Sigrid: “Sucker Punch focused a lot on my relation to and relationships with other people and the wider world that I had just walked into. But How To Let Go is about the aftermath of those experiences.”
Jade Poulterz | 24/06/2022
Sigrid sits in her Oslo flat as she joins me on Zoom to chat all about her new album How To Let Go which debuted at number 2 on the UK charts back in May. There’s a sense of relief and excitement in the air as she managed to hit that daunting target of beating her last record’s success while still producing the songs her fans love.
We catch up during the end of her press circuit, just before she’s permitted a few blissful weeks off ahead of a busy 6 months of festival performances and international touring.
“It’s been a process” she exhales as she looks back on the nearly three years since her debut Sucker Punch burst out into the world. Sigrid is just one of a plethora of artists who had to restructure release plans around a seemingly never-ending pandemic. “I’m really happy it’s out now, it feels like the right time and place for it. I’ve just been eager to get back out on the road and play these songs live because that is my favourite part of the job. I love writing songs; I do love that part, but I just missed playing live so I feel beyond lucky that I get to go back on stage and have such a packed summer of festivals”
We fell into the trap of post-pandemic conversation pretty quickly, sharing where and how we spent our months in isolation. It’s slowly becoming the new “and what do you do” in terms of idle small talk but we joke about how we constantly catch ourselves doing it. We both moved back in with our parents, me in small-town industrial Northwest England counting down the hours till my permitted daily walk in the park, her in Norway filling her spare hours with skiing, hiking and of course writing.
“I feel really lucky I got to go and stay with my parents. I had a few friends who were studying, and so were stuck all alone” she tells me, detailing her dash out of LA where she had already written two tracks for the new record. “But it was weird to go from being a grown-up artist touring the world to a teenage daughter, sleeping in my same old bedroom.”
The writing of the album managed to continue despite the world grinding to a halt though, “Norway and Denmark had set up a travel corridor, so I was able to write most of the album in Copenhagen, in quite a sweet little bubble. The first album was written with two writers and a producer and came together a lot quicker and it was mostly done in moments between touring when I was catching up with myself, but this record was the complete opposite. I am very grateful that my label was so understanding and gave me the space to take my time with it, I got to try and test and go back into studios to change things if I wanted to. It’s something I’m going to take with me into the next record, creating this little writing bubble again because it was really good for the music, and it was really good for me.”
The album comes from a phase of great self-reflection and exploration that the slow writing process allowed to come forward. Songs ‘Mirror’, ‘Burning Bridges’ and ‘It Gets Dark’ weave a story of a young girl who suddenly discovered the healing powers of self-love and letting go of the past.
“I just read a review of this new album, and I thought it was so spot on and I hadn’t even realised it myself. It said that Sucker Punch focused a lot on my relation to and relationships with other people and the wider world that I had just walked into, I wrote it when I was 18/19 years old – those formative years when you finally get out and meet the world yourself, you leave home, make new friends, don’t constantly have to be in contact with your parents you know. But How To Let Go is about the aftermath of those experiences, when you look back and look inwards trying to understand how all that affected me, how I grew from it, and what I had learned. I learned that I had to try and let go of a lot of my insecurities and doubts. So yeah, this record talks a lot about growing up, having doubts, feeling overwhelmed and looking at those relationships in a new light now you’ve got more years under your belt. But it’s also very hopeful, optimistic, and joyous.”
Sigrid rose to mainstream attention, quite suddenly at the age of 18 years old and had to learn how to navigate the industry very quickly as almost instantly after the release of her first single she embarked on a whirlwind life on the road. I asked if the process of self-reflection this new album induced has left her feeling a bit more settled in this life.
“I’ve maybe not always been sure of what I want, but I’ve always been very sure of what I don’t want and don’t want to do. Like I’m open to suggestions if there is a good argument for something, but I’m pretty set on not doing things I’m not comfortable with. But I think now the main difference is the workload I can manage, when you do things the third, fourth, or fifth time you get into the rhythm. I remember the release for Sucker Punch, that week I was just so tired and overwhelmed, but this time I had a really nice time. I’ve really enjoyed it this time around and I’ve woke up every day excited and ready to go.”
