Eivør: “To me languages are like instruments”

The Faroese singer talks translating her album to English and soundtracking a Game of Thrones trailer

For most of us, it’s shopping centres or supermarkets. When Scandinavian singer Eivør got lost as a child, it was on Støðlafjall mountain, in Eysturoy, the Faroe Islands. The experience she had as an 11-year-old inspired her song, ‘Into The Mist’, the seventh track on her album Slør, due for release on 26 May 2017.

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Having initially released Slør in her native Faroese, the singer has meticulously translated each track on her album over a period of eight months. This will be Eivør’s first commercial UK release, though she has become a renowned vocalist in Scandinavia over the course of her 16-year career. A remix of Eivør’s song, ‘So Close to Being Free’, was featured in a Game of Thrones trailer and she also soundtracks the new series of The Last Kingdom.

Her distinctive throat-singing and Faroese folk influences combine with electronica to bewitching effect. As a teenager, she performed afloat, in the darkness of a cave on the island of Helstoy. Nostalgic cave echoes are featured in Slør’s third track, ‘Salt’, in which Eivør sings of the “crashing waves of memory” and reconnects with the landscape of her youth.

We caught up with the singer ahead of the English release of Slør to find out more about the process of translating her vision.

How did you find the process of translating the album?

It was quite a journey to transform this album into English and it took a year to finalise it. It was both exhausting and exciting at the same time. There was a point when I nearly gave up. I felt it was almost impossible to get it right because some of the Faroese lines simply couldn’t be translated. But then I hooked up with poet Randi Ward and she was very enthusiastic and restored my faith in the project. I decided to make space for new interpretations of the songs because I wanted the lyrics to feel as authentic and natural as possible without losing the original meaning of the songs. I feel that the songs got a new expression and a new life and I couldn’t have done it without her.

How has the meaning of the songs shifted through this process of translation? Do you see the Faroese version and the English version as separate entities?

To me languages are like instruments. Singing in English is for me like swapping from a piano to a guitar; it changes the expression of the song but it’s still the same song. I really like that the songs can be expressed in two different languages and some of them are closer to the original lyrics than others. But it can be a bit confusing at times to separate the two.

How does your Faroese heritage influence your music?

I guess my background and the place I come from is all there in my music somewhere under then layers. And I come from a place where the landscape is filled with contrast, and the weather can change from summer to winter in one day. The nature is both wild and soft at the same time and I tend to express these contrasts through my music; it’s like my inner landscape.

Your video for ‘Into The Mist’ is quite dark; what inspired it?

When I wrote the song I was inspired by a childhood memory. I was lost in the fog up on a mountain and I walked for hours and hours before I finally found my way back home. I remembered the feeling of being all alone in the world and lost in this foggy landscape; somehow finding yourself and coming to ease with the uncertainty of not knowing where you are and where you are going to go. The video is more of an abstract interpretation of all these considerations and it was directed by my longtime collaborator Heiðrik á Heygum who has done several videos with me before.

When TV shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ use your songs in a different context, does it change the way you feel about your music?

I am always proud when my songs get to go on adventures and I love how music and visual images can lift each other up and create moments of magic. I don’t think it changes the way I feel about my songs, but I do like to hear and see my songs being put into different contexts.

How do you approach live performances? Do you envisage your songs for stage when you are writing them?

For me song writing, production and arrangement, and live performance are three different phases of a song’s creation. When I write my songs I try to just focus on the song and nothing else. I tend to lose my plot if I over think it too much. When the song is done it’s done even though it might not have found its performance shape yet. It kind of has a life of its own in an incomprehensible world somewhere. Then I move in to the next phase and I start to form a soundscape for it to live in and when that is completed I get to the final stage: sharing it live with an audience. In many ways I feel the song is not really completed before it meets its receiver. Performing live is for me the best drug in the world.