We’re calling this an ‘Introducing’ piece but, of course, we have already waxed lyrical and babbled at some length about Ásgeir, Iceland’s most notable export since Björk and Keiko, the killer whale.
At the outset, let us sum things up for the uninitiated: Dude is only 21; he released his debut album, Dýrð í dauðaþögn last year; and it ended up being the biggest selling album in Iceland ever; John Grant became a big fan and translated the songs from said debut into English; Best Fit gave the translated release, In The Silence, a rather favourable review.
Here, the Scandinavian merchant of dulcet tones tells us a little bit more about himself and his music.
Halló Ásgeir. How old were you when you first started writing songs?
I started writing songs when I was really young. I was probably around 9 or 10 but it didn’t become serious until I was probably about 15 or 16. Then I started doing some recordings on my own. Before that, I’d been in some rock bands but by 16 I started doing more stuff with the acoustic guitar for myself, with just me singing.
And what was your first release?
We don’t release singles in Iceland like you do outside of Iceland, so we just release things to radio. The first thing I put out was a song called “Sumargestur” , which is the third song on the album and it’s the first thing that people heard from me – I was 19 then. And then the second one was “Leyndarmál” and after that the album came out.
Did you have any inkling that the album would meet the amount of love and success it’s had so far?
No. Never. Never in my life – I didn’t expect anything to happen. I didn’t expect to do an album, firstly, so it was beyond my expectations when I got into a real studio and saw how people recorded in a studio, for the first time. That was quite a big step for me. And then it rolled into my first radio play, which was beyond my wildest expectations. I was so really, really surprised and pleased at the same time. From there it just started getting bigger. I got more radio plays and then we released the second song, which became a really huge hit in Iceland and, yeah, that was just beyond my expectations.
To put your success in perspective – this album is bigger, in terms of how much it has sold in Iceland, than Björk’s debut.
Yeah. It has sold more copies than her debut album.
Which is quite impressive.
Yeah, I guess so.
Before the record came out, did you ever try writing songs in English?
Actually, all the demos I did for this record were in English. When I write, after I have a melody I usually write lyrics in some kind of English, but most of the time I don’t pay attention to whether they make sense or not – it’s just for me to feel how the music would go with a lyric. But it often sounds like English lyrics . So, originally, this album was – kind of – an English album. This meant that the first idea when we went into the studio was, obviously, to do it all in English but then we talked about it and we decided to get help from my father to write Icelandic lyrics. “Sumargestur” was the first song I emailed to my father and asked him if he would be able to try and write some lyrics to it. From there, we just decided to do the whole album in Icelandic. and my father did most of the lyrics. And three of the lyrics are by my good friend, Júlíus , who plays in the band also.