On her single ‘Such A Boy’, Astrid S delivers the opening lines, “Say you need more space / What are you, an astronaut?” with the most sass we’ve heard in all of pop music this year - a song which single-handedly showcases the Norwegian popstar's thoughts on the ridiculous gender norms which exist in society.
And talking to Astrid S on the phone, her thoughts are just as eloquent as her songwriting - from discussing the metaphors within her ‘Party’s Over’ EP, to the importance of being a role-model to her fans.
We also spoke to Astrid S about songwriting, appearing on both Katy Perry and Shawn Mendes' albums, and when we can expect a debut album from her…
...everything is labelled and I think it's just really sad. I remember being really confused when I was little and people told me not to be such a girl, because I was like, ‘Why not?!' I thought being a girl was the best thing.
COUP DE MAIN: How does your songwriting process work?
ASTRID S: It's different from time to time, but usually I'll go to a different country, or sometimes in Oslo in a studio with a producer and another songwriter and we'll just start playing some chords, or we'll start with a melody or a lyric and just work our way through to get a song. But a fun thing about the process is that it’s so different from time to time, and some people like to start with the lyrics, some people like to start by just producing a track, and some people like to write about something they've read on the Internet, or have a conversation about a breakup, and everyone's had the same experience, and then we write about it - so it’s different, but similar from time to time.
CDM: At what age did you write your very first song ever, and what was it about?
ASTRID S: I wrote my first like 'dummy song’, it was just something I was jamming or fooling around with, I didn't even know I was writing a song, but I think I was probably nine-years-old, and I wrote about moving out from my Mum and Dad’s house because I was tired of cleaning up my room. But I think when I seriously started writing or when I actually knew it was writing, and I wrote for the sake of writing, I was sixteen, so it's not too long ago, and that song was about a breakup and a boy, and that song was released actually, it's called ‘Shattered’.
CDM: What do you hope for people to take away from listening to your music?
ASTRID S: It depends on what song it is, but I think I just want to make people feel good or understood, or that they belong. It could be just as simple as putting a smile on someone's face. It’s just very special to know that if one of my songs played on the radio that it could make someone's day a little bit better, but it’s also very nice to get those messages where people feel understood and they tell me they were listening to my song and they feel better about themselves or about something, that’s a very cool thing.
CDM: I can't stop listening to 'Such A Boy'. The lyrics are so sassy and on-point. What was running through your mind while writing the song?
ASTRID S: <laughs> Thank you! I just remember I was in the studio with a guy named Cass Lowe and we were talking about... I think we started the whole song with just writing the, "You say you need more space / What are you, an astronaut?" Sometimes you don't know if you have people, if you're dating, or if you're in a relationship. I feel like boys can be-- they say something and they do something else. After a while when we got more into the lyrics I realised this is how girls are portrayed or written about, how we're so emotional or we're so dramatic. I don’t know the English word for it, but in movies and books we're always the one not really in control in the relationship that is portrayed. We're the ones being back and forth, and I just remember being pissed off about people telling me sometimes not to be 'such a girl’, like in a very negative way, and we just talked about it and figured that the song is gonna be named ‘Such A Boy’ and that’s what the song’s gonna be about.
CDM: Especially when we’re children, you’re conditioned into thinking that showing emotions is perceived to be a sign of weakness, and that’s a negative feminine trait.
ASTRID S: Exactly. I don't remember ever being told not to be such a boy. I remember when I was little it was super cool to be more boyish, to not wear make-up, to not like girl colours, and everyone thought you were really cool if you were into 'boy things' like soccer. Everything is labelled and I think it's just really sad. I remember being really confused when I was little and people told me not to be such a girl, because I was like, ‘Why not?!' I thought being a girl was the best thing, so it just didn't make sense. I've never been told to not be such a boy and I thought it was time, so yeah.
CDM: I love it. What does it even mean anyway, being 'such a girl’ or a 'boy'? They’re just labels.
ASTRID S: I agree! So I sing about boys just the same way as girls are being sung about, I think it kinda like neutralises the labels - being 'such a girl' is just the same as being 'such a boy'. People just put labels on things.
