Eivør: A whole world stretches out from the Faroe Islands

Eivør already has a long career. From the traditional folk of her native region to worldwide creative experiments and discoveries. Film music, symphonies, soundtracks for video games and, of course, her new record ‘Enn’ will take her around the world this year. ‘Creative freedom is most important to me,’ she says.

Eivør Pálsdóttir (b. 1983) appears on the laptop screen, somewhere in Copenhagen, Denmark. For what would soon turn out to be a very open and animated conversation. ‘I live here part of the year.  The rest of the time I still live in the Faroe Islands. I really can’t miss the place where I grew up.’ These days, Eivør plays in the biggest venues worldwide. However, her impressive career began in a small village in the Faroe Islands, an archipelago bobbing between Norway and Iceland. Rugged nature with some 20,000 inhabitants, and with three times as many sheep.

‘I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a singer. In the culture of the islands, music is very important, and certainly singing. The old, traditional folk music has kept our language alive over the centuries. My parents also sang a lot. They were not real musicians, but I got their passion.’ And with passion, she now tells her life story. ‘When I was 13, I met some musicians. They were much older though, but oh well. I loved it and started playing in various bands. And even became lead singer in Clickhaze, at that time a fairly well-known rock band in the islands. But I was also in a jazz band, for instance. I just tried to play as much as possible, to fulfil my dream: to become a musician.’ And laughing: ‘Everyone thought I had gone mad. But I knew exactly what I wanted.’ But in the small Faroese community, there were hardly any opportunities for music studies or lessons. ‘And where my friends went to high school and maybe to Copenhagen, I instead went to Reykjavik to study classical singing. On my own, to a place where I didn’t know anyone yet. But where I immediately felt so much creativity and friendship. That’s why I still come there regularly, with great pleasure. Three days ago I recorded another video there…’

Even before she left for Reykjavik, she released her debut album, “Eivør Pálsdóttir”, in 2000, while she was not yet seventeen years old. ‘I wrote most of the songs myself. But in doing so, I was also very curious about my roots, the folk music of the Faroe Islands. There were no records of that back then, but the songs were passed on from mouth to mouth. I visited older people all over the islands to learn the songs myself. And I also put them on records.’

Her first records came from that folk tradition and were highly appreciated by audiences and the press. For instance, with her second album “Krákan” (2003), she won the Icelandic Music Rewards, for both best singer and performer, something that until then had only been reserved for ‘real’ Icelandic artists. With her sixth album “Larva” (2010), the musical focus shifted to a more experimental, electronic style of music. ‘I see that period as a turning point in my life.  I had been playing and making folk for a very long time, mixing it with jazz and other styles. It had become a part of my life. But I also felt it was done. As a musician and artist, I wanted to open new doors. To challenge myself creatively again. I already had some experience in bands that played rock and electro.  And wanted to explore that side of me.’

For Eivør herself, a world of new possibilities opened up. ‘My music did change, but not me. I just developed myself. It sounds cliché, but that overwhelming nature still inspires me. It has so many contrasts, from sweet and gentle to wild and dangerous. I still use them as a metaphor in my music. When I write about nature, I also write about humans, you understand? And about the challenges that exist: pollution, and climate change. But also the hope that fortunately there still is. The songs on my new album ‘Enn’ are also about that. That will be released in June.’ ‘Enn’ means ‘silent’ and will be her tenth studio album. The follow-up to “Segl” (“Sail”) , from 2020, about which she once said herself, ‘You have to hoist your sail, but you cannot control the wind.’

‘”Enn” will be my most experimental album. I studied opera singing in Iceland for five years. I brought that in now. And the songs have a more cinematic structure, I think. That’s also because I’ve done a lot of film music in the last eight years.’ And she was occasionally an actress herself on set. ‘And I use all those experiences in turn,’ she says. ‘For me, music is writing songs that invite you to get into a certain feeling, a certain mood. In the lyrics, I still leave it quite open, but as I write, I do have the big life questions in mind. Why are we here? How can I interact with the world around me? It’s all so overwhelming.’

Eivør Pálsdóttir is visibly proud. ‘Yes, proud that my music is mine, belongs to me. I don’t want to be labelled. And that’s not a bad thing. Change and development are so natural and important for an artist, and actually for the whole world. This new album was a special experience for me. It wasn’t planned at all. I was just composing new music. Music I wanted to make and hear myself. That’s how you stay honest with yourself as an artist. Of course, I have worked with different labels, but in recent years I like to release my music myself. Creative freedom is paramount for me.’

A freedom that comes to a climax during her live performances. ‘ ‘Live? That’s where the magic happens!’ In that moment, in that place… that’s where it happens. The music, the band, the audience. It’s unique and never comes back. ‘It’s where the song finds its home’.  That’s where I come closest to true freedom.’ For her new tour, she will travel almost all over Europe in the autumn. ‘With a full band I will of course play from the new album, but songs from my entire career will pass by,’ she says. Which will definitely include “Trøllabundin”, her most popular track. Including her impressive throat singing and the shaman drum, which have become so iconic for her.

Besides the “Enn” concerts, there are several more performances on her busy schedule. Such as duo concerts with HEILUNG and Ville Vajo, in venues like Red Rocks and Royal Albert Hall, as well as symphony concerts in ‘her’ Copenhagen. ‘I have had a lot of side projects in recent years. I do a lot of film music. Those are those big, more symphonic concerts.’ She has also participated in the soundtrack of video games like “God of War Ragnarök” and Netflix series. ‘All those things inspire me again, too. ‘Life is life and it’s short’. I mostly live day by day, but am always creating something new. And when I finish one thing, and think I’m done, something new creeps into my head. ‘Oh, there’s more, there’s more’. I feel my life will be too short to explore and do everything. So in that short time, I want to be as active as possible.’

Eivør: A whole world stretches out from the Faroe Islands.

Photo’s (c) Sigga Ella

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