Behind The Cover with Laufey: “I never expected to be on the cover of a magazine”

NME’s flagship franchise The Cover turns one this month! Join us in celebrating our cover series and the emerging talent it spotlights by going behind the scenes of select Cover stories – here, jazz-pop star Laufey.

Two of 2023’s biggest cultural forces were on Laufey’s mind when she arrived at the studio for her photoshoot for The Cover: Barbie and Taylor Swift. The shoot’s glitter-curtain backdrop made her want to listen to Swift’s ‘Bejeweled’ “again and again”, while the outfits made her “feel like I’d become a Barbie – musician Barbie!”

“There’s some shoots I do where I’m taken out of my comfort [zone], but this one was so me – [just] an elevated version,” she smiles. “For years, I’ve almost trained myself that being girly was weak, but being girly is the one thing I’ve really come to enjoy and allow myself this year, especially as I’ve come into my own as an artist, so I loved how girly [the shoot] was.”

When she found out she was going to be on The Cover of NME, Laufey’s relatives and former cello teacher joined her in her excitement, “because they really understand the weight and history of it”. For the star herself, it felt like validation. “I never expected to be on the cover of a magazine,” she says, wide-eyed. “Because of the internet, there aren’t so many markers [of levelling up] anymore, but this was one of those moments that really felt like a milestone.”


The interview marked one of her first in-depth conversations about ‘Bewitched’ in the lead-up to its release. Since that chat, she’s brought the record to life in concert and earned her first Grammy nomination for it (Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album). “It’s definitely been a very fun time,” she grins. What’s next for the mesmerising musician? “I would love to win a Grammy,” she says shyly. “I guess I can say that now!” [Editor’s Note: Laufey won her first Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album in February.]

The Interview

For Hollie Geraghty, interviewing the rising jazz phenom for The Cover was “a total delight”. “She wears her heart on her sleeve and speaks as candidly as the lyrics in her songs,” she recalls, comparing the conversation to a chat with a friend.


Geraghty’s profile highlights Laufey’s mission to bring jazz to a new audience, and she points to the artist’s “masterful” piano and cello playing and “sharp pop instincts” as the skills that help the Icelandic-Chinese musician bridge the gap between old and new. That the star’s dreamy music can also provide escape for her younger audience helps, too.

“Gen-Z have had a rough old time coming of age amid the turmoil of the past few years, and embracing being the main character or finding little ways to romanticise your life – which Laufey’s jazz-pop music is the perfect soundtrack for – has helped to bring comfort in simple pleasures,” Geraghty notes.

Laufey 2023 NME The Cover
Laufey on The Cover of NME. Credit: Eva Pentel for NME

The Photos

“Simon [Freeborough, NME’s art director] and I had been speaking about doing a sparkly shoot for a while and this seemed like the perfect time,” photographer Eva Pentel says. Taking inspiration from the imagery behind Laufey’s ‘Bewitched’ album, Pentel wanted to bring out the musician’s “old school, classic glamour”, while reflecting the “dreamy, soft” nature of her modern take on jazz. “The styling was brilliant for this, with lots of classic shapes with contemporary twists and I used different filters and softer lighting to tie it all together,” she says. “And you can’t beat a glitter curtain!”


The cover image captures a brilliant gleam from Laufey’s earring – something that happened organically in the studio. “I used a starburst filter on some of the shots and the big glimmer from her earring was caught in camera,” Pentel explains. “Its position is so perfect – it wasn’t altered or added. I just loved that we got that!”

Laufey 2023 NME The Cover
Credit: Eva Pentel for NME

The Art Direction

As soon as NME art director Simon Freeborough saw that blingy photo of Laufey’s earring captured in camera by Eva Pentel, he knew it had to be the cover shot. It was perfect for the brief, which he knew from the start had to be glamorous: “I wanted it to have a hint of old Hollywood jazz clubs, and everything had to glimmer and sparkle.”

To match the dazzling images, Freeborough even created his own typography. Using gold foil and glitter discs, he experimented with different arrangements and lighting in his studio until the handmade font had “the right feel”. “I think it’s reminiscent of luxury ’60s shop fronts down Rodeo Drive and backstage beauty mirrors,” he says.

A version of this story appeared in NME Magazine’s November/December 2023 issue, which featured Laufey on the cover