Photo Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Gemma Warren
Anyone who sees Laufeny dancing with her friends on a night out in Los Angeles may not know that the young woman who smells of sandalwood, leather and cardamom is also a rising star, whose song “From the beginning” made numbers Tick tock. You also may not know that the cool girl with the magnetic stare at the Taylor Swift concert sold out her own upcoming Bewitched tour in minutes.
It’s been a turbulent few years for Laufeny Lín Jónsdóttir, the Icelandic-Chinese singer who goes by her first name (pronounced “Lay-vay”). After graduating from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in 2021, the 24-year-old released her album Everything I know about love and has been on the fast track to fame ever since. “From the Start” was available to watch on Netflix XO, kitty and earned a place as an actor Lola Tung’s inspo playlist for her character Belly in The summer I became pretty. With a mix of traditional music styles and contemporary lyricism, she is currently one of the most successful Gen-Z jazz musicians. Yet she remains in a state of disbelief. “I started releasing music during the pandemic when we couldn’t tour, so I spent a lot of time on Instagram. That was my stage. When you start playing, you’re never really sure if it’s going to lead to people coming to concerts and so on,” she says. But she did, attracting fans from all over the world to her shows. “You can tell it’s like a community.”
Laufey is wearing a white tank top and sitting in front of a bookshelf. As she gestures, Laufeny’s Cartier Panthere watch catches the light. She radiates a coolness through the computer screen; This is someone who knows everything from Scandinavian brands to LA’s vintage denim retailers and big-name wine bars. But she also wears her heart on her sleeve and gives me a shy glimpse into her private life. “If it hurts me as a songwriter…” She pauses. “I have to collect these stories, otherwise I can’t do my job.”
What is an It Girl?
For me it is a woman who has made a statement for herself. An “it” girl is someone who has influence.
Which musicians would you classify as an “it” girl?
I always think of previous musicians. I think Nina Simone is such an It girl. So was Julie London. Of course you have Françoise Hardy. I think Carole King was an It girl too. Nowadays everyone does a little bit of everything. So there are so many that I think: Oh yes, they are musicians, but they also do other things. But these are some previous girls who were cool.
Do you consider yourself an “it” girl?
I don’t know if I would call myself an It girl. I mean, of course I would want to!
Which musicians/artists have you looked up to or inspired your style?
Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday – old jazz singers. Julie London, Peggy Lee. I think they really made me who I am as a musician. Astrud Gilberto is also a bossa nova singer. And Taylor Swift!
Have you seen Taylor on the Eras tour?
I left, yes. It was amazing.
Have you made bracelets to trade?
No, I didn’t make any. But I met a few fans who gave me some, which was so sweet, and the ones I have are from my fans that I met at the concert, which felt really special. I was sad that I couldn’t give anything back to them. I was so busy all day. But if I were to go again, Trust I would.
What was it like meeting fans at a concert that you were also a fan of?
Wild, because of course I meet fans at my own concerts and on the road, but when I go to the Taylor concert, for example, I just went there as a pure fan. I just love Taylor Swift. The fact that I met fans there was really cool. It was also a testament to the music I make, which somehow sounds more vintage. The fact that it reached an audience that also listens to Taylor Swift makes me feel like I’ve really done what I set out to do, which is introduce it to a whole new group of listeners.
Where do you like to go out?
I spend a lot of time in London. My twin sister lives there, I work there a lot, so I like going out in East London. I think this is really fun. There are a lot of nice bars in East LA. I like to go dancing with my friends. I think that’s my code word for going out. Every weekend I call my friends and say, “I just want to go dancing.”
Where do you like to shop?
I like the RealReal. I shop a lot at flea markets, for example at Los Feliz Flea. I literally go there every week and always find something really cute. I think the flea markets in LA are the best places to shop; Otherwise, I shop a lot when I’m in Europe. I find that when I’m in Iceland and London, that’s probably where I buy most of my clothes. I love Scandinavian brands because I grew up in Iceland. There’s an Icelandic designer named Hildur Yeoman that I work with a lot and her clothes are so cool. It’s what all girls in Iceland wear. I’ve been really interested in acne lately. I get acne again and from then on I get good jeans.
What kind of things do you look for when you’re on RealReal? Do you have commonly used search terms?
I love vintage designer bags that have a good price. It’s like a little game. Right now I’m dying to find a vintage Dior saddle bag. But it really has to be tasteful. I’m always looking for vintage Chanel flats or a good vintage Gucci loafer. My twin sister found a pair on eBay for so little money and I thought, “Are you kidding me?” But wonderful too. We have the same shoe size. I thought, “Surely this belongs in the community closet.” It has to. Your closet is great. Having an identical twin sister with the same clothes and shoe size is a wealth.
I also look for small cardigans and vintage jeans, like a really good pair of 501s. There is a denim seller at Melrose Flea. I brought him so much business. Every time someone is in town, I march there with them and they get a great deal because I’m there literally every week. I think all my jeans are from this one guy.
You should receive a finder’s fee.
I know. No, I’m doing it for the good of denim in LA. I want everyone to look good.
What are some “It” girl essentials that every “It” girl must have?
A good bag – and it shouldn’t be too shiny. You know what I mean? I feel like every It girl I know that I really devour has a really well thought out collection of vintage bags and shoes. It’s just all the little things. All I know is that every It girl has about five different lip colors in their bag. There is no way it is. Definitely a broken book that they read like a chapter and that just stayed in their pocket for a year. I also find a good perfume.
Do you have a distinctive scent?
I mean, it literally is The Signature set, but I’m wearing Santal 33. People sniff me out of the club because of it. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “You smell like West Hollywood.” And I say, “Leave me alone.” At night I wear Santal, but Fleur D’Oranger is really nice too.
Your album bewitched will appear soon. Can you tell me a little about how your sound has evolved since then? Everything I know about love?
The music that gave me the most joy was the music that was generally jazziest or recorded with a symphony orchestra. For bewitchedI really focused on my musical roots of classical music and jazz. The songwriting is more mature. I’m growing up and so is my music. There are some darker themes, some more mature lyrics. My last album was a little more cheeky and innocent, and this one is a little more serious. But all instruments are recorded live. I didn’t want any modern influence. I didn’t want MIDI, no synthesizer – just live instruments. I tried to play on it as much as possible, so I play piano, cello and guitar on most of the tracks. I wanted to be really, really involved in making my dream project a reality.
Do you have a proven songwriting process?
I write best when I’m sitting on my couch. I got a Steinway grand piano this year and it has made a huge difference to my songwriting. I’ve been writing a lot more for piano this year. But I always start with a concept – I always start with a title or an idea – and then I sit down, either with a guitar or a piano, and write something from that. I always know where the song is going to go. It’s always led by the title or concept and the chords and melody come immediately.
Did you have a moment where you felt like you accomplished it?
Your idea of doing it morphs into something different every few days. My song “From the Start” has recently been in the global charts and has been in the top 50 of the US charts for a few weeks and can be found on Spotify on Today’s Top Hits. I looked at the playlist and thought, “Wait a minute, I know every single song here.” It was that kind of moment. I kept playing Jimmy Kimmel last year. I play in Asia and Australia – these places so far away – and the fans stand in front of me and sing my songs. So I don’t know, there’s something every day.