There is no need to introduce Sóley. This petite Icelander has recorded only one full-length album but in the minds of fans and critics she is already one of the biggest Icelandic music stars worldwide. We Sink is a set of very atmospheric, melancholic and endearing songs that charmed many Sóley’s listeners. Next month, the Icelander is coming to Poland with her solo material for the first time. In May she will appear in Katowice, Poznan and Warsaw and in June she will perform at the Halfway Festival. On this occasion, we decided to talk to her.
I met Sóley in the Norðurpóllinn theatre, in the capital city of Iceland, where we talked about our favourite Icelandic artists and concerts which take place in Reykjavik. Sóley revealed her way of looking for inspiration while writing her songs, spoke about her passion for travelling and telling jokes on stage. You can read the whole conversation below.
musicis.pl: You broke up with Seabear two years ago and started creating your own music. You grew from a shy girl in a keyboard into one of the biggest Icelandic stars during these two years, I mean, international. You have fans all over the world. How does it feel?
Sóley: It’s fine (laugh), It’s fun to travel a lot, yes.
musicis.pl: You often say in the interviews that when you began your career with Seabar you were very shy and uncertain of your voice. You had to play backing vocals and you used to stay very far from the microphone, that you couldn’t hear yourself. Now your voice is practically the biggest part of your music. So, how do you feel about performing now? Aren’t you shy anymore? Do you enjoy it?
Sóley: Yes, I really like performing, it’s fun. Of course I get a little bit nervous. But it’s more fun than… not fun (laugh). So, yes, I really like standing on stage. After two or three songs I am all.. all ready to go (laugh).
musicis.pl: You have just returned from your tour in the USA and Canada, you’re going to another big tour around Europe in May. And you are going to perform almost every day, for a month. Don’t you fell like it is too big exploitation of you, that this experience is too exhaustive, both physically and mentally? As at some point you have nothing more to give to your audience?
Sóley: Probably! Yes, it’s a long tour. I once stayed in five weeks tour and it was really long, it was too long. I’ve done a month tour but I’ve never played that often during it. But this one is like show every day, so… But, I mean, I have a good band and a crew around me is really nice , so… it’s just gonna be fun. Of course, these shows are gonna be very tiring for all of us but, you know.
musicis.pl: After all these tours and concerts wouldn’t you prefer to stay in Iceland , work in studio and write songs? What gives you bigger joy – being on tour and performing or staying in a studio, trying to find new inspiration?
Sóley: I think it’s a good mixture of both. To both travel and… stay home. Of course it’s great to stay home but I also, I have to tour to get some money, that is just part of it. Yes, and I really like traveling, it’s really fun.
musicis.pl: So let’s talk about your record, your cd. Last album – We Sink gets a great reception all over the world. You write these songs, and produce them by yourself, is that right?
Sóley: Yes, that’s right.
musicis.pl: We Sink is mostly about narration. You are telling us some stories in your songs which are very specific, very beautiful and scary at the same time. What provides you inspiration for making those stories, those magical, dreamy–like tales?
Sóley: From other music, poetry, books from anything. I’m trying to read poems, when I feel that nothing comes out of my head. And am listening not really pop, more like jazz and classical music, something that you don’t really hear every day. So, I’m trying to do that to get inspiration. Just to use my head. Try to focus.
musicis.pl: Are you considering whether to publish a small book which contains song lyrics, poems, short stories? Am I right?
Sóley: Yes, that’s my future plan to do it, I really wanna do this. I think, maybe I will start in the summertime, it may come out with next album or something, like around that time. There will be lyrics, some of them, or all of them, I’m not sure, and probably some poems.
musicis.pl: Your lyrics are quite depressive or… melancholic. And you don’t seem to be like that at all. You’re very optimistic and want to have fun. Is Sóley an artist and songwriter, somebody different from your true personality? Do you write from a different perspective when you create songs?
Sóley: People probably think that when I’m writing this songs I’m crying me out. I’m not crying while I’m writing (laugh). So it’s more like I want to go somewhere else, be someone else. When I’m writing I don’t wanna write about my personal life. But still, when I’m performing and I could have this poker face like being an artist but at the same time I like to talk to people while I’m on stage. So it’s a big difference when I’m performing a song and then telling jokes in between (as real me). But I think it’s ok. I shouldn’t be acting like a boring person (laugh) just because my songs are sad. I like to have fun, so…
musicis.pl: I need to ask you about Iceland and Icelandic music scene. As I have been in Reykjavik for a month now, I can see that not only you have plenty of new and great bands, which are playing every weekend downtown, but you have also a very kind and enthusiastic audience, very supportive, that attends many concerts. Is it a great audience that drives artists to create music? Does the audience encourage young people to make music and share it outside with others, drive this machine or the other way round?
Sóley: I never thought about this like that. Yes, of course, when someone is going to a show and he really likes the music, it’s probably something that gives him power to go home and make music, but it’s also like… it’s always the same people (laugh) that come to every show. Also a lot of musicians that go to each other shows, and there is also like other people that are maybe in a visual art, like other art people and then normal people (laugh) and you usually just see the same people on the shows. But they are nice. If the shows are not too late, then it’s ok to play. Because after 12 everyone is… too drunk.
musicis.pl: And how growing up here, in Iceland, influences your musical development?
Sóley: You mean, like nature? I don’t think nature inspires me.
musicis.pl: No, no, I think about all circumstances here, your specific music… infrastructure.
Sóley: Oh, yes, it works very well here. I started in a band and then I started my solo project out of getting to know other band members and it’s very helpful, that we all know each other.
musicis.pl: So, if you had to point out two or three Icelandic artists or Icelandic bands that inspires you in some way, or just going to their concerts is a great fun for you, who would you choose? Apart from Sigur Rós and múm (as we know that you were great fan of as a teenager) I mean new, not very famous bands or musician, which is good to have here?
Sóley: I would say Skúli Sverrisson. He is a bass player. And Ólöf Arnalds. He’s just released an album and….awww, there are so many… Hjaltalín, I really love their new album. When I am asked I always forget everything… There is a really nice band called Heavy Experience , it’s like really slow, slow rock. Albert who is playing with me, he is in that band also, and… Mr. Silla, Pétur Ben, yes, that is enough (laugh).
musicis.pl: Let’s talk about your music again. You are working on your new album, right? You wrote on your official site that you are still looking for inspiration and want to find truly surrealistic stuff, like really truly weird arty stuff. Have you found it?
Sóley: In a way, yes, but I‘m still searching, I’m reading poems. I have some lyrics and melody already, yes.
musicis.pl: And how working on this new album is different from making a debut album? Have you learnt something new during this time?
Sóley: I learnt a lot from the other album, like recording wise, and also just what I like, what kind of songs I like, and what I don’t like. And I also learnt that when now, people will be wondering: mmhmm, how this album is going to be?, and then I start thinking I have to make an album in some certain way but I just have to stop thinking like that. So I ‘m trying to focus and do what I want to do and be happy with that.
musicis.pl: So when can we expect this record?
Sóley: Next year, I think.