Photo by: Jeaneen Lund
On March 11th, Iceland chose SVALA as their representative for the 2017 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest after she won the annual national selection process, Söngvakeppnin, with over 60% of the public's vote in the superfinal. Svala will sing the modern, electropop song "Paper"- composed by herself as well as Einar Egilsson, Lester Mendez and Lily Elise - in the first semi final on the 9th May. We were lucky to be able to have a chat with her where we learnt more about her experiences, her Eurovision journey as well as the message behind "Paper".
Firstly could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you became a singer?
My name is Svala Karitas Björgvinsdóttir and I´m an icelandic singer and songwriter. I was born into the Icelandic music industry because of my father Bo Halldorsson who is one of the most successful recording artists in Iceland. I started recording music when I was 7 years old. I´ve released countless hit singles and been in many bands throughout my career. I had my first number one single when I was 11 years old and then my second number one single when I was 16 years old in Iceland. When I was 20 years old I was signed by EMI in America and signed one of the biggest record contract ever made with an Icelandic artist. My first american single which I co-wrote came out in 2001 and became quite popular in America and was on the top 30 Billboard Charts over there. I´ve released 2 solo albums and 3 albums with my band Steed Lord. I formed my band Steed Lord in 2006 and we had great success worldwide. Toured all over the world, designed a clothing line for H&M, had our music in a lot of american tv shows, commercials and a couple of movies. I moved to Los Angeles in 2009 and I´ve lived there for 8 years with my husband who is a songwriter, producer and director. I have my own clothing line called KALI which is sold online. Last year I formed my new band Blissful and our single Elevate came out and did really well on Spotify. I´ve been a judge on The Voice in Iceland for two seasons. I love cats.
Could you tell us how you decided to take part in Iceland’s national selection – was there something that motivated you maybe?
It was actually my husbands idea. Me and him wrote Paper together with Lester Mendez and Lily Elise. We have been for the last 2 years in the studio writing music for our new band Blissful and “Paper” came out of one of those sessions. We knew right away that this song was very epic and big. And Einar thought it would be a great idea to send it in to the Icelandic national selection. It took me a couple of days to be convinced but then I decided to do it cause the message is so important in my song and I knew that it would probably do pretty well there.
Since winning the national final in Iceland, has your life changed much? Is there something that is completely new maybe?
No it hasn´t really changed that much. I´ve been fortunate in my career that I´ve always been very busy working on music, touring and working on various projects. Eurovision is just a new project that I´m working on. The only change is that my music is being promoted to a new and different audience which is awesome.
Your song, “Paper” has a deep, significant meaning – could you tell us what the meaning of the song is personally to you?
My song is written from a very personal experience. It´s about dealing with difficulties in your life. I´ve been very open in the media in Iceland that I´ve dealt with anxiety throughout my life since I was a teenager. Music has always been my salvation and my safe place. I wanted to write about what I go through when I´m dealing with major difficulties in my life. We all deal with something in life. No one has a perfect life. This is what connects us as human beings. The word paper in my song is a metaphor for emotions. When I wrote the lyrics with Lily I wanted to describe the relationship I have with myself while dealing with difficulties. My anxiety makes me fragile and makes me vulnerable like paper. You can take paper and do so many things to it, you can cut it, burn it, rip it, glue it together, punch holes into it, crumple it and so on. But you can also make beautiful things out of paper, like draw on it, paint on it, write poetry and stories, write beautiful letters to loved ones and so on. The purpose of me writing my song is to be open and honest about myself and not be ashamed about dealing with this. Because when we are open and when we talk to each other, we are setting ourselves free. By not being ashamed we are facing our fears and we are
not giving up. That´s what Paper is all about.
Could you perhaps give us an insight into your staging? Who is designing the staging, will you be alone on stage, who are your backing vocalists – if you have any?
I don´t want to give too much away. I will be alone on stage like I was in Iceland. I´m gonna be wearing a beautiful new costume that two very talented designers in LA are making for me. My performance will be more dramatic and epic. I really want people to listen to the words and my voice so simplicity is very important to me for my performance in Kyiv.
What are your plans after Eurovision? Do you plan to release an album maybe?
I´m in a new band called Blissful and we released our first single “Elevate” last year and we will be releasing a lot of new Blissful music this year and music videos. We have been writing so many new songs and recording and we can´t wait to drop all this new music and start touring with it.
What is your earliest memory of Eurovision and how did you first hear about the contest? Do you perhaps have any favourite songs from past editions of the contest?
When the national selection of Eurovision was first held in Iceland in 1986 my father Bo Halldorsson competed with a song called “Ég Lifi Í Draumi” but he didn´t win. The Bobbysocks came to Iceland to perform at the competition and they sang a new song which had a childrens choir in it and me and my best friend were in this choir so we performed with them on tv on the icelandic Eurovision. I was a little kid but I remember it so well. My dad competed for Icelands behalf in Eurovision with his song “Núna” in 1995 and I remember watching him on tv in Iceland cause I had to stay home and babysit my younger brother while my parents were in Ireland competing. I was very proud of my dad.
When I was little I loved the Celine Dion song. Today I much prefer “Feed You My Love” with Margret Berger or “Sound of Silence” by Dami Im.
Thank you so much once again Svala for answering our questions – we wish you the best of luck in May. Do you perhaps have a message for your fans and our readers?
Thank you for reading my interview. I can´t wait to perform on may 9th in the first semi final in Kyiv. Hope you vote for me and my song “Paper”. Here are my social media outlets if you guys wanna follow me
Take a listen to Svala's Eurovision song below!