Sounds European! has been following his work since he was a member of September. We watched the debut of his solo career and fell in love with all the singles he has released. Now, we are pleased to introduce a very special interview with him! These are our 10 questions for Birgir:
Sounds European!: What are your first memories with music? Who did you use to listen when you were a kid? At what age did you start singing and playing instruments?
Birgir: I have always been a music lover. I would always sing along to almost everything that was thrown at me. However, I had some favourite bands growing up, which in some sense, shaped me into the musician I am today. I have been a Muse fan for as long as I can remember. I started playing the drums quickly after discovering Muse, maybe at 14 years of age, but I only played the drums for a few years until I converted over to singing and playing the piano. Along with Muse, I had some other favourite bands – Coldplay, John Mayer, Keane and Quarashi, for example.
SE!: You were a member of the group September. What can you tell us about this period? How did you form the group? What are your best memories and experiences with them? And how did you decide to start your solo career?
B: September is basically where my recording career started. Initially, in 2011, we were a duo, me and my good friend Eyþór Úlfar Þórisson. At first, we sang our songs, but soon the style changed from an organic flavour to a dancier feel, with various singers joining in. Along the way, we added a third member to the group, Andri Þór Jónsson. We all share good memories together and wrote some pretty decent songs. Eventually, in late 2016, I decided I wanted to start my solo career and quit September. But no hard feelings, we are all good pals and Andri still writes music with me. I just thought it was the right decision for me to move on at that time.
SE!: Now, let's talk about your solo work. We feel a wonderful mix of classic and modern rock in your music. How about you? How would you describe your music, in genre and style? Who would you say are your influences? And what do you want people to feel when listening to your songs?
B: In a certain way, it makes sense that my music is a bit of a mix of classic and modern pop-rock. My father is a well renowned musician, so I am a bit influenced by the music he listened to when I was young – that mostly being The Beatles, Paul Simon, James Brown and some other classics. I was always a bit rock based, as my favourite artists were Muse, Keane, John Mayer, Coldplay and The Killers, to name a few. So it doesn't surprise me that my music is a bit of a mix of classic and modern rock. I would describe my style as a mixture of rock and pop, but I am always looking to add influences and improve, and surely I am going to be influenced by some other artists in the future. When I write my music, I don't really tend to think too much about what others would think about it, I just write what I feel like. But of course it's great if other people relate to it.
SE!: You are not only a singer, but also a songwriter and musician. How do you compose your music? Is there any occasion or place which stimulates you, or makes you more comfortable, to compose?
B: I have written most of my songs at home, under the stairs, playing an old upright piano that my grandparents had for many years. I'm not really superstitious, but I believe magic happens there – I kind of feel like Harry Potter, alone under the stairs. I spend a lot of time writing music, mostly late in the evenings, but a fair share of it eventually comes to nothing. However, every now and then, I get that special feeling, and I just know from the bottom of my heart that there is something special going on.
SE!: Your songs have reached millions of streams on Spotify. This is really impressive, specially considering the facts that you are still starting your career, and you come from a country which only has a bit more than 300000 inhabitants. How do you feel, knowing people are enjoying your music so much?
B: To be honest, I didn't see it coming. I have always had great belief in my songwriting, and of course I hope people like what I am doing, but I always considered that as a bonus. I write music because I love doing it, and that's it. However, I am very thrilled about the attention and praise that my latest single has been getting, both on Spotify and in Iceland. Knowing people are enjoying my work is a wonderful feeling.
"I have written most of my songs at home, under the stairs. I'm not really superstitious,
but I believe magic happens there – I kind of feel like Harry Potter"
but I believe magic happens there – I kind of feel like Harry Potter"
SE!: Going a little further on the matter of your country. Iceland has a small population, and it is somewhat isolated – geographically speaking – from the European continent. How is it to develop a music career in such a small market? Is it possible to make a living only from music there? Or is it necessary to expand to other countries?
B: Needless to say it's very tough to make a living solely by writing and/or playing music in a small market like that. Only a handful of people make a handsome living, and most musicians resort to various jobs to earn their bread. Therefore, it's necessary to reach other markets, and of course the Internet offers a platform for expanding.
SE!: When you look to the future, what are your professional aspirations? What do you still dream to achieve with your music?
B: It has always been a dream to make music that people all over the world can enjoy, whether it's making singles, albums or playing concerts. Obviously, I am young and just recently started my career, but in the long run I would see myself continuing making music and maybe performing abroad, hoping that people enjoy listening and singing along to my songs.
SE!: What are your professional projects for the near future? What can your fans expect from you, for the end of 2017 and 2018?
B: At the moment, I am working on a new EP album to be released in 2018. I have been "under the stairs where magic happens" for the past few weeks. I will also be playing at some off-venue concerts at the Iceland Airwaves festival in November. So things are on the up and I am very excited about the future.
SE!: We know you have worked with some great Icelandic artists (also counting the period you were a member of September). Could you name some of them, and tell us a bit about how it was to work with them? And if you could choose anyone, who would be some other Icelandic and international artists you would like to collaborate with?
B: I have worked with many brilliant artists over the past few years, some fairly big names here in Iceland including Steinar, Raven, Stefanía Svavars, Sylvia, Bjartmar, María Ólafs and Jón Jónsson. I have had a great time working with each and every one of them and they are all great artists. It's really hard to choose one of them who I would possibly collaborate with in the future. Maybe Jón Jónsson or Raven, as their style of music is quite similar to mine.
SE!: We would like to finish this interview with a song of yours. What is your favorite song by Birgir, and why?
B: I like all of my songs, for many different reasons. For example, I spent a lot of time writing "With you" and I sometimes feel a bit emotionally connected to it, even though the story isn't about myself. Of course "Can you feel it" is very special to me and it's got a feel-good vibe to it that I really like. It's probably my favourite so far.