In 2006, former Norwegian Pop Idol contestant Margaret Berger released her second album, Pretty Scary Silver Fairy. A specific sub-set of scandipop nerd went absolutely mad for its effortlessly icy cool delivery and perfectly crafted melodies. And then Margaret Berger disappeared.
Seven years later, Margaret eventually emerged from the wilderness to take her place on the global stage, representing her country at the Eurovision Song Contest with the gobsmackingly brilliant ‘I Feed You My Love’. So So Gay caught up with her ahead of the release of her long-awaited new album New Religion, to discuss pop music, Eurovision and new single ‘Human Race’.
So So Gay: Hello Margaret! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. We’re very big fans at So So Gay. First of all – congratulations on finishing 4th in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest! Were you pleased with the result?
Margaret Berger: Yes, absolutely! It felt like I won. The size of Eurovision is enormous and you first realise that when you are there, I think.
We must admit, we were a little surprised when you announced that you’d be taking part in Eurovision – what made you decide to get involved?
My career wasn’t going too well and I got this offer, so I just thought… why not? What have you got to lose? And I really didn’t want some other female popstar to perform ‘I Feed You My Love’. [laughs]
We loved ‘I Feed You My Love’ a lot – it felt like the natural successor to 2012’s winner ‘Euphoria’ in that it was a cool, quirky pop number and very different what some people expect from the competition. Were you worried about taking a dark electro number to a contest where big ballads and more straightforward pop tend to do so well?
No. For me it was the only way I could participate – with something that will stand out in that quirky way. The main road is usually not my thing and wouldn’t feel real for me, I think.
The song was a big hit throughout Europe. The UK is a bit skeptical when it comes to Eurovision, but it even charted here – which made us quite proud. Did you approach the song looking for a global hit first, or were you specifically looking for a Eurovision contender?
The song was offered to me by Karin Park, who really wanted me to perform it, so the song chose me, not the other way around! It was very flattering.
You’re back with ‘Human Race’ the lead single from your new album – your first since 2006’s Pretty Scary Silver Fairy. What on Earth have you been doing in the the intervening seven years? We were a bit worried that you’d disappeared forever.
Well… I did release a couple of songs, but people, especially in Norway, didn’t seem interested. So I have basically been working on my craftsmanship as a songwriter, for myself, and for others. And also I have been DJing.
‘Human Race’ is about shooting yourself into space to get away from the stresses of everything. Are you OK Margaret? That seems a bit extreme.
Yes, drama queen, I guess! You can’t write a song about how you sort-of, kind-of feel.
There’s a theme of robots and space running through a lot of your music – are you a sci-fi fan?
Huge Sci-fi, fantasy nerd, actually. I love everything about the Universe and space travelling. Let’s get on with it!
So the new album is called New Religion – how is that coming along? When can we expect to hear it?
The album is more or less done, only mixing left. It will be released this winter. Probably February 2014. Got a couple of singles to release first.
How does New Religion compare to the sound of Pretty Scary Silver Fairy?
Someone told me New Religion is like Pretty Scary Silver Fairy’s big sister. More mature, darker and more kinky, but still related.
Are there plans for more singles from the album?
Yes, we are planning a release of a single and video in not so long.
We loved your 2011 single ‘In a Box’ – will that be making the tracklist?
No it won’t, but I still perform it live. [The b-side] ‘4-e.v.e.r. l.o.v.e.’, however, is a part of the album.
The video to ‘In a Box’ was very interesting. What was the idea behind it?
Thank you, I feel like people should interpret that one as they want to.
You recently signed with US label Ultra Records – very exciting! What made you decide to take your music across to America and what does the new label bring to the table?
Well, they wanted to release it, so why not? We’ll see what happens, either way it is a big honour to be signed to a label that has a lot of fans, and also has a lot of my favourite artists like Calvin Harris and DeadMau5.
There seems to be an awful lot of amazing Scandinavian artists on the global stage now – Robyn, of course, Icona Pop, Lykke Li, Oh Land, NONONO, Frida Sundemo, The Knife… the list literally goes on and on.. Why do you think that Scandinavia produces such irresistible pop?
Scandinavia is a very brave and modern society and is not afraid to be ahead of its time. Also the electronic wave kind of came from Scandinavia, so now that type of music is popular it’s no wonder Scandipop is everywhere. Also, good artists inspire good art from others. Ripple-effect.
As a bit of a side project, you’ve just released a stripped back cover of Disclosure’s ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’ as a duet with Gabrielle (er – not this Gabrielle) – how did that come about?
This was for a live TV show in Norway, and just turned out really good, and we decided to release. I love Disclosure.
What do the next 12 months have in store?
Release a couple of singles, make a couple of videos. Release an album and hopefully tour a bit more outside Norway.
We’d be very up for a Margaret Berger live date in the UK…
Get that a lot and I would love to go, but someone has to book me you know. Hint hint…
Thank you very much, Margaret Berger. We love you a lot. Please promise not to disappear for seven years again.
I promise I won’t! Thank you so much.
‘Human Race’ is available to download on iTunes now. The album New Religion will be released in February 2014.