Snorri Helgason has a penchant for jumping, for letting go and moving on and embracing what’s next, for Kierkegaardian, gravity-defying leaps-of-faith.
A look at Snorri’s remarkable career reveals that the 29-year old singer-songwriter not only possesses a talent for precisely timed jumps, leaps and bounds; he has also thoroughly mastered the art of landing on his feet. His ongoing ventures continually bring him a few steps further along his quest—forever seeking that perfect harmony, an unbridled expression of humanity through a combination of words and music that would resonate through untold hearts and, ultimately, through the ages.
Snorri Helgason’s music is heartfelt and introspective, yet universal, a highly relatable exploration of his personal struggles and emotions. An avid student of pop history, Snorri keeps a firm foot in the past and a clear eye on the future, bringing forth a constant stream of timeless folk-tinged melodies and carefully constructed songs that are very much of the time.
Since taking that first consequential leap at age nineteen, when he stormed out from his job as a record store clerk determined to dedicate his life to music, Snorri has managed feats and received accolades that few musicians could ever hope for. This includes (but is not limited to) penning several chart-topping hits, leading a band to multi-platinum sales and world tours and collaborating with some of Iceland’s best-regarded musicians, celebrated artists such as Valgeir Sigurðsson, Sindri Már ‘Sin Fang’ Sigfússon and Sóley.
Snorri lead his first band, Sprengjuhöllin, to massive popularity in his native Iceland. In the span of three years, they released two best-selling, award-winning albums featuring several chart-topping radio hits (one of them, a Snorri-penned number, remained at the top of Icelandic National Radio’s charts for 27 consecutive weeks) and regularly played sold out shows for huge crowds of followers. Sprengjuhöllin ultimately progressed to touring the world a few times over, performing at major festivals and at packed clubs in Europe and North America, despite the fact that their music was sung in a language that’s currently understood by less than 400,000 persons worldwide.
At the peak of Sprengjuhöllin’s career, Snorri made another leap of faith. Despite his standing as a respected and successful musician, he felt that something was being left unsaid, that there was more to be explored and expressed. His band dissolved, Snorri thus embarked upon a fruitful solo career that has already yielded two critically acclaimed albums, several successful tours around Europe and various successful radio singles.
Snorri made his first solo album, I’m Gonna Put My Name On Your Door, in collaboration with noted Reykjavík scenester Kristinn Gunnar Blöndal, KGB. Drawing inspiration from the power pop and folk music of the sixties and seventies while honoring personal icons such as Townes Van Zandt and Harry Nilsson, Snorri produced a beautifully crafted album that firmly established him as a solo artist in the vibrant Icelandic music scene.
And again he jumped. Seeking to further challenge himself, Snorri decided to once more venture out of his comfort zone, putting his local career on ice and relocating to London.
Following a few initial gigs around his adopted hometown, Snorri realized that in order to stand out from the thousands of other hopefuls, simply being good wasn’t enough—he would need to be outstanding. He immediately pushed forward, honing his stage performance by performing at every opportunity, spending long nights poring over his songwriting and refining his words [insert Rocky IV training montage].
While home for Christmas break, Snorri decided to pay a visit to old friend Sindri Már Sigfússons’s studio to record some of the songs he had been working on in his exile. High off his newfound focus and determination, Snorri’s collaboration with Sindri proved fruitful beyond belief. The session, starting off as a vacation lark, quickly turned serious, with the two frantically working to capture the results of Snorri’s recent labor as interpreted through Sindri’s unique work methods. Pots of coffee were consumed, packs of cigarettes were smoked and old friends of the two, like Mr. Silla (of múm) and Sóley were recruited to record vocals and instrument tracks.
The resulting LP, Winter Sun, is a monster of a record, an ambitious, sometimes painfully honest meditation on growing up, growing old and coming to terms with oneself. It is Snorri’s most critically lauded piece of music, proving that he is here for the long haul and that we, the listeners, are in for some very special treats as he moves forward.
Following Winter Sun’s release, Snorri started playing like a madman at any place that would have him (and he still does—Snorri performs on average, while in rest-mode, no less than one concert per week. While touring, it’s more like seven). And he put together a helluva band. Herding a bunch of old friends—that just happen to form a kinda Icelandic music scene supergroup—Snorri’s band consists of the aforementioned Mr. Silla, drummer Magnús Trygvason Elíassen (Amiina, Sin Fang, Tilbury, AdHD) and bassist Guðmundur Óskar (of Hjaltalín fame).
Those guys have built an exceptionally solid vibe, as anyone who’s witnessed them in concert will attest. In fact, Snorri is currently recording an album with them in ‘band mode’ (they are now operating as The Snorri Helgason Band), which is reportedly sounding great and due out this fall.
Snorri Helgason’s journey is just in its beginning stages, as he admits in Winter Sun’s painfully honest ‘99 Songs’: “Ninety-nine songs up in my head, gotta get ‘em out before I’m dead.”
Let’s hope he does.
Haukur S Magnússon