Along with electro-purveyors like Todd Terje, Aurora, Anna of the North and Cashmere Cat, Astrid S joins a line of Norwegian artists bringing their local contemporary music scene to the world’s attention. The 21-year-old has been making waves for her electrifying pop offerings, selling out her recent North America tour as well as some huge shows across Europe with just two EPs under her belt so far.
Astrid’s first single “2AM” went five-times platinum, while the follow-up to her self-titled debut EP, ‘Party’s Over’, amassed tens of millions of plays online, adding to a total half a billion hits on her songs. Her most recent single “Party’s Over” is already making waves, charting at number one in her home country while proving she’s only just getting started.
During her inaugural trip Down Under, Astrid shared her thoughts on working with Katy Petty and Avicii, why Scandinavians are so darn good at pop, and how streaming has revolutionised the music industry.
Best Before: Hi, Astrid! How are you?
Astrid S: I’m good! How are you?
I’m good, thanks! You’ve been playing sold out shows across Europe, the US, and recently New Zealand. What has that experience been like for you?
It’s been really busy, and fun, incredible and special. It’s really fun to go on tour, especially to see how my name and music is growing, because last time I went on tour I was way smaller, so it’s really cool to see how it’s growing, all the people that are supporting me – just really fun!
“If you make other versions of a song, you can move outside the box.”
Last week you just celebrated your 21st birthday with a Halloween theme, and you went as Buzz Lightyear! That looked like so much fun!
Yeah – I did!! It was!!
So “Think Before I Talk” has already had an amazing response. Did you expect that it would get the reaction it has?
Well, I don’t think that you can ever – I try to never have that expectation to anything, because it makes it a lot more relaxing for me, but I think that’s one of the few songs that I actually had a gut feeling about, that I think people are gonna like it. It’s really cool to see the reaction and that people are liking it and listening to it.
I saw that with your most recent EP ‘Party’s Over’, you spent some time in LA writing. What was the influence of that move on your sound?
I think I have a really good sense of what kind of sounds I like and don’t like, and what undertones. As a result of that, it just leads to a sound or a particular production, or a song. It’s just really good to know what you don’t want, and what you want, when you’re in the studio working on music. That’s just the result I got, the EP.
With your first EP, some of the songs you wrote when you were 16-19. How do you think your songwriting process has changed over the last few years?
I think I was a lot better at it before because, as a songwriter, I was more unpredictable and I was just more random. I wasn’t that scared of being good at it. I just went into the studio and I would just sing and say whatever I want in a song without being scared of people judging it or thinking it’s bad. I would love to go back to that state of mind, but also, of course, I’ve become a better songwriter because of experience, and what I write about now and what I want it to sound like now. But I do really miss being 16-years-old and diving into it.
You’ve talked about how streaming culture in Scandinavia has a stronger influence than radio, and the need for artists to release different formats of music, rather than just album. ‘Think Before I Talk’ Remixes part two just came out – what do you think is the impact of mixing it up?
With streaming, everything moves so fast because it’s on the Internet and it’s more accessible. Now, listeners are used to getting songs more in a constant flow. If you just have the original – it’s not necessarily bad, but it’s more in the box. If you make other versions of it, you can move outside the box; people can put it in different playlists, and different radio stations can add it, and it’s really cool to get a broader audience. At least, for me, when I listen to remixes or acoustic versions, sometimes I’ll prefer that before the original. Or in the morning, I’ll listen to the acoustic version, but in the night I’ll listen to the remix. I just think it’s a fun way to give a song more life.
You’ve had a wide range of collaborations, from Matoma a few years ago, doing backing vocals for Katy Perry and Avicii, and more recently you worked with Blonde. How do you find the collaboration process – do you enjoy it, or is it a challenge?
It’s both! Mostly, I enjoy it. I think it’s really cool to be able to do something a little bit different, from the electronic pop that I do, and tap into other genres. You learn a lot from doing collaborations, and being part of another team, and working with another artist. Instead of your opinions being the most important, there are more people in the room, and they’re just as important. I’m very excited to do more.
You’ve also worked with some incredible producers, like Oscar Holter (Tove Lo, Demi Lovato, Ellie Goulding) and Andrew Cedar (Wiz Khalifa, Flo Rida). What has their influence been on your songwriting?
I’ve just grown up listening to a bunch of different songs and artists. After a while, when we put together different instruments and sounds in the production of a song, and we peel off and put on layers of what I like and don’t like, it just ends up being an electronic pop sound. I’ve been influenced by a lot of Norwegian pop singers growing up, and I loved Britney Spears and I listened to Robyn.
People around the world wonder why Scandinavians are so good at pop. You’ve said it’s because you learn the melodies and the production before you even learn English. Was that true for yourself?
That’s my theory. Especially for me, I was really into American pop culture growing up – it’s big in Norway, like TV series. I’d listen to Britney Spears, but I didn’t understand what she way saying, so I’m definitely more melody and production-driven. I think it’s easier to adapt and get good at writing lyrics, than maybe learning how to make melodies. That’s something you need to have more in your bones. Lyrics are a bit harder for me, because they’re in another language. But I’m getting better.
I read that for the “Think Before I Talk” video, you and (director) Andreas Öhman didn’t really have much time to come up with the concept. Can you tell me a bit about how it all came together?
I wish I had something interesting to say, but it was just really in a rush. He wanted to do something where we decorated different rooms with neon lights. And I was like, “That’s not interesting enough – we should do a one-take video.” He thought we could adapt that into the plot, and then we just worked together to get this idea – to make different moods in different rooms, with the focus on me and the emotion in the song – and get that out there.
Pressure makes diamonds! A few months ago, you were at Oslo fashion week. How does fashion influence you as an artist?
I have a lot of fun with clothes and I’m really into fashion. I think fashion and music are very similar in many ways. It’s just being creative, and there’s no right or wrong, it’s about having fun with it and expressing yourself. Even in a fashion show, music is a tool you can use to help express what you want with the clothes you’re showing, and also, with being an artist – performing, and on my social media, what I wear gives people and idea of who I am and what I like and don’t, and it can be a tool. If I do a show, what I wear can make the whole vibe and give the song more life, in a way. I think it’s really cool.
You’re going to be back in Norway soon. While you’ve been getting international recognition, you’ve won a few major awards back home (Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Best Norwegian Act). What’s it like being recognised at home.
I’m very proud to be from Norway, and I love Norwegians and everything that comes with being a Norwegian, so it’s always nice to be home, and that people listen to my music and support me. The nicest thing is when they say that they’re proud of me, being from Norway and putting Norway on the map. It’s really nice.
What are your plans for next year? Can we expect an album?
Yeah – hopefully! I’m going back to the studio in January, and then I’ll start writing the album, so I’m very excited about that.
Are you going to get much time while you’re here in Australia to explore?
I have tomorrow off, so we’re going to try go surfing, see koalas, see the Opera House – do everything in one day!
Check out Astrid S’ ‘Party’s Over’ EP here: