Metal Mofos’ Isaac Sauers recently had the opportunity to speak with Denmark’s Forever Still vocalist Maja Shining about the music behind their debut album Tied Down.
Metal Mofos: When did you first start singing?
Maja: I’ve been singing my whole life. I had my first performance when I was 5 at a local inn where there was a Christmas production and I sang a song as an elf. When I was around 10 I started in a girl’s choir and did that for a couple of years and went on to some musicals. Whn I was 14 I started doing some rock and metal music at first just in some school bands then I went to a music school for 9 months. A few years after that I started Forever Still with Mikkel.
MM: How old were you when you started Forever Still?
Maja: I was in my early 20s. We met at a show actually, and Mikkel sent over some instrumental ideas, and I always have melodies in my head. I felt there was a connection and we had chemistry. We wanted to do the same thing with music so it came very naturally and we released our first EP in 2013.
MM: You’re on Nuclear Blast which is a really cool label. What’s it like to be part of their family?
Maja: We’ve been super happy with the relationship with them so far. It’s a really big label, but they haven’t lost that personal touch that sometimes you might lose on a bigger label. We definitely are being treated like family. Before we signed with them they came to Denmark to have a chat about everything we wanted to and everything they wanted to do and essentially they wanted us to continue doing exactly what we had been doing. We just got a lot of help promoting our music and pushing it even further.
MM: Who are some of your biggest influences in music?
Maja: I’ve never really taken a direct inspiration from music. I’ve never listened to anything and thought, man I want to do that, you know? It’s always been very subconscious, and when I first started writing with Mikkel we didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do. It started out as an emotion, hearing something in your head. When I heard the instrumentals all the ideas of melodies and lyrics just started flowing. It was never a conscious choice. I just think it was meant to be. I think both of us take a lot of inspiration visually from movies, just going out into nature, and that kind of stuff. In terms of music we listen to so many different things it’s hard to pinpoint which ones we take with us into our own music.
MM: Do you have an all time favorite band?
Maja: No, I honestly don’t. It’s the kind of thing that changes for me because it depends on what kind of mood I’m in.
MM: You recently wrapped up a big tour in Europe with Lacuna Coil? How did it go? Was it your first tour of that magnitude?
Maja: Yeah, definitely. We had been touring ourselves out of Denmark in Italy, Scandinavia, and the UK but this was the first tour that lasted 6 weeks. This was definitely something big for us. The smaller tours though really help get you prepared so there weren’t any big surprises. We got to meet a lot of people we had been talking to on social media for a long time and go to a lot of new cities and countries. This tour was 31 shows in 13 countries which was really amazing. We plan on doing a tour like that again in the spring with a different band.
MM: Did you get any tips or advice from Christina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil vocalist)?
Maja: Hahaha not really, but everyone in Lacuna Coil are amazingly cool people. You can definitely sense they are a band that makes music because that’s what they love to do. I feel there’s a lot of people in the business today who are trying to write that hit, you know? With Lacuna Coil you can sense they are in it for the sake of the music. So they were some super cool people to hang out with and very nice to talk to as well.
MM: Can you share any fun stories or experiences from the road?
Maja: Oh sure. One thing that is traditionally done on tours is that the last day of the tour is a day where you pull a prank on the other band. We and the other support band Genus Ordinis Dei decided to come out on stage when Lacuna Coil was playing “Nothing Stands in Our Way”. We had the sound guy put down some microphones between some wedges. We just went up on stage, all the guys, brought their instruments, and we just crashed the party. It was so much fun. It was cool for the audience too. I got the sense it was fun for them as well and not just us ruining the song haha!
MM: Your full length debut, Tied Down, was released back in October. What’s the response been to your album? What are people saying so far?
Maja: We’ve gotten a really positive response so far. People have said they really looking forward to seeing the songs performed live and to see if it lived up to their expectations. Fortunately for us that has been the case. Obviously there’s always someone who isn’t going to like your music, but you don’t make music to please everyone. If you please everybody you don’t really make anything special. If you make something someone really loves there’s going to be someone who absolutely hates it. I think that’s great because if you just go with wat feels right to you it’s not going to feel like a harsh critique. People will say I don’t like this song or I don’t like this, but if you are sticking to what you feel is right and make no compromises then it’s not going to hit that hard.
MM: Can you tell me a bit about your lyrics for the album?
For me the lyrics and just the music in general come from personal experience and emotion. That’s the core thing we wanted our music to be; completely personal and emotional. That’s what the lyrics are. They’re all based on something I felt the need to express, and often that comes out as anger or some negative feelings. Those are the feelings you usually need an outlet for. They’re very strong emotions. Writing the lyrics and making the music becomes a form of therapy. Some of these things I’m not able to talk about, but writing about them and singing about them is just different. I’ve experienced a lot of people being able to relate to that.
MM: Do you have a favorite song on your album?
Maja: It changes a lot. It depends on the mood. “Scars” is a lot of fun live. We ended our set with that on the Lacuna Coil tour. It’s really aggressive and explosive, and that kind of stuff is a lot of fun live. I also really like playing a power ballad like “Save Me”. You can sense the room go completely quiet. Everybody just listens and takes it all in. They’re all amazing in their own ways.
MM: I love really fast, heavy music, but I’m always a sucker for the slow song. “Save Me” is my favorite song on your album. Can you tell me about the lyrics to this song in particular?
Maja: “Save Me” can be experienced as more the classic breakup song. It was written out of the fear of losing someone you love. I feel we’ve all been there where you love someone so much you have the fear of losing them. Just picturing this breakup , you still have the connection to the person and it can be really hard to let go even though you’re destroying each other. This was for certain the most emotional song for me to record. We had to take a lot of breaks during the recording because it was so overwhelming, but I feel like that’s one of the reasons it came out so well in the end.
MM: What were your experiences like filming the video for the song?
Maja: It was a bit different. It’s our first video where I’m the only one actually in the video. We make our own music videos. For this one I had a concept in mind about it from the get go. Mikkel just took the idea and filmed most of it. Even though I’m the bathtub scenes I had to hold the camera myself on a tripod. There was a wall at the end of the bathtub so nobody could be at the other end and I had to hold it myself. My arm muscles got so worn out by the end! It’s a very minimalistic video, but I felt a song like “Save Me” could carry that.
MM: Was the water nice and warm or did it get freezing cold after awhile?
Oh I had it nice and hot. We couldn’t even do that many takes because holding the camera up was so rough on my arms. We only did about five takes in the bathtub so it didn’t get too cold.
MM: What are your plans so far for 2017?
Maja: We are looking for another support tour in the spring which is important for us still being up and coming. Nothing official yet. We’ll be playing some festivals in the summer. By the end of 2017 or early 2018 we want to be writing for our next release.
MM: Well I hope we get a chance to see you in the United States soon. What can you tell me about your country, Denmark?
Maja: It’s a very small country. Mikkel and I traveled a bit to Los Angeles for writing and people there are so much more talkative than us Scandinavians. People would ask where I’m from and I would say Denmark then they would be like, oh cool, IKEA! And I’m like no that’s Sweden haha! I like Denmark a lot. The weather can be really tough because it gets dark and people get really depressed. I live in Copenhagen, the capital, and there are so many amazing old buildings and castles. If you want a forest and nature it’s just a 20 minute bike ride away. Make sure to come in early summer to visit. Everyone will be much happier.
I hope you enjoyed the interview and keep an eye out for Forever Still tour dates in Europe this spring!