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18th September 2023

Sigrid: “I’ve always been a pop girl”

Sigrid sits down with The Mancunion to talk touring, being a student, and the parallels between Bergen and Manchester
Sigrid: “I’ve always been a pop girl”
Credit: Emma Wurfel

Every year, Norway’s major international music festival Oya in Oslo reserves its Saturday headline slot for a Norwegian artist, placing homegrown talent alongside the biggest names on the circuit. This year, it was Sigrid’s turn, closing out the festival in the city where she now resides that had featured Blur, boygenius, and Lorde. “Headlining Oya is a big moment for a Norwegian,” Sigrid stresses.

However, she talks about the slot with the same energy as if talking about any size of gig. “It’s a cool festival. My voice was a bit fucked, but I powered through. It was good.” Sigrid is the perfect pop star; her songs are affirming and connect with a huge audience (see this viral moment from Glastonbury), but crucially they carry through a strand of honesty. She broke out internationally after 2017’s ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’, and has since only grown in popularity and has legions of fans, both casual, radio-listening and dedicated, that update Instagram fan pages following her style and live performances, as well as interviews. Sigrid is all hard work and understanding of the positives and negatives in life.

Her path was not always set on music. “My favourite subject in high school was human rights and politics. I was curious about music but I just never thought that could be a career path. It’s not very Norwegian of me I guess. I felt more that I wanted to be a teacher, or a lawyer. But my dream was that I wanted to work in the department of culture [in Norway] […] I wanted to work within making laws for that branch. Culture on a governmental level.” A move to Bergen to study comparative politics lasted only a couple of weeks, and music took over. The rest is history.

“I feel like Manchester to London is a bit like how Bergen is to Oslo. I feel like it’s an interesting indie alternative to London which I’ve always liked about it […] I moved to Bergen where everyone plays in 15 different indie bands and there’s always a gig every night. We all go to the same bars, and I get the impression that Manchester is a bit the same. Which I love!” In another life, you could see Sigrid thrive in South Manchester, hanging out in Withington and the Northern Quarter as many of us do.

Now over half a decade into her major label career, Sigrid has had two UK top 10 albums, crafted an incendiary live show, and has constantly been moving forward. She hasn’t missed a festival season since 2017, growing year on year. When she comes on in the evening main stage slot at Victorious Festival, the comfort and wonder in the performance is mesmerising. She’s exactly the same person who spoke to me two hours before, just this time speaking and performing to over 30,000 people. It’s a privilege to watch.

Credit: Peter Nicholson

Of course, fame and success come with their perils, but instead of shying away from them, Sigrid tackles them head-on. Her new single ‘The Hype’ articulates the universal concern of living up to expectations and feeling pressures. “I think we all feel pressures to some extent. If you’re a student, at your workplace, in relationships, in dating, there’s so many arenas to be measured at, especially with social media. Fucking hell!” Her comparative politics background is channelled into her answer. “I skimmed through this article recently. Our society is a lot built up around rating now, there’s a lot of apps where you get rated for everything. Is that making a better society or not? I don’t know! A lot of businesses are getting valued through consumer-based ratings. Which is good in theory I suppose but is it good in the end, rating each other all the time? I don’t think so!”

This comes into criticism and reviews too. I ask the slightly meta question of how she feels about the spectrum of reviews and ratings that she has received. “It sucks, when you’re releasing something you’re so proud of and then someone who hasn’t had anything to do with your album slags it off! Then again, I’ve gotten a lot of nice reviews and I’ve been mostly fairly lucky with media. I really appreciate it, the ego fucking loves it. I try not to put too much into reviews, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I read them and I care. I shouldn’t, but I do.”

“You care about your art. With ‘The Hype’, it’s a song about equally two things. It’s a song about the pressures that I’ve put on myself having this job and how it’s always a moving target. Once you’ve done a headline festival, it’s ‘okay, what’s the next step?’ It’s an industry that just pushes more and more and more, it’s never-ending, from yourself and often people around you as well. But it’s also about how my life is this. Backstage, tour bus, playing main stage, and then I come off tour and it’s not like that. That juxtaposition, the contrast between those two can be a bit overwhelming and when you bring that into your private life, it’s not always easy. It’s a pretty vulnerable song but it’s also just good to say it as it is. And I think a lot of people feel that as well.”

It’s certain that a lot of people connect to Sigrid’s music. She notes that she’s been able to take her show to Bali, Japan, and South Korea. She cites genre as an important part of this. “I’ve read a lot of times that I don’t really want to make pop music which is something that’s been forced on me. It’s absolute bullshit. Pop is where my heart is, is where I really feel like I have something to do and something to say. I love how pop music is so universal, it makes it possible that I can travel the world with my music because it works in different countries. And because I love it! I’ve always been a pop girl.”

Sigrid is someone who stays true to her core beliefs. Her social media feed shows this, peppered with iMessage screenshots of being late to the studio. “My excuses were so rude. When I said the one that was like, ‘I’m late but I have slept well,’ as if someone cares that I have slept well!” Whether you agree with the excuse or not, it’s honest, and that exemplifies what makes Sigrid so special as an artist. Her and her band’s downtime is playing video games such as The Sims. “I played my whole childhood, and then I probably didn’t do it for junior high and high school because it wasn’t cool. But then I started touring and I was like, fuck that, I’m gonna do it if it makes me happy.” Again, this is case in point about her authenticity.

Sigrid’s story is one that anyone around student music communities can take something from. “For any young artist or musician or writer or producer who’s reading this interview, just take your time. Don’t rush the art. Don’t put out songs because someone is telling you that you have to use the momentum right now. Spend your time. Songs are timeless, good songwriting and talent is not going to go out of style. You don’t have to push it out right away, and you don’t have to become a social media influencer before you become an artist.”

“Whatever it is, getting a record deal, management, booking, of course it’s super flattering if people want to sign you, but make sure you know your worth. With my management, we even had a testing period before we signed the contract just to see if they wanted to work with me, and I wanted to work with them. […] Find out what you enjoy making and what you’re good at making.”

She ends with a triad of values. “Be kind, use your vote, have a pint!” With this, I think Sigrid would be at home in the student music scene of Manchester, as she shares the core beliefs. Maybe one day she can headline Fuel.

‘The Hype’ is out now. Sigrid will go on tour in Norway in October with tickets here.

Photo by Peter Nicholson Photography.

Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper

Head Music Editor and Writer for the Mancunion. Once walked past Nick Cave in Zagreb. Enquiries: [email protected]

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