Dagny Is the Norwegian Pop Singer With a Superhuman Voice
I arrived early to Bardot, a swanky little Los Angeles venue with red curtains and 1920’s vibes. As I walked up, I could hear a supremely powerful female voice coming through the walls.
As I got closer, I realized I was hearing Dagny’s sound check. She was wearing a denim skirt and graphic tee with the words “Hello Hello Hello” on it, with her hair in a ponytail. She was dressed like any other girl would be on their day off — but she was singing as if this were her actual performance, singing with all her heart.
When I sat down, she started singing my favorite song of hers, “Fool’s Gold,” which I had found earlier this summer, thanks to my obsession with B∅rns (who is featured on the track).
Later, we discuss everything from cocktails to going vintage shopping together — and soon, I forget that I’m semi-starstruck by a singer, and instead, start to feel as though I’m having a nice chat with one of my closest girlfriends. Perhaps that’s her appeal — otherworldly talent mixed with girl-next-door, with a dash of could-be-a-runway-model? It’s an unreal mix.
Just as I momentarily forget about her superhuman voice and talent, we start to talk music, and I can see just by the way she speaks about it, that she truly loves it. She explains that when she writes music that she just wants people to feel good, to “give them a moment of pick me up.”And though she seems to do just that with all the songs on her EP, “Ultraviolet”, she somehow manages to stay humble and says that if we would have told her a year ago this is where she would be, she would “not have fucking believed it.”
She gave the same genuine girl-next-door smile in between songs at her actual performance, and her voice was powerful enough to make the chair I was sitting in vibrate. As I looked around the room while she sang her breakout hit, “Backbeat,” I noticed almost everyone knew the words. It was then that it was confirmed, this girl is undoubtedly going to be a star – and it was clear in that moment, I wasn’t the only one that loved her and her music.
How did you realize you could make music?
Actually, this is a bit of a funny story: I was in 9th grade or 10th grade and my teacher made us do this composition project in school. We had to write and perform a song in front of the rest of the class. I was of course in the group with the two girls that never showed up to school. The night before we were going to perform, I was like, “Fuck. I just to write something.” I ended up writing this song called “Silence”, which [my teacher] was just blown away by. He started putting me on all these stages around town.
Who are some of your musical influences?
I find that I really love artists that manage to combine really great melodies. I’m a pop girl. I’m a melody girl. I like accessible melodies that are just undoubtedly super nice and just hit you. I love a good hook, but then I love the artists that manage to combine that with lyrics that are personal, but yet you can feel every word they sing. [I love] Ryan Adams, I love Feist, I love Joni Mitchell. All these great songwriters that just write music, that just hits me right in the heart.
How would you want your music described?
I think that the music that I make is band driven, energetic, pop music. In today’s kind of pop where there’s a lot of computers, I really just love bringing in that element of a real drum kit and a real guitar. My band is a very big part of this project. They’ve been involved for the last four or five years. They’re the band. I like music that has that commercial appeal, but that still has that organic vibe to it. With this EP that we just released, I’d love for people to just get a good feeling from it. If that can be a moment of pick me up if someone’s having a bad day, then I feel like I’ve achieved something good.
You have over 22 million spins on Spotify for your first single “Backbeat,” released in May 2016. How does that feel?
That’s really insane. The last year in general has been a lot of moments of just wild, crazy, surreal, just so much fun. We’ve had quite the journey. If you told me a year ago that I was going to have 22 million, I would’ve been like, “Hell fucking no. That ain’t going to happen.” I feel really lucky that this song just connected with people. It’s just changed a lot for me and for us I guess.
What was the inspiration behind the music video for “Backbeat”? Which of the setups was your favorite look? And what was the concept behind the video?
My favorite is absolutely the sparkly backdrop. I love everything that sparkles. I’m not going to lie. [I love] the sparkle dress with the sparkle background. I just felt like that was a good moment. The concept was just I really wanted to play around with different backgrounds and either have outfits that contrasted [with] the backgrounds. It was an introduction video, so I just really wanted to bring out the visual element of the fashion in it and the backdrops. The director, Malia James, just took it to another level. It was a really fun time leading up to it. [I was] just pinning away. I love Pinterest. I’m like little pin, pin, pin, pin, pin, pin, pin.
What made you decide to release the acoustic version of “Backbeat”? And which version do you like best?
That’s a very good question. Depending on my mood, I love the actual version, I do. I love the punchy-ness, but we have a lot of people asking us, “Can’t you release something more acoustic?” It’s a nice thing to do because if you look back four or five years, I was doing a very different type of music, much more acoustic and folky, kind of storytelling in a different way. That still has a place in my heart. It was a really nice, fun project to make this acoustic version with my guitarist, Richard, who produced it. “Backbeat” might not be the track that you put on a Sunday morning when you want to chill, so maybe this acoustic version can have that, do that.
Let’s talk about your new EP, Ultraviolet.
I’m happy that we did an EP with five different tracks. It’s quite fun to see how we release an EP with five tracks and it’s quite different which [song] people connect with. It’s not like, that ONE track everyone loves. It seems like people are connecting with different tracks on the EP, which is really cool.
Of the five songs on the EP, which is your favorite and why?
