Sometimes when I hear a song, something just makes sense about it immediately, with no backstory, no understanding of the musician or concept for the song. That is precisely what happened when I listened to “Portrait” by Astrid Cordes (formerly of Shy shy shy). Then I took a moment to read about the creation of the song and I fell further for “Portrait.” At this moment, I decided I needed to know more about Astrid, her latest journey as a musician and her debut solo single which is out TODAY!
Lyric video by Lise Grønvald Nielsen:
MFL: I understand you pursued your solo career at least partly because you were ready to “be a bit more risky.” Tell me more about this statement and how you feel about it in anticipation of the release of “Portrait.”
Astrid Cordes (AC): Me and Simon Kjeldgaard formed Shy shy shy back in 2014 and for a long time that has been my main musical output. When you have a band, especially one where you sing in unison almost all of the time, it will put up some natural boundaries. That goes for lyrics, vocal range and expression, style and everything. I love working with boundaries and I find that when doing creative work it liberates me more than it holds me back, but after five years I sometimes felt like I had no more land to explore inside those boundaries. I began feeling too safe so I figured I needed to change them. Also during that period of time I found a lot of new things were happening in my life. Some good things like buying an apartment and trying to settle down with my boyfriend, getting pregnant, growing more successful and getting the opportunity to work with some amazing people like movie director Anna Emma Haudal for her TV-show Doggystyle. Some shitty things like losing a loved one and the growing notion that Shy shy shy wouldn’t last forever. Despite all of these changes or maybe because of them, I felt stronger in my core and I think that’s an age thing. I love growing older. Every year I like myself more and feel able to let go of the feeling of having to live up to someone else’s expectations. It gives me a calmness and made me curious to try and find out, how it would sound if I started making music on my own again. I chose ‘Portrait’ as the first single, because it revolves around that exact topic. Who am I, who do I wanna be and how do I get there?
MFL: Where does your choice to record and write solo leave you with Shy shy shy? Can listeners expect to hear you in the band still?
AC: Never say never, but at least for now no, they can’t. I loved making music with Simon, touring with the band and all the experiences that came with it, but it just felt like we had driven the project as far as we could. Our last release “Gloss” was very well received and a lot of people came out to see us on the following tour, so we agreed it would be a great note to end on. Many bands fall apart slowly over time and drag out the inevitable and end up resenting each other for it. The center of Shy shy shy was always our friendship and I’m glad to say it’s still intact.
MFL: I love the backstory for “Portrait” for many reasons. For one, it is so relatable, a very human feeling. In case others do not get the chance to read the backstory, can you touch on it?
AC: The idea for the song was born out of a visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam which has a huge collection of his self portraits. He couldn’t afford models, so instead he painted himself over and over again for practice and although the motif is the same, every painting is different. Walking by myself in silence looking at the efforts of a person trying to perfect a version of himself really moved me. Even though I don’t use a brush and I live a completely different life, I realized that I do the same thing. Over and over I try portraying myself in a true and honest way to try and understanding myself better and also for others to see me as I am. Be it on social media, in the clothes I wear or the music I make. But I just can’t quite get there. I leave details out, obscure reality or more or less intentionally beautify the story – it’s never the full picture. The fact that one of the worlds most renowned artists had felt the same, gave me comfort and really fascinated me.
MFL: The lyric video is stunning. How did you get to work with Lise Grønvald Nielsen and what about this imagery works so well with the track?
AC: I met Lise through a network for women working in creative industries that I’m part of. We meet once every quarter for workshops, sparing sessions and inspirational talks and at the first meeting, we were paired in a group together for a workshop. The goal was to see who could make the tallest unsupported structure out of spaghettis, tape and string and although we only came in third we just clicked…
I think the reason why the video has turned out so great for the song, is that Lise, besides her amazing graphic abilities, possesses the most important skill you can have when it comes to cooperating on a project. She’s just really good at listening. She really made an effort trying to understand my vision for the song and what had moved me to write it and could instantly relate. We talked a lot about stereotypes that we had been labeled with over the years, and about how women are often either seen as a good girl or a tomboy, a sex kitten or a vicious feminist. We talked about that contrast that sometimes occurs between who you feel you are and how you are perceived. I wanted the video to have a gleaming darkness and a wondrous setting to reflect my fascination and the magical comfort I felt in the Van Gogh Museum. Lise made the video into a journey through the mind by stripping my face and introducing contrasting elements that represent the different versions of ourself that we all consist of. She’s done an amazing job playing with light and darkness and smoothly incorporated both everyday objects as well as the vastness of space to illustrate the contradiction it is to imaging that you can make one true portrait of yourself.
MFL: Finally, what more can we expect from you musically and how does “Portrait” fit into that?
AC: You can expect a lot more from my side during these coming months. I’ve been in the studio working hard with the brilliant producer Morten Søgaard Andersen all through this spring and I’m happy to say, that it has resulted in an EP set for a March 2021 release. Portrait is the first single and a good indicator on what’s to come although you’ll find me straying further away from the music I’ve made in the past on the coming releases. I’ve tried to take more risks as you mentioned and that have led to a collection of songs that not only have a wider musical span but also arise from a more personal and uncompromising place.
Thank you to Nicki Bladt for connecting Astrid with me and thanks to Astrid for her thoughtful answers to my questions.
Featured image photo credit: Julie Montauk