One to watch: Sigrid

Another Scandi-pop sensation with an ethereal voice? Yes, but there’s inner steel to this savvy Norwegian singer

Somewhere, several middle-aged men are kicking themselves. In a writing session with a young musician, Sigrid Solbakk Raabe, they patronised her, talked over her and acted as if her ideas were worthless; she sat there smiling and biting her tongue.

The session did turn out to be important to Sigrid, just not in the way the producers intended. The 20-year-old Norwegian singer has penned a near-perfect revenge pop anthem voicing all the things she wishes she’d said. “You shut me down, you like the control/ You speak to me like I’m a child,” she sings on her breakout hit Don’t Kill My Vibe, before her crystalline voice pirouettes around the killer chorus: “You think you’re so important to me, don’t you?”

The feeling of being spoken down to and underestimated struck a chord. Streamed more than 13m times on Spotify, the song (co-written with producer Martin Sjølie) has been billed as “the ultimate millennial empowerment anthem”. A single listen got Island Records so excited they got on a plane the next day to sign Sigrid. Lorde picked it as one of her favourite new songs on a Spotify playlist; the Guardian called her “the new Lorde, basically”.

“I remember writing the song and thinking it felt like a really big deal to me, but I didn’t think it would be like this,” she tells me over the phone as she makes her way from a soldout gig in Manchester – her second ever show as headliner – to play in London. Although navigating similar situations can be particularly tricky for young women, she says, she hopes the song can be read in different ways. “It’s about a writing session for me, personally, but we tried to make it as general as possible. Not being treated OK is something everyone can relate to, no matter what age or gender.”

Born in the seaside town of Ålesund, Norway, Sigrid spent her childhood immersed in nature, listening to Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. The first time she was put on stage in kindergarten, with 200 other children, she burst out crying and had to be taken off. Getting involved in school theatre made her bolder, and aged 13 she performed a “terrible, but very fun” version of Smells Like Teen Spirit. In 2013 her older brother, musician Tellef Raabe, spurred her to write her own music so she could perform at a gig with him, and in two weeks she had written a song, Sun, that became her first single.

Watch the video for Don’t Kill My Vibe.

Don’t Kill My Vibe, Sigrid’s first EP, released earlier this month, showcases moments of Adele-like heartbreak, catchy choruses and sprinklings of Joanna Newsom and Grimes. Dynamite is an acoustic song about two people growing apart (“You’re as safe as a mountain/ But know that I am dynamite”); Plot Twist is inspired by a boy “playing games”, Fake Friends makes the case for burning bridges. The lyrics are often underpinned by anger, melancholy or disappointment. “I find it easier to write about stuff that is frustrating,” she says. “Writing songs about having a nice time – ‘Oh I’m so happy on tour with my band’ – I’d find it really difficult to write a good song about it.”

Although Sigrid initially planned to become a lawyer or a teacher (“I didn’t think music was possible for me – it’s such an up-and-down life”), she’s glad she took the risk. She now lives in Bergen with her brother and his girlfriend, and spends her time hanging out with the local musicians (singer/producer Aurora is a friend). When she needs a break from music she likes hiking and reading (she has just finished Victoria by Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun).

She’s also not afraid to take risks musically. When I ask for her dream collaborators, she replies, at least half-seriously: “Stormzy? That would be really cool. I started listening to him last year: I love the production, and the rapping is so fast, it’s really impressive. I’m trying to incorporate that into my pop songs.”


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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