Interview by Alessandra Cognetta

Eivør Pálsdóttir is a singer songwriter from the Faroe Islands. With her incredible voice, she has created music in a huge variety of genres, always challenging herself and pouring all her passion into her songs. Her latest effort is a collaboration with Lennart Ginman, “The Colour of Dark”, a mesmerizing album that showcases her great vocal skills. Eivør is about to release her new solo album, “Bridges”, about which we have exclusive news, and kindly lent us some of her time for a nice, in-depth chat about her music and much, much more. The result of this long, friendly conversation involves everything from songwriting through beatboxing (no kidding!) to the Hobbit, from her role as Marilyn in an opera to her thoughts about women in the music industry, where she also kinda interviewed me back. Eivør is a sincere, authentic artist, whose works I cannot recommend enough, and I think this interview stands as good evidence for my case.
Hello and welcome to Femme Metal Webzine, Eivør! It’s a pleasure to have you with us. What have you been up to, lately?

I’ve been up to various things! I have this tendency to get involved in many projects (laughs). There’s so much that I want to do so sometimes it gets quite crowded. The last few months I’ve been touring a lot with two projects: my own music and my side-project with Ginman. In the meantime, I’ve been working on my new album. After the touring I flew straight to Iceland to mix the album and that’s what we’re doing these days.

Your latest endeavor is the collaboration with musician and composer Lennart Ginman for “The Color of Dark”, which has just been released. Can you tell us a bit about this album? How did the two of you work together to achieve this (stunning, I’d say) result?

Thank you! I’ve known Lennart for quite a long time now and in my opinion he’s a great musician, songwriter and producer as well. We had often been talking about doing something together. In the beginning it was just loose talk, “Let’s do something” or “Let’s play some concerts”. Then he started writing some songs with my voice in mind and at one point we started talking about gathering a band and recording an album together. It was a really long and interesting process and we worked on the album for a year. Lennart produced it along with Kæv Glieman and from the idea of doing a few cozy standard jazz concerts, we ended up making a dark electronic pop album I guess. I really enjoyed being part of a unique side project like this.

It was really cool to hear all the different sounds, the variety was really interesting. Your voice was involved in something different but also familiar.

Yeah, I think we managed to mix our worlds together, because I come from a very different world than he does. We mixed his very dark sound with my sound and it became something different, I like it!

You recently curated Week 33 of the Nordic Playlist, a very interesting project that asks artists to pick their favourite songs from the Nordic region. How did it feel like, being a curator for such a playlist and recommending music to other people? Have you ever been recommended an artist that you ended up particularly appreciating?

I really like the Nordic Playlist, I think it’s such a great idea and it introduces new music from the North to Nordic musicians. I think it’s a beautiful bridge between the Nordic countries. I really enjoyed doing my playlist because I really had to dig deeper into what was happening in the music scene in the North. I am very bad at being up to date on what is happening so I had to do some research and I discovered some great music. Now every time someone makes a new playlist I check it out to see what’s in there.

I follow it as well, actually! I think it’s definitely working, at least for me, because I love discovering new artists.

Me too! I’m always just in my own bubble, creating my own music. I think the Nordic Playlist is a really good thing . I know where to go to look for music, now!

Last year you became Marilyn for Gavin Bryars’ opera, “Marilyn Forever”, in Canada. How did you approach this role and how did this experience affect you, as an artist and a person?

That’s a very interesting question, because I never saw myself as an actor or being in an opera. It was all very new to me. I met Gavin Bryars a few years back and I’m a big fan of his work, so when he asked me to do this part in the opera I couldn’t say no because I’m so fascinated by the work he’s doing and I found it really exciting. “An OPERA about Marilyn Monroe”, it sounds pretty crazy (laughs)! So I thought “Okay, it’s crazy enough for me. I want to do it”. It was a really special experience and very intense. I flew to Canada and stayed there for a month, working on this. I got some insight on Marilyn Monroe’s life and it was very fascinating and touching. The opera was very much about the things we don’t hear so much about: the loneliness and all the things that she couldn’t figure out in her life. It was a different side of the fame or the icon. For me it was very emotional and I could really relate to many of the things going on in her life. I was very inspired and while I was there, I even wrote some songs for my coming album, one especially. It was a very important time for me.

As we’ve seen so far, between all these fruitful collaborations and your solo work, you have experimented with an incredibly wide variety of genres, from classical music to jazz, folk, acoustic and more electronic tunes. You’re also a classically trained singer. How do you make all these elements of your musical identity fall into place? How do you combine them into what we hear from our speakers?

I have always been a very curious musician. Always yearning to learn more about music and to get deeper into it – to be it. All my different experiments have been important lessons for me. I found my roots in Faroese Folk music, my freedom in jazz music, my patience and technique in Classical music, my power and my fire in underground rock and metal music and I could keep going. The bottom line is that to me there is good music and there is bad music and all the genres are just names and labels we put on to feel more safe or to better understand it.

As a musician I like be challenged and not to feel too safe all the time musically, so everytime I get challenged by something, like doing an opera, I feel that I am expanding my horizon and understanding of the music. I love building bridges between styles and to break the walls down. It’s all an ocean of possibilities and it’s very important for me to be free.

