Interview – Svavar Knutur

I recently featured Svavar Knutur’s track November in a round up review and playlist based around Nordic artists. I enjoyed his music so much that I wanted to conduct an interview with him – find out how we got on below!

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a track titled November, which we reviewed. What can you tell us about the track and where can it be purchased? What does the title refer to?

November is a song about the beauty of the quiet and dark times, when we take time to contemplate, examine ourselves, look back, but mostly, just embrace the dark and quiet. November is one of my favourite months, because of exactly that quality. It’s also a song about finding beauty and hope where we would not expect it. You can find it at https://sv…ndcamp.com of course, as well as my website www.svavarknutur.com and all of the bloody parasitic streaming services.

Has the pandemic hindered your work much?

I wrote the song during the ‘quiet time’ of the pandemic, and I guess the pandemic helped a bit, because it turned two years of my life into one big November and I had to work to find the hope and light within it. It’s been hard during the pandemic, as record sales are completely gone as an income stream and streaming royalties only work for those artists that are super popular and can sustain a barrage of hits for their fans, or have been lucky enough to get onto huge playlists on Spotify. For the rest of us, it’s basically nothing.

I would say not being able to gig during the pandemic was hell and in a way it was, because it meant no income at all, but it also gave me time with my children that I haven’t had for more than 10 years. That was a blessing for me and for them.

What is the writing and recording process like for you?

Writing is a harrowing process, kind of like giving birth, just a bitterly painful struggle from start to finish. And I’ve begun to fear and avoid it sometimes. But it’s still something I feel the urgent need to do, so it’s very interesting actually.

Recording is a lot of fun on the other hand, because I can get all my friends together and just make arts and crafts with them together and have a wonderful time. Just endless fun.

Do you plan to release any more singles in the near future?

I’m working on some more songs right now, and also re-painting some of my earliest work, that I always felt was a bit off the mark. That’s also a great feeling, being in the place that I can make new things happen.

Do you have plans to release an EP or album anytime soon?

I’m working on finishing the second half of my LP Ahoy!, titled Ahoy! Side B. So then Ahoy! will be finished. Side A came out in 2018, and then a lot of things delayed the project. So basically, each side is 5 new songs and then 4-5 older songs remade. So they are full albums, but then they come together and make two albums, one with the ‘album tracks’ and the other with the ‘re-paintings’. It’s a fun project.

What/who influences you most as an artist? What have you been listening to recently?

My family and the people around me have a deep influence on me, also the nature and environment of my country, our culture, our language, the sound of our language,= and the stories. My travels bring those things into perspective and help me see my world from different sides. It’s always an adventure. I mainly listen to audiobooks, sci-fi, Terry Pratchett, biographies of artists and scientists and some ‘pop science’ books. But I also try to listen to a bit of music as well, although I just really like to be in my own place.

You’re based in Iceland, what is the music scene like in your part of the world? Are you influenced by your surroundings?

The Icelandic music scene is of course pretty small, even if it’s big for our small country, but we’re also a bit isolated from the rest of the world. We don’t have any international acts doing shows here every week or even monthly. It’s always big news if anyone bothers to show up here to play. And we don’t have the infrastructure to create a real scene. The Icelandic folk circuit is basically two venues and a ‘Folk Festival’ that really doesn’t do folk at all. It’s quite dismal actually, which makes people like me all the more willing to go out of the country to play.

Do you have any tour dates lined up?

I’m going back on tour in April/May, in Germany and Austria. I’m doing a couple of shows there. It’s a patchwork quilt kind of a tour, because it’s been a real hard time getting any booking done during the pandemic, but my European booker, Thomas, is a wizard, and he makes it work.

Then in November I have a couple more gigs. And I’ll be working on a theatre production in July/August/September in Germany. I’d really like to come back the the UK to play, although the Brexit thing made it a bit harder to start booking again there, but I think we might figure something out soon.

What can people expect from one of your shows and why should people come and see you perform live?

My shows are a mixture of songs and stories. I love to tell stories and to engage people with philosophy about language, environment, cultural differences and ways to understand each other through humour and love. I think if people are up for an hour or two of a little bit of Icelandic chaos, they are in for a good time.

Any last words for the fans?

I don’t think I have any fans. I do have a lovely community that likes to listen to my music and have a good time with me, but fans I don’t have. It implies fanaticism, and a certain power imbalance between an artist and their community, that I don’t subscribe to.