Reykjavik Nights 2 @ London
Interview with Hafdis Huld by Kolla Karlsdottir of Two Little Dogs
Over ten years have passed since Hafdís Huld was touring the world with Gus Gus at the tender age of 16. Since then a lot of water has passed under the bridge - she's collaborated with numerous high-profile musicians (such as FC Kahuna and Tricky) and her first solo album, Dirty Paper Cup, was released in October last year on Redgrape Records. That recording has received critical acclaim worldwide and was voted the best pop album of 2006 at the annual Icelandic Music Award ceremony.
Since then Hafdís Huld has played all over UK and Europe. Most recently, she appeared at the In the City festival in Manchester where she was chosen from a group of one thousand artists, along with four others who are felt to have show outstanding achievements in their respective fields. She also performed at the French music event Les Femmes Sén Melent, a festival that focuses on showcasing the most interesting and outstanding female artists from all over the world. She is currently working on a children's album in collaboration with a Icelandic children's charity fund.
TLD: Your first solo album, Dirty Paper Cup was relesed last year. Has it been long in the making?
I have been working on this album alongside other projects for the last five years. Since I moved to London I've met a lot of people and have been trying various approaches to music. I was only fifteen when I joined Gus Gus, but at that age one hasn't necessarily found ones path as a musician. When you're a teenager you're trying out all kinds of stuff, and I learned a lot from being in a band like Gus Gus. All the collaboration I've had with various musicians has taught me a lot and had it's say in molding the musician I am today.
It wasn't until I moved to London when I was 20, and started recording on my own, that I finally didn't have to make compromises and could write songs the way I wanted them.
TLD: Would you say this is a girly record through and through?
I'm an extremely corny person. I love girly things, glimmer and soap bubbles. And now that I'm in control I am free to write songs about how cute guys are and how wonderful life is, whenever I feel like it. So far the album has been favorably received by boys and girls alike. I love playing with words, and when you listen to the album initially it may be full of cute pop songs. However, there is actually a lot of thinking behind them and some of the songs have a darker edge when you listen closely. People who've had the album for sometime are telling me they just recently discovered these little hints of darkness and want to know more about the lyrics. I like getting this response because I put a whole lot of work into these things when working on the album, and it's a joy when people discover that.
TLD: How has the media here in UK treated you?
I've had a lot of positive responses. All kinds of people have gotten in touch and told me they've heard my songs on the radio, and that's great. I don't have a huge label backing me up so the album hasn't really been marketed to full extent. I therefore haven't been preparing for something huge to happen. Of course, you hope people will write good reviews, but I wasn't necessarily expecting that so I was prepared to be disappointed. Then the review started pouring in and it's gotten 4 stars in most of them. All the criticism in both radio and newspapers has been very positive. I'm also grateful for the good responses I've had in Iceland, because, although it's a small market, it happens to be my 'home market' so to speak. It was therefore a great honor for me to receive the Best Album of the Year award there.
TLD: What's with the name, Dirty Paper Cup?
This is a line from one of the songs on the album. "Before you leave you write your name on a dirty paper cup". The song is about a boy and a girl on a hot summer afternoon in a park. The paper cup was the only thing he had on which to write his phone number. So it's a little love story. The reason why I picked this was so as not to give the listener too much clue as to what he should be expecting from the album.
TLD: You're also working on a childrens album.
Once a month I teach a bunch of children in the Icelandic congregation here in London. We play with puppets and sing a whole lot of songs. I like the songs, but these are the same songs I was singing when I went to Sunday school myself. I feel they're out of sync with the pop culture that kids grow up with today; the songs they're singing are older than their teacher. So I decided to apply for a grant at Christian funding foundation in Iceland called Kristnihátíðarsjóður, and thus focus on spending time writing songs. The idea was to write songs especially for the Sunday school. The songs I wrote are a little more pop and modern. When I was driving last year with my little niece from Reykjavik to Akureyri, I found out that the monkey song was her favorite and it was played 30 times on the way. My goal was to make a beautiful children's album that both children and adults could enjoy, with both a healthy message for kids but equally fun to enjoy musically. It's a fun project to work on because it's so totally different from what I'm usually doing. Instead of focusing on myself I love just working with music in general, recording and also writing music for others.
TLD: What's a typical day in the life of Hafdis Huld like?
Like all up-and-coming Brits who are adjusting to British society, I start my day with a good cup of tea. In fact I think I'm now 70% tea. I'm being offered tea every two minutes, Either I'm drinking tea or on my way to make some. Then I fire up my computer and check the status, talk to the manager, talk with the band and make sure everyone can go wherever we are playing next. The day is then mostly spent writing songs in my little home-studio, that is when I'm not touring, which i do a lot of these days.
I'm finally starting to feel like this is my home, I used to always feel like I was just a visitor, and used every opportunity to fly back home to Iceland. But since I'm getting to understand the British humour and have even gotten used to the ugly rugs at the pub, I feel like I'm adapting quite well. Still, it's always nice to go home and visit my friends and mum and dad, I can't do without that.
Photos by Jon Baker.