Thanks to a discovery by The Indie Curator, we’ve had one eye on rising Norwegian star Dagny for almost two years now. However, things really started hotting up 8 months ago when her debut single “Backbeat” was premiered by Beats 1. The launch of her punchy, high-energy pop hit was swiftly followed by a string of live sessions, festival bookings and of course agrees by our community who know something promising when they hear it.
The sheer vitality of that first single isn’t only a product of the recording studio, as Dagny radiates confidence and excitement as we talk about her sudden rise to popularity, not only in the HumanHuman community but amongst the music world as a whole.
So, I heard you signed a record deal?
Can you tell me about that?
Well, it’s a deal with Republic Records in America, which is obviously in my opinion the best company in the world. They’re one of the top record labels, so I’m in company with really great people. It’s a massive compliment! It’s kind of mind-blowing, even when you’re in it, I still sometimes have to pinch my arm. I also signed with Island UK and a company called Propellor Recordings in Norway, which is also amazing and more of an indie record label. It’s really, really exciting and I have a good team.
I feel like everytime I check in on your social media, you’re jetting off to another country or doing something equally cool in the music studio. What has this year been like for you?
Thinking back to a year, nothing was really happening. Around this time last year we recorded “Backbeat”, and we really had no plan whatsoever other than to record music and put it out. I was actually going to go back to Norway and go to school in July, but then at last minute I changed my mind. We ended up staying in London and we released “Backbeat” in September - then everything kicked off! It’s amazing to see how quick things can turn around. Suddenly, we were spending two days in LA and three days in New York and meeting all these people and…. I don’t know, it was really weird! Since then, it’s been an absolute adventure. I’ve been travelling, writing, recording and meeting amazing people. I’m one of those people who is at their happiest when they’re super, super busy. Jumping around from one thing to the next and never really sitting still, so I literally feel like I’m doing what I want to be doing. I’m in the right place at the right time and I’ve learnt so much. I feel like I’m using my whole self and that’s a really good feeling.
Have you had a highlight from the year?
Oh, it’s been good. I think that the trip to LA and writing every day was amazing! Getting up in the morning, going to get a bagel, going to the studio for twelve hours, meeting up with some people and then going home. It was so creative and I was so inspired and meeting all these other creative people; that’s probably a highlight. I mean, there’s been many highlights but that felt like it changed me. It opened up a whole new world that I had never visited before. It’s crazy, but it’s good.
You mentioned “Backbeat” there, did you know you were onto a hit when you first wrote or recorded it?
I get this question a lot actually. Did I know? No, I didn’t. I knew something was different with it. It was the second song that we did that was more this new direction; it was like I had finally taken control and getting a lot more energy into it, which is much more me. I wrote it and I knew that I loved it - it made me excited! The other day I found an email to my management team being like, “here’s my new song, I hope you like it and don’t worry about the title, it’s just a working title.” I had no idea what people were going to think! It was so different from the rest of my music and I knew there was something about it, but I didn’t know it would kick off or anything. At the end of the day, it’s the audience that will either like it or not.
It’s obviously a really upbeat pop song, are all of your songs so positive?
We do a lot of different stuff, but I think they all have that slightly energetic thing about them. Music hits me when it has that sense of hope. It doesn’t have to be a hopeful song, but it just needs to make me feel like something is good. I like those kinds of songs that make me feel uplifted, so yeah, I think there’s probably a recurring theme and I think my outlook will be a part of the soundscape.
“Music hits me when it has that sense of hope.”
We’re talking about your new material here, but you were previously known as something of a folk songwriter. What made you change to pop?
I think it’s getting older and taking more control. I did a lot of songwriting with a lot of people and I learnt a lot, but it was all taking over my own sound.
When you were doing the folk stuff, you didn’t feel like you were in control of it?
I was in control, because I was obviously doing it and writing it, but I don’t know if I knew exactly what I wanted. I love folk and country music, and I love a lot of really mellow stuff, but playing that live, it never made me lose myself in any way, like it does when I go on stage now. I’m still learning, but I think I’ve taken more control over this new stuff.
You said that you’re still learning, so what do you think is the most important thing you’ve learnt so far?
Sometimes you have to stick with your own instinct, but also in songwriting, just be honest. Don’t be scared, because they might be stupid ideas, but they also be great! I’ve met some people that made me more confident. Yeah, I met some people that I really vibed with and suddenly we found ourselves in this studio just fucking vibing stuff out and being so excited. It’s like when “Backbeat” happened, we just made a backing beat, put up a mic and I just started singing something! It just came out. It wasn’t so precious in any way.
You’ve changed a lot in that sense then, but have your listening tastes also changed?
