Ever wonder how well you can get to know someone in ten minutes? In searching for fresh ideas, our ambitious production intern embarked on an evening-long journey to profile an artist from all angles, via questions and performance in one overlapping, concentrated, integrated segment he dubbed "The Moment". In the first installment, he spent the moment with Icelandic singer/songwriter Lovisa Elisabet Sigrunardottir, better known to us as Lay Low. Following the narrative arc of her music rather than any chronology, Reuben (our intern) treks around the Lower Easy Side asking candid questions, superimposed over raw footage of Lay Low's intimate performance at Rockwood Music Hall.
LAY LOW is the alter ego of singer-songwriter Lovsa Elsabet Sigrnardttir, who was born in London in 1982 to an Icelandic mother and Sri Lankan father, with the family relocating to Reykjavk when she was a small child. She took piano lessons at a young age and started playing bass and guitar in her teens, performing with several local acts before joining the experimental rock band Benny Crespo's Gang adding keyboard, synthesizers.and her voice.to her musical armory.
LAY LOW evolved in early 2006, after Lovsa was contacted by a local label showing an interest in a raw demo she had placed on MySpace that combined elements of blues, folk and country and twisted them into a fascinating new shape. Just a few short months after being discovered she had recorded and released her debut album, 'Please Don't Hate Me', which topped the Icelandic chart and became the bestselling original album in the country that year, getting nominated for four Icelandic Music Awards (winning three) in the process.
Demonstrating a musical maturity beyond her years, 'Please Don't Hate Me' was an impressive debut, with Lovsa's intoxicating new take on classic Americana sounds attracting much praise and her authentic and compelling live performances standing up well to the recorded versions of her songs.
Following the speedy success of her debut, Lovsa refused to rest on her laurels, recording covers of two well-known Icelandic songs for a local hit movie ('Brguminn', directed by Baltasar Kormkur) and taking on the role of music director for the Pulitzer Prize play 'How I Learned to Drive', (written by Paula Vogel), for which she not only wrote the music but also performed it on-stage to sell out crowds and great reviews. The music from the play was released in Iceland in early 2008 and included five original LAY LOW tracks in Icelandic plus eight Dolly Parton covers, all in a distinctive LAY LOW style. The record was an instant hit and Lovisa again found herself nominated for a prize, this time for an Icelandic Theatre Award. Despite several other musical luminaries being nominated (including Nick Cave and Warren Ellis), LAY LOW won the award.
Lovsa also began sewing the seeds of an international career in 2007, playing shows in the UK and the US and performing at several industry conventions in mainland Europe. While in the US, Lucinda Williams saw her play two shows in LA and began talking up LAY LOW as one of the best new artists she had seen in years.
The early part of 2008 saw LAY LOW begin planning her much anticipated new album, visiting London to meet up and play with producer Liam Watson and a crack team of musicians at his famed Toe Rag Studios. Things clicked immediately between Lovsa and Liam and a full recording session was scheduled for the summer. To prepare for the recordings Lovsa spent some time in the Icelandic countryside, first staying on the remote island of Hrsey in the far north of the country and then travelling to the extreme east to the tiny village of Borgarfjrur Eystri.
Recorded and produced by Liam Watson (White Stripes, Pete Molinari, Holly Golightly), 'Farewell Good Night's Sleep' is a superlative sophomore album that reinvents the country music wheel for a modern audience. Recorded between July and September 2008, it features high calibre musicians such as Carwyn Ellis, Ed Turner, Rupert Brown, Matt Radford, Jason Wilson and BJ Cole. Liam Watson himself comments that working with Lovsa was a great experience. I really enjoyed working with a girl of Lovsa's age that enjoys good country music, the kind that I like - sincere, melodic and lush. Lovsa has a very special and unique voice and is coming up with the kind of material I don't hear from anyone else. Iceland's top female country artist will surely become a favourite the world over.
When asked about influences for the new album, Lovsa talks a lot about the honky tonk era from 19501960 as well as specific artists who have influenced her - Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams Sr., Red Foley, Loretta Lynn, Hank Lochlin, Skeeter Davis and The Carter Family. In general she listens to a great deal of country, roots and old gospel, together with a lot of new indie bands.
As for the album title, Lovsa states that "I was really stressed making the album and felt pressured since 'Please Don't Hate Me' had been doing so well. I didn't sleep much when I was working on it and that's why I thought it was appropriate that I should call it 'Farewell Good Night's Sleep', since that's how it was."
The music team at iTunes in the US have already picked up on the new album, tipping LAY LOW as one of the best discoveries of 2008, while the opening song on the record (the 6 minute country-burlesque 'I Forget It's There') has been getting much daytime airplay from the influential LA radio station KCRW.
LAY LOW toured mainland Europe as the main support for Emilana Torrini early 2009. She has also been supporting Emilana Torrini on her shows in London, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles and was her main support again on her European tour in late 2009.
On her own LAY LOW has performed this year in Finland, Denmark, Germany, Winnipeg, Gimli, New York and Los Angeles and recently did a live session at KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic plus festival appearances at Glastonbury, Slottsfjell, Into The Great Wide Open and End of the Road.
What will happen in 2010 who knows ...