It’s very nice. I think music really needs something like this, something without walls.

Yeah, let´s tear down the walls 😉 Music has helped me through happy and difficult times. As a teenager I thought “Only rock music can save my life” (laughs). Today I think differently thank God (laughs). It’s like music has been a really dear friend to me and helped me through difficult times and good times. And today I think the music I create is a product of everything I’ve been through on my musical journey. It’s like giving birth to a child: it’s part of who you are and what you are made of. That’s the way I think of music.

Your latest solo album, “Room”, was a widely acclaimed work, from which you released two music videos: “True Love” and “Rain”. Why did you choose these two songs and what can you tell us about the evocative concepts and sceneries you decided to show?

I like doing videos for my songs because it can give them a different perspective and open up the possibility for interpretation. The video for “True Love” was created by my friend Heiðrik á Heygun who makes beautiful movies and videos. He was finishing film school in Copenhagen and did the video for “True Love” as the end project for his course. He felt inspired by this track and he did a short movie inspired by the song. The short movie was then cut into the music video. It was a story about a girl who falls in love with death. It’s a love story, a quite dark one though.

Heiðrik also did the video for “Rain”. We decided we should go to the Faroe Islands and film it. The inspiration was a love story in the Faroe Islands in the 40s. There are many sad stories of fishermen who never came back home from the sea, because it can be quite dangerous and difficult to live in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in stormy weather. That was the inspiration for the video and I thought it was a nice side story to the song, so we went for that.

I’m going to ask a lighter question now, Eivør. I remember hearing your wonderful voice for the first time, before discovering the gem that is “Larva”, in a live recording with an orchestra, where you sang “May It Be” from the Lord of The Rings soundtrack. Did you enjoy the books/movies, considering that it’s a world that draws heavily from Scandinavian sagas and lore?

Yeah, I love it so much! I remember reading “The Hobbit” when I was a little girl, it was one of the first books I read. It’s such a fascinating thing. I also really love the movies they’re even cooler when you’ve read the books.

Your voice has a wide range and an incredible versatility, Eivør. Listening to “The Color of Dark” was a constant surprise, musically of course, but also because of your voice. It kept showing new sides, from the softer verses, to the distant operatic notes in “Daughters”. It’s something I find really admirable in a singer. How do you utilize such an incredible tool when you create or rearrange music?

This is a good question too, I really like your questions (laughs)! On “The Color of Dark” I was the singer and not the songwriter and that was different from what I normally do. I was interpreting the songs Ginman had written and it was interesting to work on the vocals for that album because I wanted to sing the songs as if they were my own so I spent a lot of time getting the lyrics under my skin and finding my own understanding of them and that way be honest about what I was singing.

In my solo work I use my voice a lot, when I write songs and also when I make arrangements. I usually record everything with my voice in the beginning and then, later on, we layer instruments into it. Even rhythms, I often record them with my voice first. I do like (imitates beat with her voice) or I’ll make a beat, like beatboxing or something and later I work with a drummer who adds the actual drums, but I like to make all the ground ideas with my voice, because that’s the instrument I know best. I figured out that that way I get closer to what I really want to say and explore. I have a long history with my voice and we have been through a lot together.

Words are another very important aspect of your music. You sing and compose in a variety of languages and about a variety of themes. What influences you the most and how do you fit your inspirations into the music?

I like to write about simple things. I can get inspired by anything from being in love – being heartbroken – being destroyed or happy. The situations you get into through your life, it’s all music to me. Sometimes other people can inspire me, too. If someone tells me their story I can get really inspired to write a song. Nature is a big part of my songwriting too. There I find peace and I feel like a part of a bigger picture. It makes me want to write.

I’m trying to make my songs simple and at the same time bigger than my own little world, so that they can have room for other people too, because I think we can all relate to those feelings somehow, even though our lives are not exactly the same. We go through different things in life and it’s not all perfect. I guess that’s what I’m mostly writing about.

I guess many listeners can identify with a feeling even if the situation is not the same.

Yeah, exactly, and that’s what I’m trying to do, to make my songs have room for that. Sometimes even if I have a very clear idea on what the song is about, I try not to close it totally down to something too specific. It needs to have room for imagination too. There’s a fine limit between being very clear about what you are saying and to also have room for imagination.

Your homeland, and a significant influence in your music, is the Faroe Islands, a beautiful place which I feel tends to get a little less attention compared to other Nordic countries. You already paint its landscapes and stories with your music, but how would you describe it to a neophyte?

Interesting… well, for me, I didn’t start to appreciate it until I moved away from it. I guess when you grow up somewhere you don’t see what’s special about it, because it’s just a normal thing that you experience every day. But when I became a teenager and moved to Iceland, away from home, I really started to see the value of the Faroe Islands, to see who I was and where I came from. If I were to describe it, I feel it is a very unique place, because it’s so unspoiled – 18 small islands in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean and it’s been very isolated from the world. We can have all seasons in one day! The weather is really, really unpredictable. I think you see that in my music, because my music is also very unpredictable (laughs). Also, there are many artists from the Faroe Islands who paint like that too. It definitely affects people’s minds, coming from a place like that. The most special thing about the Faroe Islands, beside it being beautiful: it has a warmth. People care about each other and they don’t lock their doors. It’s a very generous place. If you go there, people will invite you for coffee, even if you don’t know them. That’s what makes it special, people take care of each other and are very friendly.

