The road to Dagny’s debut album may have been a long and winding one, but it’s also been a colourful path of self-discovery that has given listeners some infectious and expressive bangers along the way. The Norwegian signer-songwriter dropped her debut EP ‘Ultraviolet’ in 2016 which introduced this playful side of her artistry with live guitars and drums. But since then she’s stepped into a synth layered sonic that is reminiscent of the likes of Robyn and Carly Rae Jepsen which has evolved within her experimentation.
Most notably, ’Love You Like That’ recently caught the attention of Katy Perry who then sampled the song for her mammoth hit ‘Never Really Over’ last year, which confidently celebrated the pulsating synth rhythm that she’s honed into her sound.
Her debut album ‘Lovers’/Strangers’ is a fresh new collection of songs that takes listeners on an honest and candid journey of a relationship. Opening with the flirty ‘Come Over’ she details the opening exchanges of a budding romance that then turns into a head over heels exchange. But as the album heads into the second half with ‘Moment’, she starts detailing the breakdown of the relationship as they go their seperate ways, and she finds herself having to deal with grief.
The album is a bold collection of songs that have a exhilarating surge of energy within their heartbeat. She inhabits the emotions so perfectly and will have you ready to dance with tears in your eyes so effortlessly.
I recently chatted to Dagny about the emotive journey her debut album ‘Strangers/Lovers’ takes listeners on which explores the start to the end of a relationship, as well as dived into the creative process behind songs like ‘Coast To Coast’, ‘Moment’, ‘Please Look At Me’ and ‘Bad At Love’. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your debut album ‘Strangers/Lovers’ has been a long time coming for you. So reflecting back on the release of ‘Ultraviolet’ in 2016 and the string of singles that followed, why did you feel that those songs didn’t feel like they fell into a body of work like a debut album, and that there has been quite an evolution to get here?
DAGNY: When I decided to make this album I made it really clear with everyone around me that I didn’t want to include any songs that I had released up to this point. I know a lot of people were asking if ‘Love You Like That’, ‘Used To You’ or ‘Backbeat’ were going to be on the album, but it felt like because it had been a while in-between those releases that I needed to start fresh and build a story instead of trying to fit songs together cohesively.
I think ‘Ultraviolet’ was a real self-discovery moment. I got signed to a label with ‘Backbeat’, and went to LA and did a thousand writing sessions. I was learning a lot. ‘Backbeat’ was very different to the material that I was making before I released music as I was really trying to find myself.
I’m really happy with how ‘Ultraviolet’ turned out because it was a really fun EP to make. We had a lot of cool people involved, and it was quite band heavy which wasn’t really happening a lot around that time. But then all of this was a steep learning curve for me because I didn’t discover synths until after ‘Backbeat’, and suddenly I was inspired by that and then that created different sounds. Really early on I decided that I wasn’t going to release anything that I wasn’t 100% certain and proud of, and those sort of songs don’t happen all of the time, so I think that also impacted the release process. But after releasing singles for 3 years, I decided it was time to a bigger project, and something that was long-term and abled me to show different sides of me.
TB: This record is split into two distinct sections that explore the blossoming early stages of a new love, and then the fall out of the relationship that followed. Did the songs fall into that structure naturally, or did you conceptually have the idea to write about this contrast and journey of emotions?
D: When I first sat down to start working on the album I listened to something like 250 song ideas that I had written over the past couple of years. The stuff that I was naturally drawn to was a short list of 15 songs, and I realised that there was a really clear concept of a story coming through that showed a contrast of two sides of a story. So instead of trying to mix it up, I decided to split the album up into two parts and really showcase that contrast.
TB: Naturally everyone expects that talking about a fall out of relationship is the most vulnerable you could be, but I actually think reminiscing about a love you had, and creating something positive from it can actually be more vulnerable. So what side of the record would you say is more vulnerable for you personally?
D: That’s a very interesting question. I feel like in a way, when you’re in the early stages of a relationship and are madly in love, you’re actually really vulnerable. But there are also so many different sides to a breakup, and there are so many different emotions that you could have. Like it could just simply be you wishing them well.
We actually had a song called ‘I Just Hope You’re Okay’ which I really wanted to put on the album as I felt like it really explained some of the things I had been feeling recently. But unfortunately it just didn’t really fit with the rest so I had to kill that darling. Even though you are vulnerable with falling in love and everything is so extreme, I would say that there is a really raw sorrow to breaking up with someone. No matter how the break up happened whether it was them, or you, or you just naturally grew apart, it such a process that you have to go through. For me it was like the equivalent of loss and sorrow.
So I would say that the second half of the album was a lot harder for me. I actually find it really easy to write love songs. I don’t know why that is because I’m not really a romantic person, and I actually wish I could be more romantic. But writing heartbreak songs is a lot more vulnerable and harder for me as it’s harder to find the right words to say. I felt like I had to consider so many different things when writing the songs, so it was definitely a harder half to write.
TB: The album opens with the pulsating synth anthem ‘Come Over’ which hears you telling someone you’re interested in that they should just come over. And then it closes with the laid back delivery of ‘Coast To Coast’ which gives me Lana Del Rey vibes and hears you proclaiming “I’ll keep searching for you”. So why did these two songs feel like the perfect open and closers? And did you look at them as parallels to each other?
D: When I created the track listing for the album I wanted it to be very chronological in terms of how the story unravelled, especially in the first half. Like ‘Come Over’ is the horny opening to the story. But then ‘Tension’ was the one song that kinda summed up everything from that first half and softly led into the next chapter.
