Way out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, between Iceland and Scotland, is a cluster of 18 small islands called the Faroe Islands. "It's a very quiet place," relates Gudrid Hansdóttir, a 29-year-old DIY musician from the Faroes' capital of Tórshavn. "Nothing much happens, so you have to find stuff to do. I make music."
Her music is a Lilith Fair-worthy blend of chamber pop and perky folk-rock. She's the recipient of an artists' residency here in Austin known as the House of Songs, a grassroots project that pairs Scandinavian and American songwriters in an ongoing creative summit.
"We wrote songs during the day with different local artists, and in the evening we went out sightseeing and shopping," gushes Hansdóttir. "I met some amazing artists and people while I was there in Austin and got some friends for life, too." Matt the Electrician, who participates in the House of Songs, says, "Listening to her sing in her own language was incredible, like Kate Bush singing in tongues."
Hansdóttir, who professes a love of Swedish pop, veers toward the girly and airy-fairy in her songs; she attributes that affinity for sunflowers and butterflies to the islands' culture. "I think that nature influences every artist from the Faroes," she offers. "We're so close to it, and we are nature people. I get inspiration from just staring at the sea, going walking, and the silence."
She must be doing something right. Her self-released second album, last June's The Sky Is Opening, quickly became the bestselling CD in the Faroe Islands and was awarded the Faroes' Planet Awards Album of the Year.
First the Faroes, then the world? Maybe, maybe not. Yet, it's artists like Hansdóttir who keep SXSW true to its roots as a proving ground for young, hungry musicians. Butterflies optional.