Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin 2013 final : Get to know the participants

Tomorrow, Iceland will select it’s 27th representative at the Eurovision Song Contest. The intial line up consisted of twelve contenders, featuring no fewer than two former entrants and four Söngvakeppni veterans. From a total of 240 submitted entries, only seven remain, fighting for the honour of representing their country in Malmö later this year.

Last weekend saw the 2013 version of the Icelandic selection, Söngvakeppnin, get underway with two consecutive heats on Friday and Saturday. It was a weekend filled with drama, shock, upsets and surprises, with artists such as former Icelandic entrant Jóhanna left standing by the wayside along with other veterans such as Erna Hrönn. Things weren’t looking to good for Magni either following his failure to get through from his heat. RÚV however, decided that his entry was deserving of a place in the final shake up of things and awarded him therefore their wildcard and in doing so, threw him a lifeline. Former entrant Birgitta performed as expected however, romping home and securing herself a place in the final together with Söngvakeppnin veteran Jógvan Hansen, competing for the fourth time. Eurovisionary invites you to take a closer look at this year’s finalists, with an edition of the national selection that is bigger and better than ever.

Song number 1: Magni ÁsgeirssonEkki Líta Undan/Don’t Look Away (Music: Sveinn Rúnar Sigurðsson / Lyrics: Ingibjörg Gunnarsdóttir)

Since his childhood in Egilsstaðir, Eastern Iceland, music has always played a major role in Magni’s life. He formed his first band aged 12, recording an album while still at school with the band Shape. His reputation as a performer grew during his teenage years, with frequent appearances at school proms. In 1999 following a move to Reykjavík, Magni joined the band Á Móti Sól, a force to be reckoned with on the Icelandic music scene, with a number of best selling albums to their name, including ÁMS and Fiðrildi. It was in 2006 however, that Magni began to make a name for himself outside of Iceland, coming fourth in the Amercian series Rock Star: Supernova.

Magni has released two solo albums thus far; the self titled Magni in 2007 and his latest release Í Huganum Heim in 2012 and with a number of sizeable radio hits to his name, is definitely regarded as one of it not the premier Icelandic rock singer. He’s certainly no stranger to fans of Eurovision and national finals either, with no fewer than four previous entries to his name. He first competed in the national selections back in 2006 with the song Flottur Karl, Sæmi Rokk, failing to make an impact. He returned in 2008 as part of a duet together with former Icelandic entrant Birgitta Haukdal, singing Núna Veit Ég, but missed out on a top three placing. He narrowly missed representing Iceland on his third attempt in 2011 with the blistering rock anthem Ég Trúi á Betra Líf. Encouraged by his success, he returned for the second year running with the haunting rock ballad Hugarró, placing third. Could 2013 finally be Magni’s year with Ekki Líta Undan?

Song number 2: Svavar Knútur Kristinsson and Hreindís Ylva Garðarsdóttir Hólm – Lífið Snýst /Life Goes On (Music: Hallgrímur Óskarsson / Lyrics: Hallgrímur Óskarsson & Svavar Knútur Kristinsson)

Hreindís Ylva Garðarsdóttir Hólm has been involved in both singing and acting from a very early age and is currently in her third and last year of drama studies at the Guildford School of Acting, United Kingdom. Hólm has worked in theatre and film, playing one of the lead roles in the film Órói, which gained immense popularity and acclaim worldwide upon it’s release in 2010. She has also treaded the boards, with roles in musicals such as Annie and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Hólm also gained invaluable vocal experience when, together with her band, she released an album, Á Góðri Stund in 2011 with interpretations of works by the famous singer Erla Þorsteinsdóttir. Concerts were held throughout the country in conjunction with the release of the album. This will be her second outing to Söngvakeppnin, her first appearance was in 2009, when she made it to the final with Vornótt.

Svavar Knútur Kristinsson has developed something of a reputation as a singer/songwriter, earning much praise for innovative songs and for his efforts towards the perservation of the Icelandic vocal tradition. His work has led him to tour extensively overseas. Over the years he has worked with numerous Icelandic musicians, including Gunnar Þórðarsson and jazz vocalist Kristjana Stefánsdóttir in addition to appearing in many concerts, TV and radio programmes.

