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Laufey: A Rising Star

I love the Blue Lagoon. It’s one of my favorite places. Everyone’s reaction is the same. They’re like: “Oh my god, this place is real.”

Laufey is a 23-year-old Chinese-Icelandic singer/songwriter, cellist, and pianist who creates music of stunning depth rooted in the traditional forms of her primary sonic influences: classical and jazz. As a child, she split time between Washington D.C. and Reykjavík, performing as a soloist with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra at the age of fifteen. Known by her mononym—Laufey—she also competed in the 2014 season of Iceland’s Got Talent, reaching the finals. This success was soon followed by an appearance on The Voice Iceland, where she reached the semifinals while becoming the youngest competitor in the series' history.

Attending Berklee College of Music in the late 2010s, she recorded her debut single "Street By Street," which was a sublime distillation of her vocal jazz influences paired with a simmering R&B groove. Self-released through social media in 2020, the song ultimately went viral, eventually rising to #1 on the Icelandic charts and catapulting Laufey's distinctive sound to a wider audience. This breakthrough was followed by an invitation to host her own weekly program on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds. Titled Happy Harmonies, the show is a genre-hopping showcase of uplifting music. In 2021, Laufey released Typical of Me, an EP which has garnered more than ten million streams across all digital streaming platforms. On the strength of the album's elegant song cycle—a set of vocal jazz compositions written during Covid lockdown—Laufey was named Best New Artist in Jazz & Blues at the 2021 Icelandic Music Awards. Her meteoric ascent continued in 2022 with an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, where she performed "Like The Movies," a pristine piece of jazz lyricism evocative of such legends as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Chet Baker.

But 2022 has proven to be a nonstop whirlwind as she pivots from one success to the next. Her debut album, Everything I Know About Love, released in August, went Top 10 on Spotify in the US and the UK. She has also sold out every date in North America and Europe on her “Everything I Know About Love” tour, including two nights at Reykjavík’s Harpa, where she was backed by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Following her performance at Iceland Airwaves on November 3, she will conclude 2022 with appearances at the Montreal Jazz Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival. Blessed with a voice that has all the timeless elegance and emotive sophistication of the classic singers from the golden age of jazz, Laufey explores the inspiring divide between tradition and reinvention. Taking time out from her chaotic schedule, Laufey was kind enough to visit us at Blue Lagoon and answer several questions regarding her music, her upbringing, and the Blue Lagoon.

How did you begin your career as a musician? I started playing music from a very young age. My mother is a classical violinist in the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, so music was inescapable growing up. I played cello and piano, and then when I was a teenager, I started singing and writing songs as well. And I mixed all of those things together and somehow it turned into what it is today. Growing up in between Reykjavík and Washington, what’s your first impression of the Blue Lagoon? I used to come here with my parents when I was very very young. And I remember, we used to have the choice of going to the regular swimming pool or what we called “bjakksund,” which just meant icky swimming. Because when you’re a kid you taste the water, and the water from the Blue Lagoon obviously tastes kind of funny. So that was my first impression: icky swimming. Then, as I grew up and grew older, it became something I always wanted to do, and now it’s one of my favorite things in the world.

What do you know about the Blue Lagoon? What I know about the Blue Lagoon is what I learned from my father every time we’d drive past the lagoon. He was always trying to tell me how they found the lagoon. I love telling people about it when I have visitors here.I love the Blue Lagoon. It’s one of my favorite places to bring people. Everyone’s reaction is the same. They’re like: “Oh my god, this place is real.” How does Icelandic nature inspire you? It’s so vast and it’s quite isolated as well. Because of that, there’s this very dreamlike quality to it. And I think as a musician I’ve always had this sense of wanderlust. And that comes from this crazy Icelandic nature. Jazz vocal sensation Laufey performs her song "Let You Break My Heart Again" on the banks of the Blue Lagoon.

Blue Lagoon is a proud sponsor of Iceland Airwaves.

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