The journey to MØ’s second studio album, Forever Neverland, has been a long one and winding one.
After the Danish singer rocketed to international fame with the Major Lazer and DJ Snake team-up “Lean On” in 2015, she struggled to find a musical direction as she juggled touring obligations, countless invitations to collaborate, and her own worries about how much she should chase hits and trends. Three years later, she has a hard time believing she made it to the finish line with the LP, which has no shortage of massive hooks but still embraces her artsier, more rebellious instincts.
“It’s very surreal,” she tells Billboard a few days after the album’s Oct. 19 release. “It’s something that has been my whole world for so long, and now that it’s out, it’s a new time, a new chapter. It’s really strange.”
Fortunately, MØ — born Karen Marie Aagaard Ørsted Andersen — didn’t have to go it alone. Whatever direction she goes in her recording career, a few pals are never far behind. Look closely at her discography and credits, and you’ll see singer-songwriter Charli XCX, producers Diplo and Benny Blanco, and more recognizable names showing up over and over. Sometimes she and her longtime creative partners crank out multiple collaborations in the span of a few months, resembling their own pop-music collective.
“When I make my own music, I tend to be very personal in the stuff that I do,” she says. “Therefore, I like when I know the people I’m featuring, because it’s easier to open up when it’s someone you know by heart. I guess I do keep coming back to some of the people I’ve worked with before.”
Below, MØ tells Billboard in her words how she found some of her closest collaborators, how their working relationship has evolved over the years and why creating a community of female pop peers is important.
Back in the day, it used to be him sending me tracks, and I would work on them on my own — which is the way of working that I actually really love. But lately it’s been more meeting up in studios wherever we are in the world. Diplo travels all the time, and I’ve been traveling a lot too. What I love about working with Diplo is that it feels very free and fluid — we can work on a song apart from each other or in the studio, and it’s always, “Let’s brainstorm, here are new ideas.” I like that kind of workflow, where it’s constantly moving.
He’s not afraid to go in one direction and then another, but it always has the same core. With “Sun in Our Eyes,” we’ve done so many songs that are rooted in the tropical EDM world, so I thought it would be fun to try a song that doesn’t have a drop, and I’m glad we did.
I met Charli for the first time in 2014, but I had known about her for a long time — we came up in the industry around the same time, doing more indie-pop music around 2012. I’ve always been a fan of her, and when I met her, she reminded me so much of my friend in Copenhagen in a way. She was just so casual and cool. When I write with her, she’s so fast — she just spits out ideas, and it’s always great, kind of like Diplo. Charli’s not afraid to take chances or lose. She’s always trying new things and collaborating with people all over the globe — big artists, small artists. I think that’s a good, modern way of working and thinking.
When we work together on her mixtapes, she’ll send me a text and send me the song. It’s very rare that we’re in the same city at the same time, to be honest. I’ll record my vocals on the road wherever I am. I have my little recording studio with me, so I just sit down and work on it when she sends me the track. I love being in the studio with my friends, of course, but I also like the liberty of working on it the same evening and sending it back, just keeping the good energy going and not overthinking it.
He’s one of the biggest geniuses in music nowadays. He has an incredible ability to cut to the bones with everything he does. He’s also very sweet and funny in the studio. He’s a pleasure to be around, and he’s always the one who has [perspective] on things. Sometimes you’re in a session with all these people and you’re writing a song and it’s hard to see it from the outside, like, “This is what we should do, this is what the song needs.” He’s so good with that: “We need a little guitar here, we should cut this shorter.” He’s the perfect conductor who guides the track, and I think that’s a great ability to have these days.
There’s always all these inspiring people coming in and out of the door [of his house in L.A.]. It is very much as it looks in the videos — you feel very at home and cozy. But I remember recording my song “Nights With You” there, and I did feel nervous doing my vocals because of the legendary status of his house and this whole community. I was honored, like, “I’m doing it in Benny’s house!” For “Cold Water,” though, I actually recorded those vocals in a tiny little cabin in the middle of nowhere out in Iceland — so that was pretty weird.
He’s the executive producer on this album, and he’s been my creative partner. I had a session with him when I was in L.A. two years ago, and I contacted him at the end of 2017 like, “Would you be my executive producer?” I heard this song on the radio by British singer Jacob Banks and was like, “Fuck, this sounds amazing!” And when I found out it was Stint [who produced it], I was like, “Wait, I know this guy! I went to a session with him!” I hit him up, and he was interested, and from then on things got better and better.
I think it’s exciting, working with new people. There’s something refreshing about not knowing what’s going to happen. It’s like an open sky of possibilities. When I’m in a session with someone I don’t know, I like hanging out for a moment and talking and seeing if we can find some similarities in whatever conversation we’re having. The best thing is when you just go for it — just do something that feels good and makes you feel free in the moment.
Notable MØ collaborations: “Red Wine”
I’ve known Lorely [Rodriguez, who records as Empress Of] since 2013 because, kind of like with Charli, we came up around the same time. I met her at SXSW in 2013 because we were playing a lot of the same house parties and venues around SXSW, and that’s when we became friends. We’ve been following each other since then, and she actually did work a little bit on a song from my EP last year called “Roots,” but we never finished that one, so I went with a different version. It was always my dream to work with her — and plus she’s so fucking cool. I love her music and her unique style. I love her voice and how her songs always have an undertone of something political.
It’s so important making these connections and having this feeling of unity. We feel a little bit like classmates — I felt that with Charli and Empress Of but could honestly say the same thing about Elliphant and some of these other girls from that time who found their own way. There’s so much talk about female artists doing their own thing but being super supportive, coming together and doing projects together. I love that whole wave. I would love to do [a mixtape together]. I think it’s going to happen.