“I’ve been having so much good dim sum, which is so fun,” beams Laufey Lín Jónsdóttir on a Zoom call, moments from her show in Hong Kong, one of the stops on her Asia tour this year. “I love touring over here. It feels strangely familiar; maybe because Asia never felt far away for me, as I went there every summer so getting to play here feels really special.” Between her infectious gleeful demeanour and the excitable mention of her Chinese fans’ term of endearment—“Bing Bing”, spun off her Mandarin name, Lin Bing—it’s plain to see how the 24-year-old Icelandic-Chinese musician feels right at home, tethered by her own vernacular, with Mandarin being the first language she learnt.
In today’s zeitgeist, the role Laufey plays is a monumental one. Gen-Z’s answer to the renaissance of jazz. In a time where memetic sounds inundate the Top 100 charts, her sound is an invigorating reprieve. Her take on modern jazz swings between pop and classical, while unabashedly serenading her wide pool of fans with personal encounters that speak of love, self and identity via her lyrics—almost her way of journalling. “I think I’m a romantic but I’m a careful romantic,” the jazz juggernaut offers. “In a perfect world, I dream of the perfect romance. My songwriting and the way I write is kind of all in a pursuit of finding the answer to love. Of course, there is no answer.”
“Ultimately, music has to evolve. It has to bring about new life with every generation”
Formally trained as a cellist, the classical sphere was where Laufey developed her inclinations to jazz, but not before being indoctrinated to the genre, growing up with her father constantly playing it in the house. As a child, she was drawn to golden age Hollywood films tied to OSTs with jazz arrangements, perforated by beautiful string orchestras. “It sounded like this magical world between classical music and pop music and it felt very familiar,” she recalls. And if there was any evidence to allude that Laufey was an old soul, her childhood interests will certainly affirm this much.
“I always tell my audience to go listen to the old masters or the jazz musicians of the past and present. My music takes references from the genre and spins it into something new, while still honouring those traditions without straying too far. But I think, ultimately, music has to evolve. It has to bring about new life with every generation. I tell my own stories with old sounds, that’s how I breathe new life into the genre.” The feat of Laufey’s success ties back to her unconventional approach when starting out as a young musician. Instead of making music replicating the pop or dance chart-toppers, she chose her own sound, that in turn, drew in an intergenerational legion of fans. She affirms: “If anything, I find that when I really stick to what I love and my roots, that’s when my fans love the music the most.”
Her influence on the storied genre so far—notably her single ‘From The Start’, that blew up on TikTok and has since amassed over 80 millions streams on Spotify since its release in May—is something she holds immense hope for. “I just feel excited about it. There’s a bigger group of young people that is starting to enjoy the music that I’ve already loved and enjoyed for so many years. And Gen Z are so willing to listen to any kind of music, there’s so much access to music than before. I’m very honoured to be leading it in any way.”
To no surprise, her latest album, Bewitched, opens yet another Pandora’s box of love songs. Except this time, she weaved in more classical references, as compared to her first EP. Beyond just jazz, a variety of arrangements are experimented. She muses: “With this album, I wanted to create an escape.” There’s a sense of that delicate wander in the album’s last song—‘Bewitched’, which Laufey refers to be her favourite track on the album. “I think it embodies what I want to be as a musician right now. It feels just like a movie.”
Beyond her entrancing sound, the world of Laufey is exacted through her quirky sense of style and dedicated interests, whether in her music videos, her daily outfit captures on social media and of course the Laufey Book Club. Leaning towards twee and the classics, her wardrobe holds a healthy rotation of vintage, jeans, simple T-shirts and copious pairs of French ballet flats that include the likes of Repetto and Chanel. She illustrates her love for the latter by cheekily hitching one foot up into the Zoom window, to show a strapped ballet pump. “I just love wearing a really oversized vintage jean with a really girly dainty formal shoe. I love that juxtaposition of worlds.”
It’s a lasting sentiment that makes perfect sense, given the star’s intertwining worlds, from a grand orchestra to a TikTok caption reading: “the fact that straight men are the reason my song is blowing up right now is wild. plot twist of the century. maybe they aren’t the worst. Sorry for writing mean songs about you guys. I’m going to continue doing it tho *heart emoji*”.
Laufey’s second full-length album Bewitched is now available on all streaming platforms.