girl in red Is Levelling Up: "I Think the Album Is Fucking Sick"

On the cusp of a North American tour, girl in red discusses her "dialled in" new album

Photo: Michael Esposito

BY Heather Taylor-SinghPublished Apr 12, 2024

Marie Ulven is ready to level up. Without giving too much away, the 25-year-old Norwegian singer-songwriter — better known as girl in red — details the soaring scale of her upcoming tour.

"I'm really nervous, but I'm also really stoked because the show has really amped up — the production value is a lot higher," she shares with Exclaim! from a hotel room in Nashville. "The creative quality is much better [and] I feel good about it."

Later this month, Ulven is embarking on a tour behind her second album, I'M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!, out today on Columbia Records. The run of shows will include two stops at Toronto's History on April 30 and May 1. "My heart just dropped when you said it," she says when I bring up the album's release. Ulven sounds slightly nervous when she speaks, but those jitters glow with a patina of excitement. "I love the music. I love everything that I've made, and I think the album is fucking sick." 

Throughout the late 2010s, the Oslo-based Ulven gained a following online after sharing tracks like "summer depression" and "we fell in love in october" — the latter is Ulven's most-streamed track in her discography. Very quickly, listeners warmed to Ulven's earnest lyricism about her queerness and experiences with mental illness.

In 2021, Ulven released her debut album if i could make it go quiet. With sparse, rhythmic arrangements blending with distorted, sing-song vocals, Ulven's body of work continued to depict her mental health struggles and the lacklustre phases of romance.

After the release of her debut, Ulven travelled the world and had what she calls "some really brain-altering experiences." She visited countries like Japan, Australia and the United States, where she was one of the openers for the Eras Tour. Being in new places impacted her sound and perspective on music.

"Sonically [the music has] changed because I've changed. My intuition is a lot more refined, and I really trust my taste. Therefore, I feel like the sound is a lot more dialled in. It's a lot more crisp and clear." But Ulven's newfound sound didn't come easy. Although she started working on the album in late 2022, she spent months combating writer's block. It wasn't until the following spring that things started looking up.

"I had this overwhelming feeling that I was just the worst songwriter in the world," she confesses. "I was very doubtful and I felt very insecure for a big part of the process until something switched up, and I was able to make a super energetic, upbeat, confident record."

She continues: "I infused the entire record with this belief that this is going to be the best thing I've ever made, and I was so set on making a better record than the first one."

Confidence oozes out of I'M DOING IT AGAIN BABY! — at 10 tracks, there's no room for fluff. "All the songs have very strong and whole identities. It's like no filler, all killer," she says, laughing. With such an economical tracklist, being selective was key: "It's about the words, it's about the performance. It's about the feeling there."

On the aptly titled album opener "I'm Back," Ulven shares an honest take on seeking help and her happier, newfound sense of life. Set to delicate piano and stripped-back vocals, it's a soft introduction.

Ulvin pinpoints the quasi-title track, "DOING IT AGAIN BABY," as one of the tougher ones to write. "I thought I was trying to make a song about coming out of depression and [I started] making it into an upbeat, cool song," she says. "I just had to acknowledge that this is a song about having fun and feeling cool as shit, maybe it's not so fucking deep."

Though it revisits themes of anxiety, insecurity and finding love, I'M DOING IT AGAIN BABY is Ulven's most liberated project yet. Her voice is at the centre of each track paired with all-encompassing scoring. Through it, she says, she learned to be present and enjoy the process of making the album.

By album closer "★★★★★," Ulven is bursting with self-awareness and confidence about her belief in the album's quality — and deservedly so. "The fans will have to say their opinion, but from my side, I really love it," she says.

When I ask her about a five-star experience in her life, she's quick to answer.

"Waking up and walking my dog to a coffee shop and ordering a coffee, sitting there for like two hours until I get another coffee, and then sit there for another hour," she says. "Allowing yourself to have a chill, slow day once in a while is good."

It's a moment she'll be longing for as tour life begins and she takes the stage in just under a week, singing to sold-out shows of screaming fans — now's not the time to slow down. 

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