“Be gay, be loud, be proud”. With her fiercely honest bedroom pop and fiery live shows, Girl In Red is making waves far outside her bedroom walls.
“It basically started because I was heartbroken and I was sort of eager to get that feeling out somewhere”, Marie Ulven tells Clash as we sit down to talk about her musical endeavour under the name Girl In Red.
Over the course of a year, Girl In Red has gone from an emotional outlet in Marie’s bedroom, to tour across Europe, including her own headliner in London. Yet, it all started in that bedroom. “I was spending a lot of time in my room alone, just being really sad. That’s when I made my first song which was ‘I wanna be your girlfriend’.” Marie kept releasing music and her song was picked up by Youtube channels and radio stations, and that’s when the ball started rolling.
The pseudonym, Girl In Red, stems, as a lot of Marie’s inspirations, from a romance. “It came from that girl in red. She was my best friend and I was looking for her at a festival. We were going to this gig and I was like “where are you? Put your middle finger in the air.” We were just joking around and out of nowhere I saw her, the crowd opened up a little bit and she was wearing a red sweater, so I texted her “girl in red?” It was like a very sad, but kind of optimistic moment cause I saw her, but I was like “fuck, I’m never gonna be with you”.
This sentiment of dual optimism and sadness also reflected the direction Ulven took with her music, which led her to take Girl In Red on as her artist name. “Girl in red is sort of this feeling, like the feeling I had in that moment when I saw her. It’s kind of sad and optimistic, and I feel like that’s something that represent my music. It’s like sad but upbeat”.
With heartfelt lyrics about crushes, heartache and bad days, Ulven has gained a following that praises her for her openness about queer love and mental health. Tackling topics of everyday realness, it’s not surprising that it’s the day to day life that is her main source of inspiration. “I really like The Smiths when it comes to music, but things that really inspires me is usually just everyday life stuff. But musically I think The Smiths, I’ve always looked up to them since I started listen to cool music.”
Ulven writes openly about her personal life, but transferring those experiences into songs without handing out too much can be a challenge. “This is always a problem when I’m writing. Being too specific sometimes, and be like: “oh shit maybe I shouldn’t say that, because that’s pretty gnarly”. Usually I look at the feeling that situation gave me and sort try to describe what really happened here.”
As genre focused as the music industry is, Girl In Red is an outlet that in general steers clear of labels, both musically as well as in general. “I’m not really a fan of labels generally, so when it comes to sexuality I’m like 'fuck labels' and when it comes to genres and stuff I’m like 'fuck labels'. I don’t even know what my music really is. I make a bunch of really different music and sometimes it sounds completely different.”
Even though Girl In Red has gained quite a substantial following, Marie thinks it’s important to stay true to what she wants and follow her own direction. “I don’t want to be like 'oh now suddenly I have 100k followers on Instagram so now I have to become a real artist'. I don’t want to become what everyone else is doing cause that’s fucking boring.”
And her final statement: “Be gay, be loud, be proud.”
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Words: Aurora Henni Krogh
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