soley, mama

Where would we be without our mams? Well, not here at all for one. But in terms of being all right, getting places, coping, that kind of thing…and the rest? In a month when we celebrated the 100th-ish International ‘women are class’ day and our annual mother’s day, a Sunday in March when we bring breakfast in bed to our mams and up to the Ardilaun for the lunch if she’s lucky, I started thinking about the people that made Drop Everything happen and those that gave them breath.

So I’m starting with Sóley + her mammy. Iceland Airwaves ’12 is just over, where Sóley has played countless deadly sets from a tiny red house in Ingólfstorg square that just fit her and her band to Reykjavík Art Museum where thousands swayed to her voice, and all manner of places in between. We’ve had too much craic. But we’re off the Opal and on the coffee and ready to talk about things…



I will buy me a car and buy you your freedom,” Sóley to her Mam, Reykjavik, 2012.

I meet Inga Thorarensen on a blustery cold day in Iceland. And it’s not unlike meeting Sóley for the first time, who I met at a bus stop in Galway, 5 days before the inaugural Drop. She was doing an artist’s residency on Inis Oírr. I had taken up residence in the logistical nightmare that was getting a party to Inis Oírr, and had little experience in artist liaising. But Sóley was calm and strong and unassuming. She had an agreeable way about her. She asked good questions. Six months later, and me, Mary, Sóley and her mam are eating marriage cake and drinking coffee out of eggcups at a flower-topped table in Sóley’s new home in downtown Reykjavik. An apartment ‘in progress,’ things in boxes. But all the music has its place – tunes playing in the background, CDs all together in an alphabetical row, keyboard and guitar in their quarters. Inga tells me they are painting the garage tomorrow as it’s Sóley’s new music studio and we’re told Inga is helping a lot with the move. And yet her lack of enthusiasm for this move is evident – she admits she can be ‘controlling’ with a hearty laugh followed by a ‘no really’. A reluctance to rain on her daughter’s parade while being true to her own position; mams can be specialists at that. She tells us that Sóley started singing at 4 or maybe 5, she was young, she can’t remember. But she remembers she always believed Sóley was destined to play the piano because her grandmother had one and it would probably be left to her. She also remembers Sóley was a clever child and that she knew she would always be successful because, at mealtimes, Sóley would always eat her most disliked food first and save the best for last. She did it instinctively and Inga always found this interesting.

Inga is cool. She has an air of someone that knows how to party; has faded tattoos, unconventional ear piercings and is direct. But has all those nice maternal ways about her too. We didn’t attend one of Sóley’s gigs without seeing her, one in particular where she was waiting outside to taxi Sóley between shows in gale force winds (oh and had to collect and drop off her son, also a musician, to a concert in the interim). She states, matter-of-fact, that she did and does everything for her kids. Her pride in her daughter is obvious, but she’s not in awe. She is pragmatic about being the mother of arguably one of the most successful artists to come out of Iceland in the last few years, stating that Sóley is one of four of her children. But I get the impression she knows all her eldest daughter’s tour dates and whereabouts for the foreseeable. In the time we spend drinking coffee she takes five calls from her youngest offspring, who at 13 has recently decided to be confirmed Lutheran, which Inga is bemused with, having raised her children without a specific faith (‘I always just let my children be’). She confesses to worrying about Sóley’s workload and openly wishes that her daughter is simply happy, regardless of her success. She seems to get Sóley, like she’s a practiced sounding board, and knows not only what she wants to achieve but how she wants to go about it too. They’re very much mother and daughter – friendly but not best friends, close but not too intimate. They make eye contact often and easily, whether for clarity or for comfort, or maybe they’re just more gracious in Iceland. In saying the apple doesn’t fall far, this one barely fell at all. Their temperament is collected and calm. There is an easiness of speech and they are obvious in their delight. They have impeccable manners (so much so, it would make you question your own), Inga thanked us for wanting to meet her for coffee and two days earlier Sóley thanked the audience at Iðnó for being so quiet while she sang.

Ah here. No really, thank you.