Ásgeir debuts new single ‘Limitless’ and talks leaving his comfort zone on new album ‘Time On My Hands’
Ásgeir has debuted the second taste of his new album ‘Time On My Hands’. Listen to the sweeping new track ‘Limitless’ premiering exclusively with NME, below along with our interview with the Icelandic singer-songwriter.
‘Time On My Hands’ was announced last month alongside a rousing lead single ‘Snowblind’. Released on October 28 via One Little Independent Records, Ásgeir’s fourth album arrives just two years after its predecessor ‘Bury The Moon’.
Speaking to NME, the musician said that ‘Time On My Hands’ shows “a different mindset” compared to its predecessor. Sonically, he explained: “I’ve always been blending in acoustic and electronic worlds with each other, and I think the third album was more acoustic and this one more electronic.” In terms of process, he added: “I was sort of more in the producer seat last time around, I wanted to be more hands-off than on the last album.”
Previously intent on having a hand in all aspects of the recording process, this time around Ásgeir put more faith than usual in his regular producer Guðmundur Kristinn Jónsson. As a result, he was able to spend longer honing his songwriting. “I think you can get too deep into it if you’re trying to produce, record and write all at once. You can listen to a song 10,000 times and it can get lost and blurry. It’s beneficial for me to let go and trust someone else with some of the decisions, and [Jónsson’s] always been that guy for me.”
That approach resulted in songs like the emotive new single ‘Limitless’, which is characterised by a sense of deep introspection. “It’s about the power of ‘now’, and the meditative headspace that I was in,” Ásgeir said. “It [has] one of my favourite lyrics on the album, actually. I’ve always been an overthinker, stuck in my own head too much with ego getting in the way. ‘Limitless’ is about how feeling your own insignificance can be humbling.”
The album’s tone was also influenced by the coronavirus pandemic, he continued: “I went kind of into my own world with the music I was listening to, had a lot of time to write and be isolated in the studio.” Doing so had both negative and positive aspects to it, the musician explained. “I enjoy the [studio] aspect more than touring and playing live, but you can start to overthink [things]. You can get lost if you have too much time to think about things and there’s nothing else going on.”
That time and space would also have an impact on the record’s more electronic sonic palate, with Ásgeir and Jónsson spending plenty of time exploring the wares of a synth repairman who was working in Reykjavik’s Studio Hljóðrit, where they recorded. “The songs are pretty much carried by some of the synthesisers we bought during this time. I used this old Memorymoog a lot on this album, because we fell in love with the sound and also because we planted it near the computer in the studio, and it was heavy to move and easy to plug in. I’m doing something different with those sounds than I have done before, and I think it’s clear when people hear it.”
The title, ‘Time On My Hands’, is partly in reference to lockdown but also takes its name from a poem written by his father, Einar Georg Einarsson, a well-known poet in Iceland and a former university lecturer. “It was a song we were trying to find lyrics for, but nothing good came up. One day I opened [my father’s] poetry book, and I saw these lyrics and the syllables fit the melody and went straight into translating it. It was one of my favourite lyrics on the album and had a ring to it, so that’s why we chose it [for the title].”
Usually recording Icelandic and English versions of each track, Ásgeir has worked with his father for lyrics multiple times in the past. For his new album, he also worked closely with Pétur Ben, who he met in 2020 when Ben was teaching songwriting in Reykjavik. “We just got along so well that we decided to work on this album together. We were both in the same headspace.”
One of the album’s most notable progressions, however, is the extent to which Asgeir focussed on his own lyric-writing. “Lyric writing has always been really secondary to me when I write songs, I’d take the music and just put some lyrics on that. When I started releasing my music, we worked with my father, who has written many lyrics for Icelandic musicians, but I’ve never really got this deep into writing lyrics myself.
“I always thought it was something you had to learn and spend many years to perfect and that you couldn’t just pick up a pen and write something down. I think I was comparing myself to my father, where it took him 60 years of writing every day to get to where he’s at. But I gained a lot from writing the lyrics to this album, I was able to work through some stuff and hone that set of skills. Now I realise that everyone can write down how they feel, it’s not something you have to learn for many years.”
It speaks to a general desire, he said, “to get out of my comfort zone and do new things”. In the decade since Ásgeir released his debut album, 2012’s international smash-hit ‘Dýrð í dauðaþögn’ / ‘In The Silence’, he’s felt a change in his feelings around new challenges. “I was really afraid of challenges in the beginning,” he said. “Now I feel exactly the opposite. I want to take on every challenge I can and find different ways of expressing myself creatively.”
The colossal success of his debut, Ásgeir continued, did put a lot of pressure on him. “I can admit that – they were fun but strange times,” he said. “I just feel like now is the time I’m growing up and changing. I just turned 30, it wasn’t stressful, but it is a milestone. From 20 to 30, you’re trying to find yourself, at least I was, and I felt really lost at times. But then I feel that over the past few years, I’ve been getting more comfortable with myself. I know my limitations and what it is I want to do, and I feel like things from now on are only going to get even better.”
‘Time On My Hands’ will be released on October 28 via One Little Independent. Check out the full tracklist below.
1. Time On My Hands
4. Vibrating Walls
7. Like I Am
8. Waiting Room
9. Golden Hour