Meet Dagny! The pop star from Tromsø is well on her way to an international career with her catchy, feel-good songs and charismatic personality.
Text: Lone Helle. Photo: Mats Gangvik
Dagny Norvoll Sandvik (27) is visiting her hometown in connection with a concert at the student venue Driv. With her snowy-white hair, rock’n’roll outfit and the world's biggest smile, she is ready to take her hometown by storm.
I always look forward to playing in Tromsø.
"I have been looking forward to tonight ever since the concert was planned last autumn. We always get such a good crowd here, and tickets sell out quickly. Which is brilliant, and makes me feel very proud,” says Dagny with a smile.
She is buzzing with energy – and just a hint of nerves. It’s a big night. The concert is sold out, and 800 fans are looking forward to seeing their local star, who has found international fame, playing on her home turf.
“Playing in your hometown is special, for us and the audience. There’s always a great atmosphere. We are proud of each other and cheer each other on, Tromsø and I. I think people here like that I still come home to play, and I do not take their support for granted,” says Dagny.
“Backbeat” and Grey's Anatomy
Dagny did not start getting into music until she was 16 years old. Which is a bit late, in her opinion. In 2012, she moved from quiet little Tromsø to London to follow her dream and pursue a career in music. She spent many years working hard and playing countless concerts, without any further success. Towards the end, she was about to give up on her music and enrol as a student, but a phone call back to her parents in Tromsø made her keep trying just a little bit longer. Two months later, she had her breakthrough.
“Things are completely different now, but it took a long time to get here. Before, when we were touring, we used to sleep on sofas wherever we could. It’s a bit different now. But I also think it’s good that we didn’t find success straight away. All those years where we didn't make any money at all. It means we are all-too familiar with the other side of success and do not take anything for granted,” Dagny explains.
Three years have passed since the hit “Backbeat” was released and Dagny became a pop star overnight. In the first week alone, her debut single had more than 450,000 plays on Spotify, beating Sia’s “Alive” and Ellie Goulding’s “On My Mind” on Spotify’s streaming list. Today, Dagny has over 1.2 million monthly listeners on Spotify. When an acoustic version of Backbeat featured in the Grey's Anatomy episode “True Colors” last year, Dagny’s first thought was:
“GOAL!!! It was amazing and quite surreal to see Meredith Grey lying in bed, with ‘Backbeat’ playing in the background. Of course I knew the song was going to be played, but it was still weird. An indescribable feeling,” Dagny says, who herself has discovered a lot of new music through the series.
Source of inspiration
Dagny is surfing on a wave of success at the moment that doesn't show any signs of diminishing any time soon. She has warmed up for megastars like Justin Bieber, in front of 14,000 adrenaline-filled people at the O2 Arena in London, and has played hundreds of concerts. If you haven't heard “Backbeat”, “Love You Like That”, “Wearing Nothing”, or “Fool’s Gold” yet, chances are you will very soon. Here in Norway her concerts sell out, and this year she is embarking on her first headline tour in the United States.
“It's going to be so much fun. I love playing in the USA! Chicago and Seattle are my favourite cities.”
Dagny likes being a source of inspiration for others. She thinks it's especially cool when she hears about other people who have been on the verge of giving up on their music dream, but who have stuck with it after hearing her story.
“It's incredibly inspiring. In fact, it's one of the nicest compliments I can get,” says Dagny.
She herself finds inspiration in many places. When she is at home in Tromsø for a visit, she is inspired by nature.
“I don’t always have the opportunity to get outside and commune with nature when I’m touring, so I try and make sure I do whenever I'm home. In a way, Tromsø is on the very edge of the world, with incredibly fresh air and stunning scenery. And it only takes 10 minutes from the city centre to the wilderness. Which is absolutely fantastic. People here don't worry about terrorism and things like that in the same way as they do in, say, London. There you always know something might happen. Tromsø is a small, peaceful place. I love it!”
Dagny’s whole face lights up when she talks about the things she enjoys here at home: quality time with her family, excursions to Grøtfjorden on Kvaløya, mushroom picking on Ringvassøya, eating cinnamon rolls at her favourite café in town – or hanging out at the Blå Rock pub, where she started working in the kitchen at the age of 17.
“It was actually through my job at Blå Rock that I started getting really into music. Working there has probably had a huge influence on me and my music. It was here that I became seriously interested in music. It is a very open scene, with many different types of music,” Dagny explains.
– What is it like being Dagny at the moment?
“It's great! I've got so many exciting things going on. We are touring, and in 2018 we’ll be releasing lots of new songs. Music can also lead to many exciting opportunities. For example, I got to go to South Korea and the experience the Olympics as a digital reporter for Discovery. It didn’t have anything to do with music, but the opportunity arose because I'm doing music. I'm glad that we get to travel loads and meet lots of interesting people and cultures,” says Dagny.
The Tromsø girl has her feet firmly planted on the ground and is grateful for all she gets to experience, thanks to her music. She hopes that people who travel to Tromsø make time to experience the cultural aspects of Tromsø too, and not just the local nature.
Tromsø is an amazing cultural city.
"I say that when I'm being interviewed abroad too. Tromsø has a very vibrant music and film scene. We have so many nationalities here, and this is reflected in the culture and the music. Jazz, salsa, hard rock! I hope people who come here also get out and explore the city’s cultural scene. When I’m travelling, experiencing the local culture and meeting the local people are some of the things I enjoy most.”
Dagny loves traveling, and Portugal is her favourite holiday destination.
“I go to Portugal to surf. I love surfing. I’d really like to try it here at home in Tromsø too, so I hope someone will soon take me out surfing here in Tromsø,” says Dagny with a broad grin.
The pop star no longer lives in London, as she is permanently on the road with her music. Which suits her just fine.
“It’s great. It also gives me the opportunity to drop in on my family in Tromsø a little more often when I have a few days off. After all, Tromsø is home! You can’t beat coming home to mum and dad, but I also feel at home in Oslo, London, Stockholm, and Los Angeles. In fact, I generally settle in pretty well wherever I am,” says Dagny, who remembers her first encounter with L.A. particularly well.
“The first time I was in L.A., I had just learned to drive, and had never been on a highway before. So when I found myself behind the wheel of an automatic car, about to head out into the traffic, I was terrified for the first 24 hours, but when I saw it went well I thought: ‘If I can do this, I can do anything!’”
Edit: This article was first written for the Tromsø Guide 2018/2019. Dagny is now 28 years old, and her success continues. She’s been nominated for P3 Gull and Spelleman several times, and this year she was nominated for best song “Drink About”, amongst others. She newly released the single «Hit Your Heart» and has lined up a summer tour, playing concerts around Norway and Europe. Her music can also be heard in the American TV-show “The Bold Type”, now showing on NRK TV.