Billboard Underground: Lay Low

What began as a side project became a full-time gig for Iceland's Lovísa Elísabet.

What began as a side project became a full-time gig for Iceland's Lovísa Elísabet. A keyboardist/vocalist in another Reykjavik band, she recorded a handful of blues- and country-influenced songs with a friend and put them on MySpace in 2006 under the name Lay Low. Today, she's sold more than 10,000 copies of her debut, "Please Don't Hate Me," in Iceland (a platinum-selling effort there) and has recently entered the studio with producer Liam Watson (the White Stripes, Holly Golightly) to prep her international debut.

"I can hardly listen to that first album anymore," the 25-year-old singer/songwriter says in her soft Icelandic lilt. "This next set is more band-oriented. Liam and I bonded over the music we love."

The as-yet-untitled effort is slated to hit her home country in October but will come to American shores in late January 2009 with the help of a tight team: Frank Riley at High Road for touring, Girlie Action for publicity and Alternative Distribution Alliance as a distributor unless a stateside label decides to pick it up. Lay Low will showcase her songs, all sung in English, on both coasts come November.

Her arrival doesn't come as a total cold call. "Mojo Love," the lead single from "Please Don't Hate Me," was featured on an episode of "Grey's Anatomy" a couple of years ago (the track has sold 1,000 digital downloads in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan). The track "Wonderplace" is slated to be included in "Searching for On the Road," the documentary behind director Walter Salles' feature film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road."

Elísabet has also found success in another, unexpected realm: the theater. After the radio and retail success of "Please Don't Hate Me," she was charged to become the musical director and performer of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "How I Learned to Drive" in Iceland. The subsequent, accompanying mini-album "Okutimar" moved 5,000 copies.

All this points to an artist ready to break out of an island country that has only 300,000 people. "I'm comfortable with English and the couple of times I toured in America, in L.A. and New York, I've felt great," she says.