Strange As Folklore: Snorri Helgason Brings Icelandic Myths To Life - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Strange As Folklore: Snorri Helgason Brings Icelandic Myths To Life

Strange As Folklore: Snorri Helgason Brings Icelandic Myths To Life

Published January 23, 2018

Jessica Peng
Photos by
Art Bicnick

His fingers gently pluck on an acoustic guitar, while his warm and magnetic voice plucks on your heartstrings. Reykjavík-based singer-songwriter Snorri Helgason released his new album ‘Margt býr í þokunni’ in December of last year, and it’s the perfect music for a lazy Sunday by the fireplace.

‘Margt býr í þokunni’— “Lots of people live in the fog,” in English—is an album comprising ten folk songs written by Snorri. “I wrote the songs based on the Icelandic folklore,” he says. “The album is ten different stories that I turned into songs.”

Old reality

Snorri worked on the album for almost four years, and had to do a lot of research on Icelandic folklore in preparation. “It was a vast ocean of books that I had to go through,” he explains. “I read a bunch of these books and earmarked the stories that for some reason stood out for me. Then I came back to them and tried to write something to it. It’s kind of a nerdy thing to do. I had no idea if anybody would be interested in the Icelandic folklore.”

“People really appreciated that someone is paying attention to this kind of tradition.”

It turned out that people were. The album has received positive reviews in the Icelandic media. “People really appreciated that someone is paying attention to this kind of tradition,” says Snorri. “We have to keep it alive.”

One of Snorri’s favourite Icelandic folklore is the story of Fjalla-Eyvindur Jónsson, the famous Icelandic outlaw who survived 20 years in the highlands. “These are the kind of stories that stood out for me—real people, and the reality of Iceland 200 years ago,” he says. “That’s what I find interesting, the human factor behind these stories.”

More banjo

Before Snorri formed his own solo project, he was in a band called Sprengjuhöllin. After the band dissolved, he started releasing music under his name. ‘Margt býr í þokunni’ is his fourth album, and he thinks it’s his first full-on folk album. “The heart of my music is folk music,” he says. “I’ve done a lot of pop music, but it’s always rooted in folk.”

Besides acoustic guitar, Snorri also plays the keyboard and banjo. The sweet texture of the banjo fits perfectly with his music, as you can hear in the song ‘Egilsstaðablá’. “I bought this banjo four years ago when I was on tour in Canada, and I’m aiming to use it a bit more,” he says.

World music

Not only influenced by Icelandic traditions, Snorri is also inspired by folk music from other countries. “I listen to a lot of folk music from all over the world: English, Scottish, American, a little bit of German,” he says. “There are some instances where I found similar themes between these folk songs.”

Besides being a musician, Snorri is also the booker of Húrra in downtown Reykjavík. After the release of his new album, he still has a rather busy schedule for this year. “I’m having a baby in late February, and I have a few other shows. I’m gonna make plans after I get the hang of this baby thing,” he giggles. So look out for Snorri at folk festivals this summer, after he finds some time between changing diapers and bottle feeding.

Find out more on Snorri’s website, and follow our Spotify playlist to stay up to date on Icelandic music.

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