Ásgeir interview: a chat with the Icelandic singer-songwriter
Ásgeir Einarsson is an indie-folk Icelandic singer-songwriter, who made his debut internationally with the album In the Silence. He has now released his second record, Afterglow, and is currently on his European tour. He will be performing in London at Koko on 23rd May. We caught up with him to talk about his new songs, his influences and what it’s like to perform live.
Hi Ásgeir, thank you so much for your time. So you’re now in London, how are you enjoying being here?
I’m enjoying it, we just arrived like two hours ago so I haven’t really done anything except for getting a hamburger. That was good!
Will you be spending a lot of time in the UK?
We’ll be going to the Great Escape tomorrow in Brighton and then we have a few shows in the UK and at Koko in London.
Have you been enjoying your European Tour?
Yes, it’s been great so far.
Does any particular city stand out?
Well, I always enjoy Paris, and Amsterdam we did yesterday. I enjoyed them a lot, I think mostly because the venues were really, really nice and that’s nice when you’re doing this.
Do you find the crowds differ as you go from one country to the next?
Yes, but not that much. I think we’re usually in our own kind of mist when we’re on stage and try not to think about it too much. But yeah, they’re always a little bit different; usually you find the [most] difference when going from Europe to Asia. But I feel like the venues and sometimes how you’re treated is somewhat different depending on the country, but it’s usually pretty similar.
What kind of relationship do you like having with the crowds?
Well, usually the best type of shows are just when people are quiet and there for the music, just listening. It can be quite difficult when there’s a lot of alcohol going on and people are just talking through the show, but usually it’s not like that when we are playing.
It means you have good fans! Now on to the new album, Afterglow; how do you think this album differs from your first?
Well it sounds a bit different, it’s more electronic and more kind of produced in a way, like in a more modern-sounding way. I spent a lot of time in the post production of the sound whereas in the first album it was more just recording the instruments live, with not much thought put into the post production. It was more just recorded like this and we’re just going to do it like that. With [Afterglow] most of the time was spent in post production.
Now you’ve done both ways of producing do you find there’s one you prefer?
Well, it’s definitely less stressful to just have the arrangement in your head when going into the studio and recording the song like you have imagined it to be. It’s less stressful and it’s a lot of fun as well to go this deep into these details and all that stuff; but I think in going through the process of making the second album now I’m excited to go back to a more stripped-down way of recording. It’s either that or maybe working with some producers that I can learn something from, or who add something to my sound.
Interesting. And what would you say your favourite song from Afterglow is?
Well, it’s a difficult one, but I felt a turning point with the song New Day, where I was getting back to my old way of writing and I like that. I think that one and the song called Underneath It as there is a big contrast to them, but they both ended up the way I wanted them to be, the way that I imagined them to be.
Would you say there are any common themes that run through this album?
I can’t really say that. When I write I just try to write about something that I can get excited about, something that I feel some connection to and this can be very, very different and can be very different styles of music. If I feel some kind of connection I usually want to do something with the songs and the lyrics come from different people, so I can’t really say there is one lyrical theme going on. But I think Afterglow sums up the lyrical theme, with the nature of it: optimistic, a kind of glow or light, which is kind of a theme throughout the whole album.
What is your favourite thing about the creation process of a song?
That would be during the excitement of when it’s just being born. I feel like when I have a good and honest idea that just makes my day always, and that’s what stands out in the process. I really didn’t enjoy performing in the beginning but I’ve got used to it now and I’m getting more into it. With [Afterglow] we just started touring two, three weeks ago and it’s been really different from the first album; I’ve enjoyed the shows and I feel much better now.
That’s good to hear. And what would you say your starting point for a song is?
It’s always the tune first for me. It’s always been that way for me, I’ve always thought of words as secondary – if a song is good enough the words should just kind of make it even better. I’m lucky enough to be working with lyricists and writers that I respect and they have passion for what they’re doing so they kind of lift a song up when they write lyrics.
What music do you find inspiring? Or which artists have been an influence?
There are many, it’s difficult to pick one artist, but I can tell you when I was starting out it was mostly rock musicians – I wanted to be in a rock band. That was my dream. My older brother was a really big influence when I was starting out, he was always writing songs and I wanted to do that. Now he’s actually in a really successful band in Iceland, so people knew who he was and I wanted to be exactly like that, that was how it started off. But then I went into different periods of listening to folk music, country music, electronic music and all that stuff and, I think, what I do now is kind of just the songs that have followed me through the years, or artists kind of shine through my music.
And, to end, what advice would you give to a younger you?
The advice would maybe be not to take yourself too seriously, I think I always come back to that. I felt like I took this all too seriously when my career took off, I didn’t really know how to handle it so I think I got too involved in it. My advice is that music isn’t supposed to be a stressful thing, or a serious thing, and if you enjoy it and you’re doing this with some honesty then there’s not really much more to give. That’s what I’ve learnt through the years, not to take yourself too seriously.
What lovely advice to end on, thank you for your time.
For further information about Ásgeir and future events visit here.
Listen to Afterglow here: