Straight outta Denmark’s outskirts and all the way to the Big Apple, Fjer – an alias of Maja Barløse – talks about the perks and losses of being a young musician, inspiration and her upcoming debut album.
So what do you do in New York these days?
F Now I’m working full time on my music, but I also do a few different things for extra money. For instance, I’m a dog walker – which is a very New York kind of job.
When did you start making music?
F I’ve always sung and made music – it’s something that stuck with me my whole life. I also applied for the Royal Music Academy when I was 18 years old and getting in was a big deal. I was very excited, but I ended up only staying a year as there were a bunch of things that didn’t really click for me. The school was very good and I always think about it with a lot of gratitude, but it was like a boys club, there were only three girls. It got really competitive and it was hard to fit in without being caught up in all the drama, and I think I was a bit too young. So, I ended up taking a leave of absence and going to New York. I just had this idea that it was going to be a good place for me and I was right. I moved here in 2012 and can’t seem to be able to close the door on this city.
When it comes to feeling, it’s pretty dark and moody and definitely personal
When did you actually start writing songs?
F When I was a kid, I used to write a lot of silly songs and record them on my cassette player but I think it was something that clicked when I went to that music school. I had an assignment where I had to write about songwriting, so I chose to write an actual song. I had a week to do it and I wrote this very simple song based on two guitar chords and I had to perform it in front of the whole school. After that episode, I just said to myself ‘Ok, I did that, now I can start writing songs’. I think it got better from that point.
What do you think about when you write lyrics?
F Sometimes it’s directly about a situation that’s happened to me and I am a little careful, especially when I’m angry, because I might sing it in front of those people who were involved, but at the same time I try not to be so literal and write it in a way that can be viewed from different perspectives. I also think about the listeners because I want them to be able to apply it to their own situations and feelings. In other circumstances, I write a conceptual construct. My last EP ‘Beautiful Home’ was about the old lady that I took care of and the house that she lived in. So that particular construct was about her, her things and the stories she told me, as well as different things I imagined walking around the house, looking at her old stuff.
How hard/easy was it to make the releases?
F Well, one can have the songs, but they don’t know how to put together a record or to upload them on Spotify or iTunes, but luckily I had a partner very early on and he taught me a lot about how simple it can be. There’s no reason to think that you can’t put your music out there just because you don’t have a budget, you didn’t sign with a big label or there isn’t a lot of buzz around you. The truth is you’re just as much a musician as everybody else. It was very easy for me and I think it’s so much easier than it was ten years ago. The hardest part of the process is to close a project, because you could work on something for years and years to perfect it. At some point you have to think “Ok, that’s it”.
How did you come up with the songs for the EP and how was the music-making process?
F That particular EP was really hard to finish because I’d given myself that assignment – it had to be about the house. All song titles are about things in the house, or describe the house, which was hard to do, because I don’t like having too many restrictions, but, at the same time, I forced myself to fit in a little universe, so that was really cool. The creative process started with me going around the house and recording a lot from the floor, the stairs, the atmosphere around it, the playground; I used a lot of household items for samples. For my newer songs, the mantra is to make something that people can feel and sing along to, but without making it predictable.
I like to be completely alone in my head at 2 AM, in my home
What are your thoughts on how the music industry works and where it’s going?
F There’s a lot of good things happening now. It’s easier than ever to put your work out and share it with the world. The question is, what is special about your music, what do you do about it? Because there are so many artists nowadays. You can make a music video with your iPhone now, it’s extremely liberating, but at the same time you have to really step up your game in order to be interesting. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. You can drown in so many artists even though you have all the resources in the world. For instance, I’ve started doing Photoshop a little bit, I’m also a producer, I wear many hats that I never thought I would.
Who’s the first person that you go to when you make a new song?
F I have like an extra set of ears and that’s my executive producer and manager. He’s Peter Anthony Red and owns the NY label I’m signed to, called Quintic. He found me and has been very supportive from the beginning. When I make something, at a very early stage I send it to him and he always gives his opinion on different areas of the material. When I’m visiting my parents, I play them some tunes and they give me some feedback, but they’ll never say ‘Oh, you should cut this part’. If it’s something that they like a lot, I carry that with me. My brother is a musician too and his feedback is very helpful.
What is your favorite place to create music in?
F I’m a bit of a night owl. I never make music in the middle of the day or in the morning. I like to be completely alone in my head at 2 AM, in my home. I think that’s the best way and place – everything feels like magic after midnight. I don’t think I can work in a busy studio where people go in and out all the time. I need my solitude. At the same time, it’s weird and terrible because I go to bed at 7 AM, when everybody gets up.
I want people to feel welcomed into my little music bubble
Cheesy question coming up, bear with me: where does your inspiration come from?
F Well, a cheesy answer would be people, because that’s always what I end up writing about. I’m not very good at writing about world problems, war, all that. I wish I could touch on that, but it always ends up being something very close to me. I also listen to a lot of R&B and pop music from my childhood. I think some singers have amazing voices and I wanna incorporate that in my little electronic world. For instance, Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande and Beyonce, those girls with amazing voices, and I also love FKA Twigs because she pushes a lot of boundaries, and then of course classics like Bjork.
How would you describe your music?
F It’s funny because I always think about it when I’m literally forced to. I don’t see myself as a pop artist, but I always felt like my music fits the electronic genre. When it comes to feeling, it’s pretty dark and moody and definitely personal. I can convey that universe in a way because I feel like, even if it’s a happy-sounding song, it’s still about something that’s happened to me. It sounds so random, I know, but ultimately I want people to feel welcomed into my little music bubble, no matter what genre it may or may not be.
Why does music matter?
F Because it makes sense of a lot of situations. It can convey any feeling that you want. Many times I’ve been in a situation where I couldn’t get out the door, maybe I was nervous about an exam, or bumping into someone at a party. Then I would put on a certain song and it gave me a certain energy and power. Also, sometimes you just wanna zone out and forget about the everyday stress. You put on your headphones and pretend you’re in an indie movie and you’re the main character, so you’re basically walking around with your own soundtrack. It’s so corny and it’s most probably going to sound like a cliche, but you need something to lean on. Basically, the world would just be grey and boring without it.