Popping Up: Oh Land

Becky Bain | January 14, 2011 8:00 am

Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey—Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.

Oh Land — born Nanna Øland Fabricius — is on the verge of being electro-pop’s newest darling, but the singer originally had other plans for herself. The lanky, model-esque Fabricius grew up in Denmark, and at age 16 moved all by herself to Sweden to attend a ballet school in Stockholm. But after suffering a back injury, her love of dance transitioned into a career in music.

Her first step as a musician was enrolling at the University of Electronic Composition in Denmark. “I was the only girl there,” she tells us during a recent stop at Idolator’s office. “I learned a lot about acoustics and really geeky things. But after a year and a half, I was like… I want to write songs!” And she did — and people immediately took notice. Discover more about the enchanting — and inspiring — performer below.

HOMETOWN: Copenhagen, Denmark. After attending ballet school in Stockholm as a teenager, she moved back to Denmark, and now lives in New York. “When I’m in New York, and it’s crazy, I feel like I’m in the eye of the storm and I’m just calm.”

MUSICAL BACKGROUND: Her mother is an opera singer and her father is a classical music composer. “I definitely didn’t want to be the same as my parents even though music was so close to my heart,” admits Fabricius. “I would sneak off and do music without anybody hearing it, it was a secret, private thing for me.”

SOUNDS LIKE: The energetic fun of Robyn, mixed with the gentle sentimentality of Feist. Or as Nanna puts it, “Sounds from a snow globe — the feeling of all this snow. Very dreamy.”

LET’S HEAR IT: Here’s her very snowy and dreamy music video for her lead single, “Sun Of A Gun”:

SILVER LINING: Fabricius was training to be a ballet dancer until a back injury at age 18 forced her to quit. When she couldn’t dance anymore, she began creating music. “The reason I started to dance in the first place was because of the music,” she tells us. “I started writing again and recording, set up a little home studio at my home in Denmark… I started recording anything that would make a sound in my apartment.”

She even wrote a song about her tragic experience, called “Break The Chain”: “He said sorry but you’re never gonna dance again / But my feet just keep me moving, trying to break the chain.”

BIG BREAK: In early 2008, she was asked by her cousin, also a singer, to be an opening act. “It was a small, tiny bar, and she thought I would just show up with a piano. But I locked us into a rehearsal space for a month and found a band, we did choreography and costumes… this whole crazy thing with weird paint, it was a whole installation… she was just like, ‘Nanna, you’re a support band!’ I just completely took over the whole thing.”

BIGGER BREAK: Ambition clearly worked — she was soon signed by a Danish record label, and released her debut EP Fauna in Denmark. And her incredible set at 2009’s South By Southwest got her signed by Epic.

FAMOUS FANS: Oh Land has written two songs with Pharrell, including a track called “Standing On Trains”. “He’s very childlike in his approach as well,” she says of working with the producer/N.E.R.D. frontman. “That’s what’s fun for me, to work with people who are fearless.”

YOU SHOULD SEE HER LIVE: Fabricius likes going to extremes when it comes to performing live. “I try to strip it down and take the most necessary elements and try to enhance that.”

See how Oh Land gets ready for a performance by viewing this day-in-the-life doc featuring the singer at CMJ in New York last October – or check out an example of her lively, and slightly spooky, live set by watching her perform her ethereal ballad “Wolf And I” while surrounded by balloons:

SHE’S RESILIENT: Though she was told she’d never dance again, Fabricius is getting right back on the horse by taking ballet lessons, though this time it’s just for fun. “I’m at the point in my life where the music means even more to me, and I can express myself even more than i did with dance,” she says. “I don’t have to feel like my heart is breaking whenever I walk inside a dance studio.”

CHECK OUT THE REMIX: Twin Shadow’s kick-ass remix of her song “White Nights”:

[wpaudio url=”//static.idolator.com/uploads/2011/01/Oh-Land-White-Nights-Twin-Shadow-remix.mp3″ text=”Oh Land – White Nights (Twin Shadow Remix)”]

WHEN IT’S OUT: Oh Land’s full-length self-titled debut album will be out March 15, and boasts producers who have previously worked with Hot Chip, La Roux, M.I.A and Franz Ferdinand.

OUR VERDICT: Gorgeous pipes, an awesome live performer, a natural storyteller and a total beauty to boot — Oh Land is the whole package, complete with a shiny bow on top.

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Check out Oh Land’s official website, Facebook and Twitter here.