by Justin Holmes
Photography courtesy of Epic Records
Music is more than just an aural sensation. It can be touched, tasted, smelt and heard – at least, according to international recording artist Oh Land. Born Nanna Øland Fabricius in Copenhagen, Denmark, the 25-year-old grew up in a place where music was a landscape of the imagination.
“There was always music in the house, my mom would sing, my dad would rehearse on the piano and there would be different musicians coming in and out of the house. I basically grew up in one big life concert,” she explains. “Where I lived, there were a lot of animals. Every morning, the rooster would wake me up. That’s where a lot of my love for nature and animals comes from. You can somehow hear it in my music.”
Oh Land avoids sticking to one genre, combining aspects of pop, electronica and folk music with dance, theater and the abstract. She describes her musical frontier as a destination for the open-minded. “Oh Land is more like place where music can happen,” she says. “I find it hard to categorize my music in just one genre, so I call my brand ‘cinematic pop music.’”
Like a physical landscape composed of different textures and compositions, Oh Land considers herself a prism of artistic expression. A former member of the Royal Danish and Royal Swedish Ballet companies for over a decade, Oh Land turned to music after suffering a major spinal injury. “I was mourning the loss of dance, and [my music] came out of desperation because I couldn’t move,” she recalls. “I was in my apartment and I started writing all these songs and making melodies and recording them.”
With a sound and imagination comparable to Bjork, Oh Land’s music sports a fairytale element, which can be attributed to the fact that her rapid rise to recognition is a fairytale in itself. A wounded dancer forced to quit the art she loves, Oh Land posted her music demo on MySpace, soon signing to Danish record label Fake Diamond Records. Then, she flew out to the United States with no money to perform at SXSW Music Festival and incidentally performed to a half-empty room composed of Sony/Epic staff members, including former president Amanda Ghost.
The game of chance paid off. The next day, Ghost signed Oh Land to the label, putting her eponymous major label debut on the fast track to success. Since then, her life has had an unending series of international flights to perform in front of millions. Her story may have already found its happy ending. “Telling stories in a fairytale-like way is very natural for me,” she says. “Coming from ballet, with stories like Swan Lake and all the old tragic stories that we tell with characters, that’s what I do a lot. I tell stories with metaphors.”
For now, Oh Land is embarking on her first European tour after releasing her self-titled full-length this spring, soon to be followed by her first U.S. tour in late summer. The moral of the story: “Music is the universal language, everybody understands a melody,” she concludes. “I would be thrilled to go as many places as possible and gain a connection with the world.”