Published September 19, 2018
Teitur Magnússon casually stands from the park bench he’s sitting on and saunters into the garden path. “When the sun comes, some people do this power pose and you can go all the way and be like, ‘Til hamingju með mig!’” he exclaims, taking a wide stance with his fists raised to the sky, turning South to face the sun. “You should say those things to yourself, and that’s what I have fun with.”
The 31-year-old singer-songwriter openly embraces the idea of wishing oneself good fortune—an appropriately self-congratulatory spirit in light of the recent release of his second album, ‘Orna.’ Two boxes full of copies of the album grace the park bench, as Teitur is spending the day making the rounds to the record shops. “The Vikings used to say ‘gæfan,’ which was happiness, luck and success,” he says. “It was like a cloud that surrounded you. When someone’s stating that they say ‘gæfan fylgi þér,’ which is like farewell, but you’re basically saying, ‘may all good things in life follow you around.’ You could call it just vibes.”
Well known as a member of the reggae group Ojba Rasta and for the success of his first album ‘27,’ released in 2014, Teitur radiates undeniably chill vibes. With his flowing strawberry blonde mane, silky white tracksuit and fluffy fur-runner hat, he has a deep natural passion for engaging with various paths of spiritual philosophy and carries an aura of acceptance and detachment. He has chosen the particular park we are sitting in for the warm fond nostalgia that it holds to him.
“My two cousins grew up on this street, they lived in this house right here,” he says, pointing to the house directly on the other side of the wall. “The older one, Skarphéðinn, actually helped me with a lot of lyrics on the album. I saw my first concert here when I was a kid. It was this Icelandic singer-songwriter called Bjartmar. He has this long black curly hair, back then he had a mullet. He did a lot of songs that were written from the point of view of a kid, so he was playing here and it was filled with families.”
Teitur himself grew up a bit further east, near Reykjavík’s Laugadalur neighbourhood, as the youngest child of a blended family with older sisters from his parents’ prior relationships. He reminisces about all his sisters working at the ice cream shop on Langholtsvegur . “I had these fantasies going on and I was really good at playing alone,” he says. “I played a lot with Playmobil, building these cities. After a little while you stop making voices for the characters and making them play with each other. I just did that for many years—putting up these worlds, looking at them, and then taking them down.”
This comfortable world of play and fantasy seems to have carried over into his current world, in his music and professional life. “Since the last album, I moved nine times and had two kids,” he says. “I guess now the fantasy is real and the real is fantasy, in a way. You create a lot with how you want to perceive the world, and attitude I guess. The kids help you also to do that. They get really excited about the little things that we might take for granted.”
Kind of bliss
Teitur began writing the songs in early 2015 after the birth of his first child and began working with his neighbor Leifur Björnsson (Low Roar) to make the guide tracks, much of which was done in the early mornings.
“There’s this tender time after having a kid when you are in some kind of bliss,” he says. “I was just a new dad doing music in the morning, so later when I listened to it I was like, okay this is really mellow! I realized I didn’t want it to be sleepy, so I got all the session players who came in to kick it up a notch.”
The album’s title, ‘Orna’ can be translated to the Danish concept of ‘hygge’—a particular type of cosiness often associated with the deep winter, the dark sky, a home filled with candles and a flickering wood fire, hot drinks and getting warm and snuggly inside. Indeed, even with rounding out by local indie heavyweight musicians such as Arnljótur Sigurðsson, Ingibjörg Elsa Turchi, Magnús Trygvason Elíassen, Erling Bang and guest vocals by Sigurlaug Gísladóttir (Mr. Silla, múm), the album decidedly relaxed, heartwarming and wistful.
Nu dad rock
The influence of fatherhood went one step further, as Teitur had immersed himself at that point in a style of music as equally beloved as it is reviled. “I was investigating this thing called ‘dad rock,’ bands like Steely Dan, and I was like, okay why is this a term and why have I always heard it in a negative way?” he says. “How can it be negative to be a dad? And then can I not rock? What should I be doing? So I was like, I’m gonna take it back and do it my way.”
Helping him reclaim and re-appropriate the term was producer Mike Lindsay (Tunng, Lump), with whom Teitur previously worked on his debut album and shares a fortuitous symbiotic non-verbal communication. “Mike is a very interesting guy, because he can change things up and make things sound good really quickly,” he says. “I did a guitar solo on the title track, but then Mike had to twist it around and play it in reverse and do something really psychedelic with it, which is what I love him for. I can be like, I have a crazy idea! And he’s like, not crazy enough! It’s just pure vibes going on. Pure vibes.”
The vibes with Teitur carry on throughout our two-hour conversation, strolling from record shop to coffee shop, through parks and streets of his youth. Our talk meanders from his music constantly, leading to various non-sequiturs and a hilarious story of chasing prankster kids who dropped a bag of poop on him through this little park.
“So he ran in through here and then he kind of stopped like,” Teitur leans down, hands on knees, as he re-creates the scene. “Then I came into the park and I was like, hey you stop! Of course he wasn’t gonna stop. What was I gonna do with him anyway if I caught him?”