Jón Valur Guðmundsson, or simply "bird", is an Icelandic solo artist who's single “go back” emits a clean and crisp melancholic sound that leaves you wanting more. While I’ll admit my bias (I'm an Icelandophile), I’ve found that the musicians of the small population (323,002 in 2013) produce soundscapes that match the very desolate, but very beautiful island-scapes. bird is no exception.
Although bird plans to release his album later this year, you can watch the video for “go back” here, or listen to his slower and more anticipatory single “what comes after” on Soundcloud. I had the pleasure of sending him a few questions below about why he chose to go by bird, his music, and of course, Iceland.
Why have you chosen bird as your moniker?
It sounded good and simple. But actually my middle name, Valur, translates directly into English as gyrfalcon – a type of bird and I think I’ve always liked birds as something nice and symbolic. When I was abroad I joked around and started introducing myself as Johnny Falcon, to make my middle name easier for those few people who might have trouble with Icelandic pronunciation. So, it felt kind of right, or natural, to just to call myself ‘bird,’ or ‘jon bird.’
How did you feel when your single, “go back,” captured people’s attention so quickly?
Very happy and a little bit surprised, I think I can say that I didn’t have any expectations at all when I released it. This was also encouraging, as I was taking my songwriting into a bit of a new direction at that time.
When do you expect to release your album?
I definitely want to release the album this year. It’s just a question of when and how I will do it – time and money, as always. I hoped to be finished by spring but I’ve been busy with other projects as well, so it is looking more likely to happen later in the year. If all goes well, then hopefully sooner rather than later. I really don’t want to release it until I’m completely satisfied with all aspects of it. All I can say for certain is that it is looking good, so far. I will definitely release a few more songs through my website until it is ready, on bird.is, and also on Facebook and Soundcloud.
What should we expect from it?
I think it’s going to be great, of course, I hope, maybe a little mixed bag of music with all kinds of goodness. This is my first solo album and it contains songs, or bases for songs, that I’ve written over the last few years. This should make the music more versatile, and some songs might be ‘pop-ish’ and others something completely different but still tied together by some kind of a ‘sound.’ I seem to be shooting for mostly electro-infused indie pop, as someone described it so elegantly.
As a musician, what do you think about the Icelandic music scene?
I’m very pleased with how things are going around here. It’s both encouraging and delightful that people around the world are noticing great bands and artists from such a small place, sometimes even before the locals pick up on it. In Iceland, almost every musician knows everyone else that plays music and they all seem to be in each other’s band at some point – sometimes all at once and sometimes taking turns fronting and backing up each other. The scene feels like a big family almost at times which creates an inspiring atmosphere where people can pitch in and pick up lots of new ideas and influences along the way.
Like bird on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jv.bird