CDM: It's so rad that you care about breaking down gender stereotypes with your music. A lot of your fans have been tweeting us wanting to know what it's like for you being a role-model to other young girls?
ASTRID S: I think it's different from artist to artist or celebrity to celebrity, but for me it's been something very important. I'm very proud to be a role-model and I think it's a very important responsibility, and the more I've thought about it the less I do about it, if that makes sense, because I've figured to just be myself is the best role-model you can be. But I am aware of what I say, and what I do, and what I post, because I know how affected I am by what my role-models say and do. But it's very moving to know that I am a role-model and it's the nicest thing to know, when people message me and tell me like how I've changed the way they look at themselves or how they've heard something I've said and agreed with it, or it's made them go for what they've always wanted to do. It’s just a very nice thought knowing that I am a role-model to someone.
CDM: And for the record, “You say you need more space / What are you, an astronaut?", are definitely among my favourite lyrics of 2017.
ASTRID S: Thank you so much! Thank you, Thank you!
CDM: I know you are a fan of Lorde's new album 'Melodrama', which sort of revolves around the concept of spending a night at a house-party and the whole spectrum of emotions you go through over the course of the night. Your song 'Party's Over' and its sentiments of wanting to stay in a perfect moment forever are also really relatable. Why do you think the concept of a party is such a meaningful metaphor for musicians to write about in songs?
ASTRID S: Oh, that's a very good question. I think for me, a party is just, like you said, a moment where I always find myself feeling like, ‘Oh I wish this could last forever,’ which is a similar feeling to when you're in a relationship, or when you're graduating and you're in high school. I feel like it just seems like a really good metaphor for people to relate to in any way they can, and who doesn't like to party? And who doesn't go to parties? There's so many different parties, just like there is so many different people. You can bend and break the word ‘party’. You can write about a party in so many different ways. You can just approach it in so many ways and people can relate to it in so many ways, and a lot of people love to party, or hate to, and it just reminds me of a lot of things in life, like I said, relationships or graduating or anything really.
CDM:The track-list sequencing for your 'Party's Over' EP takes the listener on a journey from first attraction in 'Breathe', to the end of a relationship in 'Does She Know'. Was that deliberate?
ASTRID S: Yes and no. I think both. I like to, even though I know people probably don't listen to the whole EP throughout from track one to the last song, I like to think that they do, so I also want it to be like a nice transition between the songs and so it’s not boring. I wouldn't want to put three slow songs after each other. I want it to be dynamic like it is in a concert, so yes and no. I think the first song is like the moment when you see someone and you fall in love, and the last songs are about the other part, moving forward without you and how that’s sad. I think I thought about both things, I wanted how it was track-listed to make sense and also for it to be dynamic.
CDM: You've said that 'Breathe' was a really hard song to write. What were you struggling with?
ASTRID S: I think it was just getting everything right, and everyone in the studio had different opinions. I love those sessions where everybody really-- [but] there's no compromises. Sometimes that can be very tiring, but we just had a really good flow and everyone just respected everyone’s opinion and we didn’t settle for just-okay-not-ready lyrics, we just kept fighting our way to get everyone happy, and to where everyone feels like there's no compromises. And usually that means it takes one day to write a song, but we spent two days on that song.
CDM: At one minute and twenty-five seconds, 'Sushi' is one of the shortest songs I've heard in recent times. Why did you decide to keep it at that length?
ASTRID S: It's actually an interlude, so I wanted it to be shorter. I think it will say on Spotify and everywhere soon in a paragraph that it is an interlude, but it's like a transition into ‘Bloodstream’.
CDM: Do you have a favourite kind of sushi?
ASTRID S: I think salmon is always good, also I like maki rolls, even though some people say that’s not proper sushi. But I love this restaurant in L.A. called Sugarfish - it's amazing, it's really good!
CDM: You really wear your heart on your sleeve in 'Does She Know'. Is it hard to perform a song like that live?
