Eydís Evensen - Full Performance (Live on KEXP at Home)
As a child, Eydís Evensen would stare out at the distant mountains as the wind howled around her, pretending to conduct the clouds. In these daydreams, she was a meteorological maestro: controlling the Icelandic stormfronts in the distance, bending the weather and the world to her will like an orchestra. “The weather was intense where I grew up but so inspiring. There was such harshness to our winters, but at the same time, such beauty. I used to sit there for hours,” recalls the Blönduós-born composer. Years later, Evensen is still finding musical expressions for the awe she feels when staring out at the vastness of nature.
The Icelandic composer grew up in a town of 800 people in the rough and sparsely populated northern half of Iceland, in a music-obsessed household where Led Zeppelin and Tchaikovsky took turns on her parents’ record player. “As soon as I could stand, I was wandering over to the piano, wanting to play,” she remembers. “I started piano lessons aged six, then wrote my first piece of music aged seven, inspired by a storm outside.”
Bylur, the pianist’s mesmerising 2021 debut album, was a calming contemporary classical diary of her life to date, that takes its name from the Icelandic word for ‘snowstorm.’ She chose that title for good reason. “All of these songs are moments from my life,” she says. “So many ups and downs. All of my joy, darkness, happiness, heartbreak and melancholia.” A snowstorm contain multitudes: there’s chaos and adversity to them, but beauty and fragility too. The same could be said about this emotionally eclectic album: an enchanting float of stirring piano melodies and tender strings from a force-of-nature new talent.
The album’s release signaled Evensen’s confident arrival on the international stage and, in spite of the challenges of touring in the last two years, 2021 saw her debut in London to a sold-out Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall, in Paris she shared the bill with Damon Albarn for the annual ARTE Concert Festival, and she performed for the first time in Berlin and Madrid.
Early 2022 saw Evensen released her follow-up EP to Bylur, Frost. A wider metaphor behind Frost, one keenly felt by Evensen; being the turmoil of the last two years. “It’s like a journey through darker moments, but seeing that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” she explains. “It’s very representative of what we’ve all gone through, and a renewed sense of hope.” No coincidence that ‘The Light I’ is the most recently composed piece then, written and recorded as positivity – and something approaching normality – slowly started to return. It is, says Evensen, the “perfect representation of hope that this year, things will be better.”
Mining deep, heartfelt emotions – whether her own, or those we collectively share – has always provided inspiration for her work, and Frost was no exception. Few combine such beauty and elegance with such universal themes, and Frost stands as the latest step in the exciting development of Eydís Evensen.
Eydís Evensen has come a long way since the days when she would stare out at the distant mountains, pretending to conduct the clouds. It’s a journey that’s just beginning.