After an identity crisis, Sigrid is back with pop magic
In her first interview in over a year, the Norwegian popstar discusses her new single ‘Mirror’ and writing her experimental second project.
Photography Alex Sarda
Sigrid had a plan. The Norwegian popstar would wrap up the tour for her debut album Sucker Punch in December 2019 and then take a well-deserved three weeks off. After releasing a UK Top 5 album and performing extensively, she was excited for some downtime. “It turned into a whole year,” she says, deadpan, from her bed in Oslo. “I mean, we had even joked about 2020 being a sort of a gap year for me to work on new music. I was meant to go to LA, Stockholm, London, lots of travelling and writing. It was always going to be a writing year, we just didn’t plan for it to be this hard to make the record.”
While things had started out fine — Sigrid spent a couple of months in Los Angeles working on her forthcoming project with songwriter Emily Warren — she was in a session on 12 March 2020, when the US announced international travel restrictions and chaos was unleashed. The 24-year-old got out just in time. “It felt good to be going back, and it rarely feels that good to be going home to Ålesund,” she recalls. For three months she lived with her parents in their small harbour town and spent her days alone; hiking, skiing and attempting to write more music.
The problem with having a career that you love is that it becomes so intertwined with your identity that when life is put on pause, or things don’t work out quite the way they should, it can really hit you. “I think it’s the closest I’ve been to an identity crisis,” Sigrid says of the period. “But I’m on the other end of it now, so that feels good. You hear so often about not putting your self-worth into your job, but it’s so easy to say that. And I put every waking minute into my music! I think about it constantly! At one point, I felt like I was just floating around. I lost that sense of — and this sounds cheesy — but everyday purpose. Not knowing what I’d be doing in half a year, or even three weeks, kind of freaked me out.”
Luckily, summer brought with it salvation in the form of legal travel between Norway and Denmark. Sigrid spent much of July and August in Copenhagen, working with Danish producer Sly and his Norwegian songwriter girlfriend Caroline Ailin (a frequent collaborator of Dua Lipa). The two of them had also retreated from LA, where they’d worked with Sigrid on a number of songs, including her new single “Mirror”. “I’d stay by the harbour, it was quite serene,” she says of the creative process. “And it was different! For Sucker Punch, every song was written between tours where it was like: you have one day with this producer and you need to write a song. But this was totally chill. There was no rush, so we’d go swimming in the ocean between sessions. I was totally off the grid, in a sort of studio cave.” It was the steady, productive set up she’d long hoped for.
Last week Sigrid announced new music for the first time in two years: the disco-centric dance party that is “Mirror”. Written off the back of a break-up, the single documents Sigrid’s self-reflection and, ultimately, an acceptance of that self. “It is some sort of a break-up track, but more like, what does it do to a person to go through that?” she asks. “You doubt yourself and all these insecurities come out. ‘Mirror’ is about being okay with all the negative sides of your personality as well as the positive sides, and living with that. It’s about moving on from heartache and accepting who you are.”
The music video for “Mirror” was shot by CANADA’s Femke Huurdeman in a stunning 70s house in the hills of Barcelona. “It was a proper ghost house with these insane, very morbid paintings,” Sigrid tells us. In the video, she appears alongside her double in a series of impeccably art directed scenarios: getting cosy with a chameleon, shooting a bow and arrow (“the arrow is on its way to Norway right now — hopefully it gets through customs!”), and channeling a living Rococo painting as she poses with a pomegranate. And did we mention the dance routines? “They’re not cooperating with each other,” she says of the two Sigrids. “Because that’s how it feels sometimes, when you don’t really know what’s going on inside your head. There’s a lot of overthinking, over-analysing. It can feel chaotic, which is why the video is chaotic.”
The styling provides a playful contrast to Sigrid’s usual look — a bold satin fuschia dress in one shot, a bright green ruffled number in the next (“They called me The Cabbage at the end there!”). Since she released her first singles “Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Strangers” (which has 61 million views on YouTube) at the age of 20 in 2017, Sigrid has been praised for the way she dresses less like an attention-seeking popstar, and more like an actual person. Whether appearing as a guest on late-night talk shows or performing at Glastonbury, she’d reliably rock up in jeans and a T-shirt. “You know, that’s what I’m comfortable in,” she explains. “And I got a bit hurt, I guess, when I read some articles where people were like, ‘well that’s a great marketing campaign by Sigrid’s team!’ It annoyed me that my authenticity was questioned and I think I got a bit confused with like, who I was. Your self-image is so extreme with the artist thing: you’re put on posters, you’re put on billboards. Everything’s so public that at some point you lose some sense of what it was to begin with.”
It’s a topic Sigrid no doubt explores on her sophomore project, which she says she wrote with live performances in mind. “A big inspiration for all of the songs is big festival stages, probably because it’s where I feel the most secure about myself,” she says. “I miss it so, so much.” She notes how the fact that she’ll be performing these songs over and over for the next few years impacts her songwriting. “It needs to feel good to sing,” she says. “If I’m having a bad day but I know that the next song is going to be ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’, it makes me feel a lot better. It’s probably the feeling I chase the most: going on stage and singing and feeling better. And doing it together with a lot of other people. Fuck, I miss touring!” Sigrid, usually the sensible one, has promised her band that she’ll party with them a lot more on their next tour. “I’m scared about what I’ve got myself into,” she laughs.
It sounds like she’s putting herself out there sonically too. “I think that the past year opened up some more experimental doors for me,” she says of her new work. “I really felt like I could do anything I wanted to. It’s quite playful but ambitious and it’s very me. It’s a pop record but it’s leaning in so many different directions.” As is the case with many isolated popstars, Sigrid has been anxious about having an audience to return to, but those fans are still there, as loud as ever. “That’s been a real light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “Writing at home before Copenhagen, I was like: what am I doing? Who am I even writing for? Who’s going to listen to this?” In reality, she has nothing to worry about.
With the live music industry starting back up again and Sigrid on track to bless us with a body of work imbued with such positivity that it’ll undoubtedly carry us through the remainder of the pandemic unharmed, things are looking good. “It was as if someone just turned on a switch and everything went from 0 to 100 very quickly,” she says. “And I was like, ‘Woah, this is my real life.’ It’s quite daunting to go back to the whole circus but I absolutely love it. And, you know, there’s more music coming.”
“I’m not going away after this single like, ‘Bye! See you in another two years!’”