For someone so busy, Sigrid is inexplicably chill. Actually, it’s probably what she’s used to. Since the release of ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ two years ago, she’s barely stopped.
Whether it be making her Glastonbury debut, or charming viewers at home on the telly, any audience she gets in front of, she impresses. Her straight-up talent for writing an honest pop banger is what led Sigrid to become the first non-British, non-American artist to win the BBC Sound Of prize in 2018, but the reaction video of her finding out she’s the winner is what best represents her.
“I had no idea! It was a huge surprise, and my team knew, but they couldn’t tell me because they wanted it to be a surprise,” she recalls.
Gobsmacked and immediately bursting into tears, there’s no clip that better demonstrates how humble the Norwegian 22-year-old is. She’s instantly likeable – as easy to interview as she would be to take out for a pint – but underneath her amicable shell, she’s also fantastically honest, defiant and fearless. All traits that can be gathered from a quick spin of her debut album, ‘Sucker Punch’.
The record is filled with as much angst as a 90s teen movie, but as much relatability as a 2019 meme. Just have a look at her song titles; ‘Basic’, ‘Level Up’, ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’, the last of which was written about being patronised in the studio as a young woman, and somewhat ironically became her breakout hit. The same “I’m going to do whatever the bloody hell I want, and no one can tell me otherwise” vibe runs through ‘Sucker Punch’, even if it’s not immediately obvious from her carefree attitude.
“I try to make it relatable,” says Sigrid. “If it’s about interactions with people, yeah it’s relatable. Everyone’s been in a situation where they wanna say it as it is, and just get to the point, y’know, and not run away from something that is obviously gonna be a good thing for both.
“If it’s about feeling not respected, or if it’s about a really close friendship, it’s something most people will have had happen to them. I try to write about things that people can recognise themselves in.”
She’s spent the past few years writing the songs that would become her debut album; a collection of tracks with not much in common other than how much they mean to their writer.
“These are old songs, but there are pretty fresh songs like from the last months of the past year. It’s everything and nothing, in a way. It’s kind of just my notes from these past two years. And it has been a ride, to put it lightly. It’s been fun. And there’s a lot of different moods on the record, but I’m really proud of it.”
Sigrid’s versatility is highlighted across the album. Vocally, sonically and lyrically, it feels like she’s just treading the weirder waters and has the scope to go way further left-field.
“It’s important that everything I write has another meaning to it, another layer, and I love writing fun pop tunes,” she says when we mention her songs usually sound far cheerier than their subject matter, an art mastered by other Scandipop legends like Robyn. “That’s the music I grew up listening to. I love a good pop banger. One of my favourite artists ever is Ariana Grande, and I love Taylor Swift, all the big powerful women up there. I’m really inspired by them, and I love a good pop tune.
“But I also like writing quirky songs and everything in between, and that’s reflected pretty well in the album. Everything from straight-up pop to more left-field pop, I’m both I think. I like both, and I don’t feel like I have to choose. The only thing I choose is that every lyric has to make sense to me and it needs to have a personal touch to it, because I have to sing it every night, I wanna recognise myself in it.”
When Sigrid starts reeling off her influences, it’s clear where that desire for authenticity in her own music comes from. The pop giants like Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift – both, of course, known for penning their own material – are joined by Adele, Ellie Goulding, Coldplay and more on Sigrid’s playlist.
“I grew up listening to British music, so to actually be a proper part of the British music scene with the Sound Of prize, I guess, is a really big deal to me. I can give you the list! So I started listening to a lot of HIM, the rock band. I had a quick turn into Oasis because of my brother, and I discovered Coldplay – and I’m still a huge Coldplay fan – then Keane, I was the biggest Keane fan, loved their music and their writing.
“Then the first female singer I really listened to was Adele, she’s great, I don’t even need to say anything about it, we just know she’s a legend. And Ellie Goulding. I’m such a huge fan of Ellie Goulding, and the thing about her that was so breathtaking to me was that it was the first time I’d heard someone make really, really good songs, but the production was so pop, and I loved that mix. That the lyrics and the melodies were great and the production was amazing too, and it was so inspiring to me.
“After that, Arctic Monkeys, I think Two Door Cinema Club and The Wombats are also British. Yeah, the list goes on.”
While there were no pushy parents involved when this star was born, she was raised on some legends and a solid heap of encouragement.
“My family’s big heroes are Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. My brother is a musician too, and my sister is a great singer but she works in consulting, so it’s just a really music interested family. No one pushed me to music.
“It was never like ‘you have to do this’, or like pushing me to do contests or anything, it was very chill. The nearest I got to any competitions was when I was a kid, like I was performing at the local theatre, or at like school events, nothing more than that, but I think that’s great.”
In fact, there’s a video of her at primary school performing Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ floating around on the internet. That performance, she says, must have sparked something, but it wasn’t until after she’d started studying politics at university that her parents intervened, asking if she’d like to give music another try.
