Spotlight on Sóley

Her solo work is a stark change from the sounds of Seabear, the cheerful and poppy Icelandic septet she’s been a part of for the past five years. Even her song titles will tell you something about Sóley Stefánsdóttir–who simply goes by Sóley.

I’ll Drown. Bad Dream.

Smashed Birds. Kill the Clown.

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And, of course, About Your Funeral.

So how does one go from playing upbeat rock to writing her own dream-like songs marked with dark imagery?

According to the 25-year-old Sóley, who plays everything from keyboard to guitar, it all happened out of the blue. In fact, she had never even considered a solo career.

Two years ago, Morr Music–Seabear’s German-based record label–asked Sóley if she had any solo tracks. She only had a handful, but for Morr music it was more than enough (no pun intended). They wanted her to cut an album.

And after releasing a five-track EP in 2010, Sóley debuted her first full-length album We Sink this past fall, which has been very well received.

Sóley has steadily been gaining popularity in Europe for her solo work, touring the continent. But she is now ready to make her mark on the other side of the Atlantic. At the beginning of March, she was part of a showcase of Icelandic musicians called “Reykjavik Calling” at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. Though she only got to play a handful of songs, Sóley made quite the impression in front of a packed house, quieting them with her entrancing tunes, interspersed with humorous crowd work.

After the concert, Sóley went back to Europe. But the U.S. will get a chance to see her again. In the fall, she’s planning on making her way back to the States for a more extended stay.

Though she’s quite fond of America (she got to tour coast-to-coast with Seabear a few years back), one of the biggest challenges Sóley faces is writing her work in English. Icelandic is obviously her first language and she also was taught Danish at a very young age. Even though English isn’t her native tongue, Sóley has enjoyed the challenge of trying to create with words she’s not quite familiar with.

“I don’t know too many English words, so it really makes my imagination go to work,” she says.

Fans of Seabear will note that Sóley’s work is far different than what they’re used to hearing. When it came to writing songs for the group, Sóley said that everyone brought their own different ideas to the table but they ultimately couldn’t use every one. In her solo work, Sóley says she’s influenced by Joanna Newsom. But more so, she is inspired by poets. Not surprisingly, she cites Edgar Allen Poe as her favorite American poet.

Yet her biggest influence is an Icelandic writer named Davíð Stefánsson. For her, no other writer has had a greater impact on the way she approaches writing lyrics.

“I love his work because it’s really dark and he gets very visual with his writing,” Sóley says.

“It allows you to just close your eyes and imagine the situation he’s writing about.”

photo by Sigfús Már Pétursson
artwork by Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir

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