Music Profile: Daði Freyr

Daði Freyr has made a record. You’ll know this if you’ve been following his recent activity. The first third, released in March 2023, was an EP named I’m Making An Album 1/3.

The second EP will be named I’m Still Making An Album 2/3 and the final, full project, when it arrives on 25 August, I Made An Album.

It’s a very Daði Freyr way of looking at things: drily funny with no unnecessary fuss.

The Icelandic icon made his name in a sweet turquoise sweatshirt with a pixel portrait of his face representing his country on Eurovision and his songs are defined by an innate sense of niceness: there are no tricks or twists, no snark, just genuine good feeling and the suggestion that it might be fun to dance around in the kitchen for a bit.

His first album is a warm, loving collection of electropop that introduces Daði Freyr as an artist with plenty more to offer. He made an album and it’s going to get you dancing all night.

Freyr’s life has always been drenched in music. His parents met in a marching band and there was a lot of singing at home while he was growing up – Stevie Wonder, Icelandic pop and the dulcet tones of Sting (“Dad’s a big Police fan,” he laughs).

As a teenager he discovered nu-metal, the fire and angst of bands like Linkin Park and System of a Down surreptitiously cementing pop frameworks and melodic hooks in his musical education. “I think the rock that I listened to when I was younger was very poppy,” he says. “A lot of the songs have a very pop structure.”

He started a band which went on to win the Icelandic Battle of the Bands and they would play gigs here and there. But at 16, Daði got his hands on a copy of Daft Punk’s 1997 album Homework and he was hooked. French electronic duo Justice followed and from then on it was electronic music that captured his imagination.

He moved from Iceland to Berlin to study music production and audio engineering, then decided to stay because “the weather is better!” and the atmosphere is much more chill, less competitive.

It’s also a lot more comfortable for Daði – he’s a bit more anonymous in a city of 3.6 million people than he is in Iceland where if you’re famous, you’re very famous – Iceland only has a population of 372,500 and Daði Freyr is VERY tall.

“When you’re that famous in a bigger country that probably comes with a lot of money,” he deadpans, “But in Iceland…” It’s difficult, too, to be approached by strangers when you are someone whose social anxiety can flare up in unfamiliar situations.

After all, Eurovision has been a very big deal for Daði Freyr. He auditioned way back in 2019 as a bit of a joke but ended up being picked as the Icelandic entry for the 2020 song contest. Of course, Covid-19 happened and the contest was cancelled but by then Daði’s song ‘Think About Things’ was one of the favourites to win and ended up going viral during lockdown.

When Eurovision returned in 2021, Daði Freyr and his band Gagnamagnið represented Iceland with a song called “10 Years”, ending up in fourth place. But beyond that, Freyr now had tens of thousands of fans, the pull to perform around the world in packed venues: Eurovision had turned his passion into a career.

When Daði Freyr says he’s making an album, he really means he is making an album. Every single element of this record comes from him: every programmed note, every melody, every harmony, every beat has come from him alone in his small studio, putting everything together like a multidimensional jigsaw.

“It was important to me that I would keep it that way,” he says. He’s spent a lot of time collaborating in the past and this time felt different. “I didn’t want any of my musician friends to be on it – nobody could play a note. Nobody could sing backing vocals… nobody could do anything.” There is just one song that features other musicians, the raucous endnote ‘Bitte’.

The intense solo work of making the record is partly why he’s putting it out in chunks. “It’s kind of exhausting to make an album and I usually just want to release it as soon as I record it. Like, I just finished a song then I just want to release it the next day. I have a really hard time with waiting so long for releasing stuff.”

The opening song, ‘Thank You’, sets the tone for the album, the vibe for his live shows and is all about how grateful he is to every person who lends him their ears. Everything Daði works on has a purpose – he is always thinking about where it will go in his show, how each song, each drawing, each lyric is going to serve the project. It all sounds effortless but it takes a lot of work.

You can hear this never ending motion not only in the rhythm of ‘I Made An Album’ but also in its themes: he sings about being afraid to be stuck in one place, and wonders on ‘I’m Fine’ if finding yourself actually means pigeonholing yourself into one finite being. “Maybe I’m never going to find myself,” he says now, “and that’s ok. If you’ve found yourself, maybe you’re kind of stuck.”

On “I Just Want It” he examines the explosion in his career and wonders if it has the hold on him that it seems to. “I want a lot of things associated with fortune and fame,” he intones in a low voice, channelling something like Pet Shop Boys if they went out for a drink with Nine Inch Nails. Suddenly the song swoops into a gentle string section as he realises that he’s been drinking his own Kool-Aid, that it’s ok to want those things but they’re not the most important things in life. “I don’t exactly know what it is that I want – I try not to put too much emphasis on things like being on the cover of a magazine.”

“Bitte” is the final song on the album and the climax of Daði Freyr’s live show. It’s an explosion of sound and a riotous drum’n’bass channelling finale to what has been an electropop tour of Freyr’s brain. “I don’t speak very good German, even though I’ve lived here for eight years, so it’s a play on that.” It’s the only track that features anyone other than him, it’s kind of out there on its own and maybe hints at where Freyr might go next.

On I Made An Album, Freyr wanted to keep giving his listeners what they are used to from him: “I basically wanted this to be a very true record, to my sound and to what I’ve been working towards for the past four years – I kind of wanted to just wrap that all up,” he says. “I feel like I’m kind of closing up this chapter.” He is always thinking of his community of fans but hints, with a twinkle in his eye, “But I also like weird stuff.”

There’s a lot going on in Daði Freyr’s world: he’s got two young kids as well as an album, Eurovision and the whole rest of his life to figure out. There’s time for all of that, though: what matters is that he’s doing exactly what he is meant to do. He made an album – and that’s that.

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