Norwegian pop act Dagny – a singer who made her way in the world through singles and shining gems of short pop-songs – has finally, a decade in, got around to an album. It’s unsurprising, perhaps, that now that the moment for a longer record has arrived, the popular singles-merchant, who has nearly half a billion streams to her name, has found her way to producing something that firmly breaks her own mold, going gloriously popcorn to long-form and conceptual.
‘Strangers/ Lovers’ is being released in two seperate parts across 2020 – a benefit of the less format-focused nature of albums in a post hard-copy world – and documents the stages of a relationship, from meeting someone new to the intimacy and closeness of being together, and the strange alienation that comes if it falls apart again.
“This album is a two part album, and it’s because of the way I assessed the songs,” Dagny explains. “I had well over 250 of them to look at when I started a couple of years back. I landed on my twelve favourites. I played all of the songs to my guitarist, and he said it sounds like there were two sides to the story. That kind of split things up, and created a conceptual album, giving me the idea for what it would be. I was worried it would be seen as two EPs and not an album, actually, but I’m happy I did it like that.”
With the songs written over a long period of time, they were the ones that happened to fit together, augmented by some extras written late in the day to hold things together. “I knew what the concept I would draw out was at the end,” Dagny says, “which made it easier to tap into the emotions in the studio and draw it out. Before I was so much about singles, and for this I was thinking about the whole, the story, and how all the tracks fit together. That’s been a really exciting part of the album.”
“There were songs I’d love to have on the album but they don’t really fit. It’s about the whole idea of meeting someone that’s a stranger to you, then you fast forward a year and you’re the closest people and they’re the person you always go to. And then when a break up happens you go from lovers to strangers, that transition, that disconnect and not being able to call them anymore… I find that whole scenario kind of brutal and yet inspiring.”
“There are so many emotions I wish I could put in the album,” she continues. “I could have written three albums on the same kind of subject, but I don’t know if people would go for that. It does feel like the music world is more a free game now, people can just do what suits them, and I like that.”
Like in Ireland, the summer has been weird for events in Norway, absent gigs, and if anything that’s enabled a polishing of the record to true depth. Normally, Dagny would be heading off across the globe. “We’ve been touring for years, and I’ve only released maybe ten songs, and it felt really good to get a body of work out there and put out songs that aren’t designed to be big radio songs,” she says. “These are tracks that show a different side to me.”
“It’s been a bit strange to have a summer without traveling and gigging, especially as part of an album campaign, because the big rewards, I feel, for doing all that time in the studio is that you know that you’re going out gigging. It’s what you look forward to and build up to. I definitely prefer a normal year.”
“I could have another album written before I ever get the chance to perform this one, which is weird. It’s actually changed the way I write, as normally I’m in the studio thinking about how it’ll sound live and what the reaction will be like, but now I’m thinking about other things.”
“I felt ready to stand on my own two feet a bit,” she concludes on the record. “With so many songs to choose from, I did it with my own label, my own artwork, and so on. It’s my own thing, and I really like that kind of creative control and learning to trust myself as I go along. It’s freedom, in a way.”