Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll, better known as the electronica musician Kygo, has been back home in Norway this month but not just for Christmas. Instead, the 24-year-old international pop sensation has been impressing more audiences and teaming up with more well-known musicians, who all want to play with the mild-mannered young man from Fana outside Bergen.
Last weekend, Kygo helped make musical history when he was joined on stage by none other than legendary Norwegian rock band a-ha to perform a special new version of a-ha’s international monster hit from the mid-1980s Take on me. They played together, as a surprise last act at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, after each performed separately earlier in the show that was aired live on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) in Norway and due to be aired around the world as well.
The night before, Kygo was joined by Kurt Nilsen, a popular singer in Norway, to perform Kygo’s biggest hit Firestone, outdoors in front of the Grand Hotel where the Nobel Peace Prize winners were staying. On Thursday, NRK reported that Kygo will also be making music with Danish singer MØ, who’s a favourite on music streaming service Spotify and claims to love Norwegian music. She was also on the line-up at the sold-out Nobel concert last week, which was attended not only by the Peace Prize winners (The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet) but also a long list of dignitaries including Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit.
MØ told NRK’s P3 that Kygo has invited her to be his only official guest when he plays his biggest solo concert yet, at Barclays in New York in late January. “He is very cool,” said MØ, whose artistic name is, like Kygo’s, an abbreviation of her given name, Karen Marie Ørsted.
Rapid rise to stardom
She’s not the only one singing Kygo’s praises. In the past two years, he’s gone from making music, first in his bedroom at his famiily’s home in Fana and then as a business student in Edinburgh, to becoming one of the world’s most popular and best-selling artists. A-Magasinet reported last spring how he’d met his 23-year-old manager Myles Shears online and Shears, son of a luxury homebuilder in Miami, wanted to promote his music. What started as remixes of old songs evolved into Kygo performing his own works, with Firestone first out just last December. He’s since become a performing artist and sees himself more as a piano player than a DJ. He was named as this year’s global newcomer on Spotify, after becoming the first artist ever to see his songs go from zero to being played more than a billion times (1.12 billion, to be exact, according to newspaper Aftenposten). He’s also the first to ever have rocketed straight to the top of VG-lista, Norway’s pop chart with three singles: Firestone, Nothing Left and Stole the Show. He’s also been on the US’ Billboard list and has 1.4 million followers on Facebook.
His music has been difficult to define. Some call it “elevator music,” and Kygo told A-magasinet that he’s not offended by that. Others have dubbed it “tropical house music,” which Kygo also thinks is OK. Still others describe it as electro pop or electronisk dance music, but it has a more relaxed tempo that most other music in the genre. Kygo himself doesn’t seem to care much what people call his music, as long as they listen to it.
He started playing piano as a child but claims to have been shy in high school, so shy that he told NRK he didn’t want to perform at school parties or shows. Those days are over, after playing in front of hundreds of thousands of fans just in the past year and not least after his recent successful concert tour in the US. He told Aftenposten that his family and friends help keep him grounded. His younger brother Sondre was among family members along when he debuted with performances of his own songs in Miami, and his stepfather Jan Magnus Bjordal serves as his Norwegian manager and media contact. “And even though I have a lot of people around me now, who are giving me good advice, I always have the last word,” he said.
“It’s incredibly fun to see that he can live off his music now,” Kygo’s father, Lars Gørvell-Dahll, told A-magasinet with a laugh. “He began with piano lessons when he was six years old. It was often a bit too much, he played all the time and we never got any peace!” His parents and step-parents were all on hand to skål for his success at an outdoor party at the Shears’ home before he played at Ultra in Miami. It was described as a remarkably ordinary family party with no sign of any generation gap, or the rebellion attached to many other young musicians. His parents are proud, as are his three siblings.
Kygo described the past year as “completely wild, like a fairy tale. A lot has happened and keeps happening all the time. But I’m enjoying the success and that so many people want to hear my songs. I just have to thank all my fans.” He listed highlights from the year as his appearances at festivals like Ultra in Miami, Corona in Mexico, Lollopalooza in Berlin and Bergensfest at home in Bergen.
He retreated out of the media spotlight for a period after what he called “very much attention” when “everyone wanted to talk with me and it became a bit much.” He just released another single (Stay), though, so he’s been sitting for interviews again, not least while home in Norway.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported this week that a new study shows that Kygo is now the Norwegian artist who’s talked about the most globally on the social media service Twitter. Researchers think such information can be used to see which markets artists will perform the best in, sales-wise. Kygo was tweeted about the most not only in Norway and the Nordic countries but also in North and Central America. That bodes well for more success.