astrid s interview
photo: Janne Rugland / press

Astrid S

4.5

After dropping many EPs and headlining her own shows around the world, Norwegian singer Astrid S is finally ready to release her debut album, Leave It Beautiful, and it has certainly been worth the wait. Astrid may only be 23 years of age but she has a lot to speak about on the 10-track release. She openly admits that one of the reasons it’s taken this long to release a full-length LP is because she didn’t feel mature enough to make one. However, it appears that’s not the case anymore.

With the album, Astrid makes it clear that there have been some changes in her life. The sad uplifting banger that started off the era, “Dance Dance Dance,” which really geared fans up for the tone and emotion of this album. She makes it clear that she’s ready to dance the pain away and distract herself from all of the mixed-feelings in her life. If there is anything Scandinavian singers do best, it’s making sad pop songs, and this track is the perfect new addition to that genre.

Astrid insists on stripping it back on a number of tracks that pull at the heartstrings and showcase her angelic vocals. Her latest single, “It’s OK If You Forget Me,” is a sweet bittersweet song about realizing that a potentially toxic relationship filled with emotions is over and wishing you cared more about the breakup: “Does that mean it didn’t mean nothing at all? But I’ll tell you what the worst is, it’s the way it doesn’t hurt when I wish it did.”

Three tracks in and “Hits Different” is an obvious stand-out. The track showcases a more experimental sound from the songstress that we’ve never heard before. Its dark tone and empowering lyrics hear Astrid expressing herself confidently and unapologetically. “Good Choices,” a personal favorite, is one of the most vulnerable and raw moments. The relatable piano ballad is about wanting to do better but always screwing up even when trying your hardest not to. While it may not be anything out of the ordinary production-wise, sometimes it’s the simplest songs that really captivate and resonate with you.

In the past, Astrid has been vocal about admiring and trying to mimic Britney Spears when she was younger. “Airpods” is an early 2000’s nod to the teen-pop era that she grew up with. The light-hearted bop is the most playful track on the album with a care-free chorus that consists of the repetitive and infectious “dumb didi dumb” that will get stuck inside your brain. The album title track closes the album on a hopeful and positive note. Astrid seems to have come full circle and is confident about letting go and moving forward.

If Leave It Beautiful is your introduction to Astrid then you have discovered her at her best. The lyrics throughout might suggest that she’s a little sad but in reality, she’s just closed a whole chapter in her life and is excited to start a new one.

After releasing numerous EPs, it must feel so good to finally release your debut album?
Yes! For sure. It’s weird because I think with being an artist, you always expect an album but it’s been so different these past six years since I’ve been doing it, especially in the Nordics as well as the UK, streaming has taken over so I don’t feel like I’ve had to make an album and I also I don’t think I was mature enough as a writer and as an artist and a person to do it before. But yeah, it feels really good that I’m able to release an album.

On Twitter, you said it took three months to make the record. Were you expecting the process to be a lot longer?
I was definitely expecting it to take longer. In Norway, we have this saying “when you put water over your head,” when you put too much work and pressure on yourself. With the timeline I had made in my head, I was supposed to release a couple of EPs and make an album within a year but that obviously didn’t happen so I had to postpone the tour. So there was pressure with the time to make the album from beforehand but when I postponed the tour to make the album, the pandemic hit so I wasn’t really able to write anymore. So I guess because of the pandemic, I wasn’t really able to dive even more into it. But luckily at that time, I felt like I had 10 songs that I really really loved that could become an album so it took us faster than I thought.

Did you feel more pressure because you knew the songs would end up on an album rather than EP or did it feel the same when creating them?
I don’t think it felt the same but I think mostly I had a different approach going into making this album because you don’t have any pressure to make any singles necessarily. Also, I made the album with Jack & Coke who produced the whole thing. Previously, I would just bounce around in sessions and meet new producers and writers every day. I think, for me, that’s not as comfortable as getting to know someone and feeling comfortable and then just skipping that part of “What series have you watched on Netflix lately?” and “Did you hear this about Trump?” You could just go to the studio and get started right away or just get more in-depth with how I’m actually feeling and not just on the surface, so I think it made it more I guess laid back and also I feel like I had more room to have fun as there not really any rules. I feel like it was pretty different and I liked it way more than making an EP.