I wonder if she’s one of these specially wired people who seem to thrive and prefer life when they are always on the go and how she balances that with her own mental sanity. “Look we all can struggle with mental health issues and it’s important to take care of it as best as we can. For me learning to say no has become just as important as saying yes when it comes to work, learning to not put too much on my plate and where my personal limit is for getting overwhelmed. I remember when I was at an event once in London and another artist came up to me and started talking about how she was at Radio 1 and mentioned to one of the presenters how her schedule was just so busy and she needed a day off, and the presenter said ‘oh you should take some advice from Sigrid, she is so precious about her days off’. Often, I can struggle to agree with myself on how I want to live and balance, and I think I sort of sum it up on this new album the very first line is “I spend half my time trying to dance on the fine line between way too bored and way too extreme” and that’s me to a tee. I can go from being on tour for too long, feeling way too overwhelmed and wanting to run off back to Norway, but the second I sit in my apartment alone for one day I’m restless.
As an Artist, I do think you can always say no. I think some others worry that there might be repercussions or consequences to that, but you have to weigh up these consequences of not doing something with how doing it will make you feel. Is it going to be tough for one day, or is it going to be tough for a long time? Because there is a difference between you having a bad day at work because you’re a bit tired, and spiralling from overworking yourself, and I think at some points that can be hard to distinguish.
I feel lucky that I’ve found this balance between travelling a lot and having my own little cave in Oslo. I love coming out here and just being alone sometimes, I like to do that to take care of my mental health. Sometimes I maybe think, ‘oh should I invite friends over’ but I like just having me nights where I do some laundry and cook my favourite dinner you know treat myself to a tiny bit of luxury. I love being outside, I love skiing and hiking, but I don’t really get to do that every day. Instead, I try to find little moments where I just go outside for 30 minutes, like if I’m going to a meeting I’ll walk instead of driving or taking the bus. Even if the weather is bad I think that can be even more refreshing. You know in Norway we have a saying – there is no bad weather, just bad clothing.”
Taking time off and slowing down made Sigrid think about time in general, how she spends the little time she has on this planet and her own relationship with mortality. Album-closer ‘High Note’ refers to this as she sings “When I go, I wanna go out on a high note / I’m too young to worry now / I got so much more to do / But when I run out of time I wanna know I’ve seen it through”. For some, it may be shocking to hear a 25-year-old openly discuss something as morbid as the end of her own life, but Sigrid believes it’s important to be constantly aware of how we spend the precious little time we are given.
“‘High Note’ came about when I was in England, back before the pandemic, visiting my brother who studies at Cambridge and there is this clock in the city centre called the Corpus Clock, and it’s this beautiful copper and gold art installation that has a little dragonish creature just sitting on top of the clock and looking at you with these beady eyes, and it just really captured my attention. So, when I got home, I looked it up and read that it was put there are a message to the students to make sure they made the most of their time there. It made me think about my own life, and how I was living a very fast one. These last few years have been so amazing, but it just reminded me- god it’s so cheesy – to enjoy every single moment because you never know what’s going to happen and I felt that was worthy of writing a song about.
So fast forward to when I’m in Copenhagen and writing with Caroline Ailin and we are sitting outside in the courtyard after a few weeks of writing other songs for the album and we just started talking about mortality and how we shared this feeling of wanting to make the most out of life. I even reference in the chorus that I’m probably too young to be thinking about it and you know it’s not something we talk about a lot out loud, but I wanted to still make it positive and hopeful and encourage people to focus on those everyday moments in life, to take risks and go for things.”
How To Let Go is available to buy and stream now. You can catch Sigrid live at TRNSMT, Truck, Tramlines and Standon Calling in the UK this summer.
Photography: Lasse Flode
Words: Jade Poulters