Dagny has always done things a little differently. Ever since her debut single, 2015’s “Backbeat”, was picked up by Zane Lowe on Beats 1 before it was even released to the public, her career and musical outpouring has followed its own unique path. At the centre is 29-year-old Dagny, an artist whose songwriting talent and knack for crafting the perfect pop song has picked her up fans all over the world, seen her collaborate with the likes of Børns and superstar DJ Steve Aoki, and even get a request from global megastar Katy Perry to interpolate one of her songs.
Born in Norway, Dagny’s house was musical. Her parents, Marit Sandvik and Øystein Norvoll, are both jazz and bossa nova musicians, although Dagny didn’t necessarily want to follow in her parent’s footsteps. “I wanted to be an astronaut or an archaeologist or a football player. There was one summer where I thought I might be a drummer, which was the closest to music that I got,” she recalls.
However, after seeing an old Eva Cassidy performance on television one Christmas during her teen years, her parents bought her a guitar and her father taught her a few chords. At the time she was failing her music class in school, and “I was just a little bit too proud to be failing,” she says with a laugh. “There was a composition project and, naturally, I was in class with the two people who never showed up for school. One Friday, we were meant to perform a song that we had written together, but on that Thursday night I still hadn’t heard from them. We had nothing. I just had to sit down and make something to perform in class the next day. That’s when I wrote my first song with the three chords that I knew.”
“It was completely random that it happened,” she adds. “I just had to make this song so that I wouldn’t fail in music class and I ended up having to do that on my own. That was when I fell in love with songwriting and singing.”
After finishing school, she moved to London and tried to break into the industry. Things weren’t exactly smooth sailing, however, and at 25 Dagny says she was beginning to look for a change.
“I was in a contract with an independent label who wasn’t doing much. I don’t know how many three year plans I made and sent to them, and then I’d never even get a reply to the email,” she says, admitting that she was also feeling creatively stifled. “I had applied to a school and I decided that before the summer I was going to go into a studio and record. I was going to pay for it; I wasn’t going to wait for the label to pull their finger out of their ass. We did that and then I didn’t think much more of it.”
Two months later, “Backbeat” would change everything. Zane Lowe and the team at Beats 1 had got a hold of the song in an unmastered state and wanted to premiere the song on the radio. After that, Spotify added the track to its New Music Friday playlists, quickly racking up hundreds of thousands of streams. She signed a major label record deal and soon was being flown off to LA to writing sessions.
After releasing her debut EP, Ultraviolet, which featured “Backbeat” and the stomping “Fools Gold”, featuring Børns, Dagny spent the subsequent three years writing, and released a number of singles, including the incredible “Love You Like That”, a song that exemplified her ability to meld emotions and melodies into something palpable. Still, despite the brilliant singles she was releasing and the torrents of music she was writing, releasing an album seemed out of reach.
Creatively, things between Dagny and her label weren’t connecting. “After three years we had exhausted what it was we had managed to do with each other,” she says with acceptance.
Dagny and Republic parted ways amicably as they were no longer seeing eye to eye. She immediately began to work on her debut album knowing that was going to be her next logical progression as an artist who had now been in the public eye for years with a slew of successful singles.
The notion of finally releasing her debut album had ignited Dagny’s ambitious spirit. The momentum started to build up, and like anything building up energy, her creativity needed to be released. Within the next few months, she would go on to write all the songs that have ended up being singles for her upcoming debut album.
The record is finally here… kind of. For her debut album, she has decided to split the release into two parts, Side A and Side B, due for release in the autumn. The split came about for a number of reasons. Firstly, Dagny was tired of waiting to release new music. Secondly, while making the record she saw narrative patterns beginning to form. “There was a very clear divide in the lyrics,” she explains. “There’s this part that’s about going into a relationship that’s happy, and then there’s also this part that explores the story of being out of a relationship. I felt like putting them together as one big package felt confusing.”
That first part makes up Side A, a collection of six songs that showcase Dagny’s growth as an artist and her focused creative vision. Lead single “Come Over” opens the album with a suggestive wink, the ballsy lyrics and bouncing production an invitation that’s impossible to turn down. “Shoulda Woulda Coulda” has a similar feeling of vitality, the clipped beats and singsong melodies converging for a chorus that blasts out like a thrilling rush like when you let go of your inhibitions.
The album’s second single, “Somebody”, sees Dagny follow in the footsteps of artists like Robyn, Susanne Sundfør and Taylor Swift as she achieves pop perfection. The track, written with Rat City, is pure euphoria, with Dagny proclaiming her love for her partner over shimmering synths and huge propulsive beats.
“’Somebody’ is the first song that I’ve written in years where the lyrics are all me,” Dagny says. “I met these guys called Rat City, who were in a band called Donkey Boy. They are these awesome pop maestros. They have a vein going through them that screams pop. When I got in with them, they put me straight on the mic jamming melodies, which is terrifying. One of the gibberish words that came up was ‘somebody’. It was really strong in the song and so felt like we had found the title.”
Side A isn’t all uppers, though, and on “Paris” and “Tension”, Dagny showcases the textures in her songwriting. “There will be times in life when you feel really happy and you desperately want to hang on to that. But then there will be times when you feel down and you worry that you’ll feel that way forever,” she says. “Of course, neither of those feelings last forever. They come in waves. I am a person that is full of contrasts and if I make a song that is just happy with no tension in it, it doesn’t feel right. But I’ll never make songs that are 100% sad, bitchy or bitter. There’s always a hopefulness to it.”
Along with the release of her debut album, this year also marks another milestone for Dagny: turning 30. However, she’s not going to be soul searching or question the trajectory her life has taken.
“I think sometimes, ‘God, I’m nearly 30 and I haven’t even released my debut album.’ But then I also think that, for me, music isn’t something that is based around age or gender or sexuality or nationality. It’s just music. It’s universal,” she says. “I grew up in my musical life surrounded by people saying, ‘There’s no point doing an album if it’s not a number one album.’ But how will you ever know it’s going to be a number one album if you never actually get around to doing it? When you’re in the process of making it, you can’t be thinking about that stuff. I’ve tried to make music while all I can think about is making a hit and it just doesn’t work.”
Dagny’s story proves that the journey is just as important as the destination. It might not have followed the path she’d hoped or expected, but made her the better for it. With her debut album she has not only created some of the best songs of her career but found something equally as valuable: contentment.
“Being able to release music and playing shows is how I feel happy doing what I do. I would call that successful,” she says. “I need to try and not think too much about what this album is going to do, but remember how it all happened, the good times we had making it, the people I met while making it, the emotions that I tried to convey and whether I feel good. It needs to go and live its own life.”