With her versatile voice and the aid of a keyboard, singer and songwriter Liva Mo translates the silent melancholy of a winter night or the destructive energy of waves into chords and melodies. The Aarhus-based artist talks about the delicate Danish language, concerts for haircuts and the inspirational power of Nordic nature.
By Paula Rösler and Marlis Stubenvoll
Photos by Teresa Weikmann
In your Bachelor thesis you dealt with the four elements of nature and how they connect to the four temperaments of a person: melancholic, phlegmatic, choleric and sanguine. What type do you identify with?
I have a lot of these things. But I definitely have this melancholic vibe. I am really drawn to it also in my songwriting because it has this deep quality. Daring to go into that state of mind can be quite scary and I think that is also why people who have this quality in their personality possibly like my songs.
What is it that fascinates you about nature?
It is my biggest source of inspiration. I believe that nature always has a message for us. Going there you can really listen to yourself and you can also listen to something bigger. Nature has always been there. And it changes like people change. I can really feel my heart and my physical body out there. To me nature is everything.
It is not like I am standing on the beach all the time but I often use my imagination. For example, I would think of myself being in a forest and the weather is stormy. How would that be? How do the trees look like, what do I see? All my life I have been very observing to sounds, lights and how things feel between my hands. Also when I write music, I go into this sensing mode.
When did you discover your passion for melodies and rhythms?
I have been playing music for all my life. I joined a choir when I was four years old and I started playing the piano when I was two. I grew up in this town where everybody just played soccer and I was the only artist, so to say. So I also went to soccer, even though I was really bad at it – just to have a social life.
If it was not your friends who inspired you to sing, was it your family?
I remember that my mum used to sing me to sleep. One time, I was three years old, I said: “Mum, please don’t sing, because you are not in the right key.” But then I told her that she should just sing in her own way and it would be great. And then, actually she started a group where they all just made sounds in the church. So I inspired her.
When did you start writing your own songs?
I was around 18 and it was a big challenge for me. I thought, when I write something it should be perfect. I was listening to great musicians like Björk, thinking: “How can I ever be this good?” However, I understood that I would have to believe in my own voice, find my own tone and be comfortable with it. That just takes years.
What comes first to your mind, the lyrics or the music?
It can be both. For example, when I am riding my bike home from a nice trip to the water and my mind is clear I just start singing and thinking: Yeah, this melody is so cool! I keep humming it until I am home and then I record it. But I also write a lot of lyrics, mostly already in verses. I collect all this stuff and try to put it into a song.
The funniest thing is when I hear my friends sing my music. For example “Love Sonnet 44” – I think this is just one of these songs where a catchy melody and simple lyrics fit very well.
Some of your songs are in Danish some are in English. Does it make a difference for you? Do you express different feelings?
Yes, I think that I actually like the Danish language better because it is more delicate. I know more words and I can be more poetic and true to the story. Whereas in English I often just take the first sentence that comes to my mind. There is a difference both in the way I use the words and the way I interpret my songs on stage.
What is your experience of being a young and independent musician in Aarhus?
It is difficult to be a performing artist in Denmark if you are not a big name. I have this feeling that people would rather sit on their couch watching Netflix instead of going out and getting a good experience of something they don’t know. However, I haven’t really tried to book a lot of jobs here in Aarhus.
In general, I really like swapping things instead of buying or selling them. For example, I once played at a hairdresser in return of a haircut, which was great.
Have you ever been worried about your future as a musician?
I am not worried at all. Not to sound like a big shot, but if I really want something, I usually get it. That is my experience. Things come easy when you like them and when you are supposed to do it.
However, it is great to play concerts but earning money with music is really, really hard work. I definitely need to be pushed sometimes. Because otherwise I am just happy the way things are, with the small concerts I have.
So, you are heading for Berlin in the middle of February. What is it you are looking for?
I just need a wind of change, a new input I guess. I just want to see what happens and grab the little opportunities. I thought – because we cannot wash our clothes in the apartment – about playing small concerts at the self-service laundry. What is this called in German again?
You mean a Waschsalon.
Yes, Waschsalon, cool. I thought about making this as a project where we have weekly concerts in a Waschsalon while we do our laundry and then we drag in some other musicians, maybe it will be a thing.
I just really want to make it happen. I don’t want to sit on my flat ass watching “Friends” with German synchronization on Netflix. I will just go with the flow. I don’t want to pressure anything.
Liva Møller Overgaard is an Aarhus-based singer, songwriter and yoga teacher. The 24-year old finished her Bachelor’s degree at The Royal Academy of Music in Spring 2015. As “Liva Mo” she and her band perform in churches in Aarhus as well as trendy music venues in Copenhagen. In February, the artist sets out to Berlin to explore new musical spaces. You can follow Liva Mo on Facebook and Soundcloud.