The Redefinition of Greta Salóme

Being a woman of many hats isn’t always an easy thing. Especially in show business, too often artists are being pigeonholed into specific genres and styles that may not always represent their full creative capability. These stamps can be claustrophobic but for Greta Salome, Iceland’s latest Eurovision hopeful, this is old news.

Growing up a classically trained violinist, she has already experienced these labels as “the violin chick”, a Eurovision finalist, a solo singer-songwriter and a Disney star, all of which have only pushed her forward. She’s a full package deal and now, four years since her first Eurovision appearance in 2012, Greta is in Stockholm and ready to redefine herself in this twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If that isn’t exciting enough, her new album, set for release later this year, is the cherry on top of this cake.

“Yeah I get tired, but I always think to myself that I could have done more today,” she humorously tells me after being asked about her busy schedule. “Doing music full-time is a huge gig and it really takes up all my time.” Let’s be real: the fact that she was willing to do a Skype interview at 1 o’clock in the morning shows you how committed she is to her career as an emerging artist. Dressed in a simple Adidas black hoodie, she tells me more about the complexities of being a multi-faceted musician. “I always feel strange because as a classically trained violinist, it’s weird when people say: “oh you’re that singer”. Only because I’ve been playing my violin since I was four. Above all else, I’ve always seen myself as a musician who believes in diverse musicianship, like a musical chameleon. Sure, it’s hard to combine the classical and pop music worlds but I personally see them as a cohesive thing; I’m a violinist, singer, songwriter, composer, dancer… I see it as a full package deal. When I first performed on Eurovision in 2012, “Never Forget” was more out of my vocal genre, more theatrical sounding. “Here Them Calling” is much closer to what I’m currently writing so of course, I like performing it more because it represents me in the most authentic way.”

Greta will be participating in Eurovision a second time, something that rarely happens. Naturally, it would be a familiar return where fanatics of the show would know what to expect. But this time, her return to the big stage is so much more than a predictable three-minute performance; it’s a platform for her to showcase the new sound she’s been cultivating over the past four years, a milestone in her career. “My first Eurovision experience in 2012 was my debut, in a way. Some people just knew me as a violinist and didn’t know I could sing, while most people didn’t know me at all. It was a crazy time, but immediately after I performed, people would always say: “oh that’s the violin player”. Which was sort of like a stamp on your forehead. Then doing Eurovision itself is another stamp on your forehead, which turned me into the “violinist from Eurovision”. The world didn’t get a chance to see my songwriting side. So from there, I had to reinvent myself, to show people my true essence as a singer-songwriter, aside from Eurovision and my classical roots in the Symphony. That’s when I focused on developing a sound that was more in my style and although it took awhile, it was worth it. Because I work in show business, people always want to put you in a box but when you do one thing, you shouldn’t stop doing something else. Let’s just say 2012 to 2016 was about redefining myself as a musician.”

There’s a very positive energy that buzzes when Greta speaks. Instead of an information overload, she has a special way of using less words in her answers, giving them more power and significance. During her period of self-discovery, she was scouted to perform on the Disney cruise ships. What started off as a seven week contract, ended up being a five month gig, which then turned into an ongoing relationship between her and the most successful entertainment company in the world. How did it happen?

“It was a mixture of things. After 2012, I released my first album called “In the Silence” and toured around Iceland, playing small venues. I wouldn’t say I burnt myself out but I was worn out. I decided I wanted to focus on getting my music outside of Iceland and start connecting abroad. So I found a talent agency in the US who wanted to work with me and after I developed my show reel, they sent it to a person who had connections at Disney. A few weeks later, I got an e-mail from them asking when I wanted to start! It began as a seven week contract on the Disney Dream, which is a huge ship with 4000 passengers, two cruises a week. So you’re basically performing for 8000 people every week. Since it’s a sheltered environment, you get to grow as a performer. Eventually the contract became a five month deal, when we decided to make the show longer and bigger. Finally, they offered me a headliner deal where I got to produce and create my own show for the Disney Magic (cruise ship owned by Disney). I spent time working on the show in Orlando with some show directors from Disney and Broadway, graphic designers, costume designers… it was amazing! After a lot of work, the show was ready! We performed it for a few months and I’ll be continuing the show this June when I return from Eurovision. I’m definitely excited to go back!”

