Going Focus – DAGNY
For those who got to know her only this year, London-via-Tromsø artist Dagny may seem just like the usual fast-rising popstress with a clear path smoothed for success. But before Backbeat, there’s a story that’s worth knowing, the one that says much more about who Dagny Norvoll Sandvik really is: a 26-year-old artist who started from the bottom, touring Norway with her acoustic guitar for years before developing the huge pop sound for which she is now known.
Going Solo: You dropped your debut single Backbeat in September 2015, embarking on a path that eventually led to the release of your first EP Ultraviolet a month ago. The streaming numbers you have collected so far are unreal. What was the journey like? Has anything changed for you as an artist during the past year?
The journey has been incredible. This past year has been one of my most exciting yet. I feel so fortunate to get to travel around the world and work with my passion every day and with people I love! I think it’s fair to say that pretty much everything has changed.
For many, it may seem that Dagny is just one of the many popstress to emerge every year out of the blue with a hit single. But truth is that you performed and toured a lot, both locally in Norway and internationally, before Backbeat. How important has this “apprenticeship” period been for you? Did it help to figure out the kind of musician you wanted to be?
It’s been very important! I always compare it to studying; you can’t jump straight to your exam, you have to do those years of studying and really learn your craft first. For me it’s been a steep learning curve over nearly ten years of writing and performing; my sound has gone from being a Jason Mraz ukulele inspired sound to become what it is today; energetic and hooky band-driven pop music.
Also, back in those days, your melodies had definitely a more folk-ish soundscape. When did you decide to turn pop? Or better, when did you realize that it was your way to break through?
I’m fascinated by folk-music and that way of storytelling. I lived in Liverpool for five months in 2010. It had an amazing folk-scene that I found so inspiring. I had some great years playing the acoustic guitar and doing mellow songs and more mellow shows. But the truth is I’ve always been a big softie for big pop music. «Backbeat» was a turning point. I was wilder, with more drums and electric guitars. I knew immediately that it felt more like me.
Thinking about your trademark sound, the first thing that comes to my mind is that, despite its massively pop palette, it’s always built around organic instrumentals, while the electronic side remains in the background. Can you tell us how a Dagny’s song comes to life?
I spend hours in different studios with writers and producers. Then I spend hours in the rehearsal room with my band who’ve been a massive part of my music since I moved to London in 2012. We just vibe out ideas. Sometimes I come in to sessions with very specific ideas, other times not. There’s no rules. I always follow my instinctive reaction to what I like or don’t like as much.
What was the music you grew up with? Did it help to shape the artist you are now?
I grew up with parents who play jazz and Brazilian music. I expected to have an epiphany and become a jazz musician myself, but it never happened. I was a kid of the 90s. Our biggest idols were the Spice Girls and Gwen Stephanie from No Doubt. I think that stuck with me!
How was working with BØRNS on Fool’s Gold? Did you write it together or he jumped in sometimes in the midst of the writing session? It’s probably my favourite of yours.
Thank you! I’m a big fan of Børns’ work so you can imagine my level of ecstasy when he featured on «Fool’s Gold». Truth is, I’ve never met him. We always seem to miss each other in the studio by a day. He wrote a part with Tommy – who produced the track – which was originally meant for me to sing. But when I heard it I knew he had to feature on it. His voice is stunning.
To write something real, you have to step out of your comfort zone occasionally. I draw a lot of inspirations from things I observe and conversations I have.Dagny
Another highlight from the EP is in my opinion “Too Young”. Not only for the sick melody, but also for the lyrics. Quoting your words, “’Too Young’ is about when you become so comfortable in a relationship that you just stop making an effort. I think that you are always too young for that to happen, both in love and in life.” I think this one of the most common feeling that marks every longtime relationship. And also one of the most underestimated. For many songwriters, lyrics are a way to throw out their inner feelings without paying for a therapist. Is it the same for you?
I guess you could say my lyrics are like reading the diary of a girl in her 20s. To write something real, you have to step out of your comfort zone occasionally. I draw a lot of inspirations from things I observe and conversations I have. So the lyrics are honest, but not necessarily all my experiences. It’s treading a fine line and I try to be cautious; being personal and honest, but without overly exposing the people around me.
I know it sounds like a cliché, but I have to ask it anyway because it’s the truth… Why Scandinavians are so good when it comes to pop music?
Haha, I honestly have no idea! The Swedish have always led the way with pop music, they’re just another level, but now the rest of us are catching up! The Scandinavian wave!
What’s next for Dagny?
Lots of exciting surprises! I’m releasing my debut album in 2017 and though it’s early days, I can already see the contour of it. We’re heading on a European tour in February. I can not wait!