Icelandic pop phenomenon and uncrowned champion of Eurovision 2020 Daði Freyr is ready for another shot at Europe’s premier pop contest. We caught up with the humble Berlin-based musician as he gets to grips with life as an overnight sensation – and owner of Iceland’s most-famous green sweater.
Having fun seems to be at the core of your music. Outside of Eurovision, what does a Daði Freyr song sound like?
I’ve just finished shooting a new music video, and I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say, but I can tell you that you’re going to see a monster dance-fighting a giant robot. My wife and I have made all the costumes and created the special effects ourselves.
Few people seem to be able to make family-friendly music so well. Would you say there’s a big familial aspect to your music?
It’s not a conscious thing, but in the new Eurovision song, all of my closest family, my sisters and my mum and dad sing backing vocals. I tend to write about what is closest to me, and that is my family, my wife and my kid. Everything that I release, every musical decision I make, goes past my wife first. When I’m not sure about something, I ask the person I trust the most in the world to critique it. I agree with her most of the time, but sometimes it’s fun to hear her say, ‘I don’t like this at all.’
How different is it for you to write a Eurovision song?
This year, I started with the music video, and then I wrote the song to fit that. And for last year’s Eurovision song, I have to admit that the stage performance came first, and then I wrote the song from that idea. It’s a totally different kind of performance, and it’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work. This is certainly the last time I’ll compete in this competition.
You’re one of the favourites to win. Why wouldn’t you do it again?
Honestly, when I first took part in the Icelandic preliminaries in 2017, it was a joke. I thought I would be able to take off the green sweater and never have to be associated with that colour or the pixelated face ever again. Four years later, it is still a massive part of my life, and it’s basically the only thing that I’ve done for the last two years.
Right now, I want to make a full-length album. Eurovision is an incredible opportunity to do crazy stuff that you wouldn’t be able to do unless you’re Lady Gaga or Beyoncé. For an Icelandic musician whose music had never been heard outside of Iceland, the access to all these resources just to make one three-minute story is amazing. But, I feel like I want to have the full script. I want to make a cohesive thing, something that makes sense start to finish.
Your 2020 entry, “Think About Things”, brought you overnight fame. How have you dealt with that?
One hundred and eighty mil- lion people watching my song – I wasn’t really ready for that. All of a sudden, pretty much everybody in Iceland knew my face. So, there wasn’t a lot of easing into it. People recognise me on the streets and, honestly, it’s not exactly my favourite thing.
I am super self-aware, and if I go anywhere, I feel like people can see me. It’s tough because, obviously, I don’t want to be noticed when I’m trying not to be noticed. But, the other side of that is that I love to be noticed when I’m performing. If I had to choose between nobody listening to my music and getting to be alone in the street, I would rather have people listening to music. Plus, it’s not like people are hiding in the bushes watching me, or anything like that.
Has the experience changed you as an artist?
No, it’s not like I created a new musical identity to compete. I made this Eurovision character, which is not too far from how I am in real life. I put the sweater on, and it just kind of happens. The real difference is that we’re not actually a band. We’re a Eurovision performance group. In Eurovision, you’re not allowed to actually play the instruments. Everything is pre-recorded, and you have to mime everything, and that gives you a little distance.
If it had gone badly, I could have just taken off the sweater, and that would be it. But then we finished in second place and we went from nothing to something, just like that. Really, I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turning out, but it still feels weird to put on the sweater. I guess it’s never going to leave me.
Moving forward, how do you get past that image?
I’ve set myself up pretty comfortably for how I am. I think people expect a certain thing, but I want to challenge myself and do different things. I like to think that the people following me would appreciate the music if it’s something that I like. But, honestly, I have no idea. Maybe all these people will hate whatever comes next.
When you can return to the stage, you’ll be performing concerts on a whole new scale to what you’ve done before. What will a Daði Freyr show look like post-Eurovision?
There are no concrete plans about how it’s all going to look. That will come when the music comes. I’m not worried. I’ll just make my music and hopefully play some concerts. We already had to cancel everything once. We sold out gigs all over Europe, in bigger venues than I’ve ever played, and I’m just excited for whenever that time comes.