- 22 May 20
The Norwegian pop artist's EP is out today.
When Dagny greets me down the line from her home, she is weeks shy of the Side A release of her debut album, titled Strangers / Lovers, and we find ourselves smack in the middle of Coronavirus quarantine. Gobal tensions are running high and countless artists have indefinitely postponed albums and single releases, but the Norwegian singer-songwriter is feeling pretty zen.
"We live in a world that's so fast-paced," she says. "I think because of social media, there's a pressure to be doing the right amount of hard work versus the right amount of socialising, so it felt like a lot of people managed to take a step back and pause. I'm lucky that most of the groundwork for the record – press photos, recording – was already done, so in a way, I've just been trying to enjoy it". Was she worried about releasing her EP in the middle of the pandemic?
"I think people need music now more than ever. It's been helping a lot of people get through this time, and giving people a reason to dance around their living room seemed like a good idea", she laughs. "In the last year, I've gotten very used to the phrase 'we should push it back'. I think I was really set on releasing the record. I didn't really think of postponing as an option. I understand why people do, because you can't go out, tour, or do promo...definitely isn't the best time to be releasing a record, but here we are".
The 29 year old has had a busy four years. After releasing her first EP in 2016, she became associated with a group of Nordic artists paving the way in pop music. Her knack for creating irresistible hooks and the aforementioned dance-around-your-sitting-room euphoria meant her name was frequently thrown in with the likes of BØRNS and Sigrid. Although she is well-deserving of a mention in that breath, it's still surreal for her to hear it. "I totally feel like I just happened to fall into it, and I still have something to prove", she says bluntly. "I think a lot of people in pop music – I definitely feel like this, too – suffer from this imposter syndrome. Because you never really feel like you land, or you've cracked the code. Sometimes you don't even know how it happens".
Part of this is no doubt due to the ever-changing nature of the pop machine. It's an industry that is constantly evolving, and it's harder than most people think to write a good pop song. "People totally underestimate that," she says. "In high school I studied music. And everyone was all about jazz or classical. They would give me so much shit, saying 'pop music is only four chords and everyone can do that', just teasing me a bit.
"Of course we just laughed it off, but I think it always stuck with me. The more I dug into it, the more I realised there's a real art to it. Sometimes, the simplest things can be the most complicated to execute, and manage to say so much, without necessarily having a lot of time to say it. I have a huge amount of respect for pop music, and writers and producers in the genre. I'm just so impressed by them".
Ironically, it was a folk singer that was the catalyst for Dagny's desire to write. "I think I saw a clip of Eva Cassidy on the TV, with an acoustic guitar. I had this romanticised image of what songwriting was. My parents are both musicians, so there was always music around. When I actually started writing songs, it was just something I found I really enjoyed."
She didn't set out to become a pop star, though. "I wasn't interested in going out and conquering the world. It took me quite a long time to even get here...I didn't release my first single until I was 25. I started picking up the guitar when I was fifteen".
Following the critical and cultural acclaim of her debut EP, it became commonplace to associate Dagny with overnight success, but she is first person to try to dispell that myth. She counters its mention with an emphatic "Oh, that's bullshit" from the other end of the phone. "That is the biggest myth that exists," she says. "Even Lewis Capaldi – we just had a conversation about him this morning. He seemed to 'come out of nowhere', but he had been gigging and writing for years! In a way, I think saying that about artists is almost unfair. It somehow takes away from the work they put in".
Strangers / Lovers, the first side of her debut album was released today (May 22). It shows exactly how Dagny's hard work has paid off. Chronicling lust, love, and femininity, its surface is full of that pure, glittering euphoria she is so good at producing, but underneath, it's made of stronger stuff.
Listen to Strangers / Lovers below.