Welcome to September which feels a lot like July. Instead of the summer winding down things are heating up.
This past weekend I was at a 3-day outdoor music festival but the music was only part of the reason. It was more a chance to catch up with friends I haven’t seen since COVID began. It was a reunion. Some people were standoffish. Keeping a few feet away while talking and fist-bumping, or elbow-bumping. Many others were ready for the full long overdue hug. The question was “How are you doing?” which could be read many ways – “Thank God you’re still around”, “Did you/Do you have it?”, “Are you safe?” There is a desire for everything to be normal, and a fear that it is not. There were many masked faces and hand cleanser dispensers. There was also a lot of music, smiles, and a sense that we aren’t done yet. Now we wait to hear if there were any infections from the music fest (there have been from others). This coming weekend I have more multiple-day music events.
While I was at the music fest I texted a friend of mine. He was unable to make it. He was waiting for the results of a COVID test after a possible exposure. He was someone I’d been looking forward to seeing. There will be more reunions.
Today Laufey releases her debut EP Typical of Me. Laufey is a 21 year old Icelandic-Chinese artist who is heavily influenced by jazz and R & B. She recorded her debut single “Street By Street” with peers at Berklee College of Music before it was shut down for COVID. Laufey then started topping the Icelandic charts and earning support from Billie Eilish and Willow Smith.
Typical of Me features “Street By Street”, her single “Best Friend”, and her new single “James.”
“‘James’ is about a certain type of guy that I have encountered in my life. It’s always the same pattern – I’ll admire them for a while, then get to know them and learn that I have created a false narrative in my head for who they actually are. James has a huge ego, James is a fool – so I wrote a song about it.”
1.Street By Street
3. Like The Movies
4. I Wish You Love (Cover)
6. Someone New
7. Best Friend
Half Chinese and half Icelandic, Laufey spent much of her childhood traveling between Reykjavík and Washington, DC, where she learned to speak English with barely a trace of an accent. Inspired in part by her mother, a classical violinist, she took up piano and cello early on, but it was her father’s collection of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday albums that spoke to her on a deeper level.
“I’ve always loved classical music, and I’m definitely very influenced by composers like Ravel and Chopin,” Laufey explains, “but when I discovered the Great American Songbook and the music of George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers, it felt like this middle ground between jazz and classical that suited me perfectly. It was something I could love on my own terms.”
Laufey dove into the music headfirst, captivated by the lush arrangements and dreamy vocals, and by her teenage years, she was already turning heads with a mesmerizing style that belied her young age. As much as she enjoyed singing the standards, though, Laufey couldn’t help but feel that something was missing, and she often longed to express herself in more personal ways.
“In the classical world, it’s expected that you’ll follow tradition and stick to the script,” she reflects. That all changed when Laufey landed a prestigious Presidential Scholarship to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, which enabled her to continue honing her virtuosic skills as a vocalist and instrumentalist while simultaneously pursuing her dreams of becoming a songwriter. Stepping out of her comfort zone and living on her own for the first time, Laufey found herself surrounded by a sea of gifted young musicians and producers at Berklee who inspired and challenged her in exciting new ways. It was a liberating environment for someone who’d spent her entire life playing by the rules, and it helped Laufey find the confidence to begin writing her own material.
“When things started blowing up on social media, I had all these young people reaching out about how the songs were resonating with them,” she recalls. “A lot of kids my age had never really been exposed to this kind of music, and I just loved that I had the opportunity to introduce it to a whole new audience.”
As her music climbed the charts back home in Iceland, Laufey continued writing and recording what would eventually become her debut EP, Typical of Me, laying down guitar, vocals, piano, and cello at home while her collaborators contributed parts and production remotely. Despite the considerable distance involved in its creation, the finished product is a warm and inviting collection, one that puts a modern twist on a timeless sound. Drawing on everything from Chet Baker and Sarah Vaughan to Peggy Lee and Bill Evans, it’s a confident, compelling debut full of mature meditations on loneliness and desire, doubt and resilience, acceptance and hope.
The vaccine is out. Numerous ones from England to China. People are getting vaccinated. 2021 may be the end of COVID-19. Except for:
1. Rapidly spreading variants
2. Supply issues with the vaccine
3. Too many people getting sick and dying everyday
February is Black History Month. It is a month to honor leaders who have made a difference. I heard this morning that the Black Lives Matter organization may be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. It is great to hear, but like so many other nominees, we are still waiting for peace. The demonstrations of last summer still pound in our ears. The promised changes have become minutia to COVID-19. The problems remain unanswered.
Late last week I received a concert notice from a major promotions company. It promised a live show at a large local venue in April….2022. This week the first artists were announced for SXSW 2021. I will be scouring them soon. SXSW 2021 is virtual this year. For every ray of sunshine I see, there are as many clouds. 2021 will be the year of change.