“I actually did go to uni, to study politics, for like two months, then I dropped out. But I also wanted to study law, I wanted to do a lot of things, but that didn’t happen, I went for music. And my parents and my family are the most supportive of that. They were the ones who told me, if you don’t try music now, you’re probably gonna regret it, so you should give it a shot, you’ve got time, you’re just 19. I was like ok, uh god.
“I wanted to be a teacher for a while, like still if music wasn’t to happen for me, in a couple of years – you know I don’t take this for granted – maybe I’ll become a teacher in history and politics and English, that’d be fun. But then again, I want to do music.”
Somewhere in between her ability to make a sad song sound like an absolute joyride and the fact that her teeth are rarely not showing, she’s often mistaken for being overwhelmingly positive (“I get that quite a lot, people think I’m so positive all the time, but that’s impossible.”). But behind the bangers, there’s a lot of heartache. The best demonstration being on ‘Don’t Feel Like Crying’, with it’s could-be Clean Bandit production and title that suggests it should be a carefree anthem, but it’s not all that joyous.
“It’s one of my favourites at the minute. It’s actually really sad if you think about it. It’s a proper sad tune. But then again I love dancing to it. We had rehearsals for it, pre-production with the band, and it sounds really good. They’ve done such a good job transforming it from the [studio] production to the live production; I can’t wait to play that song live.”
There’s a moment on ‘Basic’ where all of the glammed up production cuts out, and we’re left with nothing, but Sigrid’s voice stripped back against an acoustic guitar. It’s one of the more poignant moments on the album; at least more poignant than you might expect from a song titled ‘Basic’.
“Ah yes, that’s one of my favourite moments. I remember on ‘Basic’, when we were in the studio, we wanted like a special thing happening at the end, and we basically just recorded a chorus on Martin Sjølie’s iPhone while he was playing the guitar and I was singing, and we just synced that into the production. Really nice, serene moment.”
Then there are the actual celebratory songs, one of which is dedicated entirely to her touring band. ‘Sight Of You’ is just as lively as ‘Don’t Feel Like Crying’, but with a bigger, less heavy heart.
“There’s a song that is essentially ‘I love you, I love you band’, which is about my band, and how they make everything feel good. They’re some of my closest friends. I love that song; they’re so great. And I don’t think I could’ve done touring without them. I love them to pieces.”
The band play on ‘Business Dinners’ – ‘Sucker Punch’’s most interesting track. It’s a got SOPHIE-esque bubbly sounds running through it, that are actually inspired by Studio Ghibli, and lyrics that detail Sigrid’s struggle to gain control of her own image.
“I love that business song too; I think it’s really funny. That’s one of my favourites. It was written in Stockholm with Noonie Bao and Patrik Berger, Martin Stilling and then I. And the funny thing about that is that it was inspired by Studio Ghibli, you know the Japanese film company? That’s my favourite film company. I love everything they put out, just an incredible world and I get lost in it all the time, I love it. I’ve been watching those movies so many times, all those sounds were stuck in my head, so ‘Business Dinners’ is an ode to that world and all those quirky sounds, so that’s fun.
“There are a lot of different themes on this record. That I guess all comes down to my favourite subject: human relations. How we interact with each other.”
Everything about Sigrid feels so real. It’s not just the fact that she wears her big heart on her sleeve, but that she doesn’t really care what she looks like on stage. It’s candid seeing her pull faces and jump around, genuinely having fun.
“I love it. Honestly, it’s all credit to the band, and the audience, the mix of those two together makes it so much fun. And that whole tour is what ‘Sight of You’ is about, the way the band and the audience make me feel. Manchester was a proper example of how fun tour can be. I enjoyed those days. We had such a good time. I love that people give so much of themselves, we are not worthy of these nice people coming to our shows!”
There are also no stage costumes involved – even if she thinks she’s not doing anything groundbreaking, it’s refreshing to see a female artist hop around on stage (and various national TV appearances) in jeans, a white T-shirt and no makeup.
“I’m just incorporating the work uniform on stage! I love wearing dresses for photo shoots, like today I had something else on, but on stage, I need to feel comfortable and to be able to move around.”
The release of her debut is bringing even bigger things for Sigrid. She wrapped up an intense festival season and her own headline tour at the end of 2018, only to get straight back on the road as soon as the album drops – this time in arenas with George Ezra in March, then Maroon 5 in June, followed by what is likely to be another busy summer while she takes every festival stage by storm (once again, mind).
“There are so many ways of doing this and no matter how you do it, it’s all about the way you feel. But I’m happy with the way I’m working, and I’m so incredibly lucky to be working with some really talented people, it’s been a good bunch on this album.”
Taken from the March edition of Dork. Order a copy below. Sigrid’s debut album ‘Sucker Punch’ is out now.
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