Jófríður Ákadóttir, who performs under the stage name JFDR, sits in her house, in the midst of a storm that has shut down Reykjavík completely. “I woke up at seven and it was so loud,” she exclaims, as she hunts for an elusive coffee mug. “The house was singing! It was pretty wild.”
Jófríður looks younger than her 25-years as she curls up in a chair. But despite her youth, the musician has a well-earned reputation as one of the hardest workers on the scene. Jófríður’s music career started when she was only 14 as part of Pascal Pinon, a band she formed with her twin sister Ásthildur. Since then, she has gone on to form, and perform with, many different acts, notably electronic groups Samaris and Gangly, as well as produce her own solo work as JFDR.
New dreams & new sounds
Jófríður’s latest solo album, ‘New Dreams’ will be released in March, three years after her last record, ‘Brazil’ came out. She’s already put out three songs from the upcoming effort—“Shimmer”, “My Work,” and “Taking A Part Of Me”—which each reveal a new side of the artist’s sound. While her voice has always had a girlish, naive quality to it, these new works showcase a delicate tension between vulnerability and confidence. They are subtle in their presentation but powerful in their lyricism. As Jófríður explains, this album took a long time to make, but she was determined to get it right.
“It’s been a year on hold,” she says, staring into space. “I finished the recording around mid-2018 and then I took a year and a half to get everything together. I left New York and settled in Iceland again and I had to sort of reconnect with home—the feeling of home and normal life and what everything meant to me.”
Her new songs mirror these themes. “I yearn for the innocence I once think I had, a lack of sense for a fear that grows as I grow older,” she sings with heartbreaking honesty in “My Work.” But as she talks today, Jófríður seems a lot more settled into the person she has become, and has put some of her worries to bed.
“I think one of the things that scared me was putting a bit of pressure on that album and myself,” she explains. “I wrote the album when I was in a state where I felt that everything was important, that there had to be weight and meaning in everything. And then I came out of that and I was like, no it’s not, not everything is a big deal, you don’t have to worry about it.”
A different person
Jófríður definitely does not come across as worried. Her conversation, although touching on heavy topics, is light and spacious. Quietly thoughtful and with an easy charm, she seems a world away from the previous, more anxious version of herself—and in fact, this dissonance between the person who she was when she recorded the music and the person she is now irks Jófríður somewhat.
“It’s interesting listening to music that you made years ago because that’s not who I am right now—I’m representing a story that happened a while ago. I always get a bit sad about how the music industry works because technically you could write a song and release it the next day—but if you want to do things well you have to work for that. That of course takes time and then you’re left disconnected.”
Still, Jófríður doesn’t seem too concerned. “There’s a truth in everything but there’s also a bit of fiction and fantasy,” she concludes, before emphasising how excited she is to be touring again. Her unplanned hiatus in Reykjavik has left her with itchy feet, it appears.
Forays into film
Despite fewer performances and tours during this period of acclimatization, Jófríður has still been incredibly busy by most people’s standards—everybody’s but hers, it would appear. Notably she has been making a move into film composition, for which she has drawn from both her classical music training and her experience of creating electronic music. The first full-length score she produced was for ‘Agnes Joy,’ Silja Hauksdóttir’s tale of midlife-burnout and familial relationships that was released last year. “I was very proud of myself for how I did that in the end,” Jófríður says of this new area she’s exploring. Within the context of Icelandic film composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s recent astronomical success, Jófríður is confident that female composers are beginning to be seen with a new-found respect.
“I think one of the things that is a problem—and I think Hildur has mentioned this in interviews as well—is that people don’t expect women to be able to handle these projects. So the fact that she’s faced those challenges, and she’s made it through…” Jófríðu trails off and throws her hands up with palpable awe. “It’s such an inspiration just because the whole world is watching and then there’s this incredible woman who’s not just an amazing composer—she’s also an amazing role model. And of course people will be like, oh okay, well maybe there are other women who could do this.”
Being a good role model and offering a leg up to other young women is something Jófríður takes seriously. Alongside her work on score composition, she has also been involved with a project in collaboration with 101derland teaching young women how to use sound production software such as Ableton. She is hesitant to talk about it in a way that might come across as self-congratulatory, and suggests that some of the ‘Women In Music’ events she has come across have missed the mark. “I think it’s important to talk about this situation and to figure out how you can be of help in a way that isn’t just self promotion,” she says. “I just want to be able to empower them to make their own recordings and stuff,” she says. “But one of the reasons why I wanted to do it is because I didn’t have any of that direct contact from a role model telling me about these things.”
Lacking a role model or clear direction in her early days of music was somewhat of a challenge, Jófríður recognises. But that time of confusion fuelled her development into a confident and competent musician. “We were definitely a bit stupid sometimes,” she acknowledges. “But that’s okay. We definitely made a lot of mistakes—and learned from them. I feel like that’s something that you use for the rest of your life.”
A decade in the music industry is a long time, no matter how old you are, and it’s hard to find a permanent footing on a constantly shifting landscape. But this is something that Jófríður seems to have achieved in the last ten years through her hard work, creativity and dedication. Looking forward, she has a clear idea exactly how she wants to flourish in the future:
“I think I’ve been in this kind of phase for the last couple of years where I’ve been questioning—for good reasons, it’s quite healthy to do that. But I want to do less of that now and go back into more intuitive movement. I feel like I’ve had enough of just thinking about things.” She smiles. “We’ll see. Maybe in ten years I’ll be fearless.”
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