Getting to know… Ólafur Arnalds


In the lead up to the Iceland Airwaves Festival Mr Wolf has decided to get better acquainted with some of the festival’s top picks.


Following the tradition of some of Iceland’s biggest music exports, such as Sigur Rós and Björk, Ólafur Arnalds has impressed the music world with his distinctive sound and unique skill for uniting disparate genres.

Ólafur’s music is informed by a breadth of different sounds and styles, from classical formulas to pop music techniques to electronic beats. It is complex and beautiful. Calls to the classical create atmospheres of vastness that are sharply contrasted by sudden returns to the startling immediacy of indie-pop familiarity. His tunes sound something like a film-score you could comfortably live your life to.

In his newest studio album, For Now I Am Winter (Mercury Classics), Ólafur’s style has turned away from the drama of his earlier music, towards minimalism and more subtle expressions. There is a sense of a greater maturity and singleness of message.

Ólafur grew up in Mosfellsbær, a small town just outside of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík. Incidentally this is also where the recording studio of Sigur Rós is located, in an abandoned swimming pool built in the 1930s. The town is home to a vibrant music scene, where artists often collaborate and support one another. Ólafur reflects, “It’s a small place and there is not much to do so kids either play sports or go to music school. I was never good at sports so I did music.”

Thank goodness Ólafur was no good at sports! With his background in classical composition, but being largely self-taught, Ólafur seems to be going from strength to strength. He is not afraid to experiment, and to challenge himself, and his listeners, with new styles and sounds. Mr Wolf can’t wait to see what comes next.

Ólafur is currently touring the US for the release of For Now I Am Winter (Mercury Records). He will also be performing at Iceland Airwaves in October this year.

Ólafur says…

My music sounds like… a mix between classical and electronic music.

I make music because… I can’t stop.

The best advice I was ever given was… don’t wait around for happiness or success. Create your own.

When I grow up I want to be…  an astronaut!

Happiness is… whatever you want.

I can’t live without… music.


Words: Annie Ferguson