*Photo credit: Mihailo Sopic
The rise to pop stardom isn’t easy, but it’s worthwhile when you’re authentically yourself. Up-and-coming indie pop artist Magnus Riise (his real and stage name) understands that and is using his music to inspire others to do the same. Hailing from Norway, Magnus studied music at theatre at London’s Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts before setting his sights on the bright lights of New York City.
He now calls the “Big Apple” home, where he fine-tuned his artistry and created a community of queer pop artists to do the same. Now, Magnus has released his debut EP, Until Tomorrow, to share his powerful voice and soaring pop sound with listeners, as he takes them on a musical journey of love, resilience, and self-discovery. His most recent music videos for “Until Tomorrow” and “Earthquake” show off beautiful visuals, highlight queer narratives, and feature eye candy like Barrett Foa (NCIS: Los Angeles), Hernando Umana (Kinky Boots), and Anthony Chatman (Hadestown).
INTO spoke with Magnus as part of our Get INTO It interview series to talk about his artistry, his dream collaboration (you’ll find this artist on the “yellow brick” road), and the queer pop culture moment that defined his childhood.
How did you get your start in music and how would you describe your sound?
Ok, so there was this time in high school when a good friend who I had been hooking up with suddenly stopped speaking to me, afraid of being outed. I was devastated, and went full cringe: singing a John Mayer song to him in front of the entire school. I like to say that while he found a wife, I found music. And an ability to communicate the kinds of emotions I was too afraid to talk about. As far as my sound, it’s contemporary pop – but within that, I want to stay open to new collaborations and inspirations and not box myself in too much.
Your music video for “Until Tomorrow” caused plenty of chatter and your new video “Earthquake” is causing a stir too. What stories do you strive to tell with your artistry?
I really want to speak from my own experiences; the stuff about mental health, toxic relationships, sex positivity – that’s all from my life. And so really the big thing for me is being honest and vulnerable. So it’s not really about causing a stir – but if controversy comes just through being honest, I have no problem with that.
When you create music, do you envision the music video along the way or do you envision it after the finished product?
I’m a very visual person, and imagery is a big part of how I write, so the videos and songs are meant to go together. I always thought of this as a “visual EP”– it just makes sense to me that I’d want to use all the tools I have access to to tell the stories I want to tell.
What does your dream musical collaboration look like?
I still remember going to see Elton John as a kid – it was wild. He was so unapologetically queer and every song was this glittery amazing production. So obviously he would be a dream collaboration. But I’ve also been thinking a lot about fostering a kind of community with other emerging queer artists – I’ve even created this show at VERS in Hell’s Kitchen all about featuring other queer pop artists. It’s called “Extended Play with Magnus Riise & Friends”– and I’d really love to build on these relationships and find cool ways to work with other LGBTQ+ songwriters over the course of my career.
What song mash-up would you love to see between two of your favorite queer icons?
I love Lil Nas X and Years & Years, but rather than a mash-up, I’m going to advocate for more new music and suggest they collaborate on an original together. Also, perhaps there’s room for me, too, and we can create the gayest “Don’t Call Me Angel” ever?!
What queer pop culture moment defined your childhood?
I have vivid memories of bittorrenting Noah’s Arc from my bedroom. Darryl Stephens, who played the lead, was just so unique and free in the way he expressed himself. It was feminine, masculine, and everything in between. And I just remember thinking, “Oh, I’m allowed to be that way!?” The show is about Noah and his friends in L.A. – all gay men, and thriving. An inspiration for the community I would later find moving to New York City years later.
Is there a show, film, record, book, or podcast that you are currently obsessed with?
Ok, I’m a major Eurovision fan. Growing up in Norway, everyone watched it, but it really grew more important to me over the years. I think it was my introduction to camp. Watching these acts that are often “the most”– bold, big, unafraid to be weird. I mean, it’s a contest bigger than the Super Bowl and they had a trans winner in the ‘90s. I think it was really important that I saw an LGBT artist being celebrated like that when I was young. As far as podcasts are concerned, I might actually be launching one on this topic with some very cool guests. More on that soon on my socials.
What do you hope your fans get out of listening to your music?
I just think about the person I was when I first found artists like Elton John or a show like Noah’s Arc. I had so many feelings inside that I couldn’t put into words, or was terrified to express. So much of the journey that I’ve been on has been paved by artists who shared their own stories, and if I can be a small part of that journey for someone else, that’s really all I can hope for.
Keep your eyes peeled for some amazing interviews. We promise that you’ll want to Get INTO It.