If you missed the brilliant debut single from Icelandic singer Glowie, called Body, we urge you to listen to it now, because it wasn’t a one-off. Her new single Cruel, which is released today, is another slick pop affair with a thought-provoking message.
The track is written by Tayla Parx, who wrote most of Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next album, and is produced by Britney/Troye Sivan/Maroon 5 hitmaker Oscar Gorres. Yep, she’s not messing about.
Glowie – real name Sara Pétursdóttir – is very upfront about the fact that she’s not much of a songwriter (yet), but her connection with her songs is still deep. It’s one of many things we learned when we met up with her ahead of Cruel’s release.
Glowie moved to the UK from Iceland eight months ago, but you probably won’t see her out and about much.
“I don’t really go on big nights out. I like to stay in and read a book, watch a movie or paint. If I go out, it’s usually to an art gallery or something. I’m reading a bunch of books at the moment. I have ADHD, so I have to keep things fresh! I find it hard to concentrate. Currently I’m on Icelandic crime thriller and Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. I’m dyslexic, so I only started reading for pleasure a year ago. London is so different to Iceland – it’s huge, the weather is so up and down and the people are very shy [in the UK] - while Iceland is small and the people can be quite judgemental.”
She creates entire worlds around her songs.
“Body is a song I’m so proud of because it has a message that I’ve always wanted to put out there about body positivity and feeling super confident and free within yourself. Cruel I’m also super excited about because it’s more vulnerable and emotional. It’s about those strong, difficult feelings – about being confused about the cruelty of other people and in yourself and not knowing how to control it or work with it.
“I want to do more than just release a song, I feel like every song has a whole world around it. I write poems and do paintings around them to really bring the message a strong as I can to people. The message behind Cruel is something everyone can relate to. It’s not about one specific thing – I was bullied a lot as a teenager – it has all these different meanings people can bring to it."
Glowie might not be a songwriter, but she describes herself a "curator"
“Most of the time the songs are pitched into the label and then I hear them if they think it’ll be a good fit. If I like it then I’ll talk to the writer about it, ask them what it means to them, why they wrote it in the first place, why did they say this thing specifically – it’s important for me to connect with it so it comes from my heart. I don’t really write songs, so if I’m not doing that I have to connect to other people’s music.”
R&B music was her jam when she was growing up
“Rap and hip-hop is really popular in Iceland right now, but it’s weird hip-hop, very different to what’s going on in the US. I had albums in my bedroom before I could even afford to buy them myself - I stole J Lo and Destiny’s Child albums from my sister’s room. The Survivor album. When I started singing as a teenager, I only sang R&B music and that’s what I wanted to do. I think I’m more R&B and pop mixed together now.”
All the major record labels were very keen to sign her.
“You know what, I don’t even know how I’ve got to this point! It happened really, really fast. Basically, I was in a singing competition and I’d sort of lost hope of being a musician. I was going through some stuff and I was in a dark place. When I did the singing competition, this producer saw me on TV and we just started working together. I remember I was very insecure at the time and he was just this great songwriter. It’s how Glowie was born. Just before we put our first track out, we realised we should probably come up with a new name, because Sarah is a pretty common name. Glowie just came randomly.
“In 2015 I had labels offering to sign me, but I just wasn’t ready at all, so I asked if they would hold off for a year. In hindsight I’m lucky they came back because the opportunity could have gone forever. I’m so happy I picked Columbia Records because they are so supportive.”
Don’t expect the album any time soon, but one is definitely in the works.
“Not much. We’re just focusing on the first few singles at the moment. An album is still very important to me – it’s just about tying everything together and figuting out what it should sound like. I don’t want it to be a bunch of random songs that have no connection, they need to pull together and tell a story.”
Check out Glowie's stunning new piano version of Cruel: