I wish Ida Maria had told me she was sitting in a hot tub with some good looking, almost underage dudes and a bowl full of cocaine while listening to Stevie Wonder, getting a pedicure and watching The Simpsons on mute. That is what a young Norwegian rock-star-to-be should be doing. Instead she sounded super tired and had just done a phoner with a Japanese magazine because some business people really want to make her famous. And while it’s not like she is resisting, she doesn’t sound too stoked. “Things are just happening on top of each other all the time, so it feels like I’ve just woken up,” she says. Though Fortress Round My Heart is her first album, she’s been playing steadily in Norway and last year pop-loving Brits ate up her cheeky (but totally not corny) single “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked.”
Burrowing through Europe via her northern Norwegian hometown of Nesna, Maria’s musical body is finally surfacing in the United States where she played a handful of wildly shimmying shows full of three-year-old songs. I first heard her first single “Oh My God” two summers ago on a compilation of Norwegian artists, and I thought she was a man. Listening now, that was stupid, but my initial instinct originated from the thick husk of her voice over simple chords and a plodding drum clomp. She’s got aggressive power, always accelerating toward her music like a game of chicken. “I’m a very honest type of person, so I’m struggling with having secrets and keeping them back,” she says. Stateside, the secrets are slowly leaking out of her lipsticked mouth and making people love her. She describes her musical ascendancy as if she were an alien-faced teen who got discovered in Wal-Mart and ended up on the cover of Vogue—it didn’t have that much to do with her and she’d like to scale it back. When she played her single “Naked” at a huge Norwegian festival to an audience of 70,000, she says she almost had a heart attack. “It was in the night, it was just really scary,” she says. “You feel the energy of so many people coming towards you that you get filled up with all the energy and almost explode. I would like to do shows for 200 people the rest of my life.” But with a heavy push to get famous, wherever it’s coming from, that’s not anyone’s preferred option.
Overworked, Maria sounds like she wants to go back home where she recently spent a calm week. “I just went walking around. Just eating food and hanging out with my sister, putting on weight, lying on the couch, painting,” she says. She drifts a little, maybe imagining being up north with nothing to do and no one expecting her to be something, then suddenly starts talking about writing songs, being scared to play a gigantic venue in London that night, visa troubles to surmount. Now’s not the time for rest.
Stream: Ida Maria, Fortress Round My Heart