When many people think of Iceland, things that often come to mind are earthly wonders, such as volcanoes, glaciers, northern lights, moss fields and breathtaking terrain. If you travel there, you'll experience firsthand all the natural beauty and diversity it has to offer. Similarly, Iceland's music scene is as rich and diverse as its landscape. Fortunately, you don't have to travel to Iceland to experience the fresh, remarkable indie-pop/folk music of singer-songwriter, Hafdís Huld.
You might already be familiar with Hafdís as a former member of the Icelandic electronic band Gus Gus, or from her musical collaborations with F.C. Kahuna ("Hayling", "Machine Say Yes"), or you might have even spotted her in one those clever Reyka vodka commercials from several years back. More recently, one or more of her stunning studio albums (Dirty Paper Cup (2006), Synchronised Swimmers (2009), Home (2014)) might have already caught your ear. After a three-year hiatus, her fourth studio album, Dare to Dream Small, is set for July 28 worldwide release, with the first single and music video ("Take Me Dancing") having been recently premiered.
In short, Dare to Dream Small is an excellent listen, presenting a fuller, more developed sound than Hafdís' prior albums, with mixing by Addi 800 (Björk Biophilia, Sigur Rós, Blur). For example, several of the album tracks incorporate a delightful touch of strings, provided by the string quartet that played on the soundtrack of Broadchurch. Lyrically, Dare to Dream Small is a bit more reflective than her prior releases. Yet, its songs continue to tell honest, heartfelt stories that are positive, hopeful and search for life's silver linings. Dare To Dream Small's co-writers include Boo Hewerdine, Nik Kershaw, Tim Gordine, Calum MacColl, and Alisdair Wright (who also produced the album).
Immediate standout songs include the carefree, feelgood "Take Me Dancing" and "Last Rays of the Sun." The contemplative, poignant "Underdog" is truly stunning, recorded simply with piano and showcasing Hafdís' brilliant-sounding voice, while the inspirational "Violet" deals with coming out on the other side and allowing your true self to shine ("Turn it on, turn it on | Let your light fill the room | This is where you belong | You'll see it soon"). The lullaby-like "Dream Small," sets the theme of the album ("So dream small, dream small | and you might find what you're looking for | It's true, there's more | when you dare to dream small"), and "Fineshade Forest" is yet another standout track, with lyrics that address loss and finding closure.
SoundThread Music Blog recently caught up with Hafdís Huld to talk about Dare to Dream Small, and a few other topics.
[SoundThread]: Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for the title and the theme of Dare to Dream Small? [Hafdís Huld]: "The title is take from a song on the album called ‘Dream Small’. I guess it is just my way of saying that it’s okay to have realistic dreams, to only want what you need, and not always feeling like there should be more, bigger and better. Enjoy the little things and being grateful for feeling content."
[ST]: Was the recording process any different from that of your previous studio albums? [HH]: "We are lucky enough to live in the country side so we don't have any close neighbours, that means that we can record in our house without disturbing anyone. The album was recorded in our home studio and strings and drums in other rooms around our house. The album was produced by Alisdair, who also produced Home and co-produced Synchronised Swimmers, so I think there are many similarities. Dare to Dream Small has a bigger sound than Home did, so maybe it is a bit closer to Synchronised Swimmers."
[ST]: The video for your new single, "Take Me Dancing," was filmed in the mountains of Iceland. I've read that all your songs start with a story that you later surround with music. What story or message does "Take Me Dancing" tell?
[HH]: "That song is about not forgetting to make time for the one you love when life gets in the way. The importance of enjoying the little moments when life gets tough, and dance together in the rain."
The stunning video for "Take Me Dancing" is based on a true story about a young girl in the 1950's living in a remote part of Iceland's Westfjords that could only be reached by a boat or over a glacier. On special occasions, she would make a six hour walk over the glacier to meet up with other young people to have a dance, and then walk back home by herself in the bright summer night.
HAFDIS HULD "Take Me Dancing" (Official Video)
[ST]: Who or what inspired you to become a musician? You started big at an early age as a member of Gus Gus. [HH]: "I have always really enjoyed singing and my mom tells me that I was 5 years old when I knew what I wanted to do for a living. So when I signed a record contract at 16, I felt like I had been waiting a long time. I guess my interest in music came from my mom, she started teaching me traditional songs and harmonies from a very young age."
[ST]: Besides your immediate family, can you tell us about the other members of the extended Hafdis Huld family? [HH]: "In the pink house there is me, Alisdair and Arabella; our big yellow dog, Mosi; the very hyper active cat Áskur (who thinks he is a dog and goes hiking up mountains with us); Snæfinnur, the rabbit, who is in love with the cat; and outside is Jöri, the rooster (who really tries to make it onto all of our recordings) and his fanclub of 10 chickens. I am hoping to add some goats in the near future." [ST]: In the past, you have live-streamed a few Christmas concerts (with some Q&A) from your house. Are there plans to do that this year? I don’t think I’ve missed one yet! [HH]: "I don't know, they are never planned far in advance. Normally, somebody asks if I will stream one that year and I go, okay then ... and put on a Christmas jumper!"
[ST]: Last question ... I’ve read that Dolly Parton is one of your idols. Your song “Homemade Lemonade” (from Synchronised Swimmers) has a “just like Dolly” lyric reference. Have you had any success connecting with Dolly?
[HH]: "Yes, she sent me a signed photo and a message after hearing about me talking about her on stage in Texas. So she knows I exist, that must be a start :)"