“I know that Eurovison isn’t the beginning or the ending of anything… it’s a gig … People keep saying it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but for me, it’s twice-in-a-lifetime and I’ll never take that for granted.”

You’d think you’d start to feel seasick or slightly anxious being on board a giant ship for weeks, but that certainly wasn’t Greta’s experience at all. “I can’t say that I was. These ships are enormous, you have 4000 passengers and 2000 staff, so you’re always around at least 6000 people which is almost the size of my hometown! What’s cool is that it’s a huge market and you’re able to reach so many people, some that you wouldn’t have reached otherwise. Disney is big on quality, so you can’t have a bad day with them. I loved it, I absolutely loved it. When you’re part of something like Disney, you feel like you’re part of something amazing.”

With anything really great, there’s always an ending or a comedown that can be challenging to go through. There’s a popular saying that “it’s not about how you enter, but rather how you exit.” Having experienced both Eurovision and Disney, these feelings are familiar to Greta. “Definitely. Eurovision is a great thing, it’s a privilege to do it twice. But it can devour people, something we call “the Eurovision monster”. Everything is about the competition when you’re in it, but when it ends, you have to redefine yourself apart from that one song that people know you for. If you’re not careful, it’s so easy to lose yourself in the fiasco.

Going back a second time, I have a song with a strong message that represents where I am in life right now. Over the past four years, I’ve grown so much as a person and I know that Eurovison isn’t the beginning or the ending of anything… it’s a gig. For me, it’s a concert, a great venue to showcase my new body of work and nobody can take that away from me. If I can touch one person with my music, then my mission is complete. Doing it a second time, I know what to expect. But most importantly, I know what not to expect. I see this as a huge concert that I’m privileged to be part of. People keep saying it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but for me, it’s twice-in-a-lifetime and I’ll never take that for granted.”

Of course, getting a second chance to win it all comes with a greater pressure. “I think I feel pressure in every performance, no matter where I perform. It doesn’t matter what it is, you always have to believe in what you’re doing. Most of the real pressure comes from myself, wanting to do my best. This time around, the only pressure I feel is that the Eurovision fan base knows me so maybe they’ll be expecting more from me. Either way, it ultimately wont change the overall outcome and I wouldn’t let it affect my performance.”

I ask her if she got nervous before walking up to that microphone. “I really can’t remember. When it comes to bigger projects, I tend to zone out. Also, when I write a song, I never remember how it starts or ends, almost as if I’m outside myself. Sure, I sometimes get butterflies but I tend to get more agitated than nervous, I want to get things over with, I wanna do well, and want to enjoy the celebration afterwards.”

We start talking about our favourite artists and I’m surprised to learn that the same singer of “Hear Them Calling” who we’ve grown to love is also a big Pitbull fan. “For real, I like anything from hard metal to pop dance hits from Pitbull.” I nod my head, confessing my own secret liking for his music. “I’m glad someone admits to this! I listen to a lot of indie stuff, I love a lot of Nordic and Scandinavian singer songwriters such as Ane Brun or one of my favourites, Sigur Ros. Sleeping at Last is also another favourite group. I really love  Lady Gaga because her music is great but more importantly, she’s got a strong inner voice. Ellie Goulding has a wicked essence as well. I feel like she’s definitely underrated because her music has so much substance. Lately, I’m really loving Sia, especially after watching her recent performance at Coachella. I’m into strong women who write their own songs and pave the way from themselves.”

“When people say: “I don’t support the gay lifestyle”. I always say: “what lifestyle?” It’s almost like saying: “I don’t support African-American lifestyle.”