In 2007, the band Hraun with Kristinsson as frontman even made it through the the last stages of a BBC competition The Next Big Thing. That year also saw the release of the band’s debut album I Can’t Believe It’s Not Happiness, with a follow up album, Silent Treatment released in 2008. Kristinsson released the album Glæður together with Kristjana Stefánsdóttir in 2011. His first solo album Kvöldvaka was given a limited release in 2009, with sopies only on sale at concerts. Demand for the album exploded, and so was given a much larger reissue in 2010. His second album Amma came out in 2010, featuring his interpretation of songs that he had come to love over the years. His latest album Ölduslóð appeared in 2012, the same year he also won an international singer/songwriter competition. This is Kristinsson’s debut at Söngvakeppnin.

Song number 3: Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson  – Ég á Líf/I’ve Got a Life (Music & Lyrics : Örlygur Smári & Pétur Örn Guðmundsson)

Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson, born in 1989 in Dalvík, is taking part in Söngvakeppnin for the first time. During his adolescence he participated in numerous theatre productions such as Oliver Twist which were immensely popular. But interest for Gunnlaugsson really began to take off when he played the role of Jesus in the production of Jesus Christ Superstar. 2007 saw him taking part in a national song contest for the very first time, which gave him his first taste of victory. Since then, Gunnlaugsson has made regular appearances, both as a performer and a composer.

2010 saw Gunnlaugsson play the role of Riff Raff in a production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show; his vocal performance earned him an award nomination from the Icelandic Actors’ Guild. Another major role followed in 2011, with him playing the role of Berger in a production of Hair at the Harpa concert hall. He has previously performed with numerous bands covering various genres, including a Deep Purple tribute band and the immensely popular group Todmobile as well as participating in the Freddie Mercury tribute show, amongst other things. He is currently busy working on his first solo album.

Song number 4: Birgitta HaukdalMeðal Andanna/Among the Spirits (Music: Birgitta Haukdal, Sylvía Haukdal Brynjarsdóttir & Jonas Gladnikoff / Lyrics: Birgitta Haukdal, Sylvía Haukdal Brynjarsdóttir, Michael James Down & Primoz Poglajen)

Birgitta Haukdal is without doubt, one of the most prolific names and established performers taking part in this year’s national selection. Her major breakthrough came as lead vocalist with the group Írafár in 2000, who have established themselves as one of Iceland’s top selling acts. Their debut album Allt Sem Ég Sé achieved platinum status, becoming the fastest selling album in Iceland within the last 25 years, an enviable accomplishment.

Haukdal performed Segðu Mér Allt in the 2003 national final and won convincingly, taking the English language version Open Your Heart to Riga, and acheiving eight place for Iceland, taking her popularity to new heights back home, where she was voted Best Performer and Best Pop Star of the year. She has worked alongside another Eurovision entrant, Jónsi, in the musical production of Grease, where she played the lead role of Sandy. Following her success in the national finals in 2003, Haukdal made two more attempts at representing Iceland; in 2006 with Mynd Af Þér, coming fourth, and in 2008 duetting with rocker Magni on Núna Veit Ég, but failing to impress viewers.

With two solo albums to her name, Ein released in 2007 and her last release Straumar from two years ago, it’s time for the talented artist to get back into the spotlight where she belongs, and so she takes to the stage once more with Meðal Andanna, her first entry to Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins for five years.

Song number 5: Jógvan Hansen & Stefanía SvavarsdóttirTil Þín/For You (Music: Sveinn Rúnar Sigurðsson / Lyrics: Sveinn Rúnar Sigurðsson & Ágúst Ibsen)

Stefanía Svavarsdóttir was born in Reykjavík in 1992 but was raised in Mosfellsbær. She has sung since early childhood, making her first public appearances aged only fourteen. She began to make a real name for herself when she took part and won a song contest in 2008, aged just sixteen with the song Fever. The victory subsequently led to a collaboration with the rock band Stuðmenn which resulted in the huge hit Ruglið in 2009.

