Double Espresso with Sóley

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Full article on Iceland Review online.

Sóley is actually Sóley Stefánsdóttir, a twenty-something girl from Hafnarfjörður, a town near Reykjavík. She has the correct credentials; she learnt classical piano from an early age, before moving onto big band, brass and then composition. She cut her musical teeth whilst in Seabear, finding that her voice was something more than just something to use when doing the dishes.

We Sink, Sóley’s debut album was released to critical acclaim, nominated for various awards, and is an album that I keep returning to, even a year after its release. I was delighted to catch her gentle but delightful show at Iceland Airwaves this year. Despite the cold, I enjoy Sóley’s set immensely and I’m pleased I managed to catch her at her best; sweet, enchanting vocals over layered, blurred piano and guitar. It’s as elegant as it is unique.

I meet with Sóley on a fresh, cold day in late October. We arrange to meet in a café near the harbor in Reykjavík. Sóley arrives and immediately orders a double espresso. She says it’s to warm her up. I’m worried about the effect it might have on her already bubbly personality.

I start by asking about Sóley’s music, and if she connects it to Iceland.
I try not to, because it can be a cliché, but in a way, of course they do. I don’t know if I would compose different music if I lived in a small apartment in New York, but it does affect me. Like this weather. It’s really windy outside now. It makes me angry. You are walking against the wind, and it’s like Rarrrr! There is a power, an energy here. I try not to write about Iceland and all the clichés.

Are you tempted to move away from Iceland to see if it affects your music?
(The coffee arrives). I love it here. I tour a lot. I travel a lot, but when I come home to Iceland, I love it. I don’t want to move. Not yet. I just bought an apartment here with my boyfriend. I feel really grown up!

Do you miss Seabear?
They are lovely people, and good friends. It’s different working in a group to working solo. When I’m alone, I can be my own boss and do what I want to do. No one is bringing any weird ideas to the table. In a group, you bring in an idea, someone else brings something, and we just jam it together. When you work alone, it can be really selfish, but I really like it. If I could, I would play everything. I’m actually really shy, though.

You don’t seem shy.
I’m not really, I could talk forever. Sóley laughs.

I like your album, but some of your lyrics…
…out of control?

…like ‘Smashed Birds,’ what’s that all about?
I don’t know. It’s so weird. The other day, I was walking home and thinking about this. When I write lyrics, I try not to write about my reality, I look somewhere else. That has been fine, up until now. I was walking along, thinking about my lyrics and I got really scared. Why was I writing like this? Was it a message to me? Am I going to die now?! I’m just weird. Lyrics are really important. I write in English. When you write in another language, you have less words to play with, which leaves everything more open. Maybe that’s why people like it in, say Indonesia.

What’s next for Sóley?
I’m going on tour with Of Monsters and Men. It’s going to be really interesting. My friend LayLow opened for them earlier this year. I was talking to her about how the audiences were, because I’m a bit afraid that people will just talk a lot. If that happens, I’ll just play fewer songs. I don’t want to be angry on stage. Sometimes I pull faces on stage, and the people who are not talking are shouting “shut up” at the others. When people don’t talk, I’m so surprised, and it feels like I’m winning. A victory.

I think Sóley has already won. As I sit and with her and slurp coffee, whilst the wind whips at the sea behind the steamed café windows, I’m pleased to have met Sóley. She is so enthusiastic about her music, I’ve no doubt she is going to become highly successful. I think she deserves every bit of success she gets. Not bad for a girl from Hafnarfjörður. I’ll raise a coffee to that.

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