At just 25 years old, Laufey has already lived so many lives.

Since emerging onto the scene in 2020, the jazz-pop phenomenon – born Laufey (pronounced “lay-vay”) Lín Jónsdóttir – has enchanted audiences from all walks of life, from an array of geographical boundaries with the warmth of her deep, contralto vocals that immediately transport you back to the classic era of jazz music.

Her first self-released extended play Typical Of Me shot her up to virality as “TikTok’s jazz ambassador”, while her debut album Everything I Know About Love earned universal acclaim from industry figures and music critics alike. So by the time she released her sophomore album Bewitched, everyone had more or less recognized Laufey as the bona fide jazz sensation of our generation (especially with an impressive Grammy win already tucked beneath her belt). 

Though a significant part of her allure is attributed to her impeccable vocal and instrumental prowess – as she effortlessly switches between the use of a cello, piano, and guitar -, it’s also her intricate form of storytelling that finds resonance with a universal audience –– and what many have recognized as her particular influence to the realm of jazz and classical music, especially for its new generation of listeners. 

As she prepares for her two-night performance with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra, the jazz-pop darling opens up to Billboard Philippines about how she feels being touted as a luminary figure contributing to the genre’s evolution, expressing a mutual display of humility and gratitude for that sort of recognition.

Photographed by Gemma Warren

“It’s [definitely] an honor when I hear people saying things like that, but there’s also some amount of pressure when it comes to being recognized on that level or caliber”, she says. “Because for me, I like to contribute to music [as a whole] by telling stories from the way that I see life, sometimes so that I romanticize my experiences by looking for the beauty of everything that surrounds me.”

In crafting such acclaimed compositions, Laufey describes her songwriting process as an “everything comes at once’ methodology, with its own unique rituals as to how it begins, and how it pays off in the end.  “I always start with a title or concept in my head, then I write down a long list of words and ideas that I believe could end up becoming a song,” she mentions. “Then from there, it begins to map out [in my mind], allowing me to sit down with my guitar and piano, where I just write it all until they find a life of their own.”

Laufey Lauren Alex Kim

Photographed by Lauren Alex Kim

“The chords, the melody –– everything really flows and comes in all at once. It’s both very journalistic in nature and quite confessional to my experiences of what I’ve been through. I try not to tend to overdo it [the process], but the way that I construct it is meticulous, almost like I’m telling a long story based on how I speak to people ––  which is also how I make sense of it all.”

Despite what impressions anyone may have formed from her affinity to the genre, Laufey herself would like to remind you that she lives the life of a 21st-century woman. As she puts it, “I may be inspired by a lot of older artists, like, Chet Baker, and Ella Fitzgerald because they are kind of my singing idols. But I’m not the type of person who wants to present myself as somebody who wishes [that] they existed in the jazz age or a different time.”

With every song that she writes, she retains an authenticity to both herself and the craft that still manages to honor the traditions of the genre. “The way that I perceive jazz often has my music retaining that sort of traditional sound [that it’s known for], but the lyrics I write are very young and very modern. I would say they’re all written in the style of how I would text my friends often, which is why I think that not a lot of people give Gen Z enough credit for their versatility,” she states.

laufey gemma warren

Photographed by Gemma Warren

“I feel very much like a modern woman. Like, I’ve been listening to the new Ariana Grande album non-stop this week. And here I am using TikTok and Instagram just like anyone out there –– honestly, probably even more so than any of the other artists I know,” she jokes.

As a self-proclaimed social media addict, Laufey credits a large portion of her success to her familiarity with using such platforms to interact with her fans. By retaining the same grounded approach that felt natural to her, she attributes her habits as a means of developing an online community –– resulting in a series of closer-knit connections to her growing audience. 

“I started out on social media without any manager, label, or anything like that, and I haven’t really changed my practices. I just found myself responding to everyone and really listening to them, which is how you create a community,” the 25-year-old says.

While other artists may see such a manner of promotion or interaction as an added chore to them, Laufey emphasizes how it stands as something she genuinely enjoys doing, even sharing; “I really do enjoy it! Even as I grew my team, I’ve never stopped using it because fans can be both so funny and so helpful [at times].” 

Photographed by Lauren Alex Kim

For someone at her level of fame, it’s uncommon to witness such a consistent and outward outlook on the medium. Yet ultimately, it’s also because it means just as much to her creative process as it does to them. For with every bit of music that she gets to share with them, it becomes an exchange of ideas –– rather than a one-sided approach to interaction. 

“[I think] that’s how my storytelling gets to become very personal –– both for me and for them. Because the songs are about my life, and even about the way i interact with my audience, so it really has to come from me. It’s something that I’m really picky about, and the reason for it is because its so authentic, as it’s literally just me being like that, even in my midnight thoughts. Because with whatever I share with them, they can just respond with their input which I really do value,” Laufey states.

More than what such interactions can do for her, the jazz-pop artist also acknowledges just how meaningful they can become for her supporters. “I just remember being a fan of other artists as well and thinking, well if ever I get to do this for others, I’m gonna go randomly comment on someone’s selfie because it’s cute and they deserve to be hyped up. So now I kind of do that every now and then, and to have that power [for me] is so special,” she adds.