That sounds similar to Southern Italy, especially the smaller villages. Until recently it was the same when it came to not locking doors and inviting people over.

You know, me and my husband went to Tuscania, not Tuscany but Tuscania*. Everybody thought it was Toscana, I thought we were going to Toscana too! Actually, I had found this place through a music organization and I wanted to stay there for a few weeks and work on my songwriting. It was such an amazing experience to be there, because people were so generous and warm. I’ve written a great deal of my new album in Italy!

*A town near Viterbo, not too far from Rome.

Speaking of places, your touring schedule has been quite busy lately! Is there any place you visited that left a particular impression on you?

Yeah, I mean, it’s always different. It’s always a special experience to perform in front of an audience, because you connect with people. It’s difficult to say what’s nicer from place to place. But one experience that was quite special to me was playing in Russia. I was playing in Ufa, almost in Siberia. That was just so far away from home! It’ was very different and beautiful. In the middle of the concert, while I was singing, people would bring me flowers on the stage. The stage was just packed with flowers when the concert was over and I had never experienced anything like that! That was very special.

Our webzine is dedicated to female artists of all genres, though we mainly feature metal. What do you think is, from your perspective, the current situation for women in music? What has been done and what still needs to be done?

That’s interesting! It is true that the music scene is quite male-dominated, especially when it comes to bands and playing instruments. I think it’s quite difficult to answer this question! Do you have any thoughts on that?

Well, I think there is a different approach. If the musician is male there are some things that are considered more important, if it’s a female singer it’s some other things If it’s a woman it’s more about the outfit or the voice, if it’s a man they can go on stage with a T-shirt and it’s gonna be fine. Or women are more appreciated if they have a more “technical” singing, while men are less scrutinized. I think it’s getting better, but there is a different approach. At least for singers, because musicians are completely different and, as you said, maybe there is less space for women still. Also in classical music, for example orchestra conductors, it’s male-dominated. It kinda feels as if the one who leads or guides the rest usually has to be a man.

It’s true! You rarely see a woman standing there. It’s a good question why that is; if it’s because women don’t try hard enough or if it’s because they are being dominated. But I think it’s also a big responsibility for us women to stop underestimating ourselves – I mean, when you look at pop music today it is so annoying to see how women use sex as a way to sell more records and to be seen. And it just seems to get worse and worse. All this twerking your ass around and all that stuff. It’s kind of funny in some cases, but most of the time it just bores me. It teaches young women something very, very wrong. It teaches young women that that’s what a female musician has to do and I hate that. I wish for all women to know their values and to have enough self esteem to trust their talent and their visions. I probably sound like a grandmother now (laughs), but I do feel this very strongly. As a woman in some cases you have to work a little bit harder to gain the respect you deserve. When all this has been said I have to add that there are many female artists that I admire and many good examples of clever and independent female artists that are being very inspirational. Women that create great music and the things they stand for are just pure art and independence.

That’s a good strategy!

Yeah (laughs)! I would love to see more women doing that, just being a bit more rock’n’roll.

Yes. I think that happens in metal a bit, even if you take singer who do growls, there’s a lot of women who do that.

Yeah, I love hearing women growl! Because it has a different sound, even a sharper sound and I love hearing that.

So you listen to metal?

Well, a little bit! I haven’t listened enough to metal, I’m not really familiar with that world, but I really love good metal.

You said you’ve been writing a lot for the new album and you’re mixing it right now. Can you give us any hints on what you’re planning?

I will name the new album “Bridges”. The reason is that it’s very much about being away, because I’ve written most of the songs on my tours and travels. It reflects very much on seeing home from different perspectives, seeing yourself and the people you love from the other side of the bridge. I decided to go further down the road I took with my last album, “Room”, producing it together with my husband Tróndur Bogason. But this time we explored even more the electronic part – I wanted this album to be cut into the bone with not too many elements. It’s based on my voice and my guitar playing and then I have worked on the electronic drum programming along with a great beat producer called Høgni Lisberg. I made some basic drum ideas with my vocal and on my hand-drum and he then took all these ideas further and created some cool beats on top of my folky tunes. I am very happy with the result and I can’t wait to share this album with the world. The first song from the new album will be released on January 9th (and indeedy is out, check out the video here or stream it on Spotify), and the album will be out on February 27th.

That was our last question, Eivør! We’ve come to the end of our interview. Thanks again for this wonderful opportunity, because it was really a pleasure to talk to you, to have you with us and to tell our readers about you. I think it’s really something we wanted to do.

Thank you so much, it was so nice to talk to you and thank you for your patience.

We wish you all the best for the future! You can leave a message to fans and readers in this space.

 Thank you for liking music and being into music! It makes it much more fun to be a musician.


Photos by Sigriður Ella Frímannsdóttir.

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