It’s kind of boring to say “Backbeat,” but it was kind of was a massive turning point for me. They all have a very special place in my heart, but there’s something about that first track you release because nobody’s expecting anything. I think a lot of people will always look at “Backbeat” and be like, “Oh, it’s going to be hard to top that,” because that was the first thing they ever heard. That being said, I got to work with so many amazing songwriters on this EP, Justin [Tranter], [Mattman and Robin], Tommy English, and Dave Bassett. These were incredible guys that I came to LA [to work with] and just learned so much. I had the most fantastic five weeks writing these songs. I feel like we’ve captured a bit of that vibe in the songs. It was fun to write them and hope that people sense that from the music. We’ve been playing “Backbeat” for the last year and I’m still not sick of singing it. That’s a pretty good sign, right?
What was it like collaborating with Børns on “Fool’s Gold”? What was the writing process like on that song?
I was a massive fan. I’d only discovered him a few months before, but I was like, fucking fangirling! I think he’s such a talented song writer and singer. The way that he plays, I’m really, really impressed with his talent. I was in the studio with Tommy [English], who did Børns’ whole album and did all his writing and stuff. Børns came in, Tommy played him the song, and apparently he had a really strong reaction to it. We were missing a middle eight or a bridge. Børns was like, “I really want to try and write this bridge.” [So] he wrote it and recorded it. I think that [the bridge] was originally meant for me to sing, but I heard [him singing it] and I was just like, “Okay. He NEEDS to sing this part.”
What made you decide to call the EP “Ultraviolet”?
It’s funny that you should mention it because I just had this conversation three hours ago. We had already released “Backbeat” and “Fool’s Gold.” We knew that “Fight Sleep” was going to be the next single and we hadn’t yet decided that “Too Young” was going on the EP. I felt like I wanted to call the EP “Ultraviolet”, so that the song also got a bit of attention. It’s almost a bit like you treat your children equally, all that stuff. You can’t favorite any. It should be fair. Also, I like that the song “Ultraviolet” is all about being hit by something so hard that’s a really strong sensation. I feel like that is one of the strongest emotions that I know within myself. In a way, it was suiting to call it that.
Does fashion have any place in who you are as an artist? Does it become part of your performance at all?
What you wear definitely does something to how you feel. We all know that. As you dress in the morning, you pick out something and there’s a reason why you pick it out. When I go on stage, I like to feel like empowered. I like to feel strong. What I wear definitely does something to that. You know it’s funny because I’m 180 centimeters. Sometimes when I go on stage, I wear these shoes that are like this big. I’m fucking like two meters tall. It’s like, the one place where I feel like you can really enhance whatever you have in you. It’s something that I’ve been experimenting more and more. I think it kind of grows with your confidence that you dare to be a bit more out there. I like clothes and fashion. I’ve always done a lot of vintage shopping. I like to have fun with clothes. I also really admire artists that dare to be different.
Some artists allow their fashion and artistry as a singer to be a different persona — like they are “acting.” Do you think you are different on-stage than you are off stage?
No, I don’t think that I’m acting at all, I definitely think that the music that I make right now has got a bit of balls to it. I feel like it’s kind of enhancing that part of my personality because I’m from Norway, I’m bringing out the Viking in me a little bit when I’m on stage. I’m not necessarily a very dramatic person off stage, but I like to go on stage and just be that ballsy. I like to just let loose on stage and release the energy. I think it’s nice. I hope that most people have found something that makes them release that energy. Going onstage does that for me. I am planning though to start taking on this lion persona onstage.
Do you feel there is pressure for female musicians to wear less and portray a very sexy image?
I think this is a really interesting question because I don’t think that you necessarily should assume that because artists are wearing less that it’s something that they feel they have to do versus that they want to do. I have come to the conclusion after doing a lot rounds with myself that I personally have no problem with people wearing little clothes. I don’t have any problems with them wearing a lot of clothes. I think nudity is great, but I also think that clothes are great. I just generally hope that female musicians have the strength to do whatever feels right for them.
BreeLayne leather top and sheer top | Helmut Lang coat | 3×1 shorts | DKNY fishnet tights | ASKA shoes | Efva Attling earring in right ear | Karine Sultan earring in left ear | ByLolita choker and wrap necklace | Efva Attling rings
BreeLayne top |BreeLayne velvet skirt | Nicole Miller coat | Lodovico Zordanazzo shoes | Efva Attling bracelt on right hand | Karine Sultan bracelet on left hand | Efva Attling earring in right ear | Swarovski earring on left ear | Efva Attling ear cuff on left ear | Efva Attling rings
Giulietta top | Giulietta blazer | L’Agence leather pants | Lodovico Zordanazzo shoes | Socotra sunglasses |Charmed Circle chain necklaces | Karine Sultan earring in right ear | Efva Attling earing and cuff on left ear | Charmed Circle chain bracelet on left hand | Efva Attling bracelet on right hand | Efva Attling and Karine Sultan bracelets on left hand | Efva Attling rings
Photographer: Luzena Adams
Stylist: Christina Pacelli
Hair: Dee TrannyBear
Makeup: MJ Forte
Photo Assistant: Robert Perez
Stylist Assistant: Saulu Santana
Shot on location at Campos Community Garden, East Village NYC