Minimalist Soundscapes

Interview from Ole Mathiesen Magazine vol. 23

Danish pop singer and songwriter Oh Land´s sonic landscapes reflect an inner soundtrack – because she always hears music in her head. And that´s why she cherishes silence, which frees her from navigating between two soundtracks.

A critic called her an avant-garde pop princess. With her sometimes pink, sometimes blue and sometimes blonde hair, her distinctive dance moves and her colorful and unpredictable style, she´s one of a kind. The same goes for her music: an ethereal universe of sonic landscapes and fine voice full of character that levitates above with equal parts wonder and intensity. 


Oh Land is busy finding songs for her X-Factor contestants when she gets the call for this interview one early Monday morning. In a short time she has to find genres and songs to help her X-Factor contestants shine in front of hundreds of thousands of television viewers. “Fortunately, I have a big back catalog because I have always listened to a loft of different music. That is great help her”, she says. oh Land, whose given name is Nanna Øland Fabricius, actually turned down the opportunity the first time she was asked to be an X-Factor judge. “I am glad that i did not join the show until now. I was probably a little too insecure and afraid of saying something wrong back then. You have to have a solid foundation, because it is a real game-changer,” says Oh Land, who is 34 years old.

Game-Changer means tabloid press and paparazzi. Since her debut as a judge in X-Factor in 2018, Oh Land has had to get used to people taking photos of her without her realizing it. She has deliberately remained tight-lipped when the press asks about her personal life. And she rarely attends the premiers and other events covered by the tabloid press. As she says:” You don´t have to feed that part of the press”. The press has had plenty to write about nonetheless. Oh Land was the opening act on a Katy Perry tour. She has collaborated with Pharell Williams, she appeared as a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman, and she has sung at Carnegie Hall in New York with the renowned pianist Lang Lang, accompanied by the equally famous American violinist Joshua Bell.

The songs finds their way to Oh Land through a stomachache. Or a headache. “The process usually begins with frustration or worry. At some point, that bubble bursts, I sit down , and then the tones and chords start to come out. The lyrics can take some time before they arrive. Once I have written the song, I sometimes wonder how I even did it. By that point, I have completely forgotten,” says Oh Land.

Songwriter was not her dream as a child. But a back injury in her youth forced the Danish pop star to shift gears from dancer to singer and composer. As a child, Oh Land studied at ballet academies in Denmark and Sweden, but the pain of the injury forced her to stop an otherwise promising career in dance. Oh Land describes the back pain as “walking in cement”. The pain was so intense and persistent that she could only move very slowly. Nonetheless, the back injury, served as the impetus for her first album Fauna.

Dancer or singer, the music has always been inside her. It runs in the family – her mother is an opera singer and her father is a composer. And on top of all that, she was born with an inner soundtrack:” It runs from the time i get up in the morning until i go to bed at night. I hear tones and melodies. That is why i like silence so much, because then I don´t have to two soundtracks running at the same time.” The inner stream of tones also found an outlet when Oh Land wrote music for the ballets “Cinderella” and “The Snow Queen” – productions which boasted HRH Queen Margrethe as the set and costume designer. The critics were delighted. “I like it when big, deep tones unfold in a sonic landscape, but that does not work for a ballet. It needs a momentum and a completely different energetic tempo than an opera, for example. I can´t make tones that cause the dancers to hang in the air too long. They have to come down again” laughs Oh Land.

The ballets have sparked Oh Land´s drive to continue working as an instrumental composer. This spring, however, she is busy as e mentor for the hopeful up-and-comers in X-Factor “In a way, i am limited by my name and work. For example, it would not “be me” to start making rap music. But with X-Factor, I can live out some dreams on behalf of others, and I can embrace the joy I find in all types of music.” To hear how Oh Land´s music has evolved, take listen to hear latest album, “Family Tree.” The video for the title track was shot by a close friend and world famous model – Helena Christensen.