The Icelandic music scene might be full of ethereal dream weavers and local trap, but 21-year-old Sara Pétursdóttir aka Glowie is breaking all the rules and heading out in her own direction.
With a honeyed voice and a dark, R&B-leaning pop style, Glowie is is set to go global. Born, raised and based in Reykjavik (Glowie recalls times that her class had to literally crawl home from school on particularly icy days) when she’s not in the studio or working her way around her favourite record store, the reflective millennial can usually be found walking her beloved dog Fatima through nearby pine forests in the shadow of Mount Esja, blissing out in the silence. Iceland can be an isolating place, but Glowie embraces the solitude.
Bouncing between the bedrooms of her older siblings as a child gave her all the musical education she needed; Outkast, JT and Craig David with her brother, and J.Lo, Sugababes, and Destiny’s Child with her sister. To this day, a 90s influence is evident in everything from her impressive CD collection to her puffer jacket and dungaree-filled wardrobe.
“We all love music in my family, and I’m the youngest so I was just running around and soaking it up,” she remembers. “It was all so exciting.” Her parents meanwhile, were providing her with a healthy dose of gospel and Stevie Wonder. “And then when I was a teenager I liked to sit alone in my room listening to Frank Sinatra. I was so weird! I had no friends!” A self-confessed ADHD loner with a lot of emotions, Glowie was bullied in school resulting in an unhealthy relationship with her body and a whole lot of uncertainty. She caught on early that it helped to channel her feelings into art.
With a musical family (her father was in a classic rock group) her and her siblings grew up singing backing vocals and performing live in what became something of a family band. When her older sister left home, Glowie and her dad – an important influence in her life – turned the vacated bedroom into a home studio and her destiny was further cemented, soon recording covers over and over until she was happy with the results and her voice was exactly where she wanted it to be. It was around the same time, her mid-teens, that she stopped dancing, having received formal ballet training since the age of 7, and switched mediums to focus on singing as well as fine and visual art instead.
In 2014, at 16, Glowie took part in a nationally-broadcast high school singing competition, forgoing the costumes and dance routines of her contemporaries for a stripped back and emotional performance of Bob Dylan’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’. She won, of course, twice over – scoring first place with both the judges and the viewers’ votes. “And that was the moment that I knew I wanted to do this forever,” she recounts. “I wasn’t expecting it. I was just there because I wanted to sing. I was at a low point in my life, dealing with a lot of depression, and then suddenly everything started to happen.” Deeply impressed, local producer Palmi Ragnar Ásgeirsson of collective StopWaitGo reached out the next day and the duo began studio sessions before releasing her debut single ‘No More’ – which went straight to #1 in the Icelandic charts – just a year later. Laid back pop banger ‘No Lie’ followed not long after, to the same effect.
Knowing the importance of taking care of yourself both physically and mentally and already a role model to her teen girl fans across Iceland, proud feminist Glowie is conscious of spreading not just positivity but real talk both on social media and with her music. “Art is not supposed to look nice, it’s supposed to make you feel something,” she shared on Instagram at the start of 2018. “I’m tired of trying to look nice for other people and being a certain way to make people like me. This year I am not going to be flawless, I’m going to be me, happy, emotional. I will paint, sing, dance and work my ass off.”
With an ever-increasing international audience, language barriers and a natural shyness can often get in the way of communicating, so Glowie has a tendency to let her art – paintings, photography and music – speak for her. Photos of her defiantly displaying her body hair sit alongside makeup-free selfies and t-shirts proclaiming “a woman’s body is her own fucking business!” as she takes control of her image and her life. Fittingly, a common theme in her music is confidence, woven through songs in the hope of empowering both the listener and herself. “I just want to tell the truth in my music; to not be afraid to say what’s real. Standing on the stage and singing is my favourite part, that’s why I’m doing this. I don’t even have a word for it… it’s just amazing. The best feeling. It feels like home.”
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