ASTRID S: Yeah. I don't always look forward to singing it. I just think it's what makes writing music very magical - it gives me the feeling of what I'm singing about and I get this lump in my throat and my stomach hurts, and I just get that feeling of wanting to be with someone who is with someone else. But it's true, I don't really love singing it live, it makes me feel sad, but that's what songwriting is about and I love that about songwriting, how you can make someone feel that feeling you had when you wrote the song, about what you wrote the song about. I've got a lot of messages after releasing the EP where people have been like, 'I really feel/understood these lyrics,’ and, 'This is exactly what I have felt like or feel like right now, and it's really helped me get through it.' So I'm definitely gonna sing it live on tour, but it's gonna be-- after a while it's probably gonna be okay, that will help, so I'm totally over that feeling.
CDM: You’ve told fans that you want your album to come out next year - how much of it have you worked on so far?
ASTRID S: Nothing.
CDM: You’ve got a lot to do then!
ASTRID S: Yeah, I really want to take a couple of months off early next year, January or February, after the tour, and then just make the album, or like go to a studio I love and just find everyone I love to work with and really get in the zone and make an amazing album. I just want it to be really good, like super good - it's my first album, I just want to be very proud of it. My expectations are so high so I think probably the best way for me to write an album is to lock in for two months with people I love working with and make it.
CDM: You sing backing vocals on a new Katy Perry song, 'Hey Hey Hey' - how did that come about?
ASTRID S: A guy that worked on the record, Max Martin, called me and asked me if I could come to the studio and sing some backing vocals on a new Katy Perry song, and I couldn't say no of course. I'm a huge fan of both of them, so the next day I was in the studio and I did it!
CDM: What was it like working with Shawn Mendes on 'Air' for his debut album back in 2015?
ASTRID S: I actually didn't meet him until the album was released. So they sent me the song and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it, and I loved the song, I love Shawn Mendes. So we met after the album was released and he is the most amazing guy ever, he's so down to earth and humble and hard-working, and it's been very inspiring to get to know him. But for the song we didn't actually work in the studio together - someone else wrote the song and they asked me to be a part of it, and I recorded the vocals in Oslo. He's great.
CDM: Will you be collaborating with Flume for your album?
ASTRID S: We just worked in the studio last time I was in L.A., we wrote some songs, because he is an amazing producer and I'm a huge fan. But you never know what's gonna come out of it - I haven't actually heard anything from those sessions, those days in the studio, so I'm excited to hear if he ever gets to work on it. But he's great, he's super funny and he's goofy and super sweet. But I don't know if there's gonna be anything coming out - I hope so!
CDM: What was it like touring with Troye Sivan last year?
ASTRID S: It was probably maybe the most fun thing I've been a part of ever, I got to do two tours with him which I thought was just extremely nice of him to let me be a part of it twice. His fans are so supportive and warm, and I really felt at home during the shows, and Troye himself is adorable and so talented and doing those tours you learn so much that I really got to know myself as a live artist and made a lot of new friends. I'll remember it forever and I'm so grateful that Troye wanted me to come with him on tour.
CDM: You've told fans online that you have plans to come to New Zealand this year in November... is that still happening?
ASTRID S: I'm still getting the last updates because it's been a little hard to get the logistics to come together with everything I'm doing this year, but it looks like I'm coming and I hope so. And if not, I'm gonna make sure that I'll be there very, very soon.
CDM: You've had a top 20 single here in New Zealand with 'Hurts So Good', so you must come visit.
ASTRID S: I know! That's so crazy. I remember, Troye Sivan, he was in New Zealand and we met right after and he told me that 'Hurts So Good' was playing on the radio everywhere, so that's really awesome.
CDM: We just had Aurora here a few months ago, so it's definitely your turn next. It's so rad that Norwegian female musicians are receiving so much recognition, now with yourself, Sigrid, Aurora, Dagny, and heaps more releasing so many good songs.
ASTRID S: Yeah! There's so many amazing young vocal or female artists that are doing so well right now, so that's really cool, but now it's my turn - I really wanna come to New Zealand.
Astrid S’ EP ‘Party’s Over’ is out now - click here to purchase.
Watch the ‘Such A Boy’ music video below…