Icelandic singer-songwriter, Ólöf Arnalds, is back in London next week for a show at St John On Bethnal Green, in support of her latest album, Sudden Elevation. The record is Arnalds’ first English-sung release and has been celebrated by critics as one of the past year’s finest.
Central to Sudden Elevation is Arnalds’ voice and the way it easily moves from an unmistakably Scandinavian playful delivery to the emotive conveying of feeling. From the outset it grabs hold of one’s attention and evokes the sound of the likes of Joanna Newsom and Emiliana Torrini.
Arnalds found some time in her busy rehearsal schedule to speak to Londonist ahead of the forthcoming gig.
Although Sudden Elevation is your third long-player, it is actually your first full English record. Was it a conscious decision to make a record in English?
Yes, it was absolutely a conscious decision to write it in English. The songs came to me in this language. I wanted to challenge myself to write in English, since I’m not as good in it as I am in Icelandic. But English is still a big part of my family. My mother grew up in London and all my extended family on that side communicate in English.
Were you expecting the across-the-board good reception that the album has enjoyed since its release?
Well, I knew that I had put my heart and soul into making it and that was enough for me. You never know how music will be perceived.
You’ve previously played St Pancras Church and next week you’ll be performing at St John’s Church – do you consider that these intimate settings are the best way to enjoy the Ólöf Arnalds live experience?
I think intimacy can be created in large rooms as well, depending on whether the performer can expand their presence enough. But these venues are good for me as I stand now as an artist.
What other venues in London would you love to play in the future?
I’m open to all options. A beautiful theatre room would be nice, though.
Do you perform any of your older songs on this tour?
Yep, I like to mix them in. That way I give the audience the different outputs of songs in a language they don’t understand and vice versa.
The new single is German Fields, which also opens the album. What can you tell us about this track?
German Fields is about a teacher who tortured children and the strange feeling of relief when she died.
Gosh! And is it your favourite song on the album?
Hard to say! It is the song I’ve been trying to work out for the longest time.
Do you remember your first ever visit to London?
Yes, I was two years old and visiting my grandparents. I just have a vague memory of running with my sister towards a lady that I wasn’t sure who she was [laughs].
What does your tour rider consist of?
The bare necessities...
Have you started thinking about your next album, yet?
I am writing it, yes. I am not that far in the process yet, I’m just working on the bone structure of the songs at the moment
Ólöf Arnalds plays St John’s On Bethnal Green on 4 June. Tickets are available online here. The single, German Fields, is out on 3 June on One Little Indian.