Svala Björgvinsdóttir was literally born into the Icelandic music scene, as her father Björgvin Halldórsson is one of the country’s most successful artists. The “Paper” songstress will follow in his Eurovision footsteps this coming May, as he represented Iceland back in 1995 with “Núna“.
Svala’s interest in music was pretty apparent from a very young age and the same can be said about her talent — her first recording was published when she was only seven.
Two years later at the age of nine, she enjoyed her first number one hit in Iceland. Called “Fyrir jól” (Before Christmas), she recorded the Christmas song as a duet with her father.
Svala Björgvins & Bo Halldórs “Fyrir jól”
And that’s not the only seasonal hit in Svala’s back catalogue. At the fine old age of 11, she released “Ég hlakka svo til” (I Can’t Wait). The track remains one of the most popular Christmas classics in the Nordic nation, and it can usually be found near the top of the radio-play charts every December.
Svala Björgvins “Ég hlakka svo til”
This song actually originates from Italy’s 1988 Sanremo Song Contest. Random this may seem, but for some reason several Icelandic Christmas tunes come from the prestigious festival. Several more were originally Eurovision entries. The video above is taken from a holiday special of one Iceland’s oldest kids’ TV shows.
From Christmas carols to House-Disco and cartoon princesses
Svala became a member of the band Scope when she was 16 years old. Influenced by British house and disco, they recorded the number one smash “Was That All It Was”, a cover of a ’70s disco song by Jean Carne.
Even though Scope never recorded a whole album, Svala looks back at her time in the band as the moment she debuted as a real artist. She was no longer just a carol-singing child star.
Nevertheless, she didn’t abandon the kiddies market completely. In 1997, she was cast as the singing voice for Anastasia in the animated film of the same name. Her version of the movie’s signature track “Once Upon A December” gained popularity in Iceland as a Christmas song (of course).
Svala Björgvins – Eitt sinn rétt fyrir jólin
Another cut from the soundtrack, “Journey to the Past” or “Á ferðalagi aftur heim” in Icelandic, was also popular. You can listen to that here.
Svala took her first steps towards international recognition in 1999 when she signed a six-album deal with EMI and Priority Records.
At the time, this was one of the biggest record deals that had ever been signed with an Icelandic artist. In the wake of this, she released the album The Real Me in 2001 and a single with the same name charted on the Billboard singles chart.
However, due to unforeseeable and unexpected circumstances, including 9/11, Svala never released another album in the US. Despite the setbacks, the LP went on to become a platinum seller in her home country.
Svala – The Real Me
Today Svala is a fairly well known artist outside of Iceland, mostly for her work with the band Steed Lord.
What do you think of Svala’s career to date? Will this experience help her take the Eurovision crown? Comment below.
She’s actually one of Iceland’s biggest musical exports!