Do you feel like the EPs were a way of you experimenting with your sound or are they still very much you to this day?
That’s a good question! I think maybe it’s a bit more random just because I worked with so many different producers and songwriters. I think obviously when you’re an artist, your sound and your songwriting will evolve and grow like you do as a person and you become more of an adult, at least for me. I would say that I feel with this album it sounds like stuff I’ve put out before but I hope people can hear how I’ve grown as an artist. I feel like I’ve experimented more with the album because like I said you’re not tied up to getting that single to fit into these formats and playlists. So I think it’s more experimental within the pop genre and what I’ve done before.

astrid s interview
photo: Janne Rugland / press

With the ongoing pandemic, were you mindful about releasing it during this time or did you feel ready?
I know my fans and people in general still listen to music and maybe even more now than before because they’re on their laptops and phones. For me, it was important not to postpone anything just because of the pandemic but I remember releasing the first single, “Dance Dance Dance,” the week the Black Lives Matter movement was a big discussion and had I had conversations on if we should postpone it because it felt weird to release music when there is something that important happening. With releasing music, it feels like you’re saying “Hey, listen to this because I think it’s good and it’s worth your time!” and I didn’t really feel like that was fitting at the time. But we still did it because I think, I know it’s cliche but people need music and appreciate it so we stuck to the plan.

You have done many collaborations throughout your career, did you make a conscious decision to not have any on the album?
Not really. I was open to collaborations and then I think it just happened that there aren’t any. Ideally, for a label, it’s easier to work with a song or an album if there are collaborations because you get to draw in other fandoms and another artist’s fanbase. I just felt like I really wanted to do this first album on my own so it just came naturally to not have any collaborations. But I’m thinking of maybe releasing a deluxe version so potentially some features on that or re-releasing some of the songs on the album with a feature as a remix or something.

If you could describe the album in three words, what would they be?
Oh, that’s such a hard question! It sounds like an easy question but it’s hard. Maybe.. bittersweet? But I feel like some of the songs are more edgy and darker pop than I’ve ever done before. I don’t think I have three words to describe it.

Was there any song that was really challenging to write or create?
Yes! Some of those didn’t make it *laughs* but I think with the songs that did make it, “Marilyn Monroe,” which was one of the singles, I made it two years ago and there was a debate within my team. Some people hated it, some people liked it, and a few loved it. We put it on ice and then it came back to the surface and we had to change up the production and I re-wrote it a little bit so that took the most time. Most of the songs came very naturally. Went to the studio and within a couple of hours, they were done.

With most of the songs, which I find really cool and a good sign is that most of the demos from when we wrote the songs are very similar to the finished product. At least, that’s what I like, whatever feels natural when you write it. Don’t try to force it, don’t two hours on a verse or change up the production too many times. I think what comes naturally when you make the song, that’s usually the best.

astrid s interview
photo: Janne Rugland / press

Were there any artists you were listening to during the making of the album that that really inspired you?
It’s funny because I didn’t really listen to a lot of music at that time. It was just an idea I had. I thought I would be more inspired to make music if I didn’t consume it as much so every day before I went to the studio, I would go hiking without music which can be a pain in the ass but that made my head go off. So every day I would go to the studio, I would have lyrics for the chorus or melody or a concept that I would like to write about. The plan worked out really well.

Around Europe, you have had huge chart success. Is commercial success and streaming numbers something you are thinking of when making music?
No. I think that’s something my label probably thinks of, which they should. I think that we had those conversations in the studio, not with making my music but in general for how people are consuming music. I feel like you don’t really know what’s going to be a hit and what will work in playlists. I think that’s what great about streaming even though it’s people deciding what’s going in the playlists and somehow can decide what’s going to be a hit.

I like streaming better than radio because it feels like if the label paid enough money and did a campaign, it would be a radio hit anyway. Nowadays, you can’t really know what people are going to react to. It’s almost the opposite, if anything stands out and it’s a bit different, you know when Billie Eilish put her music and album out, it just took off because it’s great music and I don’t think it has to fit into any format. If it’s great then it feels authentic and genuine, hopefully, people will react to it. So, I don’t really think about playlists. I just want to make something that feels good to me.

Yeah, I guess there’s no timeframe for how long it takes for a song to be a hit. One of your old songs could take off randomly next week like Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” and “Good As Hell.”
Yeah, I’ve even seen with one of the first songs that I ever put out, “Hurts So Good,” people are reacting to it on TikTok and the streaming numbers have increased. So, I’m hoping that’s going to get a new life like the Lizzo songs.

How was directing the music videos for your most recent singles, “Marilyn Monroe” and “Dance Dance Dance”?
A lot of work! Oh my gosh, it’s so time-consuming writing the scripts and being present in all the meetings. The most time consuming was after when editing it all up. It’s a lot of work but it was so much fun and such a good learning process for me. They’re not the best music videos that people have ever seen but at least it’s something that comes from me and that’s very important to me. Because of the pandemic, I’ve had time to do that stuff because I can’t go on tour and do anything else but hopefully I’ll be able to keep directing.

What the main goal you would like to achieve with this album?
The thing is, I feel like I’ve already achieved a lot by making an album. There is so much work that goes into making one song and one EP, which had me questioning how I was going to make an album. I remember during the process thinking “I should just give up.” So that’s a big achievement for me having finished the album. That’s a good question, I hadn’t really thought about it. I just wanna put it out there and hopefully, people can resonate, relate, and take something out of it. Writing it has changed my mindset about so many things so hopefully, it can do that for others as well.