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Norwegian Pop Songstress Dagny Talks Love, Touring With LANY, and Being Called 'Mom' By Fans
"I'm genuinely just quite excited these days."
27-year-old Norwegian pop singer Dagny has a lot to be excited about: she's currently touring the U.S. for the first time as support for LANY, just released her "first proper love song" (something she believes is "a little overdue"), and has lots of new music she's ready to share with the world.
Sporting what she calls her "best Kate Moss look," Dagny stopped by Billboard's New York office the afternoon before the first of three sold-out shows with LANY at Irving Plaza to talk about everything from her music to the weirdest things fans have told her.
Dagny (full name Dagny Norvoll Sandvik) was born to Norwegian jazz musicians Marit Sandvik and Øystein Norvoll, and grew up in a home filled with the music that characterized the careers of her parents before her. "I grew up not listening to any of the pop and rock that everyone else grew up with," she remembers; her parents instead opted for bossa nova and jazz. She enjoyed the music she was surrounded by, but never had any plans to be a musician herself. She briefly toyed with the idea of being a drummer before finding release in songwriting at the age of 16 ("I think I must've had a bad relationship or something; I just had to get it out!"). She eventually found herself playing local shows, and before she knew it, she was hooked.
She moved from her hometown of Tromsø in northern Norway to London in 2012, and hasn't looked back since. The city, she says, stimulates her creativity constantly and pushes her to always do more than what she expects of herself: "You see how many people are out there and how many people are working and playing and doing so much. It was a different mentality, moving to London, which I think was good for me."
She released her debut EP Ultraviolet last September, which was written and recorded entirely during a 5-week stay in Los Angeles. The EP, she says, is a snapshot of what she was thinking and experiencing in those weeks, each song a different moment or mood.
"The whole time I was feeling so high on life. We were in sessions every day and we would go out every night and sleep for two hours and fucking go to the next session and just really live life to the fullest. And I was so excited about everything," she reminisces. "So this EP for me really represents those five weeks. Songs like 'Fight Sleep' and 'Too Young' and all these songs really captured the thoughts I had at that time, and what we were doing. We really wanted to not go to sleep; we wanted to just live and not miss out on a moment. 'Too Young' was about looking back at the way that I’d lived my life back home in London, and that maybe I got a little bit too comfortable. All of these were reflections that I had."
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Her newest single "Love You Like That" was released last Friday, the same day as the first of three sold-out shows in New York. She deems the song her "first proper love song," and blames her Norwegian personality for the delay in writing it.
"I’m not particularly good at telling people how I feel about them -- I’m from northern Norway! We’re Vikings up there! -- so we’re not all about talking about our emotions and stuff like that. So I think that this song was a little overdue. But it felt good to write it," she says. "I’ve always been really wary about using the phrase 'I love you' in a song, because it feels kind of corny and a little bit cliché. And then I fucking just went and put 'I love you' like 50 times in the song! So I think I had a lot more butterflies for this release than I’ve had in a while, because it really feels like you’re putting yourself out there in a way."
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On the songwriting process, Dagny believes that the most productive writing and studio sessions and the most meaningful songs come to her in the most organic ways. "I believe that songwriting is like chemistry between people," she says. "I like to get a sense of the person that I'm writing with, and get a feeling for the chemistry between us." If she isn't brainstorming with songwriters, she's jotting down ideas and lyrics in her notebook she keeps in her bag. "Often I come into a session and either something happened to me maybe, or maybe we have a conversation about something that sparks the kind of idea for the song. So it depends."
And as with anything else, honesty is always the best policy for Dagny. "I think that the most important thing that I’ve learned from writing the way that I write now -- going from sitting in my own bedroom until now, writing with people -- is that you have to be honest in the music," she admits. "First of all, if you don’t believe it, then nobody else is going to believe it. And second of all, if the music that I connect with is music that talks about real things and not necessarily something that I experienced, if I believe what the writer is singing, then that connects with me. And I want to make music that connects with people."
"Love You Like That" was a moment of that honesty.
"I really hope that I get to do an album that can show different kinds of emotions like that. That’s the beauty of an album. And that’s what I wanna do. And then I fucking wanna go on tour! For a whole year!"
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For Dagny, seeing an audience show love for her music gives her a rush unlike any other that makes her love it more and more with each performance. Unlike talking with collaborators in an enclosed room about her music, she loves performing because "you can tell what people think. Seeing that reaction from the audience is great," she says, smiling. "I just love going up on stage, because there’s nothing really that gives me that kick... It's just full release."
And LANY fans seem to love her as much as she loves them. "LANY’s crowd is wild. They scream louder than anyone I’ve ever heard. They’re so over the moon being at a show, and they come and sit in the queue there at 6 o’clock in the morning... It’s crazy." Being a supporting act also hasn't bothered her one bit. "Everyone’s always told me that being a support is hard because it’s not your crowd, and that most of the time people don’t care for it. That’s not right. They’ve given us such a good response." Crowds especially love her song "Bullet," which she performs at every show but has yet to release. "It’s one of my favorites. Playing it live is so much fun because it’s got so much attitude."
They love her so much, in fact, that some fans have asked her to adopt them. "I wonder if this is a thing but some of them call me 'mommy' and 'mom'... I think it's kind of cute!" she remarks. "One was even like, 'Tell me how I can be your daughter,' and I'm like 'Dude, I'm not that old, okay?'"
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After wrapping up her support with LANY in Calgary on Nov. 12, Dagny will embark on another Scandinavian tour of her own in February. She'll be releasing a few songs (including "Bullet") in the coming months. And when she has the time off, she plans to backpack around Asia.
From the sound of it, there really is a lot for her to be excited about.