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Ólöf Arnalds was born and raised in Iceland, and has been part of its experimental rock scene for years. That's what makes her new EP, Ólöf Sings, so surprising: It's a collection of English-language covers — songs originally performed by Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond.
Arnalds tells Weekend Edition Saturday's Scott Simon that she got interested in rock and pop during her childhood, after some unsatisfying years training as a classical violinist.
"I had a really hard time learning notation," Arnalds says. "I had been learning violin for three years when they discovered that I didn't read notes — I was just very good at following. And then I started teaching myself guitar as a teenager, which was a little bit to make up for all those horrible years of learning violin.
"That was very important for me, because nobody could tell me how to approach the instrument or how to understand what I was doing," she adds. "I could just go from my own inner understanding of music."