She has made guest appearances on albums by artists such as Björgvin Halldórsson, also providing backing vocals for the likes of the band Dúndurfréttir and Bubbi Morthens. Svavardóttir also took part in a birthday tribute concert for musician Magnús Kjartansson, My Friends and I, where her performances earned her considerable praise. The praise kept on coming following her performance at an ABBA tribute concert last winter, giving both older and more established artists a run for their money. This will be Svavardóttir’s first appearance at Söngvakeppnin, but with Jógvan Hansen by her side, she’s in very capable hands.  

Given that the Faroe Islands are unable to participate at Eurovision in their own right, Jógvan Hansen turned his sights to neighbouring Iceland and has made quite a name for himself there. He was born in Klakksvík and by the age of twenty he had become a well established singer, with best selling albums at the top of the charts with his bands Aria and Kular Røtur. He made the move to Iceland in 2004 to pursue a career in hairdressing and two years later broke through as a singer on the X Factor show. He subsequently won the hearts and votes of the nation and has never looked back. His debut self titled album followed, with the song Rooftop proving to be a huge hit. Since then Hansen has figured prominently on the Icelandic music scene.

In 2009, Hansen recorded and released the album Vinalög together with Friðrik Ómar, which went on to be the best selling album of the year. A follow up album featuring childrens songs, Barnalög was released two years later and the two also organised a charity concert for the Faroes, after the islands were hit by extreme storms. Together with other artists, the project raised an impressive amount for the cause.

Hansen often collaborates with composer and personal friend Vignir Snær Vigfússon, but has also collaborated with artists such as Chesney Hawkes and Nick Hammond. He has become something of a veteran in terms of participations in the national selections, with three previous entries under his belt. He first took part in 2009 with I Think The World of You, making the final. The following year, he came second in the final behind Hera Björk, singing One More Day. In 2011 he competed yet again with the uplifting number Ég Lofa. This will be the first time he performs at Söngvakeppnin as part of a duet. 

Song number 6: Haraldur Reynisson – Vinátta/Friendship (Music & Lyrics: Haraldur Reynisson) 

This will be singer/songwriter and music teacher Haraldur Reynisson‘s second appearance in the national selections, following his debut in 2011, when he also made it to the final with Ef Ég Hefði Vængi. 46 year old Reynisson grew up in Reykjavík and comes from a large family, being one of identical twins and with two older siblings. Singing and guitar playing could be frequently heard in the family home, which sparked his interest at an early age.

1986 remains a turnaround year for the artist, who was nineteen at the time, when an accident left him housebound for quite some time. He’d been composing music and writing texts for some time, the only thing holding him back was the fact that he couldn’t play guitar. While stuck at home, he seized the opportunity and his mother taught him how to play the guitar.

Reynisson is something of a trubadour and gives regular concerts with his guitar. His first album was released in 1993 and all in all he has released seven albums in total, featuring on many more. He has worked with music for many years, but only in recent years has he advanced his education, completing a bachelor degree in music education at the beginning of 2012. He has taught for a number of years in school in addition to teaching at a music conservatory for some years. This year will see the release of a compilation album featuring some of his most popular songs.

Song number 7: Unnur Eggertsdóttir  – Ég Syng!/I’m Singing! (Music : Elíza Newman, Gísli Kristjánsson & Ken Rose / Lyrics: Eliza Newman, Gísli Kristjánsson & Hulda G. Geirsdóttir)

Unnur Eggertsdóttir was born in 1992. From the age of 8 until she was twelve, she lived with her family in California. While there, she came into contact with amateur theatre and featured in a number of their annual productions, and in her final year in California she landed one of the lead roles in the production of Guys & Dolls. 2004 saw Eggertsdóttir relocate with her family back to Iceland, wher she became very active on the art scene, both at elementary and high school levels. She played the title role in the musical Annie in 2005 as well as that of Maria in West Side Story and leading roles in Thriller and Stardust, productions put on by the Commercial College of Iceland.

Eggertsdóttir has passionately pursued her interest of dance for 15 years, which has given her the opportunity to perform at the National Theatre; the dance troupe she performs with also made it to the semi finals of the popular TV show Dans Dans Dans. Many will undoubtedly recognize Eggertsdóttir from her role as Solla Stirða (Stephanie) in the kiddies TV series Latibær (Lazytown), a character she has played amongst other places at the World Expo in China as well as in the Nordic region. She adds another string to her bow as she takes to the stage in Söngvakeppnin for the first time.

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