The year is 2019 when Norwegian singer Sigrid first bursts onto the worldwide music scene with her debut album Sucker Punch. Serendipitous as the title may have been, the album becomes a massive hit. Perhaps it’s the Scandinavian pop heritage, or perhaps it’s Sigrid’s keen sense for pop without pretense. Either way, with songs like “Strangers” and “Don’t Kill My Vibe,” Sigrid excels in creating addicting and danceable hooks.
It means anticipation is high for her next album, officially announced today, hot on the heels of Sigrid’s new single “It Gets Dark.” There’s no better time to sit down and discuss how the Norwegian artist has been faring these past years.
“Making a new record has been amazing,” she starts off excitedly. She’s been working on her sophomore album ever since before the pandemic. In fact, she was in the process of finishing megahit “Mirror” when the coronavirus hit the US, and Sigrid suddenly found herself flying back to Norway. “It’s thrilling, but also scary to put it down on paper when you know people are going to listen to it and essentially listen to you brain.” Being personal and without pretense has always been the benchmark for Sigrid in her musical career. But despite her pinpoint accuracy in writing absolute bangers, Sigrid’s also struggled with figuring out who she exactly is and what stories she should tell. “I think that’s something all of us have felt, that identity struggle. Or at least, I hope that it wasn’t just me,” she jokes. “During the past few years, it’s been difficult. And personally, it feels a bit on steroids as well when I have to — it’s my job to talk about me and my private life, and whatever’s going on in my head publicly.”
However, Sigrid adds that she finds a lot of comfort in “knowing that we all walk around with the same feelings, that it’s really the same.” She continues, “With a song like ‘Mirror,’ for instance, it was really amazing to see the support. That song has played a huge role in some people’s lives and vice versa that’s meant a lot to me. It still means a lot to me. It’s still a song that I’ll put on and be like, yeah! I’m shameless that way.”
The fact that the meaning of the song has evolved over time and has become just as much her fans’ story as her own, is one of the things that Sigrid finds most rewarding. And it’s why she keeps putting herself in that uncomfortable position of having to figure out who you are or what you’re going through, before sharing that very struggle with the world to identify with. “My band have already heard the whole thing, and they’re saying that this is even more honest than the last one,” she says with a smile.
“It’s a bit more brutally honest,” she concedes on the new record. “A bit more vulnerable, but it is something I think about a lot. I think there’s a fine line between personal and private, there’s a difference there. Songs are just a snapshot of reality, anyways. For example, “Strangers” is about the moment when you know that you’re done — it’s not working anymore, but it’s also romanticizing real life and the past, you know? It’s a very interesting thing in songwriting, where you can take a memory and write a song about it, and all of a sudden, you change your perception of what it was.”
And while Sigrid herself has experienced the feeling of having a song inadvertently trigger a memory or explain your emotions back to you, she’s now the one who’s facilitating that process for others. “It’s fascinating,” she tells me when I ask about how she looks back on the music she wrote years ago. “My first single, ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe,’ is one of those that has changed meaning for me. And also for people who’ve listened to it for like four years, then suddenly it pops up again now and you’re in a completely different place in your life. I think that the energy and message in that song of standing up for yourself, that’s something that going to continue to be relevant to you as you grow older. Sometimes when I go up on stage, it’ll be different things that I feel whenever I sing that song, but there’s still and always will be that underlying euphoric feeling. And I hope that’s what people take away from it too — a positive contribution to people’s everyday life.”
It’s obvious that over the past few years, everyday life has been both incredibly repetitive as well as unpredictable and uncertain at the same time. On the one hand, it’s affected the way in which Sigrid approached her own creative process. “We wrote most of the songs in Copenhagen,” she says. “And I remember just the Scandi lifestyle, but also the feeling of being away from home, and the world was in a very difficult state with everything in lockdown. But it was a sense of peace, as well. Because I didn’t have to travel to four different countries in one week. It was very focused on just the writing. I didn’t have to like cross-think, like, ‘Now I’m writing a song, but tomorrow I’m doing promo for this other song that I have, and on the third day I’m playing a full set of songs I’ve had for three years.’ I think it was a very good mindset for writing like, like a big collection of songs.”
She’s convinced that a lot of the songs she wouldn’t have written without 2020, especially because she was used to writing here and there while also being on stage. “I’m not an artist without being in the studio, and I’m not a writer without being on stage,” she shares. Instead, the only podium available to artists through lockdowns was social media. And while Sigrid’s not a big fan of the platform, it did give fans the opportunity to check in with Sigrid from time to time. In turn, it gave her a light at the end of the tunnel. “Knowing that someone was going to hear [the music] was everything. Knowing that the fans would listen to these songs in the end has given this year of songwriting solitude a real purpose.” And for the first time, she’s found herself believing the fact that she’s actually good at it.
“I’m really excited to show people what I have been working on with my team, it’s been so nice to see that people are still into it,” she sighs in relief. “I really, really appreciate it. I do. And I don’t take it for granted. Just to see people in the comments section going, ‘Where’s the album, when’s the new music coming, can’t wait.’ People really being into the new music means everything to me, and I cannot wait to see everyone on tour.”
One of her collaborators for this album cycle was Griff. They released the electrifying “Head on Fire” together earlier this year, after meeting at a fashion event. “It’s been really nice to work together,” she says. “She’s lovely. We met last summer in London at a fashion event. That’s the type of place where you can get a bit insecure and wonder, who would I know here? We just ran into each other and it was nice, we bonded over that question of how we’d even made it there and had some pizza. The studio session where we wrote ‘Head on Fire’ was truly just having a cup of coffee with a mate and talking about life and what it’s like to be a young woman in the pop industry.
