Written by Kelly Holm
A Northern Irish singer-songwriter of Swedish descent, Lilla Vargen’s star is sure to shine bright in 2020.
She’s toured with Dermot Kennedy and has racked up over 300K monthly listeners on Spotify. Her music is ear candy for fans of Sia and Sara Bareilles. In fact, don’t be surprised if she wows you speechless.
“I performed a lot… for school plays and music festivals,” she says of her youth, but “the first time that I really felt was ‘me’ was at an open mic night in Belfast.” That night, not a sound could be heard in the club save Vargen’s voice.
“I thought I had done something wrong, but it turns out they just really liked it,” she recalled.
That experience played a pivotal role in unleashing Vargen’s confidence to share her original music with crowds. As a kid, she’d rush to the piano to play songs by ear that she heard on the radio, but as a young woman, she began to pen her own.
“Music was such an amazing outlet for me and deep down I knew it was what I wanted to do, even if it was scary to admit it,” she said. “There was a turning point. I attended a funeral of someone I knew who wasn’t very old at all and… I just realized we aren’t here forever and [I] wanted to spend my life doing something I love.”
Confessional to her core, she credits the composition process by helping her make sense of her father’s cancer diagnosis.
“I was feeling a mixture of emotions, and songwriting really helped me get those feelings out,” Vargen said. “If it’s honest, then it’s right.”
Her most recent single, “Cold,” debuted at the end of January. Reminiscent of Florence and the Machine, she shares that it was inspired by a toxic relationship.
“I wanted to be completely honest and open, and write a song that could speak to people who are going through or have gone through similar experiences. And I wanted the music video to do the same,” she tells Elicit. “I am here, I am serious and I want to use my music to make a difference, even if it’s just to one person.”
Whether it’s with a smoky background chorus or acappella, you can hear a powerful testimony of the soul she brings to every note. Dermot Kennedy wasn’t kidding when he said that regardless of venue size, her voice always carries.
“Let me go or let me down/You know that I’d never/Have the guts to kick you out/Relying on someone so cold/Is better than no one,” she proclaims.
When playing in front of thousands of people, it’s easy to forget one’s humble beginnings. Vargen, however, is quick to keep things in perspective.
“There are millions of amazing writers and artists out there who we may never hear of based on [self-belief, talent, timing and luck] being out of sync,” she said. “Every time I sing [my song ‘Hold On’] I remember that I wrote that by myself sitting on the floor at home. So getting to sing it to audiences is just amazing.”
In the future, Vargen would like to write music with Canadian singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. In the present, however, she’d like to tell you to do your laundry at every available opportunity: something she learned while on tour with Kennedy. “And sleep wherever and whenever you can,” she adds.