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Laufey used to feel 'a little off' about her voice. It became her secret power.

Laufey
Lauren Kim
/
Courtesy of the artist
Laufey

Upon first listen, Laufey's smooth jazz music might sound nostalgic, but make no mistake: The Icelandic 24-year-old isn't some retro-revivalist who was born in the wrong era. She's a musician who could only exist in this generation.

Steeped in jazz and classical music since her childhood, Laufey has performed with symphony orchestras, but she also writes confessional lyrics about dating, staying out late and going through breakups. Imagine the sort of lyrics that wouldn't be out of place in a pop song.

Her parents gifted her a violin practically as soon as she could walk, but Laufey says she didn't discover her distinctive voice until she was around 12 years old.

"I already had quite a low timbre in my voice at that age, and I remember feeling a little off about it," she tells World Cafe during her visit to WXPN's studios. "It didn't feel like I had a Taylor Swift or a Miley Cyrus voice. I definitely had a voice that felt more in the direction of Peggy Lee or Julie London."

Despite her affinity to vocalists of a bygone era, Laufey's approach to jazz — not to mention her millions of TikTok followers — has helped draw younger audiences to the genre.

"When you find something that you like within the realms of jazz, just lean in and listen to it and enjoy it," she says. "If something's too confusing for you or you don't understand it, you don't have to force yourself to listen to it for the sake of understanding jazz. It's just like pop music — you listen to one artist, you don't like it; it doesn't mean you hate pop music as whole."

In this session, Laufey touches more on reaching new listeners, plus she talks about her latest album, Bewitched. It quickly followed her 2022 debut Everything I Know About Love, and it's been nominated for best traditional pop vocal album at the Grammys.

Laufey also talks about collaborating with beabadoobee on the song "A Night To Remember" and how the pair bonded over their biracial heritages.

"There aren't many Asian women in the kind of singer-songwriter, indie space," she says. "When we were younger, we didn't have many people to look up to, and we definitely have a lot of Asians in our fan base, both mine and Bea's. It's cool to see this community that I, at least, did not have growing up, come together."

This episode of World Cafe was produced and edited by Kimberly Junod. The web story was created by Miguel Perez. Our engineer is Chris Williams. Our programming and booking coordinator is Chelsea Johnson and our line producer is Will Loftus.

Copyright 2023 XPN

Raina Douris
Raina Douris, an award-winning radio personality from Toronto, Ontario, is the host and writer of NPR's daily nationally-syndicated music interview and discovery program World Cafe. She has interviewed artists like Bruce Springsteen, Barbra Streisand, Questlove and Brandi Carlile, and was a 2022 keynote lecturer on the topic of Folk Music and music discovery at the Chautauqua Institution.
Kimberly Junod
World Cafe senior producer Kimberly Junod has been a part of the World Cafe team since 2001, when she started as the show's first line producer. In 2011 Kimberly launched (and continues to helm) World Cafe's Sense of Place series that includes social media, broadcast and video elements to take listeners across the U.S. and abroad with an intimate look at local music scenes. She was thrilled to be part of the team that received the 2006 ASCAP Deems Taylor Radio Broadcast Award for excellence in music programming. In the time she has spent at World Cafe, Kimberly has produced and edited thousands of interviews and recorded several hundred bands for the program, as well as supervised the show's production staff. She has also taught sound to young women (at Girl's Rock Philly) and adults (as an "Ask an Engineer" at WYNC's Werk It! Women's Podcast Festival).