Whereas the collaboration with Griff is a massive pop anthem, Sigrid’s new track “It Gets Dark” is a lot rockier. It truly does get dark on the single, standing in stark difference with what she’s done previously. “For me, it just screams festival stages at, like, 7 p.m., thunder, lightning — it’s a very visual song in my head.” She wonders briefly on how best to explain the song. “It’s about how you do need some dark and sadness and like, difficult emotions in life to also feel those highs,” she starts. “You can’t really expect to feel the highs without having a bit of the lows as well. It’s like a sort of homage to — without sounder super cheesy — your emotional inner life. There will always be waves of emotions.”
Sigrid explains that she wrote the song in LA in 2020. “It was actually the first song that was written for this new record, so it’s kind of been the leading star for the whole project,” she says. “It was the first song where I was like, yes, now we’re onto something, this is the sound.”
In fact, she goes as far as to say that “It Gets Dark” is her favorite song that she’s ever written. It’s an interesting statement, given that it’s definitely a departure from her usual sound to one that’s more alt-rock oriented. “The guitar solo and the bass hook towards the end are a big moment for me. [During the recording process] I was feeling like, you know what, I’m not gonna sing in this part,” she starts, before correcting herself with a laugh. “Or wait, I do, I do actually sing in that part, I’m kidding. I do a big ad lib and stuff. But I felt like I was playing with the instruments, in that sense it’s an open-minded song. It’s leaning into all of my references. I absolutely love Fleetwood Mac, ABBA, Elton John. Neil Young was a massive artist in our family growing up, Coldplay has always been my favorite band,” Sigrid lists. “It’s leaning into all these bands and artists that I’ve been listening to my whole life. And it’s still a pop song, but it definitely has like a lot of the rock elements, and it sounds like it needs a big stage.”
And while she’s certainly leaning more into the alternative side of things, Sigrid wants to stress that people “don’t need to be afraid, it’s still a pop record.” She continues, “I’ve always had like one foot in both camps, but I’m putting a bit more weight on the alternative side this time, which is very exciting. There’s a lot of guitars, a lot of proper electric bass, a lot of real drums, tons of harmonies. It’s got a bit of a retro vibe, but still fresh and modern. I’m just really excited about it.” Slightly bashful, Sigrid adds that just like “Mirror,” she listens to the songs sometimes and just feels proud. “I’m just like, this is great, these are my favorite songs.”
When asked if it’s the lack of touring that’s perhaps made her put more emphasis on live music elements, she immediately nods. “Absolutely, that’s been a huge inspiration for these songs,” she says. “Just thinking of touring and almost physically missing it in my body, like imagining being asleep on a tour bus, knowing you’re onto a new adventure the next day and playing a new festival to new people. Especially with ‘It Gets Dark,’ when I was setting the scene earlier — with lightning, maybe it starts to rain when the guitar solo comes in,” she describes. “It’s what we were talking about when we wrote this. I told Emily Warren and Sly that I wanted a song that sounds like it’s gonna be on a festival. The type of song that you just need to blast through a massive PA system. A song that’s made for big speakers.”
Her favorite lyric from “It Gets Dark” is in the second verse: “‘This year, my feet came off the ground / gravity won’t hold me down. No, not this time. I’m not who I used to be, because I came out here to see the universe inside.’ I just love it. It’s when you’re in LA. I just feel like every time I’m there something crazy happens, something that’s a bit alien like. Just very much not my life here in Norway, where I’m wearing a beanie, trying to park my car, being out in the snow. It’s just two completely different lifestyles, and that’s intriguing.”
Even though in this case she went from describing a landscape to a soundscape to a song, that’s not always how Sigrid rolls. “It depends a lot on who I’m working with,” she says. “Usually I’ll have a song stuck in my head, and I’ll really like the sound of the third synth and this part, and that. And then it can spark an idea, the feeling of that sound is something I want to take with me. Or I’m playing the piano and find some nice chords. I love chords or just the melody hook.”
Most importantly, it takes a lot of patience, she confesses. “Sucker Punch” lived in Sigrid’s Notes app for three months before she actually managed to write a song about it. “I can’t remember how I found the words, but they were from a Google Search, no clue how I ended up there though,” she says. “I tried to bring it up in so many sessions, and no one really touched it. I didn’t want to force an idea, so I waited for the right room. And then when I was in Norway, and had a writing session with two friends of mine, I brought it up again. ‘What about Sucker Punch?’ And they were like, ‘Yes, love that!’ We wrote the song in one day, because we were all on the same wavelength.”
Similarly, when working on “Head on Fire,” Sigrid admits that it took quite a while to finish the song, even though the skeleton of the song had been written in one day. “It took a few months to figure out the production and the harmonies. It was a bit more like a back and forth. Although, what was funny as well, was that we knew we were there to write with each other, but we hadn’t really talked about it before. Like, are we writing for one of us? Or both of us? Or we’re just writing for someone else? Who knows! And then by the end of the day, when you have to record some vocals, it was kind of like a karaoke session of like, OK, I’ll do this part. Do you wanna do the next one? Just a random order, but that made it really fun.”
If anything, Sigrid wants to inject that same joy into her live performances. “I’m just hoping that we can safely play in front of a lot of people,” she says. “I’m crossing everything I have for the chance of being on a big stage and playing these new songs to a big crowd and seeing everyone’s faces. I just want to feel that energy again, because it’s my favorite part about my career — to play these songs live. That’s when the songs start to live their own life. I love it. It’s pure euphoria.”