Amongst French Horn and Violin Cases with Ólafur Arnalds

After scrambling over French Horn and violin cases, I find myself sat with BAFTA award-winning composer and musician, Ólafur Arnalds. Following the finale of the second season of ITV’s Broadchurch, the chat begins regarding his tour so far.

Arnalds tells me that he doesn’t particularly mind the long journeys and copious amounts of travelling. Having come from Bridport in Dorset the previous night and with a journey to Dublin looming the day after his Birmingham show, he explains ‘it’s just playing a different show each night’. With his thick Icelandic accent he describes that the Concert Hall in Copenhagen was his favourite venue and the pinnacle of the tour so far, closely followed behind by the Barbican in London.

The 28-year-old multi-instrumentalist found himself winning his BAFTA for his soundtrack for ITV’s Broadchurch, set in the coastal land of Dorset. Ólafur tells us that ‘it was really cool being able to put the music and place that inspired the show together’ following his show in Bridport the night before. ‘Lots of people showed up and I think it was a really nice experience for the community that live where the show is set.’

This lead our chat down the Broadchurch path, with Ólafur saying how he worked very closely, but had enough free range in his work, with writer of the show, Chris Chibnall. ‘His ideas were inspiring’, he tells me. ‘We would meet up before making each episode and talk about the direction we wanted to take and where my music would be suitable to place. It was a really close-knit team’.

What struck me as somewhat surprising was his freedom whilst being commissioned by the ITV. ‘I had full power, I could do whatever I wanted to. If they [ITV] didn’t like something, they’d tell me and I’d change it’. Such freedom must only come from the respect and trust ITV have for Arnalds. After all, he is a master of composing tracks that are able to create a raw and stripped-down atmosphere in a room. Modestly he claims ‘It wasn’t that much different from writing my own music’.

Obviously, such an approach was worthwhile considering in 2014, he found himself awarded the BAFTA for Best Original Music. Ólafur explains how winning such ‘an honour’ was nerve-racking and slightly overwhelming with the press attention that followed. His next step is to keep on doing what he’s always been doing- writing and producing world-class contemporary classical music that has clearly caught the attention of so many.

After the success of the film Let the Right One In, a theatrical version was created which was scored using Arnalds music. The show is predominantly a Drama but also has some roots in Horror. Olafur’s haunting music fits the show’s message perfectly. ‘I saw it in London’, he explained. ‘I really, really liked it. It was probably one of the best plays I’ve seen in a long time’.

The topic changes to Arnalds’ Chopin Project. He explains that he didn’t want to take the composer and form a ‘best of’ album, but to do his work justice with modern technology. ‘I’ve always been a fan of Chopin’s. Classical composition was my first entry into classical music’. What’s so interesting about Arnalds is his musical environment. Not only is he a classical composer and performer, but he’s in a metal and techno band too. His explanation? ‘I’m interested in a lot of different types of music’.

‘Often my musical inspirations have next to nothing to do with my own genre of music’, he explains. ‘My obvious inspirations are probably the people I work with’. Arnór Dan worked with Ólafur on his last album and the Broadchurch score, and is also joining Ólafur on his Broadchurch tour. ‘When I work with Arnór, I feel inspired’.

Our time together closes by talking about two of Ólafur’s projects, Found Songs and Living Room Songs. Both consist of Ólafur composing and releasing a new track every day for a week. ‘I did it to challenge myself. I had a lot of ideas lying around and wanted to finish them as quickly as possible’. Such projects force Ólafur to let go of habits when making music, such as being a perfectionist. He closes the interview with an interesting tidbit, saying ‘working on a piece for hours or days doesn’t always make the music better. If a piece is too perfect, it disconnects itself from the reader’.

Glitterbox at Hï Ibiza runs every Friday from 9 June – 29 September (except 4th August). Tickets available at