Of course, interaction in the digital world differs greatly from that of the real one –– especially when Laufey has found herself traveling across various countries and continents for her ongoing tour, Bewitched: The Goddess Tour, over the past couple of months. 

Laufey Nicole Mago

Photographed by Nicole Mago during Laufey’s Radio City Music Hall show for the Bewitched Tour 2024.

For Laufey, life on tour is as exciting as it is fulfilling. Despite the transient nature of her encounters, she mentions how it’s quite the thrill of being able to visit so many places and new environments that have her seeing fresh faces on a recurring basis –– which enables her to make every performance of hers a unique experience for both parties.

Laufey says, “I’d like to think I listen to my audience similarly to how the audience listens to me. I always gauge my little speeches and spiels depending on how the audience reacts to what I have to say. But if I see somebody holding up a funny sign, or I hear someone screaming out something that I recognize, I also respond to it hoping to make their experience at my show memorable.”

“Though I imagine that it changes a little everytime with me, depending on the format of the concerts [I play] and what part of the world I’ll find myself in,” she ponders. 

Laufey Nicole Mago

Photographed by Nicole Mago during Laufey’s Seattle show for the Bewitched 2024 Tour.

As she reflects on that sentiment, Laufey fondly recalls her Filipino audience as one of the most memorable crowds she’s managed to meet throughout her career. Remembering the warmth and exhilarating nature of their energy, it’s as if the “From The Start” hitmaker found herself transported back to her show at the Filinvest Tent last year.

“When people ask me, where do you remember your fans the most? I always mention the Philippines. I remember playing here for the first time last year, and I was so shocked at the response. I used to play in rooms with four or five hundred people at its maximum capacity, but when I went to the Philippines –– I found myself performing for 2,000 people all of a sudden!” she recollects.

With such sentimentality attached to the show, Laufey describes the show as one of the most memorable shows of her career thus far. “Everyone really showed up to that Philippine show. They sang along to every single lyric, and it just felt very warm to realize that there I was, in a country that I’ve never been to before, but that many people really came out to see me,” she states.

“We were also in this venue that probably didn’t see much of the music that I played often there, but I think that it made it all the more special, even intimate if that makes sense. Just the community of people present, including the fans, made it such a heartwarming experience that I’ll always cherish. I wasn’t really aware of how many people listen to my music in the Philippines, so it always surprises me to see how many people listen to my music on this side of the world.

“So I’ve always talked about how very excited I am to return and to be here in Manila. It’s just so incredible and also so heartwarming being back here.”

Laufey Iya Forbes

Photographed by Iya Forbes for Karpos Multimedia

Being back in the Philippines holds a lot of significance to Laufey, with how much she credits their support in allowing her to grow and develop as both an individual and an artist. “[My Filipino fans], they care so much, and I really don’t take that for granted. It’s something I remember and carry with me always,” she mentions. 

In a number of ways, Laufey finds solace and resonance in her Filipino audience –– seeing reflections of herself mirrored in their support. “There’s definitely a strong line of connection, because as a person of mixed heritage [being Icelandic and Chinese], there are times wherein I don’t know exactly where I culturally belong to. Yet I feel that connection with having an Asian audience, especially playing in the Philippines wherein there are so many mixed kinds of Asian cultures integrated into their identity which [immediately] made me feel right at home here.”

Their warmth and unwavering encouragement echo familiar echoes of her own journey, stirring a deep sense of connection. As she navigates the complexities of her craft and life, their embrace feels like coming home to a part of herself she thought she had lost. As she puts it, “It was so cool to look out at the thousands of people here, and to recognize that a lot of these people kind of look like me. There’s a lot of value in that, and I think that’s something I always looked for growing up –– which is why it’s something I find so meaningful.”

Photographed by Zachariah Mahrouche during Laufey’s Bewitched Tour 2024 in Europe.

Here in the Philippines, Laufey’s music has become a constant presence in several public settings. From coffee shops, pottery studios, department stores, to the radio play of taxis, her songs have found its way into the lives of thousands of Filipino fans. Even on Spotify’s global rankings, you could easily note Quezon City’s hold on the third position of where her music is streamed most.

“It really means so much [to me] knowing how much Filipinos value music, especially with the lyrics and storytelling within their songs. I think a lot of torchbearing songs from here feature a lot of strong, female voices that are important in the Philippines. So the fact that I can somewhat follow in their footsteps, or hold that much meaning in the same vein as they do is just so cool.”

Laufey Zachariah Mahrouche

Photographed by Zachariah Mahrouche during Laufey’s Bewitched Tour 2024 in Europe.

Laufey points out how her familiarity with Philippine culture comes from her awareness of karaoke culture, even mentioning how almost every Filipino she’s met has the talent of singing. “I swear! A lot of good singers come from here, which is something I also noticed from my concerts because their voices [as they sang along] were just so beautiful,” she says. “It’s really extra special when a country and culture like this fully embraces my music.”

