second album 'I'M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!' girl in red talks collaborating with Sabrina Carpenter, opening for Taylor Swift, and her second album 'I'M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!'

“I just want the world to know who I am now instead of who I’ve been before.”

Doomsday vibes aside, ‘I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!’ presents a confident new chapter for girl in red. Opener ‘I’m Back’ kicks off with gentle piano chords and sweetened vocals as Marie declares, “I’m back, I’m better than ever / Life’s too good when you’re light as a feather”. ‘A Night to Remember’, meanwhile, is soaked in hopeful romantic desire: “Nothing ever felt like the moment I met her”. Of course, for every high, there are still lows. ‘Pick Me’ explores the anxiety of a partner potentially leaving for someone else - possibly a man - while ‘Ugly Side’ exposes her imperfections. But though girl in red’s second is an emotional rollercoaster, she’s just hoping that people hop on board with her.

“I hope the fans allow the album to affect them emotionally so that it grows with them, you know?” Marie says. “It’s been a while since I put out my first record. There are always going to be people who want another ‘We Fell in Love in October’ or ‘Serotonin’. It’s like what Tyler, the Creator said: ‘That track or album you love is still out there! Go listen to it!’” she laughs.

“I was really struggling with the words on this project,” she admits. “In the beginning, I wasn’t writing from where I am in life. I was forcing Marie from 2020 onto something in 2023, and it wasn’t working. I had to accept that I want different things now. I have to lean into the input that’s inspiring me, like joyous guitar music. You don’t need a deeper, sad meaning. Nowadays, sadness sells. Some pop musicians are making the most shallow mental health songs that don’t tell the story.”

On the contrary, girl in red has always been open about her own story, both as someone getting to grips with their own brain, and as a queer woman embracing that part of her identity. Even despite her objective success, she’s still prone to self-doubt. “I don’t worry about how my personality will be viewed online, it’s more about how my artistry will be perceived. I really struggle with understanding my place in the world, musically. I’m scared I suck. That’s the core here!” she jokes. But there have been milestones in recent years that even Marie still can’t comprehend.

“It’s just a really weird experience,” the singer smiles, shaking her head at the memory of walking out to 100,000 screaming Swifties last June. “You just try to brace yourself for whatever’s coming. It’s not like I’ve never played a show; I’ve done 200-plus gigs. But mentally, it’s different. It was 100% the coolest opportunity I’ve ever had in my life, and I’m so grateful to Taylor for thinking of some Norwegian girl she listened to. That’s really sick. She didn’t have to do that, but she did. That’s why she is where she is.”

“Nowadays, sadness sells. Some pop musicians are making the most shallow mental health songs that don’t tell the story.”

A surprise collaboration on ‘I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!’ comes in the form of ‘You Need Me Now?’, where fellow Eras Tour opener Sabrina Carpenter pops up to deliver a slick pop verse. “When I was writing this song, I knew Sabrina’s voice would be a great instrument to add,” Marie explains. “She’s an amazingly talented singer and writer. We wrote some stuff back and forth on FaceTime, and then she recorded it in the studio and immediately slammed it out - it was so good! It’s a fun feature because it’s unexpected from both our sides. Sabrina’s more in the American pop queen world, whereas I’m in a different indie realm. I love doing stuff that’s a bit weird and electronic.”

The tour also yielded another opportunity for girl in red when, following her performances, ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’ collaborator (and The National guitarist) Aaron Dessner invited Marie to his Long Pond Studios in the remote Hudson Valley last year. “Aaron is an amazing person. He’s so chill, he just makes you feel so at home. The space is built like a cabin and he drives to the local town and gets you a really nice oat latte,” she laughs. “He’s the sweetest. It’s a low shoulders type of energy, which I really like.”

Yet, even though the stars have been coming out for girl in red’s second album, Marie has still continued working with long-time collaborator Matias Telles, keeping one foot in the familiar while embracing the new. “When you get some sort of success, I think it’s very easy to ditch your Day Ones,” Marie notes. “I feel safe in the space with Matias. It’s very rare that you find a person who understands you creatively, but Matias is like a soulmate. It took a while before we nailed the vibe I was trying to convey for Album Two, but I wanted to nurture that relationship.

“Even though there were low points, you can really tell that I was able to let loose and be free again,” she continues. “Struggling to make it was something I took really heavily. I felt like I’d lost it, that I wasn’t relevant or interesting or good. I was saying the most horrible things to myself - I even told Taylor while on the tour that I wouldn’t be able to make the second album. She said that she’d experienced the same thing with her second album and third, and now they’re just coming naturally. That’s what I want to do: push through all of the lows and get to a point where I just keep making albums.”

‘I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY’ concludes in two minutes of explosive electronic freedom with ‘*****’ - inspired by Andy Warhol and Studio 54. “I make magnificent trash, it’s everything I have,” she declares, tongue in cheek. “Five star rating and I’m writing a hit.” Firmly shunning expectations of repeating the sound of her debut, Marie Ulven just wants to be proud of her own output. Baby, she’s done it again.

‘I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!’ is out 12th April via Columbia.

Tags: girl in red, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

As featured in the April 2024 issue of DIY, out now.

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