Oh, melancholia

Danish electro-pop diva and singer-songwriter Oh Land has had a meteor-like career since her debut album in 2008.

My earliest childhood memory is from a summer vacation on the Danish island of Læsø. I was about 4 years old. I remember running around outside the wooden summer house, stark naked, drinking fruit juice and picking wild blueberries. Today I think of that scene as somehow a very Scandinavian thing. This liberal approach to being nude. In my childhood memories, come summer, all the children would run around naked as a jaybird and all the women on the beaches were topless.

I connect with Scandinavian nature. It is a cool kind of nature, in a literal sense. Scandinavia does not possess the kind of natural surroundings that overwhelm you with dazzling beauty and vibrant colours. It’s more subtle and understated: the sky, the ocean, even the sand on the beaches, especially in winter, often display many different tones of grey. There’s a beauty in that coolness. I’m also fond of the contrast that the harsh climate creates: after a long, dark and cold winter, Danes will embrace summer with an open and joyful spirit that contrasts with any preconceived notions of Scandinavians as introvert and reserved. Danes go bananas when the warm weather arrives!

I moved to Stockholm when I was 16. I lived in the basement of a house owned by an elderly couple. There was a lake view of Mälaren and forests surrounding the area. I spent a lot of time by that lake; I’d sit on the rocks and write in my diary, letters and my first songs. There was a mystery and calm to that place. Usually it would be deserted and cold, with pine tree all around and a mist above the water. It was fairy-tale-like. I’d sit there with a feeling that I’d find elves hiding underneath the rocks if I turned one over. There was a Nordic melancholy and loneliness to that place, which I found stunning.

I actually like melancholy; it’s a beautiful state of mind. Being melancholic has little to do with being sad or gloomy. It means you’ve found something beautiful, but know that it will soon come to an end. As a teenager, I’d get that feeling late in the summer holidays. When I realized I only had two more weeks to savour the freedom and summer, I’d fall prey to an acute sense of melancholy: I really, really have to enjoy what little is left, I’d say to myself. Autumn was right around the corner. In many ways, I’m shaped by the Nordic landscape, which is essentially a very melancholic landscape, usually with the sun only a few degrees above the horizon, casting long shadows. I love that.

Continue reading in Oak volume One