As a special treat for her Filipino audience, the Grammy-winning artist mentions how she intended to commemorate her return to the country with a different type of show –– this time, with a full-scale symphony orchestra. Following after her remarkable performances for A Night At The Symphony with both the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philippines marks only the third country to feature such a showcase from Laufey.

“I knew I wanted to do something different for my return, but when we put up the tickets for these shows with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra, it surprised me with how fast it sold out, or the fact that it even sold out at all,” she notes.

In bringing such an experience to this side of the world, she describes it as an accomplishment that is both tedious and fulfilling, given the amount of time and effort it demands from those involved. But for Laufey, there’s also a sense of nostalgia when it comes to preparing for such an endeavor such as this. “Playing with the orchestra is so much fun because I grew up playing classical music, and I grew up within the walls of an orchestra. I always had this dream of blending that symphonic sound with my own music, especially since it’s something that has really stood the test of time”, she says.

She continues, “You know, it’s some of the earliest music that we can think of, and it continued on with film scores and has stayed as a significant part of music after all this time. So I think that the experience of going to see a symphony is one that’s a little bit harder to access nowadays. It feels further and further away from the grasp of the audience –– especially for Gen Z.”

Amidst the lost art and appreciation of classical music, Laufey emphasizes how she’s made it a point to act upon its absence to take matters into her own hands, given her standing as a recognized figure in the jazz and classical scene. “ I’ve kind of always made it a goal [of mine] to be able to offer that experience to my fans because it was something that I always had growing up [since my mom was in an orchestra],” she states.

“It’s just so much fun as you get transported to a different time or a different sound, which is why it’s really important to me.”

Laufey Zachariah Mahrouche

Photographed by Zachariah Mahrouche during Laufey’s Bewitched Tour 2024 in London.

Having trained as a classical musician nearly all her life, Laufey reiterates how the experience is what she’d describe as “the most insane live experience” as a performer, given that you’re playing with all these skilled musicians playing all sorts of instruments that are by no means easy to play.

Yet for her, it’s a worthwhile effort that is rewarding –– not just individually, but also for the whole orchestra she’ll find herself playing alongside. “In doing ‘A Night At The Symphony’ here, not only are my fans coming out to see me perform, but I get the opportunity to play with a large group of Filipino musicians –– which allows me to experience a cultural exchange such as that,” she says. That is exactly what art is about, and what music is about.”

“To me, that’s what I think is one of the most remarkable things about getting to do something such as this. I get to play with an artistic group of people who are a part of the country, it’s like they’re embedded in the very fiber of its music. So to participate in that cultural exchange feels extraordinary to me, and I’m so excited to perform with them for the show.”

Laufey Iya Forbes

Photographed by Iya Forbes for Karpos Multimedia

Laufey’s reflection on participating in musical collaborations highlights a profound connection to the cultural tapestry of music. Emphasizing the fusion of diverse artistic backgrounds, she underscores the significance of collective creativity in shaping the musical landscape –– concluding her thoughts by stating; “I think it’s really just a testament to how we’re not so different after all, even though we’re all like many countries and cultures away from each other –– which I think is one of the most exciting parts of it.”

Beyond her two successful performances alongside the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra, Laufey’s schedule for the remainder of 2024 appears to be packed as she embarks on the rest of her Bewitched: The Goddess Tour across the globe. Though it may seem like her Filipino fans are set to miss her, she’s already scheduled to make a triumphant return to the Philippines later this September for her first-ever arena show –– which unsurprisingly sold out within an hour.

Yet despite having so much in store ahead of her career, the Grammy winner isn’t necessarily rushing to move on to the next big project –– preferring to take her time as to what will come naturally to her over time. “I’ll be coming off a really long tour, so I’ll try my best not to go too hard on myself since my throat will probably be a little scratchy,” she jokes. “I’ll most likely live my life from there, and perhaps that is where I’ll be getting my experiences for the next record [whenever that may be].”

Laufey iya forbes

Photographed by Iya Forbes for Karpos Multimedia

In tracing Laufey’s musical journey, it becomes evident that each album she crafts serves as a distinct landmark in her story of evolution –– both as an artist and as a woman. 

“With each of my records, I like to think of them as if they’re unique chapters of a book” 

As she reflects on her artistic trajectory, Laufey muses on the passage of time and the endless possibilities it holds for her music. For with each release, tour, and milestone in her career, she not only continues the legacy and traditions of jazz music, but she delves deeper into her own identity and experiences –– inviting listeners to join her on this journey of self-discovery.

“You can literally hear me grow as a woman with my songwriting from Typical of Me to Bewitched. And there’s really only been like a three-year window between those two, so I’m looking forward to where life takes me from there,” she states.

“So, I’m [definitely] excited to see where it goes as I grow older. To see how my thoughts will grow, and how I’ll be able to evolve both my sound and my style of writing. Because who knows what life I’ll be living?

Laufey Iya Forbes

Photographed by Iya Forbes for Karpos Multimedia

Listen to Laufey’s Bewitched: The Goddess Edition below: