The second semi-final of Söngvakeppnin is rapidly approaching, which means it’s a good time to launch our interview with Silja Rós and Kjalar!

Silja and Kjalar are competing in the Icelandic national final for the first time together, but during our conversation we learned that their song “Together We Grow” was actually not written as a duet until much later in the process. We also learned which version of their song they intend to sing if they qualify for the Söngvakeppnin final. Learn all that and more below!

Hello and welcome to ESCUnited Silja and Kjalar, I’m excited to have the chance to interview you both! How are you both doing today?

We’re doing great, just finished today’s rehearsals and we’re getting pretty excited to get on the stage.

This seems to be the first time that you both have collaborated on a song, how did you meet one another?

Yes that’s true. We’ve never collaborated on a song together but we’ve been in a Show together where we performed songs by the Icelandic songwriter Tómas R. Einarsson.

We met in the music school FÍH/MÍT, where we both have been studying jazz vocals with our vocal teacher Gulla Ólafsdóttir. So we’ve known each other for about two years. I’ve always had a huge crush on Kjalar’s voice and admired his performance skills so when I was selecting my duet partner he was the first name that came to mind.

I’m curious which happened first: the decision to participate in Söngvakeppnin or writing your duet “Ég styð þína braut / Together We Grow”? What ultimately motivated you to participate in the selection?

Ég styð þína braut/ Together We Grow was written in a writing session in Copenhagen in 2020. I (Silja) used to live there and worked there mostly as a songwriter. When I met Rasmus Olsen for the first time he told me that he had always wanted to write a song for Eurovision so I said “let’s do it!”. So we actually did write the song with that dream in mind. But it was originally not a duet. I submitted the song to Söngvakeppnin as a solo song but I just had this feeling that it should be a duet, the lyrics called for it. Once the song was selected to compete in Söngvakeppnin I decided to find a duet partner and the rest is history.

Rasmus Olsen actually had a song in the Danish pre-selection for Eurovision with Eyjaa as well, who are in fact Icelandic too. 

How fascinating! And speaking of Eurovision….If you were both going to record a cover album of 5-6 Eurovision songs, what songs would you pick for the tracklist and why? And it’s perfectly okay if your answers are different!

Silja: 

  1. All out of luck ( Selma ), since it was the first time I ever saw Eurovision and I was glued to the TV. “Little Silja” decided at that moment that I would compete in Eurovision one day.
  2. Amar Pelos Dois, my all time favorite Eurovision song. 
  3. Euphoria, favorite performance & an epic song!
  4. Hold me Closer – Cornelia Jacobs. I am literally obsessed with that song these days, such a well written song!
  5. A Monster Like Me that my super talented friend Joanna ( Debrah Scarlett ) sang in 2015.
  6. Together we grow, but that’s a given.

Kjalar:

  1. Amar Pelos Dois – Salvador Sobral,  my favorite Eurovision song as well
  2. Together we grow, of course
  3. Silent Storm – Carl Espen, one of my favorites, and a beautiful piano part
  4. I Am Yours – The Makemakers, I fell in love with this song the moment I saw/heard it
  5. Grande Amore – Il Volo, probably the most iconic Eurovision ever in my opinion, would be fun to try this song out, something completely not my style of singing

When you’re not performing or recording music, how do you each spend your free time?

Silja: I also work as an actress, scriptwriter, songwriter and a yoga teacher. So I do spend a lot of time doing other creative work outside of music. I teach hot yoga at Sólir Yoga Studio a couple of times a week and at the moment I’m writing a TV show that will be filmed later this year. I’m a very creative person and I feel best when I’m creating any art, painting soothes me. 

I function the best when I’m busy doing what I love but in my free time I like to go to concerts or the theater to seek inspiration or go to the swimming pools to relax. I’m an extreme extrovert so I try to surround myself with my loved ones at any given moment. 

Kjalar: I don’t do a lot besides music, haha, I was studying math at The University of Iceland but this semester I’m taking a break from it since music is taking over (that’s a good thing). Like Silja, I enjoy going to concerts, the theater and especially going swimming.

What was the songwriting process like to create your entry for the national selection and what message do you hope the song sends to the national and international audience?

Silja: This was the second song that me and Rasmus wrote together and in this session we started with a deep conversation about support and how lucky we are to be able to do what we love and love who we love. We also discussed the moments in our lives when we felt lack of support. The idea was born there, so I would say it was a lyric driven writing session. We wrote the song in one session and then revisited it a couple of times for recording and arrangement.

For me the message of the song is that the world would be a better place if we all would get an opportunity to follow our heart and life purpose without judgment from others. There is nobody but yourself that knows what is best for you, but it can be challenging to follow through if you don’t have the support net that you need or if we’re being judged for our choices. 

I later wrote the Icelandic lyrics right before I submitted the song to Söngvakeppnin and they follow the same topic even though I think the Icelandic lyrics are closer to my own personal story.

There are also two versions of your song, one in Icelandic and one in English. Do you know which version you’d like to perform in the Söngvakeppnin final or even at Eurovision if selected?

Yes, we always planned to use the English version since it was written in English. A lot of people have reached out to me and told me that they love the Icelandic version and that means a lot to me.

It wouldn’t be a proper interview if I didn’t ask you about Eurovision – do you consider yourselves to be big fans of the contest and how closely do you follow the show each year?

Silja: I’ve always loved Eurovision and Söngvakeppnin especially when I was a little girl. Even when I lived in LA all my Icelandic friends would always gather together to watch Eurovision.

Kjalar: I have always been a huge fan! Every year I watch the show closely and love everything about it

Regardless of the outcome at Söngvakeppnin, are there any new releases or projects that our readers should be aware of from you? Also where can they best find you and your music? 

Silja: Yes, I am currently working on my third album that I’m planning to release this summer. It’s a bit different from “Together We Grow.” since my genre is mostly jazz and RnB inspired pop, on this album I’ve been focusing a lot on arranging harmonies and I’m so excited to release it. I’m a big fan of the UK scene and some of my favorite artists there are Jacob Collier, Jaz Karis and Olivia Dean. I’m also a big fan of Vulfpeck. I’ve been releasing music since 2017 and you can find my music on Spotify and some music videos on Youtube, or just on Instagram or my website. I’ll also be filming a TV show later this year so I have some exciting acting gigs ahead as well. 

Kjalar: Yes, I am very much looking forward to finally being able to work on and release my own music this year. It’s been a little idea in the back of my mind the past 2 years but now I’m finally going to do something, I’m hoping to release an album this spring. The best way to keep yourself updated with all my projects is on Spotify and Instagram.

In closing, do you have a final message you’d like to share with the readers of ESCUnited?

Thank you for all the love & support, it means the world to us.

Silja and Kjalar are set to compete in the second semi-final of Söngvakeppnin on February 25th at 20:45 PM CET. Two entries will advance to the final on March 4th, where Iceland will select their 2023 Eurovision entrant for Liverpool. 

Are #YOU team Silja and Kjalar for Iceland? Let us know on social media @ESCUnited, on our discord, or on our forum page

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