- Words Ryan Cahill
- Photography Silvana Trevale
- Fashion Justin Hamilton
- Hair Vimal Chavda
- Make up Gabriella Floyd
- Photography Assistant Brynley Davies
Meet the Norwegian pop princess ready to make her mark on the UK.
As we wait for Astrid S to arrive at Notion HQ, we’re not quite sure what to expect. It’s the day after her epic support slot for Years & Years at London’s O2 Arena, and if she’s late or even fails to show at all, I think we could forgive her. Not many international artists who are yet to release an album can boast stage-time at one of the UK’s biggest venues, so we’re happy for the Norwegian pop starlet to soak up the moment. But in spite of our predictions, she rolls up on time and with just as much enthusiasm as she did on stage 10 hours beforehand. She might be young, but there’s no denying that she’s a professional.
When I learn a little about her background, her fervor makes total sense. Born and raised in a small village in Norway which houses just 1,000 people, the 22-year-old had spent her younger years yearning for international recognition, imitating Britney Spears in the mirror so that she was stage-ready by the time the labels came knocking. Taking on singing lessons, piano practice and a place in her town’s coveted marching band, she was determined to do anything that would push her closer to obtaining her life-long goal of being an international pop star. But by the time she’d reached her teen years, Astrid had already disregarded her dreams and goals as small-town wishes, rendering them totally unobtainable. Thankfully, a happy-go-lucky appearance on the Norwegian Pop Idol went better than she anticipated, and despite finishing fifth, she became recognised across Norway as one of their most promising singing talents. Fast forward to now and she’s clocked up millions of Spotify streams, supported Troye Sivan and has has her sights set on dominating the UK.
As she preps for a massive 2019, we sat down with Astrid S to talk ABBA, her LGBTQ+ fans and repelling self-doubt.
For people that don’t know, tell us about how you first became interested in music.
I grew up in a family where people listened a lot to music. My dad would play music all the time. I can’t remember myself but I’ve been told – very cliché – that I started singing or humming before I could talk, so I guess I just always had something for music. When I was three years old, my parents realised that I was more into music than an average three-year-old, because she’s just humming all the time so they signed me up for piano and singing lessons and I’ve been into music ever since.
Did you want to be a musician consistently when you were growing up?
I think I dreamt of it when I was 6 years but as I got older it just felt so out of reach so I don’t think it was ever a long-term dream of mine, just a childhood wish that I had. I remember watching Britney Spears and trying to mimic her in front of the mirror when I was little but I felt like it wasn’t realistic for me to dream of being a singer so I don’t recall doing it after 6 years old.
So, is it strange now realising that your dream has become a reality?
It’s pretty insane. It’s really strange. I think it was just coincides that got me here, in the first place at least, and then a lot of hard work. I still have to pinch myself!
You just spoke about Britney Spears and trying to mimic her, but what other artists were you listening to when you were younger?
This is such a hard question and I get it all the time, like my family would put on so many different types of artists so I feel like I answer differently every time. I remember we listened a lot to Abba, Elton John, Queen, Toto, 80s music! But then my dad would also play Rihanna, Beyoncé – anything! I really loved Abba especially when I was little!
Do you think any of the people that you listened to when you were younger have had any impact on your sound today?
I think just being from Norway and not speaking English has had a big influence from me. I couldn’t speak English until I was 13 so growing up I would just listen to music where I didn’t understand the lyric, which is pretty cool because I would just listen to the melodies and the production and the feeling and energy of the song and then after I turned 13 and started understanding English really well, it was like listening to music all over again or in a new way, because suddenly I realised there were lyrics there. I feel like it has influenced me in a way where I’m more melody driven and I’m very obsessed with the energy and feeling you get in a chest when you listen to a song, because that is what I got when I was little.
What was it like growing up in Norway?
I grew up in a very small village. There’s about 1000 people living there, so everyone knew everyone, the typical small-town cliché. It was very safe, I feel like! I got a lot of space to be independent and grow and figure out things on my own. It was very small so the only thing you could sign up for was piano, singing and marching band. I was in the marching band for 8 years because it was really cool. When I was at school everyone was in the marching band. A lot of people were into music because it was the social thing to do!
Tell me a little bit about some contemporary musicians that you’re into at the minute.
Well, I do listen to Troye Sivan, I really like him. I really like Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, Sigrid, who is also from Norway.
There’s quite a few female pop heroines in there.
Yes! There’s been so many female artists blossoming the past few years, and especially this year. It’s super exciting. For me, I’m not just listening to them because I want to be supportive of other women, but because they’re so talented and make amazing music and I can relate to them, so it’s very exciting.
You’ve released a few EPs already, but I wondered if you were working towards releasing a bigger body of work?
Yes! I’m working on an album. It’s very scary, I feel like the pressure is really on, but I’m working on it. I haven’t come that far yet to be honest but hopefully I will get to release one very soon! Hopefully, it will be out this year, but we will see! I want it to be good and I want to be really happy with it before I put something out but we will see how it goes!
I wanted to speak about your recent release “Emotion”. I found the music video super fascinating, can you tell me a bit about where the inspiration for that came from?
Well the song is kind of about how you forget that you have feelings and doesn’t treat you the right way, so I just wanted to portray that in the video, but showing that the person not treating you right can also be yourself. You can be your own biggest enemy and criticise yourself.
With that in mind, do you use your own experiences as an influence for your writing?
Yes! I think that is why I like to write and find it so inspiring. I don’t know if I would want to just make up something, so it’s always something personal. It’s kind of like writing songs has become my closest friend because I can talk about anything and put into words how I feel. It’s a nice outlet for something I feel and want to talk about.
In Norway you have a huge fan-base, and you’re building up a big fan base in the UK too, but how does the music scene compare in those two countries?
Hmm! That’s a good question. Well it’s obviously a lot bigger. I think that in England the music scene is very cool in a big way, and you guys have your own thing going on! You have your own sound. I think the music that charts in England doesn’t necessarily chart in Europe or the US, so I find it difficult to figure out how to work my way into the UK market.
Speaking of the UK, you performed at the O2 supporting Years and Years! How did you find performing there?
It totally exceeded my expectations. I owe everything to the crowd because they were so supportive, and you never know when you’re a support act how you’re going to be received, but there already over 10,000 people there when I went on stage. They sang along to my lyrics and they were cheering! It’s such a legendary venue. You walk through the halls and there’s so many posters of iconic artists that have played there, so I felt like I was one step closer to the dream of playing there myself and have my own show there.
As well as Years and Years, you’ve also supported Troye Sivan. They’re both huge LGBT figures. I wondered if you felt a particular resonance to your LGBT+ fans?
I’ve always had a close relationship with them. Some of my most supportive fans are from the LGBTQ community, so I have so much love, respect and support for them and they have always showed that back. I feel like it’s a very special bond, and something that I have had since the very start of my career.
What have you got lined up for this year?
I’m hoping to tour. I will hopefully release an album and some collaborations will happen, but I don’t know if I can say that much more about those
Finally, what are you hoping to achieve in the long run?
I think as long as I think this is fun and the magic and is still there and I feel inspired. I think what means the most is bringing people together, feeling like you belong somewhere and that you can relate to something. I want to be a little part of someone’s every-day life, and that’s why I keep doing this and working hard.