Laufey on Bringing Jazz To Gen Z and Writing About The Trials of Our 20s

Laufey on Bringing Jazz To Gen Z and Writing About The Trials of Our 20s

Live, laugh, Laufey!



There's a common, overarching assumption that jazz and classical music are pretty niche, often written off as something made for a particular type of crowd. And while that's been the case for a while, Gen Z has come to welcome the romantic sounds into their playlists and their lives. Icelandic songstress Laufey (pronounced Lay-vay) is at the forefront, whose singles like Street by Street and Valentine have received worldwide love and attention. Starting with songs recorded in her bedroom while studying at the Berklee College of Music, Laufey has become a beloved icon, touring the world and playing sold-out shows in Asia and Australia.



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It's no secret that Laufey grew up around music, with her mother being a violinist for the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the songstress discovering jazz through her father's records. But her main tether to music is its function as an escape, a constant variable as she spent and continues to spend time in different places and cities. Growing up, she was moving between Iceland and Washington, D.C., before going to school in Boston, settling in Los Angeles and eventually touring for work. “Music is the common denominator,” she explains. “It's like a place that I can always escape to that is the same. And it's mine, and it's comfortable, and it's beautiful.” 


For many a listener, Laufey's music is like a warm hug. It envelopes you, slowly but surely, with every lyric and every note played, the way the sunlight seeps into your skin on a cold day. And while she's still got some heartbreak anthems up her sleeve, Laufey can still make you fall in love with her creations if the sold-out shows are any indication. Knowing that she's connected with so many people through her tunes, Laufey expresses, “I'm so honored that people should want to follow me and come to my concerts and listen to my music. It's like the coolest thing ever.”


Ahead of her first-ever show in Manila that also falls as her biggest concert yet, we speak to Laufey on reintroducing the genre to Gen Z, performing at home and more.



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Wonder: Not many artists in the mainstream expansively explore jazz, classical and bossa nova the way you do. Is there a reason why you lean into this genre the most when you create?

Laufey: I think it's just because it's what comes most naturally to me, and it's my favorite kind of music. I love it so much, and I want to introduce it to a wider audience in a way that feels familiar to them.


W: Gen Z has taken a deep respect and love for your songs and the genre. Do you remember the moment that you realized that your music really does resonate with many different people?

L: Oh my god! I think probably on Instagram or TikTok, sometime before I even released my first EP. I just started to realize that my following was made up of young people. I think after I played my first shows, I looked out into the audience and it kind of just looked like a big friend group of mine. It was like kids my age, which was really cool.


@laufeyTrying local snacks: Philippines Edition ⭐️ See you tonight Manila ❤️🇵🇭♬ Au Revoir – Sweet After Tears


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W: Valentine is considered your breakout single. It perfectly captures the confusion—or disbelief—or finally finding someone who reciprocates your romantic feelings. Can you walk us through the process while writing this song? 

L: Valentine… You know, I wrote it on Valentine's Day of 2021, almost as a joke, because I actually hadn't been in love at that point. But I was like, how would it feel if I were? And even those small moments where I felt like maybe I was in love, my first reaction was almost like, “Oh my god, I should run away!” And I think that song captures that feeling of just being in love for the first time and not knowing what to do with it, and in a weird way, not feeling like you deserve it. 


W: Your debut album, Everything I Know About Love, has many of your listeners relating to the themes of youth, romance and heartache. What was the journey for this album? Which parts of your life inspired the songs?

L: I think a lot of what inspired it was, you know, kind of… I had just moved to LA, so lot of my trials and tribulations moving there. A lot of songs write about moving away from Iceland, moving away from home and growing up. And then also dating around and having a lot of bad experiences, or good experiences that didn't last very long, but they were good in the moment. You know, just all the trials and tribulations of being like a young 20-something-year-old. 


W: You got to do A Night At The Symphony with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. How was the experience of holding such a show? How were the preparations, especially reworking your songs for an orchestra?

L: I mean, it was just incredible. I would have never dreamed that I could do that. I grew up backstage at the Iceland Symphony. My mother is a violinist in the Iceland Symphony, and to get to play two sold-out shows with them just felt completely unreal. Like I still haven't wrapped my head around it. And to get to hear my songs played by an orchestra was, you know, that was always a dream of mine. From the moment I started, I wanted to do that. But I never, ever thought that I'd be able to do it and do it so soon as well. It's just a completely different way of experiencing music. It just completely wraps you around—it's like headphones in real life.



W: If you could go back to any point of the past to reassure your younger self, what age would it be and what would you tell her?

L: I mean, this will be very relevant in a couple of months. But I would go back to my 13-year-old self and kind of just tell her, it's all going to be okay. Like, don't worry if you feel a little bit different because that part that makes you different is going to be what gives you your dream life in the future. 


W: What do you hope people will take away from listening to your music?

L: I hope they can find an escape the same way that I find an escape through writing that music and listening to jazz and classical. 


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While we wait for the tear-jerking Promise to drop, pre-save the single and listen to Laufey's From The Start:




Photos Iya Forbes, courtesy of Karpos Multimedia

Art Matthew Ian Fetalver

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