With ‘Coast To Coast’ I think there are two ways you can see it, and I think people should definitely interpret it the way that they want, but for me no matter how over it is, and how much time is passing, the love will always be with you. I don’t know if I will ever be completely over it, and it’s something that I will always look back on and reflect on. But for my producer, the way he saw it was that the chapter had closed and now you have to go out and search for the new love. So it depends where you’re at, and how you feel, but I think both ideas work.
TB: The first half of the album has been out since May. So from watching people react to it and experiencing the songs in their own lives, how has this half of the album grown inside your own heart? Do you look at it in any different ways?
D: Honestly, it’s a relief that people have taken it to heart and have loved the first half of the album because there were a lot of changes made, and I was really driving the vision for it. So if the album goes to hell and really fails then I can’t blame it on anybody else but myself, which is scary. So it was really nice to see that if I stuck to my instincts and made the decisions I that was passionate about that it could work.
I would also say that it was a little challenging releasing it as a two part album because after you put one side out and see the reaction, then you start thinking “ooo based the feedback, maybe we should do this instead of this”, and I had to really stop myself from doing that.
But it was just so great seeing people react so positively to the first half of the album and have such different favourites. Because there were people that liked the singles ‘Come Over’ and ‘Somebody’, but there were also people who’s favourites were ‘Tension’ or ‘Let Me Cry’ which was cool.
TB: The second half of the album begins with ‘Moment’ which is this really slinky pop moment that has a really cool bass riff. It starts off the heartbreak chapter with the realisation “I thought we had a moment we’ll be looking back on when we’re older”. What would you say is one of your favourite lyrics from this song?
D: If I’m being honest, I think it would be that line too! It was funny with ‘Moment’ because it was the song that we couldn’t technically put on either side of the album. We actually spent a good hour in the studio just discussing whether if it was a life defining moment or not? Like, did they end up together, or didn’t they? In a way we leave it up to the listener in the song, but I felt like putting it on the second half that they didn’t end up together.
It was a really nice song to write because it went back to the whole ‘Strangers/Lovers’ concept where you could meet someone randomly at the shop on a normal Tuesday, and you could then fast forward time and they are suddenly your closest person. And then you could fast forward another two years, and that could just feel like a moment that you don’t even clearly remember anymore. It felt like the perfect opening to the second half of the album as it really set the vibe for what else was coming.
TB: ’Please Look At Me’ is a song that immediately stood out to me with its slight Latin influenced production and the relatable lyric and idea “please look at me like you did before”. So can you explain how this song creatively came together?
D: That was a really fun song to write, *laughs*, now that I look back at it, it was actually quite all over the place. We were just allowing ourselves to be really experimental with it, like, that whole outro doesn’t have any real words there. It’s just instrumental jamming with vocal ad-libs, and we questioned if we could do that, but we were like “yes, of course we can”.
It’s touching on when you get to a bad place in your relationship you can tell that it’s the end because the vibe is off, but also just by the way that the other person looks at you. It’s weird how sometimes love, and the most intense good feelings, can turn into a spite if it goes wrong. It’s brutal. And in those moments everything has the tendency to start adding up and build into this real frustration where you don’t have any perspective because you’re just in this bad circle. So ‘Please ‘Look At Me’ is a last attempt to have them look at you the way they used to look at you when you were happy together. So really it’s one of the most fragile feelings on the album.
TB: ’Bad At Love’ is a brief interlude that also acts as the only ballad on the album. What I love about this song is that it’s a live demo recording and you can hear all the intricacies of your foot tapping and the keys actually being pressed down on the piano. Why did you decide to leave it as this really raw moment?
D: It was a tough decision because I love that song so much, and I really wanted to do a version of the full song. But we had this demo that we weren’t able to use, so we tried to recreate it but we weren’t able to get that nerve in it that felt as real and honest as the first demo.
I really wanted it to still be on the album in some capacity, so I thought if I recored like that then it was in its most raw and authentic form. Like, you can’t hide behind any tuning, reverb or big production. It’s all there in the open.
TB: You recently released a music video for ‘It’s Only A Heartbreak’ which is the lead single for the second half of the album. It looked like such a fun video to shoot. So where did you shoot this video, cause it looked like a really nice abandoned hotel!
D: We shot it at a bar actually while they were closed on a Sunday! It had all of these beautiful different sections like the lobby with the elevator, the bar section, and then the outdoor area, so I can totally see why you thought it was a hotel.
We were recording for like 17 hours, and it was amazing because everyone somehow kept their energy up the whole time and made it one of the most fun videos I’ve shot. And oh, actually the ‘Come Over’ video was incredibly fun to film too, and I feel like that one really captures my personality the best as it’s really fun and a little bit quirky *laughs*.
TB I especially loved the little flip phone you used in it! *laughs*
D: *Laughs* Yes! I honestly feel like I need one of those phones because I’m so bad at social media, so all I need is a phone to text and call only *laughs*.
TB: What was one of the funniest things that happened during the recording?
D: There are so many details to the choreography in the video that getting the right take where we were all 100% synchronised was incredibly difficult. The opening was a bit funny because the camera comes into the bar and there’s nobody there, and then suddenly an arm appears with a drink. All of this was shot during one take so the dancers had to duck down and sneak into the room alongside the bar after the camera entered the room, and had to try not be caught on camera. There were so many funny takes where you would see half their face or their hair come into the picture *laughs*. It was such a fun shoot!
‘Strangers/Lovers’ is out now!