One of my favorite female artists of this moment is Lára. Iceland Music Export put her in the Spotlight.
Lára - Iceland's Newest Pop Queen
Born and raised in Reykjavík, Lára developed a love for music while growing up listening to her father playing and recording with legendary Icelandic band Grafík. Through him, Lára was introduced to artists such as Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Nick Cave.
Lára released her first album, "Standing Still", in 2003 and the following year collaborated with Damien Rice, both on stage and in the studio. Lára was inspired by Stina Nordenstam and the Cardigans for her second album "Þögn" (Silence) in 2006.
Her latest album, "Surprise", is out now on Icelandic independent label Record Records and is influenced by female artists such as Goldfrapp, Regina Spektor, Lily Allen, Bat for Lashes, St Vincent, Kate Nash, Lykke Li and Florence and the Machine.
Lára will be bringing her particular brand of insouciant pop to London on 9. June, supporting Amy MacDonald for Q The Music Club. The video for her latest single “I Wanna Be” was directed by Britsh film-maker Henry Bateman and has received huge interest and airplay in her native Iceland.
Read an interview with Lára by IMX
What can you tell us about your early days and growing up with music?
I've always loved music. I was constantly performing in my living room as a child; playing instruments, singing, dancing or reading poems. I must have been a pain in the ass sometimes. I grew up with music. My mom used to sing with me before I went to sleep and my dad was studying classical guitar at the time and used to play up to 7 hours a day. He played a lot of music from South America, so that music brings me back to my childhood. When I was four years old my dad was recording with legendary band Grafík, and I sometimes followed him to the studio. I also got to hang out with the coolest musicians at parties when I was just five years old.
What were your initial music influences, outside the family?
When I was a teenager I usually just listened to the radio but I remember that I loved Radiohead, Wu Tang Clan and Celine Dion. When I was finishing high school I started working in a music store and got to know a lot of amazing music: Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Chet Baker, Mark Lanegan, Blonde Redhead and Regina Spektor.
Did you go to music school?
I started playing the flute at six, piano at seven, and graduated with a degree in Classical Singing in 2006.
What are your main musical strengths? Composition? Songwriting? Singing?
A mix of all. I'm more of a songwriter than a singer, more of a singer than a guitar player, more of a guitar player than a drummer.
How old were you when you recorded your first album – and how was the experience, looking back?
It was much more fun than I hoped it would be. I was very lucky working with Siggi from the band Hjálmar, who is an amazing musican. He produced the album. I was only 20 and hadn't really thought of what I wanted to do in music. With Siggi everything started out just fine.
Had you been in lots of bands or recorded / performed much before then?
No, I was never in a band before I started solo. But I'm the guest singer of two other bands now, Lifun from Keflavík and Kokteilkvartett Jakobs Smára. I'm also the keyboard player for Rúnar Þórisson.
You famously performed with Damien Rice in Iceland, which led to a recording: how did that occur and what came out of it? Are you still in touch?
My friend Kári was organising his show at NASA in 2004 and got me to support him. We became really good friends, and I knew that he loved the song “Why?” from my album "Þögn", so I asked him to sing it with me. Yes, we are still friends.
You’re now on your third album: what can you tell us about it?
It's my best album so far. I'm very proud of it, also because I recorded a lot of it in my living room.
Will it be released outside Iceland?
We are planning to meet some people from the industry in June when I go over for gigs. This is Nick, my manager’s job and I trust him 100%.
You’ve said the new album is influenced by female artists: which ones specifically, and why this particular influence?
I love female songwriting, it's different from the guys. I love the humour, the drama and the lightness it has. I also want to know what girls like me are doing, so I'm always studying the competition and what I can learn from it.
It seems to be a very good time for independent female artists right now…
Yes! Girl power!
How would you describe your music in three words?
Fun. Merry. Sincere.
What have you been doing so far in 2010?
I’ve been writing music, playing gigs, doing interviews, having meetings, working my daytime job, being a mother, a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister and a friend.
Have you performed much outside Iceland?
I played in LA at the Hotel Cafe in 2006, opening for Sarah Barailles when she was starting her career. I lived in Madrid in 2007 and played a few gigs in small bars for some coins.
You have some UK shows coming up with Amy MacDonald at the Q Music Club. How did that happen?
It's all about knowing the right people, and knowing the shortcuts. Don’t be doing shitty things, unfocused. And it’s also about creating good music of course.
What are your main goals for the rest of the year?
London in June, travelling around Iceland in July, playing gigs at bars and tent areas, getting married in September, it’s my birthday in October. And the most important thing - enjoying life.
What's the best thing about being an Icelandic musician in 2010?
The incredible energy and spirit that is all around me.
Lára @ MySpace