We’re sitting in the dark in a trailer outside of Boston’s Paradise Rock Club. The electricity is out in the trailer and the rest of the band is talking very quietly in the front while we conduct the interview in the back. Without even looking for a bottle opener, Ida Maria grabs a water bottle and uses it to pop the cap off her Sam Adams.
She continues telling me how she got started on the path to her first record, “Fortress Round My Heart,” without pausing to acknowledge she had just opened a beer bottle in one off the most innovative ways I had ever seen: “So I had this show booked and I didn’t have a band, I just had a bunch of songs. […] I went back to Stockholm and was like looking for musicians everywhere. So I found these guys in Stockholm, basically. […] I told these guys it was just going to be one gig, so that’s why they said yes, but we’ve been on tour for three years.”
Ida Maria (pronounced Ee-da) made a splash on the American music scene far before she physically walked onto its shores. Her song “Keep Me Warm” was featured in the season four finale of “Grey’s Anatomy” (“Grey’s” fans out there will recognize the song from when Derek found Meredith standing outside his camper) and she recently had a big interview with Rolling Stone.
The Norwegian artist waited three years to tour in the States, but said the wait was well worth it.
“It’s like the difference between reading a book and experiencing it, because I had a very certain frame of mind of how the States were before I came here, and when I came here that all changed,” Maria said. “I’m very surprised at how open and including and positive and social Americans are. [My experience with] Americans have mostly been tourists that come into tourists shops, that are talking really loud and are acting very “American.” Everything’s big and everything’s loud and everything. But I just have a totally different view of it now. I love to be here.”
Dressed in an oversized red flannel shirt, maroon leggings and short black boots, Ida Maria took the stage at the Paradise Rock Club March 31 opening for Glasvegas, her opening joke about Italians and the Boston mob met with silence. But the second she opened up her mouth and began to sing, the audience was held in rapture by her haunting voice, especially during her song “Stella,” a song she introduced as being about “love, religion and prostitutes.”
Everything came together when Maria played her hit single, “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked.” Those unfamiliar with Maria would have missed the shared smiles between the band members when the opening chords resonated through the venue, but the second Maria screamed “I won’t mind if you take off all your clothes/Come on, take them off/’Cause I like you so much better when you’re naked,” people were dancing along and bobbing their heads; singing along as if they knew the words even though they’d never heard the song before.
“I just wrote that song because I thought somebody needed to write it. It’s like, it’s so obvious,” Maria said. “It’s fun for me to tour and sing to people every night that I would like to see them more if they were naked.”
Though no one at the Paradise took the song literally, Maria said she had experiences where so many shirts were thrown on the stage there was a “mountain” around her, and once in Dublin when a guy skipped his clothes, went straight for his shoes and threw them at her face.
“But I love it when the guys start taking off their clothes. That’s just fucking amazing. That’s the whole point of the song, you know? The point isn’t that the girls are going to get undressed, it’s that the guys are going to show their… you know,” Maria said.
On Jan. 21, it was announced that Maria had won a Norwegian Grammy for “Best Newcomer of the Year.” Maria performed “Naked” at the ceremony but had a surprise from the award presenters after her performance.
“These two most famous TV presenters came walking out totally naked on live television. Their [genitals were covered ] but I didn’t know they were going to come out naked. It was weird. Some guy sued the TV stations because of that and stuff,” Maria said. “I’m just happy someone finally took [the song] literally.”
Maria will continue to tour in the US on the West coast throughout April, though she said she has started writing music for a potential sophomore album. She said the music will cover “strange topics” very different from “Fortress Round My Heart.” “I’m not even sure if I want to make another record,” she said. “We’ll see.”
Citing influence from Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles, Maria said her music is more American than British or Scandinavian.
“As a European we get a lot of culture from the States: TV, films, and music, and we’ve all grown up watching American shows and American films and listening to American artists,” she said. “But if I look at my record collections, it’s definitely more American bands than English or French.”
Maria’s signature sound is very throaty vocals with occasional pops and cracks, which ends up sounding like a toned down version of her screaming. She said the band started out rehearsing in a small venue with no mics set up so she had to scream to hear herself over the drums, bass and guitar. “When I first did shows with the full band and stuff, I just continued singing like that, so it’s a bit of a coincidence or something,” she said.
The last song of her set at the Paradise, “Oh My God,” is definitely a screamer. Even after the last strums of guitar had faded away, Maria kept yelling “Oh my god!/Oh my god!/ Oh my god!” into the microphone, but by that point in the show, the audience was completely engrossed in her performance. After she left the stage, the man sitting next to me who was there to see Glasvegas said he was in awe. He had never heard of Ida Maria before but had thought she was fantastic.
When asked what she thought set her apart from the rest of the musicians out there, Maria said, “They say I’m different. I don’t know.”
Maybe a little bit of “different” is exactly what the American music industry needs right now.