It’s a warm, dark night in Reykjavik. Eyes quickly glance from the clock to the stage. People are waiting. There are some murmurs of small talk as the pre-concert tension takes hold in Reykjavik's spacious Harpa Hall. There are 1,300 velvet seats, all of them sold out. People are here to see Ásgeir, except he’s not here. Perhaps he’s having another glass of red wine backstage. Perhaps he’s succumbed to another case of stage fright. He had said he needed to be left alone in some empty hallway or a room where he could quietly sing to himself in peace and calm down before the show. He knows his concert is about to start, right? A cone of light falls on the stage. They're waiting, Ásgeir. Come on out.
One day before the concert – two days before Iceland's national holiday – Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson, the island's newfound hero, is relaxed. He's wearing white Chucks and a plaid shirt, a large skull tattooed on his chest. With his broad shoulders and rippling muscles, he doesn't really look like a singer-songwriter – he's more a cross between Ronan Keating and Michael Fassbender. He used to compete in track and field, spending his days hurling spears through the Icelandic sky. At night, he would spend hours watching videos of Olympic medal-winning javelin athletes. When an arm injury ended his career prematurely, he turned to music. Ásgeir, a pop star forged from bashfulness, a musician for whom music was not his first choice – a story that, perhaps, has to play out in Iceland.
He's been back home for two months now. This is where it all began – but also where it ends, because he always comes back. Ásgeir has spent two months practicing for this concert on the eve of Iceland's national holiday. Before that, he toured through Asia, Australia and the US, hitting all the big festivals. He spent months on the road. You can see it in his face – Ásgeir looks tired. "I never saw myself as this kind of frontman that I am now," he says. "I never imagined doing that. I miss being home. It's good to be back, finally." Sometimes the 23-year-old seems to still be overwhelmed by all the hype, as if he can't believe what has happened. You can take the boy out of Iceland, but you can't take Iceland out of the boy.
In 2012, his album "Dýrð í dauðaþögn" catapulted him into the spotlight. It was one of the island-nation's best-selling debuts and made the introverted Ásgeir an instant star. The numbers, if they can be believed, suggest every tenth Icelander owns a copy. To confirm Ásgeir's status, a British DJ recently picked a random number out of the Icelandic phonebook during a live broadcast and called it. Sure enough, the woman had one of Ásgeir's CDs sitting at home. Take a stroll through Reykjavik and you'll see the LP everywhere: in record store windows, of which there are many here, and at the cash registers of souvenir shops, of which there are even more. Ásgeir is featured next to Björk and above Sigur Rós. By now, he's totally mainstream, but in Iceland, consensus doesn't necessarily mean conformity or trash, it just means good taste. "Dýrð í dauðaþögn" won four Icelandic Music Awards and was nominated for the renowned Nordic Music Prize.