How one of Iceland’s most prominent singers went from singing alone to singing worldwide in only a couple of weeks

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Pandeia got a moment of Ásgeir’s Trausti busy schedule after he finished playing at Skanderborg Festival (Smukfest) in Denmark, and right before he flew off to his home in Iceland.

Despite Ásgeir Trausti’s young age of 21 and his relatively short career, he is one of Iceland’s biggest stars at the moment and is a long way into his international career. This summer he made a quick stop at Skanderborg’s lively music festival located in Denmark to play his music.

What is unusual about this young singer is that his father writes some of his lyrics and he did not really sing in public before he became famous.

His sudden and unexpected popularity came about when Ásgeir met a record producer in Iceland and for fun they decided to record a few of his songs. Ásgeir said: “One day I simply met Kiddi, our soundman, and gave him some songs I had recorded and we started playing around with the recording. And a few weeks later we sent a couple of them to the radio, and that is how the ball started rolling”.

“It just exploded in 2012 and I decided to dedicate myself to it for some time.”

Ásgeir never planned to play to more than for himself. “I never really planned to play music in front of other people or become a musician at all, I only wrote for myself. I have been playing since I was 6-year old but I never thought I would take my music further, publish it or play it in front of other people.”

Before Ásgeir knew it, he was well-known in Iceland, held an international record deal in his hand and was starting to prepare himself to leave Iceland to tour around the world. He describes his doubts and feelings on how he was not (in any way) ready for this journey:

“I had never actually sung in front of people before, and therefore I had absolutely no experience. So I jumped into the deep end with this without being ready for it at all. I knew it would be very difficult for the first few months, the first years – it still is difficult.”

Today his band has become well-known in the Nordic countries, Europe, Japan and Australia, and is making a break into the American market. “It is at the starting stage in the U.S.,” said Ásgeir modestly, despite having had two successful tours and a newly published record there.

He emphasises this is still all very new to him, “it takes time to learn and get into the whole thing and it is still all very new to me: even though we have now played more than 300 concerts I am still getting used to the whole idea.”

Ásgeir mentions that he is very self-critical on his performance on stage and he has a hard time feeling satisfied with his performance; he describes feeling nervous before entering stage every time. “I used to think that having a glass of red wine before going on stage would fix my nerves, but somehow it did not do the trick so now I result in having a cup of tea before going on stage with my buddies and having a chat with them.”

Despite Ásgeir’s stage fright his focus is still on his music and the crowds experience for every concert. It is important to stay focused he said: “it is important for you to find your place before going to stage, it is a mindset you need to get into.”

He smiled and added: “I have seen such progress since we first started: it is all going better now, I knew it would happen at some point.”

Previously their music was only written in Icelandic, but the band started translating their lyrics into English 2 years ago. “The main reason was that I was going abroad and wanted to reach to as many people as possible. It made more sense that it would be on a language that everybody understood,” said Ásgeir.

His band was not at all sure of how the feedback for translating into English would be at the start:

“There are a lot of people who like the songs in Icelandic. I was not sure myself when we started. I honestly had no idea how this worked: if it mattered if we sang in Icelandic or English at all. So we had to take a chance with this and simply try it in English”.

“But it has definitely been beneficial to do so, there are certain countries who only know our music today in English.” he adds.

Most of the Nordic countries still play his music in Icelandic, apparently making Trausti a little happy as he smiled and added “I think it is great that they play it in Icelandic.”

“It felt very weird for the first weeks to sing my songs in English, but today I’m used to it,” Ásgeir describes.

Recently Ásgeir started writing his songs in English, saying he is tired of translating. It should not concern the audience who prefer the Icelandic lyrics as he has not stopped writing in his own language.

Regarding making new music there is not a set plan to make it  at the moment said Ásgeir. “It is rather hard to write music while we are touring, the only free time we have  is spent sitting in a bus, so whenever I get home I try to have time to go to the studio and record some new music.”

About the start in Iceland, Ásgeir mentions the band had to go through a bit of transition cutting down members before touring abroad: “we had a whole brass band on stage with us along with seven band members. In Iceland it is not expensive to tour in so we could do whatever we wanted there.”

They changed the band’s structure without having any problems in only a couple of weeks before leaving, almost everybody in the band are guitar players who can play almost any other instrument, which made it easier.

Obviously the band has become very close touring together: “it is like family, it is an annoyingly tight group we have here,” said Trausti. With all his focus placed on the music he says that it only makes their music better to spend so much time together.

Despite Ásgeir’s short time in the spotlight, he has caught well-deserved attention worldwide.  Still, with his feet on the ground, modesty and determination to get even further,  it will certainly be exciting to follow up on him work in the future.

With  all the variety of music Skanderborg festival has to offer, Trausti certainly fit in  the goal of making it “Smukfestival” – the prettiest festival in Denmark.

Written by Svanlaug Árnadóttir

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