Separately, Astrid S and Dagny have proven themselves to be pop powerhouses, wrapping emotions into euphoric, shimmering tunes. Together, the Norwegian duo is all the more potent and their new collaboration, "Pretty," is proof.
Capturing a "half-hearted" love that sees the two wondering if he's really worth it, "Pretty" ultimately finds resolve in the chorus: "When you touch me, I get all dizzy/ And I remember why I'm so in it/ I forget all of our flaws."
"It’s been really exciting to work with Dagny in the studio," Astrid S gushes, while Dagny echos her enthusiasm: "Astrid is an amazing songwriter, so it’s been a creative and great experience to write music together," she adds.
On Friday, February 11, the artists will release a live acoustic version of "Pretty" on YouTube and, below, Astrid S and Dagny interview each other about songwriting, inspiration and more for PAPER.
Dagny Interviews Astrid S:
Dagny: Do you remember an early musical experience that really made an impression on you?
Astrid S: I have a really bad memory, but I do remember going to some of my very first concerts, Lady Gaga and Pink, being in total awe seeing an artist perform. I remember thinking, "I hope that can be me some day." I have to say, seeing both Lady Gaga and Pink with their stage shows and choreography (Pink was doing gymnastics in the air while singing live) had me thinking, "I'm not sure I have what it takes." Luckily, you can be an artist without doing gymnastics on stage. [Laughs]
Dagny: Where do you look for inspiration when you have a writer's block?
Astrid S: I love writing with other songwriters or producers. If I'm having a writer's block, it's nice to get some help. I also get very inspired when I watch movies or TV-shows and can relate to a character. It reminds me that we all go through a lot of the same things. When I was 16 and went on my first writing trip to Stockholm, I signed up for this "How to Force Creativity" course. So random, but I still use some of those tools to this day. Even though I do think the best way for me to get out of a writer's block is to simply take a break and not force it. Writer's blocks can become so frustrating. Being in the studio is something that I should look forward to and have fun with, and I'm trying to protect that as much as possible.
Dagny: If you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life, who would it be and why?
Astrid S: Probably someone with a big catalogue who still releases music. If Rihanna hasn't retired yet, I'm definitely going with her. Her music puts me in such a good mood and I've been a fan of hers since I was a kid. One of my all-time favorite records is ANTI.
"Being in the studio is something that I should look forward to and have fun with, and I'm trying to protect that as much as possible." –Astrid S
Dagny: Tell us about one moment in your musical career that you'll never forget?
Astrid S: My very first tour in 2016. It was my first experience touring and my first time meeting my fans. Everything was so new and exciting. I didn't even know that people knew of my music in Milan or Brussels or Hamburg. The tour was so very low budget and we slept in a van, and I would sneak into cafes and wash my hair in the sink before doing promo in the mornings. Luckily, the venues opened in the afternoons, so I could take a proper shower in the evenings. There's always something special about the first time. I'm so happy I got to do a tour like that. It makes me appreciate all the small things I'm able to have on tour now.
Dagny: If you were gonna make an album that sounds super different from your music today, what would it sound like?
Astrid S: I love Tame Impala, that was the first that came to mind. It would also be cool to make an album as a producer and go full techno.
Dagny: What do you wish the 16-year-old version of yourself knew?
Astrid S: She knew it all. [Laughs] I think 16-year-old me was the most confident and unafraid I've ever been. I'd rather go for advice from 16-year-old me rather than giving advice. I've become way more insecure and self-aware the past years. I guess it's a part of growing up and it does humble you, but if I could have 10% of what 16-year-old me had, I'd be very happy.
Photo courtesy of Fred Jonny
Astrid S Interviews Dagny:
Astrid S: What is your writing process? What’s a perfect day of writing or in the studio for you?
Dagny: I don’t think there’s one specific recipe for a perfect studio day, but I’ll give it a go: the day starts off with just talking. I'm not really someone who shares all my personal, inner thoughts immediately, so it can't be forced. But I love a good conversation that naturally flows and suddenly two-three hours have passed. Then we write about something we've talked about, and the lyrics and melodies come simultaneously (most of the time I do melodies first, though). Then we get pumped and have time to dig into the vocals properly and play around with production while it's all still fresh. Ideally, two initial days on one strong idea. I think it’s a myth that the best songs are written in 20 minutes. For me, that’s not the case at all. Also, a lot of the time the songwriting comes down to the chemistry between the writers in the room, if we get excited about the same musical ideas.
Astrid S: Which new artist are you into? Anyone you’d want to collaborate with?
Dagny: I think Griff is really cool, and I love the collaboration between her and Sigrid. I think she’s such a strong writer, singer and her style is on point. Also came across this girl Lucy Blue, she writes music that touches my heart. Clearly there’s something in the water over there in the UK.
Astrid S: What are some important values that you hope you’re able to express through your songs or work?
Dagny: I hope I give my listener some sense of optimism and hope. I think we need a bit of that. I write songs that are upbeat and happy, but with an undertone and touch of melancholia. I think it’s human to feel a bit of both — that when you’re down, there is always a way to feel and get better, and when you’re happy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is in perfect harmony and that suddenly there exists no bad, but it still doesn’t take away the feeling of happiness. Things are rarely black and white, and life is full of contrast. But no matter what situation I find myself in, I try to keep hope and optimism with me.
"I hope I give my listener some sense of optimism and hope. I think we need a bit of that." –Dagny
Astrid S: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about working as an artist?
Dagny: That you got it all figured out, maybe? [Laughs] I sure as hell don’t. But my learning curve is always steep, which is probably one of the things I love about working as an artist, writer and musician. A misconception is also that working as an artist is a "young folks' game." Not true, I can name so many amazing artists of all ages. I wanna be inspired by, listen to, admire, learn from and connect with the feelings of artists of all ages as long as they still love music and have the need to communicate something.
Astrid S: What are some of the proudest moments you’ve had in your career?
Dagny: I’m proud of every tour we’ve done. Touring has been such a massive and important part of my musical journey, even from before I released my first single, "Backbeat," in 2015. That’s when I feel the most connected to both my fans and my music. I also cried on stage (very unlike me) when I received my first physical award in Norway, not necessarily because of the award itself, but it was such a celebratory day for my whole team. We got together and celebrated years of working together. And, honestly, I’m super proud of all those years working with music before I really had a big audience. From 2006-2015 when I was playing tons of shows, making tours, artworks, wrote hundreds of songs with lots of amazing people just out of the pure joy of it — that was when the inner drive really had to push forward. I’m proud and forever grateful for everyone who wanted to do it with me then.
Astrid S: For anyone who wants to become a songwriter or artist, what is your best advice?
Dagny: My best advice for aspiring songwriter and artists would be to follow your own gut, but be open for new things, don’t give up even when you have tons of setbacks, make the music that makes you feel something and put yourself out of the comfort zone. I was terrified of writing sessions at the start, for example, but I kept doing them. And every time I was performing, I felt like my heart was doing turbo-speed, but I always went out on that stage. When I couldn’t get gigs at real venues, I started doing private living room tours, just cause I thought it was fun. One step at a time it worked out, and most of the time I think the only reason for that is that I never stopped. I had no great plan B to get going with, so I kept doing music to the best of my ability.
Polaroid courtesy of Sara Abraham