Music News

Iceland’s Daði Freyr on the power of Eurovision and his 2023 favourites

On Saturday, May 13, Iceland’s Daði Freyr will perform at the Eurovision finals at Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena, as he looks to add another chapter to his illustrious ongoing story with the legendary song contest. Headliner caught up with the star ahead of his performance to discuss his connection with the contest, his favourites to scoop this year’s crown, his upcoming new album, and why there is no greater platform for new artists than Eurovision…

Daði Freyr’s relationship with Eurovision can be traced back four years to 2019, when he became something of an accidental sensation. His song Think About Things was written in the hope of becoming Iceland’s entry for Eurovision 2020. The track, however, was not intended to be performed by Freyr himself, but for a friend, who subsequently pulled out of his side of the bargain, leaving Freyr no other choice but to perform the song.

The onset of Covid prior to the contest inevitably saw Eurovision 2020 cancelled yet Think About Things ended up going viral during lockdown and propelling Freyr’s status as one of the most exciting new talents in Europe.

In 2021, he returned to Eurovision with his band Gagnamagnið to represent Iceland with 10 Years, which wound up finishing fourth place and introducing Freyr to an even greater audience.

While he isn’t representing Iceland in the contest this year, he is back to perform live, although at the time of writing he is sworn to secrecy as to what he will be performing on the night.

Headliner managed to find a rare gap in Freyr’s schedule to talk about the impact of Eurovision on his career, his new album I Made An Album, and who he is tipping for big things at Eurovision 2023…

How does it feel to be in Liverpool and back in the land of Eurovision?

It’s been super cool. Very different to last time! I came here on Tuesday, did a show on Wednesday, which was all covers of Eurovision songs, so that was little chaotic, but I got through it! Then yesterday we were at the show, which was great.

Tell us about your previous experiences with Eurovision.

Well, in 2020 we were supposed to compete but then the competition was cancelled. Then the next year we went back but one of the preforming members of the team caught Covid a week before we were supposed to play. It got very boring after a while [laughs]!

How excited are you to be performing this year?

I’m so excited. I’m super happy with how the performance is looking. It’s going to be cool. I can’t say at this point what I’m going to be performing though!

Have you always been a Eurovision fan? And have you always had aspirations to participate in it?

No, it started when I entered the Icelandic competition. I wrote a song that I sent into the Icelandic competition but it wasn’t with the intention that I was going to sing it. I just thought I’d see if I could get some royalties on the song [laughs], because all of the songs that get entered into the competition in Iceland go into heavy rotation on the radio. I was going to get my friend to sing it but a week after he said yes, he backed out. So, I guess I had to do it! Then I put together the fictional band that we had onstage, and since then I’ve been following it. But before that I could never have imagined myself competing.

What kind of impact has Eurovision had on your career?

It’s a huge platform. I don’t think there is a bigger platform for a new artist than Eurovision. If you get into the finals, you are performing your song in front of 180 million people. That’s the best ad you can ask for. It’s a really nice stepping stone if you really use it and capitalise on it. It can really change the trajectory of your career.

Are there any artists you have discovered as a fan through Eurovision?

Definitely. I really like Tvorchi from Ukraine, and Montaigne from Australia. They’re really good.

In August you release your new album I Made An Album. How did this record come together?

I started writing it about a year and a half ago. The process is very much me alone in the studio making beats, and then when I really like a beat, I’ll start adding vocals and lyrics on top of that. It’s very much just me going with the flow. I didn’t really have a clear idea of what I was going to do before I started. I just let it happen.

Is that how you always like to write?

Well this album is called I Made An Album and it’s exactly that, it’s just me in a studio writing about what I’m thinking at that moment. I’m producing music that mirrors what I’m feeling at that moment. But when I was writing for Eurovision, for example, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do with the stage performance, and then I wrote the song for that. So, it all depends on the project.

Do you have to get into a very specific headspace when writing a song for Eurovision?

It’s very different to writing just a regular song for myself. You have three minutes or less and you have to grab the audience the whole time. It has to have a beginning, middle, and end, and have a full story within those three minutes. I knew what I wanted to do on the stage, and then it’s a case of thinking, how long does the intro have to be, because I maybe want to stand here and then walk over there. I’m very conscious about timings and the stage. And you might have six people on stage, so you have to think about it that way.

In 2020 the rules were still that you couldn’t have any vocals on playback, so you either had to sing or have your dancers singing backing vocals. But then they changed the rules for 2021 so you can now have backing vocals on the backing track, so I decided to have 1,000 people in a choir! You have to follow the rules of Eurovision [laughs].

How do you find working within those constraints? Is it more or less challenging than working with a blank canvas for your own project?

It depends. I often work faster if I have a template or a brief. But when it’s my own project I tend to take a lot longer.

Do you have any favourite entries for the contest this year?

Well, I think the obvious ones are Sweden and Finland, I really like both of those. My favourite this year is Australia, and Belgium is pretty cool. But Australia hit a nu-metal nerve which I really liked.

Stefanie Schmid Rincon