Aretha Franklin

Sigrid Is Making Essential Pop Music. Can She Become a U.S. Star?

Francesca Allen
Sigrid

Meet the Norwegian singer-songwriter behind some of the year's catchiest singles.

Sigrid is home in √Ölesund, a port town nestled within the west coast of Norway where she grew up, and she’s about to go for a hike with her brother and his girlfriend.

"Hiking out here is really nice,” says the 20-year-old, who now splits her time between the southwestern city of Bergen and London. "The thing I love about Norwegian cities is that you often have nature right at your doorstep -- you don’t need to go that far. That makes it a lot easier to just get out. I hate working out, it’s the worst thing to do. When you have nature so close to your house, it’s like… okay, I can do this.”

Lately, Sigrid has only had a few days in Norway at a time: the pop singer-songwriter has been getting her international music career off the ground, and has traveled across Scandinavia, through Europe and over to America since the start of 2017. She’s performed in Berlin, New York and Los Angeles in recent months, and performed a handful of showcases at South By Southwest in March. "We tried the tacos, which were out of this world,” Sigrid tells Billboard over the phone of her time in Austin, adding wistfully, "That was the best night — when we all had tacos together.”

Sigrid’s warmth and giddiness are disarming, but she’s deathly serious about her craft. Her debut EP, Don’t Kill My Vibe, is 13 minutes of spectacular songwriting, four songs full of immediately charming hooks that wind their way toward bigger, more perfect choruses. “Don’t Kill My Vibe,” an overseas hit that has earned 12 million Spotify streams since its release in early February, delivers the type of explosive pop euphoria of Robyn’s most well-loved tracks; follow-up single “Plot Twist” is even more complex, a collection of a half-dozen refrains that would be maddeningly catchy on their own.

"I always start with writing vocal melodies before writing lyrics,” Sigrid explains. “Don’t Kill My Vibe” was made in two days last year, the first solely devoted to mapping out the various melodies running throughout the song and how she would sing them. "Making vocal hooks is my favorite thing to do,” she says. "That’s what I love about songwriting - making catchy stuff.”

Four years ago, Sigrid was 16 and her brother was playing a show in their hometown. He wanted his little sister to join him on stage, but wouldn’t let her participate unless she wrote an original song for the occasion. Sigrid’s first song took two weeks to write, but she felt like she had awakened a skill that she didn’t know existed — and wanted to further explore.

"I was thinking about studying law,” she admits. "I had several long talks with my parents, and they never forced me to do music, but they were just keen to letting me do what I wanted to do and not feeling like I had to do something that I didn’t really love. So they told me that it would probably be a good idea for me to try music — that I’d regret it if I didn’t try.”

Days before Sigrid released her debut EP through Island Records on May 5, Lorde shared a personal mix, a “playlist of bomb s--t,” and shared the Spotify list with her fans. “Don’t Kill My Vibe” made the cut, sandwiched between songs by Childish Gambino and Bon Iver. Sigrid took the co-sign as a good omen for the EP release, and a summer live run that will include a handful of European festivals and a proper pop band backing her up. “It’ll be a lot of traveling,” she shrugs, “and better to do it with my best friends.”

Can Sigrid break through in the States? She’s already developed a cult following stateside, and is more than fine with that for now. "I know that this sounds cheesy, but it’s been the time of my life,” she says of her 2017 so far. "We’ve been hanging out with fans and doing a lot of press. The reception to the song is great. I’m just honored to be doing all of this. And I can’t wait to do more."