Laufey (pronounced lāy-vāy) is a Los Angeles-based singer, composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist whose transportative jazz songs about young love and self-discovery are filled with wonder and wanderlust. Raised between Reykjavík and Washington D.C. with annual visits to Beijing, the Icelandic Chinese artist grew up playing cello and piano, inspired by her violinist mother and music professor grandparents, and became hooked on the jazz standards of Ella Fitzgerald after digging through her father’s records. The 23-year-old musician merges these influences in her dreamy tunes, swiftly attracting a Gen-Z audience online after releasing her debut 2020 single “Street by Street.” Already having made her live TV debut on Jimmy Kimmel and recording with London’s legendary Philharmonia Orchestra, Laufey is breaking down the barriers between pop and “high-brow” genres, connecting listeners across generations.
Laufey’s breakthrough came instantaneously with “Street by Street,” written while she was attending the Berklee College of Music on a prestigious Presidential Scholarship. It reached the top of the Icelandic radio charts and blew up on TikTok and Instagram, bringing her fans in Billie Eilish, Willow Smith, V of BTS, and dodie, who collaborated with Laufey on 2021’s “Love to Keep Me Warm.” In the two years since, Laufey’s ascent has also included winning Best New Hope in Jazz and Blues at the 2021 Icelandic Music Awards, going on her first tour opening for Ricky Montgomery and Alexander 23, performing a stunning in-studio live session for KEXP, and getting her own weekly series on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds, “Happy Harmonies with Laufey.”
Laufey continues to bridge musical worlds with her debut album, Everything I Know About Love. On the record, she blows up intimate coming-of-age feelings into grand cinematic moments, as sweeping orchestral arrangements mingle with delicate acoustic guitar and Laufey’s jazz vocals that recall golden-age Hollywood musicals. Laufey wrote the songs during a period of transition into adulthood, as she moved out of her parents’ home and navigated new young adult relationships. She co-produced every song, played cello on over half the tracks, and did extensive composing and arranging throughout the project, working with producers Leroy Clampitt and Spencer Stewart. Following her critically acclaimed 2021 Typical of Me EP, the new project sees Laufey maturing and returning to her roots in every sense: Her twin sister and mother both contribute violin, and on the title track, the trio play together in familial harmony.
“It’s about dealing with growing-up. It’s also very ‘hopeless romantic,’” Laufey says of Everything I Know About Love. “All the songs are based on my personal experiences in the past years, but the way I write about them is like fiction. A lot of these things that we go through in life are a little difficult or bleak, and I try to create magic out of those moments, whether it’s heartbreak, or having a crush on someone, or never having been in love.”
Much like how Chet Baker’s vocal style is often compared to his understated trumpet voicing, Laufey’s rich alto resembles the deep, woody tones of the cello that she played from an early age, encouraged by her mom and grandparents who have all taught at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. At just age 15, Laufey performed with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, but she only began writing her own songs in her early 20s, translating her love for Gershwin and Ravel into contemporary jazz that at once feels nostalgic and fresh. With the release of her new album and set appearances at Newport Jazz Festival and Montreal Jazz Festival later this year, Laufey’s rise shows no signs of stopping.