What’s one of the biggest things a young pop star can learn in their first year? For Sigrid it was realising that there’s no point worrying when you’re stuck in traffic. “Don’t stress if you’re in a hurry,” she says knowingly, over the phone from Oslo, where she’s currently pausing, in the middle of a hectic touring schedule. “I think that used to be a bad habit of mine; if I’m in a car and there’s really bad traffic and you know it’s going to be stressful when you get to the airport,” she continues. “There’s no use in stressing when you’re in the car. It’s not going to make anything go faster. It’s not going to help you.”
It might not be the most glamorous or candid titbit from one of 2017’s brightest new stars, but it’s practical and, actually, pretty relatable. And if there’s one thing that’s helped Sigrid over the past year it’s her knack for tapping into universality. As widely reported, her debut single, the kicking ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’, was borne out of a negative writing session that saw the singer’s creativity smothered by (male) asshole producers. Despite its specificity, the chorus is the sort of scream-a-long anthemic moment that others would kill for. Because, seriously, who hasn’t had some dickhead kill their vibe?
“I can’t remember who said this - I think it’s a female producer from the US - but she said that verses are for you, the artist, and the chorus is for them, the listener,” Sigrid explains. “So that’s kind of how I like to write my songs. I try to be honest and more vulnerable in the verses and explain why you’re saying what you’re saying in the chorus.” The 21-year-old says that, in fact, many people have shared how much her debut EP has impacted them. “It’s very fascinating and such an honour that my songs can mean something to someone else,” she gushes. “You can’t really compare that to anything; it’s the greatest and really cool.”
“It’s such an honour that my songs can mean something to someone else.”
Sigrid Solbakk Raabe
It’s not surprising, really, when a song like ‘Fake Friends’ deals with the breakdown of a relationship with such precision and nuance while avoiding melancholic cliches. Similarly, latest single ‘Strangers’ is not only a banger of majestic proportions, but also an expert commentary on society’s futile obsession with perfection. “The song is about someone I met and I really wanted it to work, but it wasn’t like the movies,” she confesses, before swerving to a more macro explanation: “I think it’s a symbol of our culture of always wanting things to be perfect and wanting it to look like the movies because we’re so used to seeing them. We’re so used to the hyperreality that we see on the internet and on social media and that comes off in our lives.”
The song doesn’t just work as social commentary, however. The production, co-handled by one of her favourite collaborators Martin Sjølie, absolutely bangs. “It’s really fun to work with Martin because we collaborate on everything. It’s a very fluid process. It’s not like there’s one person doing writing and then another producing; it’s a joint effort,” she says, before explaining how they both worked on the stabbing and pulsating synths in the chorus. “When he was playing it was more uniformed. I suggested cutting it so we’d get a pulsating rhythm with it,” she recalls, before singing the bass to show how they shaped the sound.
Sigrid is, it seems, a total studio junkie. When she discusses her recent contribution to the soundtrack for superhero movie ‘Justice League’ - a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows’ - she immediately talks about how it was a chance to make the production big, boasting how producer Odd Martin Skålnes “recorded live strings in Bergen”.
“What the fuck am I going to write about now since I’m having such a good time?!”
Sigrid Solbakk Raabe
When talk turns to where she’s been putting together her debut album, due next year, she lists off the usual places (London, LA, Stockholm), before pausing. “I hope that people don’t think that I don’t like writing sessions just because of that one that inspired ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’,” she insists. “That’s seriously been the only one that has been pretty bad. People are really nice and very open minded. I love doing writing sessions, and I have some key people that I work a lot with.” In fact, throughout our conversation, the singer continuously states how thankful she is for the “very talented people” in her team, from label to band. “You find each other’s skills and you do everything together,” she says.
Sigrid is keen to keep details of the record close to her chest, although she does playfully tease that “it’s going to be a collection of pop songs”, and admits that she’s “cried over guys in writing sessions”. “But it’s actually been much more fun,” she adds. “I’m having a great time, seriously. I’m on tour and there’s so much cool stuff happening. I’m really good.”
Pausing, she considers. “Actually, that makes it more difficult because what the fuck am I going to write about now since I’m having such a good time?” We’re unsure, to be honest, but it’s something we can’t wait to find out.
Taken from the December 2017 / January 2018 issue of DIY. Read online or subscribe below.
Photos: Mike Massaro / DIY