Butterflies and Elvis is the debut international release from 18 year-old Icelandic singing sensation, Yohanna. The ‘vibey’, catchy album could best be described as a mix of inspirational pop and arrestingly soulful vocals.
Already a multi-platinum star in her own country, she was signed by Sony’s Tommy Mattola at 13 and has since been working with some of the industry’s biggest names. Lee Horrocks, who shares the album’s song writing credits with the singer, calls her voice remarkable. “It’s something I’ve never seen before,” he says. “It’s very pure, very original.” Veteran recording engineer Thomas Yezzi has his own explanation. “She’s an 18 year-old, white Icelandic girl with the soul of a 50 year-old black woman. She’s really amazing.”
In addition to the new album, Yohanna has also been playing a few intimate, carefully chosen dates in Reykjavik. She was recently accompanied by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra in a sold-out concert which was also broadcast live on Icelandic TV.
British songwriter Lee Horrocks offers up the kind of superlatives that seem to be following Yohanna wherever she goes these days. The 18 year-old singer has been a multi-platinum star in her native Iceland since the age of nine, but in the last few years some of the biggest names in music have lined up to work with her. What do they see in the young singer? Horrocks cuts right to the chase: “It’s all about the voice. It’s very pure, very original. She’s a star.”
But maybe it’s more than that. How does a girl from a small island nation catch the attention of some of the biggest names in music, both in America and Europe?
That is, of course, the million dollar question, although it shouldn‘t be surprising that the land of Björk and Sigur Rós has produced yet another unique talent. Certainly it starts with the voice and that amazing purity of sound. Maria Björk is a well-known performer in Iceland and runs its premier singer’s school:
“Yohanna has an amazing voice; you can hear that immediately. But what sets her apart as a singer, and especially one so young, is the complete control she has.”