Two thousand people singing Laufey’s Valentine on a Tuesday night? Yeah, it was a moment.
When Laufey first began her music career, she hoped to bring her love of jazz to the world. But she probably didn’t imagine that she would become a global star. The 24-year-old musician, who was born and raised in Reykjavik, Iceland, got her first taste of the music scene when she competed on Island Got Talent and The Voice Island. Aside from that, she also jumped head-first into the world of classical and jazz, learning to play a variety of instruments and enveloping herself in the music of genre legends, before she eventually began her music career.
The release of her debut single, Street by Street, in 2020 signaled the start of a new force for the industry and an artist who was bringing a heart-tingling form of jazz to the new generation. It’s an energy Laufey brought to Manila on May 30 as she got thousands of mostly young fans in their feels with her first show in the country.
FIRST TIME IN MANILA
2023 marks a big year for Laufey. Not only did she recently embark on her first Asia and Australia tour, but it began in the Philippines, a country that, while she may have never been to, holds a special place in her heart. I’m just so excited. I’m really so pleasantly surprised that there are so many fans here and willing to watch a show,” shares Laufey in a chat with NYLON Manila before her sold-out concert. Despite losing her luggage when she landed in the country (her twin sister, Junia, was her lifesaver), Laufey was in high spirits as she marveled at the intensity of her Filipino fans. “I’ve heard so many great things about the Philippines and to get to come here and play is just magical.”
This may have been Laufey’s first time in the country, but her fans were more than ready for the moment. The hype was so real, tickets for her Manila show were sold out after just 30 minutes. People were even peaking through the cracks at the venue just to watch her. Laufey is a true star, a fact that surprises her to this day. “I think it’s gonna really hit me on stage. I grew up in Iceland, which is a country of 350,000 people. So, the fact that something that I make reaches places like the Philippines that I’ve never been before, is really beyond me, and just very exciting.”
The excitement for Laufey was palpable as screams filled the Filinvest Tent when she took to the stage. Over two thousand fans, her biggest show to date according to the star, packed the venue as they readied themselves to sing her tender hits. “I’ll kind of like see what the energy of the crowd is and adjust to it,” says Laufey on her routine when performing in new venues. Going by the energy of the crowd, who shifted between screaming her name to singing every word of her songs, Laufey had the Filipino fans in the palm of her hand.
HITS FROM THE HEART
To watch a Laufey concert is to be transported into a world of emotions. One of the main reasons why she’s so loved is because she infuses her tracks with emotions that come from a genuine place. Whether she was singing about her friends finding love before her, a bad date she had with a guy named James, or a stranger she met on the streets of London, she transfixed the crowd with her version of life. Even if she was by herself on the stage as she shifted between playing the guitar and piano, it was her moment as Laufey mesmerized her Filipino fans with vocals that sound what Euphoria feels like.
She has hits for days, but naturally, that also comes with the pressure to meet expectations. It can bring about a kind of pressure that could lead to burnout. For Laufey, she avoids that by realizing how even small steps can lead to progress. “You try to write a song, and it doesn’t come up, just realizing that in and of itself, it’s also progress, you know, it’s part of the songwriting progress. And the process is a healthy thing for me.”
As a songwriter, she looks to inspiration whether she can, as seen by how she introduced the back story of each song she performed in the concert. Laufey makes a mental note of it or jots it down in her trusty notebook. “When I sit down and write, I just think of ideas to draw from. And then the other times are when I’m just so upset about something that I just sit down and write a full song about it, which also happens.”
BRINGING JAZZ TO GEN Z
Jazz music has been with Laufey since she was a kid and serves as the main pillar of who she is as an artist. And while she has her inspirations, it’s Chet Baker who proves to have the biggest impact on her musicality. “I think for me, there’s so much beauty in the simplicity of how [Chet Baker] sings,” explains Laufey. “His trumpet playing, it’s kind of minimalistic almost, which is very mellow compared to other jazz singers of the time which I think is very approachable for people.”
This approachability is something Laufey has also been lauded for. While jazz is a genre that’s often associated more with adults, and less with the Gen Z, Laufey is proving that jazz can be made and enjoyed by the youth. “Jazz music was the pop music of the 40s. So, I think there’s no reason that people shouldn’t give jazz a try.” It’s an idea that’s showing real-world effects as, during her Manila concert, the crowd was mainly composed of Gen Z and millennials.
It was the kind of large crowd that would be more at home in a K-pop concert than a jazz concert, a fact Laufey marveled at during the show. Needless to say, there is a space for Gen Z in jazz. “Gone are the days of only listening to one type of music. It’s not like you walk into a record store and walk toward your favorite genre. It’s free to listen to something new. I think jazz music is very approachable and very relatable for Gen Z and I think it’s just now kind of coming to light.”
At 24 years old and pursuing a music career in the 2020s, Laufey could have switched her style to meet with the times. After all, one of her ultimate idols, Taylor Swift, is known for shifting genres from country to pop and more. “I actually think about this a lot,” admits Laufey on the idea of changing her music style. And while she won’t completely close that door on the idea, the self-described Swiftie is currently planted in the world of jazz as her work is far from over.
“I want to do for jazz what Taylor Swift did for country [music], which is kind of like bring it to a larger audience. I could definitely see myself trying out different genres in the future. But I think right now, I’m still very married to the idea of introducing jazz and classical sounds to this generation, but you never know.”
If there is one word to describe Laufey’s one-night-only show in Manila, it is special. It’s her first time in the country, as well as the start of her first Asia and Australia tour. And not to mention that her twin sister, Junia, was there to join her. “She’s like my best friend. I don’t know how I could do this job without her. It truly feels like a two-person job often and she’s very helpful,” she gushes on her goals of a relationship with Junia.
Laufey experienced many firsts in her career in Manila. Among other things, she performed two unreleased tracks from her upcoming second album that had the crowd in their feels, sang From The Start for the first time live, and even gave a fan a free ticket when she ran into one at the mall. It was even better for Laufey given that her best friend (who also served as the inspiration for Best Friend) was beside her.
Laufey’s Manila show was nothing short of magical. There wasn’t a lights show with a company of back dancers. But her stage presence and moving voice were more than enough for the crowd. It was a memorable moment for many that night, maybe enough to inspire Laufey to write a song about the experience.
Photos by Iya Forbes (@eggcheeks) and Junia Jonsdottir.
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