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Sigrid reflects on her early musical influences, like Adele and Coldplay

How Adele And Coldplay Taught Sigrid To Be A Pop Star

The Norwegian singer reflects on her early musical influences.

By Nolan Feeney
Photos by Ian Gavan, Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

In Elite Daily's series Buffering…, musicians reflect on the songs and albums that left a lasting impression on them in their formative teen years. Norwegian singer-songwriter Sigrid is up first.

When Sigrid was 9 years old, she grabbed her brother’s CD player and went off by herself to listen to what she felt was her “little secret”: Coldplay’s “Clocks.” It didn’t matter that, by the mid-2000s, Coldplay was actually a massive band with smash singles and fans all over the world. Having grown up in a small town in Norway, Sigrid says, “I felt like I was transported. When you discover your favorite songs as a kid, it’s this magical feeling. I felt my world was expanding with the music, and I got lost in it.”

Back then, she didn’t understand what Chris Martin was saying — she had only just started taking English lessons at school. But she was struck by the way the band combined rich instrumentation with soul-piercing melodies, and the way a song (even one in another language) could instantly brighten her day. Both qualities have shaped her own music: Across her two studio albums (2019’s Sucker Punch and last month’s How to Let Go), Sigrid has imbued sparkling Scandinavian pop with an alternative edge, becoming a must-see festival act and earning accolades like the BBC’s Sound Of 2018. (Past winners of the annual prize include Adele, Sam Smith, and Haim.) From her defiant debut single, “Don’t Kill My Vibe,” to the thundering “Burning Bridges,” she often sings about finding power and positivity in uncomfortable situations — strained relationships, black holes of self-doubt.

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“I love a big chorus, but I also want to say something that means something to me,” Sigrid, now 25, says. “I love getting something productive out of something that's frustrating. That's kind of been my recipe — to take my frustration out in songs.”

If Coldplay helped Sigrid find her sound — you can hear her love of “Viva La Vida” in the string arrangements of tracks like “Sight Of You” — it was the subsequent wave of U.K. soul divas that helped her find her voice. Sigrid had spent most of her childhood listening to the rock music her family liked — her dad loved Neil Young; her brother was into heavier acts like Nirvana and the Swedish metal band Opeth — and she still cites artists like Arctic Monkeys, Bombay Bicycle Club, Two Door Cinema Club, and Bon Iver as inspirations. (“Bon Iver was one of the reasons I picked up the guitar,” she says.) Everything changed, though, when she heard Adele.

“‘Rolling in the Deep’ is the reason why I make pop music,” Sigrid says. “It was the first time I heard a female singer sing so honest and raw. It was just a ball of energy. She was truly singing from the heart. I felt like I was in the studio listening to the song [with her]. I had to listen to the song 20 times before I could think about the arrangement and the production and how much I loved it.”

As a teenager, she’d print lyric sheets of her favorite songs by Adele, Duffy, and Amy Winehouse off her parents’ computer and spend hours at the piano, piecing together chords and making her own covers. The better she got, the more she started to tinker: changing the keys here and there, bending the words into different melodies. Eventually, she realized she was trying to write her own songs. “Maybe I didn’t always feel like the coolest — who feels super cool when you’re a teenager? — but I felt like music was my thing,” she says. “I spent a lot of time daydreaming by the piano. Maybe one day I’ll move to a bigger city. What if I make a song one day? [I had] a massive joy for music.”

It didn’t take long for those daydreams to become reality. At 16, Sigrid submitted the first song she ever wrote, “Sun,” to a Norwegian radio platform's new artist program and was playlisted across the country right away; she suddenly found herself juggling school with record label meetings and opening gigs for other artists. She still writes a lot about being torn between two worlds. How to Let Go deals with feeling like “you’re still a kid, but you’re also a grownup — you’re in this weird in-between stage,” she says. “You walk out into your twenties like, ‘Let’s f*cking go!’ You have this intense feeling of taking on the world, and then you get a little bit older and it’s like, ‘Oh, self-doubt and insecurities are creeping in.’”

Music still helps her cope, whether it’s her own — songs like “Mirror” and “Bad Life,” she says, give her some perspective when she’s having a tough time — or her favorite artists. “It makes everything I do in my everyday life more special. I love walking down the street to a cool song. I just look at everything differently,” she says. If that sounds like one of those movie scenes where the sun starts shining and passersby burst into choreography, well — that’s actually not far off. “I try to make my everyday life like a coming-of-age indie film, a Greta Gerwig type of film,” she says, laughing. “That's what I strive for with my soundtrack to my headphones.”

Sigrid’s second album, How to Let Go, is out now.