At this point, it’s far from a secret that Iceland produces some of the most uniquely talented musicians in the world. Acts like Sigur Ros, Bjork and, more recently, Of Monsters and Men have solidified the international awareness of Iceland’s magical music scene. Although each artist brings something vastly different to the table, there does seem to be a sort of ethereal, mythological nature that ties them all together.
In 2012, Icelandic folktronica artist Ásgeir emerged in his home country with his debut album, Dýrð í dauðaþögn, which broke the record for best-selling debut in Iceland surpassing some of his immensely successful predecessors. The ten-track project features Ásgeir’s phenomenal oft-falsetto Icelandic vocals over folky guitar and subtle electronic elements, most notably employed in the bouncy “Leyndarmál” (later adopted in English as “King and Cross”). With his album owned by nearly 1 in 10 people in Iceland, Ásgeir took to spreading his music to a broader audience by releasing a fully English-translated version titled In the Silence earlier this year taking him around the world touring.
We had a chance to catch up with Ásgeir’s after his incredible set at this year’s Treasure Island Festival to discuss his musical background, home country and plans for the future. Give the conversation a read below and make sure to keep Ásgeir on your radar.
TMN: Tell us a bit about your first experiences with music and how you got started.
Ásgeir: I started playing guitar when I was about 6. My first guitar was a classical guitar and my parents are classically educated so I went to school pretty early playing classical guitar. Pretty soon after that, I started having an interest in writing songs. Then, I started listening to rock and grunge music. I eventually wanted to play electric guitar and started forming different bands. It pretty much started with my family who had a lot to do with encouraging me.
TMN: What were some of the artists that you were listening to a lot growing up?
Ásgeir: I went through different periods. From 6 to 11, it was all Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Metallica and that kind of stuff. At the same time, I was playing classical guitar and I didn’t really feel connected to the instrument until I grew up more at 13 or 14. At that time, I started listening to more folk artists. I got my first acoustic guitar with steel strings and that’s where I kind of found country music. Johnny Cash was one of my favorites and an Icelandic artist Mugison. Sigur Ros was always one of my favorites as well as Sufjan Stevens and Kelly Joe Phelps.
TMN: Icelandic artists tend to have a very distinct, unified sound. How has that played into your music and why do you think that is?
Ásgeir: A lot has to do with just the music in Iceland and what we grow up listening to, which inspires us. I grew up in the northwest side of Iceland in a really isolated small town and I was always really close to my environment as well. I can’t really put my finger on what it is that connects us and makes the music how it is. But there’s definitely an Icelandic vibe and sound that comes from our unity. I think its just how small of a nation we are, how few people live there and everything like that.