Not really, no. Obviously, five, six, seven years ago, it was a different time and Jason Mraz was the biggest thing and I was really inspired by songwriters. I also listen to a lot of pop-heavy stuff though. I think your music tastes naturally develop and grows with you as a person. You discover new things and maybe that inspires you. I used to listen to a lot of folk and country and americana, and I still listen to that. I’ve never really been into what’s current, sometimes it hits you and sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes you realise that this is your new favourite song and you listen one hundred times on repeat! I think I’ve always had quite a broad music taste.
Do you have a current favourite artist?
Oh, I love Børns! I’m kind of obsessed with him. I actually wrote with the guy who wrote and produced his album with him. I really like his stuff. I secretly want to be a female Børns! [laughs]
That’s a good aspiration! You’ve already said that you’re diverse in your listening tastes and I guess diverse in your career too, as you’ve done folk, pop and you also sang of tracks by Kohib, which is very much EDM.
Oh yeah! I’ve had a lot of projects. When I lived back in Tromsø, I used to pop over to Kohib’s studio and he would play me some tracks and I would vocals for it. It’s nice that you mentioned that, I didn’t expect that at all!
Well, you know I had to give it a listen! Do you think it’s important for an artist to be diverse in their creativity?
Absolutely! You have to challenge yourself. I don’t think you should set so many limits on yourself. I think for me it’s been crucial to find what I want to do now, to try all these things. Sometimes people from a very young age know exactly what they want, but I was never that person! I’m twenty-five and I’m still figuring everything out. I don’t think there’s any shame in that, because some people find things early and for others it takes time. For me, going through all of those phases of doing different music and on top of that growing up in a household with jazz and Brazilian music - it’s been really diverse. For me, that’s all been crucial to land here, to become more confident and to know what I want. It’s been such a learning curve. If you have a project that you love, that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to that forever. You’ve got to change, to develop, and I think that’s healthy.
“Sometimes people from a very young age know exactly what they want, but I was never that person! I’m twenty-five and I’m still figuring everything out.”
If you could learn from and work with anyone, who would it be?
Ryan Adams. I just love him - his lyrics, his voice, his everything. I’m kind of obsessed with him too. I also really like Feist too. These are people I’ve been listening to for years.
So, you’re currently based in London, what’s your favourite thing about the music scene there?
There’s always stuff going on! I love that. People in London just seem to be playing and playing and playing. You know what, where I come from we were used to the fact that whenever you played, you got paid, and I think that’s really good that musicians are getting paid, that people see the value of music. Then I came here and people are doing five shows a week, and it’s also important to do shows, because you learn so much. There’s so much music in London, it’s very cultured and I love it.
What other differences have you noticed between the music scenes in the UK and Norway?
Obviously, London is much bigger and you can go out and meet people you know at the shows, because it’s a fairly small community, but when I first got here, oh my god, it seemed so massive! I’m still getting used to the fact that when big artists go on tour, they will always visit London, because where I grew up it was maybe once in your childhood. When Spice Girls were on tour, we were lucky that they visited Oslo, which is two hours away from where I lived. Here, you can just pop down to big shows and that’s kind of hard to get used to. Other than that… well, you find that musicians are pretty similar anywhere in the world.
People often use to term “scandi-pop” to describe Northern European artists, but do you think growing up in Norway has influenced the music that you make?
I don’t think I’m typically scandi-pop, because a lot of that is more electronic and it has that Nordic sound. However, I think I’m definitely inspired from being in Norway. You know, when I was growing up most lyrics had something with nature in it or was inspired by the nature around you. I see that with a lot of artists back home, and I pay attention to what people are doing, they lyrically have something about their surroundings and nature that is definitely reflected in their music. I’ve probably moved a little bit away from that now. I’ve also realised that even with the happy songs, there’s something melancholic in it, which is quite Nordic.
Do you have any other key influences? You’ve said nature and melancholy so far.
Well, I was just saying those things in general, I’m not sure how much at the moment my music is inspired by that. For me now, if I was going to narrow it down, I’ve been inspired by chemistry between people and by energy. I know that sounds super pretentious, but I honestly believe that when you meet someone who blows you away, there’s very few feelings that are as strong as that. The whole thing, you know, how you obsess about them, think about them, feel about them. I always write better when I have recently experienced that feeling, and not just like relationships, but also if someone becomes a very close friend. I find that chemistry between people very interesting.
I think we’re all really exciting to hear the follow-up to “Backbeat”, can you give us a hint of what to expect next? Maybe it’s a song about chemistry?
Ah maybe, well there’s quite a few coming up. We’re doing an EP and I hope that people will like it. It’s not going to be like another “Backbeat”, because that has happened and it has it’s own life. I’m very proud of it, but I can’t focus on “Backbeat” every time I go to do a session. Whatever is vibing at the moment, I’ll probably go for it. The EP is quite a mix of different songs, and it will be really interesting to see what people think of it, because I think there’s some good stuff on it. I don’t think I would release something if I didn’t feel like it wasn’t good enough, so you’re just going to have to trust that! I hope that people love it.