Arriving with some media fanfare right in the middle of 2018, ‘Hvað ef’ is the debut album of musician, vocalist and rising pop star Guðrún Ýr—better known as GDRN. The record was a long time in the making, coming together over a period of two years. And yet, Guðrún didn’t dare imagine the amount of positive attention the album would receive. “This is the first music I’ve released,” she says, “so I was a bit surprised when I got this award, to be honest. I didn’t set out to get this into music-making this full on. It’s been a very special year.”
‘Hvað ef’ is a collection of beautifully emotional songs with lyrics that are at once introspective, luscious, subdued and optimistic. “The songs are diverse, but a certain unity can be found between them,” says Guðrún. “I simply wanted to work on a project with my friends and beat-makers Bjarki and Teitur—a.k.a. Ra:tio—who produced a large part of the album with me.”
GDRN’s work with Ra:tio was highly experimental and evolved from being a straightforward mix of beats and vocals to an extensive collaboration. “It was their first endeavour in music production and the first time I’d layered my vocals on top of someone else’s beats,” she says. “I brought in my ideas and we worked on them together.”
‘Hvað ef’ includes a number of collaborators, including Auður, with whom Guðrún worked on the title track and ‘Án mín.’ “We gradually built the two songs up from segments we made from scratch during a number of jam sessions,” she says.
On ‘Þarf þig’ she utilised a beat made by her younger brother, compiled from bell sounds on his computer. “I thought it fit the overall sound of the album and was able to give him a well-deserved ego-boost at the same time.” ‘Lætur mig’—featuring rapper Flóni— has over half a million plays on Spotify at the time of publication.
Guðrún’s classical and jazz music studies aided in setting the album’s unique tone. However, defining it is hard for Guðrún. “Ra:tio are big hip hop fans, while my musical background is more conventional, so we managed to mix together various types of music,” she explains. “I’ve played concerts where both young kids and their parents seem familiar with my music. I enjoy seeing my music bridge a gap in this way.”
GDRN’s slow-paced pop experiment turned out to be more than she imagined, reaching a large, diverse and ever growing audience. Her debut album is a landmark in her creative life, but it’s also just the beginning—and it’s a testament to what can happen when an emerging artist dares to ask “what if?”
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