Like old friends reuniting for the first time, we got onto the topic of fitness, how living a healthy lifestyle has been part of her success and how it played a part in her performance of “Hear them Calling” in Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins (The Icelandic pre-election for Eurovision). “I have to admit, I haven’t been keeping up with my fitness as much as I would like to. (laughs) With that said, I love Crossfit, boot camps, running and working out at the gym. Being active has always been very important my in life. I enjoy it. Plus the choreography that Ásgeir (Helgason) has me doing is definitely intense. I sometimes get out of breath. For Söngvakeppnin, I wanted to make a three-minute art piece that would stand out in any context. I wanted to interact with shadows that pushed me around, sort of representing how negative voices can push you around. I wanted everything to be mystical and enchanting. I teamed up with my graphic designer Ólöf Erla Einarsdóttir and the talented Australian filmmaker Jonathan Duffy to make this happen. Then Ásgeir joined the team to work on the choreo and got my body working real hard. I would sometimes get out of breath in rehearsal, but I kept going and it worked out. I wanted to emphasize the lyrics with the graphics and ultimately, everything came together.”

Having grown up with a best friend who’s gay, Greta talks openly about her connection to the community and her ongoing fight for equality. “Most of my best friends are gay. I got to see one of my closest childhood friends blossom after coming out. He found his happiness and it was definitely something that was very important to me. I mean, “Hear them Calling” is about negative voices which is something the gay community can easily relate to. If you have a cause or a voice that needs to be heard, Eurovision is the perfect place for that. Also, all the guys on my team are gay and today they’re some of my closest friends. They’re like family to me. When people say: “I don’t support the gay lifestyle”. I always say: “what lifestyle?” It’s almost like saying: “I don’t support African-American lifestyle”. We both laugh in agreeance.

The conversation begins to explore these negative voices, the reasoning behind it, and why people feel compelled to bring others down. “When I performed in London, everyone was discussing the (former) Icelandic Prime Minister situation which isn’t a positive topic. However, I will say this: people’s actions aren’t always reflective of their personalities. We all make mistakes. I’m not saying we should have supported him as a Prime Minister, but between every mistake there’s a person with a family and a soul, so we have to be careful when we judge them or criticize them. It’s such a fine line. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean lowering your standards. We can still make the same demands politically but to forgive and be respectful of his personal life. Its been interesting to see some people showing cruelty towards public figures, online with social media, it’s really sad! We can be critical without being cruel.”

I mention the recent situation where celebrity gossip site LadBible publicly fat-shamed Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller, poking fun at his physical changes. Miller went on to call them out, opening up about his struggles with suicide. “I loved his take on it. He’s super successful, he’s part of the gay community and he’s using his voice for change. He’s an inspiration for so many gay people who want to come out and work in the show industry. For him to step out and stand up, I applaud him, as media can be so cruel. Also, you have to make sure you don’t take yourself too seriously. You need to have a sense of humour, you have to laugh at yourself. There hasn’t been a negative comment that has really impacted me at all. I remember I saw this comment after I won Söngvakeppnin that said: “I fucking hate Greta Salóme”. Part of you wants to think: “why do they hate me so much”. But on the other hand, you don’t know what that person is going through, so you can’t let it bother you. Then I get handwritten letters from little girls saying they want to play violin like me… those are the comments I focus on.”

“When I performed in London, everyone was discussing the (former) Icelandic Prime Minister situation which isn’t a positive topic. However, I will say this: people’s actions aren’t always reflective of their personalities … I’m not saying we should have supported him … but between every mistake there’s a person with a family and a soul, so we have to be careful when we judge them or criticize them.”

It’s getting very late and by this point, yet, there’s no feeling of urgency or impatience. Instead, the tone of her voice seeps with gratitude, it lives in the moment. You can tell she’s genuine in her exchange of words, always speaking from the heart. I realize it’s her self-awareness that has carried her down all these different paths, as she embraces life in the present, but opens herself to the possibilities of the future. “Right after Eurovision, I’ll return to Disney in June and then I’ll like do some touring. My 2016 is almost packed full. I’m working on a new album that I hope to release before the year is over.”

I stop her in her tracks… a new album?! “It doesn’t have a name yet, but it’ll be in the same style as “Hear Them Calling”. I’m hoping to release it by the end of 2016.”

She smiles, almost as if she just told a secret. “But more long-term, I think I would want to be doing exactly what I’m doing right now. Taking chances, expecting nothing but hope for everything. Never taking these experiences for granted. I always have a mental vision of a lake in my mind, where my mom would always say: “Greta, don’t let the water be still”. I have to keep the water rippling.”

Photos: Courtesy of Greta Salóme.

Our sponsors

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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