Nanna Øland Fabricius studied at the Royal Danish and Swedish Ballet Schools but her dancing career was abruptly ended by an unfortunate injury. The daughter of a Danish Opera Singer and Organist, Nanna later turned to music writing and producing under the moniker Oh Land. Now a resident of Brooklyn, NY, Oh Land’s forthcoming self-written, recorded, and produced album Earth Sick explores her frustrations with the complexities and uncertainties of life while sonically integrating found sounds, electronic colors, organic orchestral palettes and her love of lyricism.
JAY WADLEY: You recently released the first single and video from your forthcoming album Earth Sick. Tell us a little about the story behind the song and the video for Head Up High.
OH LAND: I wrote the song for a friend who was going through a tough break up and needed support. Then I forgot about the song until she reminded me a year later and asked why I didn’t record it properly. So I did, and not it’s the first single! The video is like a classic revenge video, Kill Bill style. It was really fun to let go of all discipline for a day and just break things!
JAY WADLEY: What new sounds or influences can we look forward to hearing in the new album? Where there any particular new approaches you took to you writing process, thematically or structurally?
OH LAND: All the sounds are pretty much recorded in my home. I used a bicycle wheel as a high hat. Breaking glass as snares. Pills as shakers. Stomps as kicks and claps as snares. There are also a lot of bird recordings and my dog and a lot of construction work I’ve recorded around in the neighborhood. I’ve mixed all these “everyday” sounds with opera, classical string quartet, and Brass duo to give it a big contrast and stay dreamy.
JAY WADLEY: What made you turn to PledgeMusic to help fund Earth Sick? Were there any benefits, freedoms, or challenges to turning to a crowd-funding platform that you hadn’t anticipated?
OH LAND: I’d never done anything like that before so it was a bit scary at first, but then I got a lot of support financially, but more important, emotionally. The process became really exciting and encouraging. It was scary to share the process with my pledgers, but now they’ve seen this journey from the inside-out and know every motivation for every little sound.
JAY WADLEY: What was it like growing up in the home of an Organist and Opera singer? How did that mold your tastes in music?
OH LAND: It was mostly…loud!? My mom always had students coming around to practice and I always fled whenever they were singing, because opera is so damn loud. But I also learnt a lot. Your voice is an instrument that needs care and practice. I’ve definitely not grown up with the whole “rock n roll’ attitude. I learned to navigate in complex music since I was little and I think that has really trained my ear.
JAY WADLEY: Are there any pieces of music that hold a very strong place in your heart or that got particularly annoying from hearing over and over while they practiced?
OH LAND: I find that with most classical music, you grow to love it when you hear it many times. Some of the big opera parts my mom practiced I know inside out, like Donna Elvira in don Juan. I could also probably conduct all of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet from start to finish…
JAY WADLEY: You made a live video for your song Lean with string quartet and your songs Little Things and Earth Sick off the new album combine an “existential journey” with your “love for orchestral arrangements.” What do you find alluring about the sound of the orchestra?
OH LAND: To me, the orchestral sound is something very organic and emotional. I think that it adds a tremendous amount of warmth to electronic music. I like when I can hear the heart in a piece of music and not just hear computers. That’s also why I would never use fake string sounds. It’s important to me that there’s a human behind every sound.
JAY WADLEY: In what other ways does the music you grew up hearing around the house creep into your work?
OH LAND: I guess hearing all that opera made me a pretty dramatic person. It’s life or death y’all! I would often dress up in crazy costumes and would constantly do theater with my friends in the kitchen!
JAY WADLEY: Tell us a bit about your process. How do you start a new song? Is it with a lyric, melody, rhythm or production…?
OH LAND: I usually start with melody and lyrics at the same time. It comes to me in situations mostly when I’m waiting. Like in a bus or subway or in the airport. Situations where I’m not supposed to create, so it can be a little inconvenient at times. Sometimes I’ll pick up pen and paper in the middle of customs line. I’ve learnt by my mistakes that if I don’t jot it down immediately I won’t remember, however great I might think the idea is.
JAY WADLEY: What was the transition like moving from Denmark to New York, and how did that affect your musical output?
OH LAND: I think that New York definitely has a stronger hip hop scene which has influenced me a lot. My music has become more “groove” driven. I love me a good Roland 808!
JAY WADLEY: What differences are most apparent to you about how the arts are supported in the respective countries?
OH LAND: In Denmark, the art council is making a big effort to support young musicians. It’s a really beautiful thing when politicians understand the importance of art and music.
JAY WADLEY: What types of programs were available to you growing up that supported you in your pursuit of the arts?
OH LAND: I went to the Royal Danish Ballet School in Copenhagen and that was definitely intense. In my spare time I did sewing, drawing, flute, piano. I was definitely more active than I have ever been. I never knew how it would feel like to be bored.
JAY WADLEY: What do you miss most about Denmark?
OH LAND: The rainy, cozy, dark weather that wants you to curl up and “hygge”.
JAY WADLEY: Favorite moment on tour? Most embarrassing moment on tour?
OH LAND: I was opening for Katy Perry in her arena tour and fell off stage in front of 20,000 people! It was in Sheffield, and I was walking around really confidently… until I walked right off the front of the stage!
JAY WADLEY: You’ve collaborated with you’re husband, visual artist Eske Kath, on numerous projects. What kind of themes or traits do you have in common in your work? How do you differ, and what ways might that help you better understand your own voice?
OH LAND: Eske is my favorite artist. I fell in love with his paintings and then I met the person behind them and found out that he is as brilliant a person as he is a painter. We both work with very similar themes. The fear of losing control. The fear of the unknown. A nervousness that both motivates us to create, and make something beautiful out of it. Eske doesn’t see things black or white. He always has many truths, many solutions, many questions. And that is incredibly inspiring for me to be around.