Despite sitting back, and trying to enjoy the sun, I couldn’t wait for the ferry to dock and my adventures in he far-flung Wild West to begin.
En-route, though, the ferry stopped at Flatey. I didn’t alight to be honest. I thought that the island looked pleasant enough, but less than interesting.
A flat island—hence its name—of approximately 2x1 kilometers in size, its population drops to only five people in winter, although it is swelled by summer visitors.
Freshly laundered sheets fluttered in the wind. Farmers drove tractors to the port to collect their mail.
It seems I made a mistake.
I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but Lay Low, real name Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir, had discovered Flatey as somewhere truly special.
So special that she devoted an album of songs and a video to this little island in the middle of Breiðafjördur Bay.
Lay Low is a multi-instrumentalist, born to a Sri-Lankan father and an Icelandic mother in London.
Her website describes her vocal talents as “a rich chocolate sound with a sweet cinnamon rasp and a sip of whisky to take the edge off,” which is a lovely description if you ask me.
It’s when she pairs her voice with a simply strummed acoustic guitar, though, that the magic really happens.
I asked Lovísa about how she learnt the she had a career in music.
“I started playing music when I was young, learned playing piano when I was a kid, then at teens I started learning the bass. I'm also in a rock band called Benny Crespo's Gang and have been for nearly ten years. But it wasn't until about six years ago that I started playing the guitar more and started writing and performing under Lay Low.”
Under the Lay Low moniker, Lovísa has released several albums including the Americana tinged Please Don’t Hate Me, Farewell Good Night’s Sleep, and her most recent, Brostinn Strengur (“Broken String”).
Lovísa has recently been on tour with Of Monsters and Men in the US, just after the band beat Madonna in album sales and before they played on Jimmy Fallons’ TV show.
You could say they had “taken off”. How did the tour go?
“It was great. I had a wonderful time and I was very happy with the warm welcome and thankful crowds. It was my longest US visit so far, I stayed for six weeks... and enjoyed it very much.”
Iceland, though, remained very much in Lovísa’s thoughts. Brostinn Strengur used Icelandic poems for lyrics and was nominated for five Icelandic music awards.
How important is Iceland to her music?
“It is very important. In Iceland I started playing music and in Iceland I get inspiration, in Iceland I have friends who play in my band, in Iceland I listen to a lot of great music, and in Iceland I grew up and live. So I would say it is very important.”
What’s next for Lay Low?
“Now, I'm in Iceland writing and recording for my next album, enjoying the Icelandic spring/summer. But I have a few concerts planned, playing in Winnipeg and Gimli in the end of May, in Connecticut in July and some festivals in Iceland as well. It looks to be a pretty good summer ahead.”
And Flatey? Where did that come from?
“It is a beautiful and a very quiet island," she says. "After an unanimous decision between me, the director and the producer of the project; it was just meant to be."
Lovísa isn’t the only one to be inspired by Flatey. This little island has provided inspiration and motivation to artists and writers alike.
Halldór Laxness was a fan, I’m told, and more recently, Baltasar Kormákur based a film here. Baltasar has a history with the place; his father painted the unusual altarpiece in the church on the island.
Perhaps I’d got it wrong them. I should have stepped off that ferry.
Judging by Lay Low’s album of quiet, gentle songs, punctuated by only stray cockerels, and the video of an island with a simple and stark beauty, I should have.
Maybe next time I’ll stop by. Until then, I’ll seek solace in Lay Low’s beautiful records.
Edward Hancox – [email protected]
Lay Low’s website – http://laylow.is
Lay Low’s new album is due for release in autumn 2012.