Since Zane Lowe premiered Dagny’s debut track, “Backbeat,” on Beats 1 in September 2015, the Norwegian musician has seen a swift rise. The infectious pop tune and its a percussive clap swept the internet, Dagny was signed to Republic Records, and has been gigging her way across Europe. Last month, she offered fans a fitting follow-up with “Fool’s Gold,” an up-on-your-feet anthem about unattainable love featuring BØRNS. We’re pleased to announce that one year after her music hit the airwaves, on September 2, Dagny will release her debut EP, Ultraviolet (Republic Records). She recorded the album in Los Angeles in March and April of this year, and tells us that the remaining tracks on the EP are quite different from what she’s already released, but to expect the “energetic, band-driven pop” she’s delivered thus far.
“I guess we’ll see how it goes,” she says of Ultraviolet when we meet in Oslo, Norway at Øya Festival. “I’m a little scared, but excited. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been playing for so many years but I’ve barely released anything, so it’s definitely a new chapter.”
FULL NAME: Dagny Norvoll Sandvik
HOMETOWN: Tromsø. It’s very, very, very far up north in Norway. For such a small town, it’s really cultured. It’s really nice, it’s got some amazing surroundings, and obviously the fact that it’s so far away from everything probably makes it a little different in some ways.
BASED: London. I left Norway when I was 21, in 2012. Bloody hell, it’s gone fast, hasn’t it? I’ve been in London for five years now. I like it a lot. It’s an exciting city. I think I needed a change at that point when I left. Because it’s so much bigger, you have to really want what you do, because there are so many people doing it. It’s a different mentality in London. I’m happy I had the chance to grow up in Norway and now experience a place like London, and have those influences as well.
“BACKBEAT”: However many streams you get, however much attention you get on one song, I don’t think you’re ever expecting someone to come to your show and sing you your song. It’s weird, and it’s definitely not one of the easier songs to sing back so that makes me even more impressed when people do. [laughs] It was almost a relief when people liked it; that was the first thing I released. I remember sitting in a flat with my friends and Zane Lowe [of Beats 1] was going to play it on a Wednesday. We were really building up, we had the Coronas ready or whatever, and everyone was like, “Here it comes! Here it comes!” And then it played, and after everyone said, “Wow, so what happens now?” We were just looking at each other like, “Well, I guess that was it, then.” It took about 24 hours until we started seeing things bubbling online, and then over the next four days it went a bit mental. Then it was like, “Thank god,” because if that was it, if it had just played… It was so nice to see it start taking on its own life. We put it out, and it started living on its own, however cliché that sounds.
TAKING THE STAGE: Both of my parents are [musical], but I didn’t think I was going to be a musician until quite late actually. It was always there but it wasn’t really that something that—I guess maybe because it was there, I didn’t think about it. I had a lot of other dreams. It was when I was about 15 or 16 that I started playing music myself. It was weird, because it was a competition project in school [that started it]. We had to do this school project and we had make this song and I had absolutely nothing. We had to go up and perform in front of the class and the night before, I was just like, “Fuck, I’ve got to write something.” So I wrote this song and performed it in front of the class the day after and the teacher was like, “Okay, we’ve got to put you on some gigs around town.” That’s when I started realizing that songwriting was something that I was really passionate about. It was actually songwriting that I originally wanted to do, I wanted to be a songwriter, not necessarily a performer, even though I was always performing around the house, dancing and singing. That’s kind of how it kicked off. Then being in a small town, you get a lot of opportunities; it’s not that big, so if there was something happening I was involved with it somehow.
FIRST SONG: It was a song called “Silence.” It was written on a Friday, because it started with “It’s quiet / It’s Friday,” so it was very easy to remember that. I must’ve been around that age, 15 or 16. I remember that song very well because every time I play a show, my brother will ask me, “Can’t you play that song ‘Silence’?” I’m like, “Björn, it was 10 years ago, come on.” [laughs]
PEN TO PAGE: Normally, chords and melody come first. I’m very much a melody girl. Lyrics, it’s a little harder. I find that challenging. I write a lot with different people, and obviously writing with other people it just comes down to the chemistry with whomever you work with. I think a big part of it is just finding someone that you have that thing with, and then you start vibing it out. Actually, writing with other people, that’s equally a big part of it, just getting into it where you get excited and you start making each other excited, and you’re throwing out ideas, and it’s like, “Yes!” or “No!” Then we try and work them out, maybe rehearse them, and change them a little bit, but I find that it’s often those initial few days that you write a song that are really, really, important, because your gut feeling is reacting immediately to what’s going on. When you’ve gotten used to playing a song, it’s harder to go back and change it, because it’s kind of found it’s little thing.
EARLY INFLUENCES: I bet it was a Spice Girls [record] or something like that, but I remember the first record that really made an impression—obviously, except from the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys, which we knew all the words to, and we had a lot of Norwegian child records too. It was Eva Cassidy’s Songbird and Imagine, I got them for Christmas around 15 or 16. At the same Christmas I saw her do this little gig on the television, just her and the guitar in this little, dark pub—it was live footage that they aired around Christmas one year. That’s when I was like, “Okay, I’ve got to start playing the guitar. I need to start singing songs.”
HER NOT-SO-NORDIC SOUND: I love a lot of the music that comes out of Norway, but a lot of the commercial pop from Norway is more electronic. It’s a very Nordic sound, and I don’t really have the Nordic sound. I grew up with my parents playing jazz and Brazilian music around the house, which probably explains why I love rhythmical music. I don’t know if I would fit into the Nordic sound but I definitely think that coming from Norway, it’s a beautiful country, and growing up almost in the woods, I think it’s impossible not to get affected by the surroundings. I think you can hear that in a lot of music, not necessarily in my music now, but probably at some point.
A POP GIRL TO THE CORE: I think I’ve probably always been a pop girl. There was a period where I was trying to deny it, but I can’t anymore. [laughs] I love pop music, I do, I love a good pop tune. Actually, sometimes the simpler songs are the hardest to write. But then I had that period, I don’t know if you remember that Jason Mraz, “Banana Pancakes” surfer guy—Jack Johnson—period. All of those guys were around so there was a period where I was doing ukulele folk-pop songs, but I’m definitely a pop girl. I like country and Americana and stuff like that, but you’re a different kind of storyteller, I think, if you’re a country artist.
For more Norwegian acts to know from Øya Festival 2016, click here.