Elena Ramona: 'I want to make an impact... be a bit of a legend in my own right'.
Words by Sam Liddicott. 03 November, 2013, 13:00 GMT.
The Greek-born 23-year-old 'Rise' sensation reveals the title (and themes) of her forthcoming E.P.; her future ambitions- and how simplicity is the key to her success and memorability.
Elena Ramona: Surrey-based songwriter Elena Stathaki is poised for the future.
Photograph: Martyn Corbet
AS I sit stirring a half-drained cappuccino and ruminating on life- my mind wanders ....
There is a sense of nervousness and trepidation as I prepare to meet Elena. I have known her for a while now, and spent many (happy) hours in online conversation- yet never met her face-to-face. Through Facebook (and Twitter) conversations, I have felt a connection and admiration of Elena: her passion for music and her individuality are a breath of fresh air, considering the manufactured and plastic nature of a lot of modern music. She has always been appreciated and enamoured of anyone willing to appreciate her music, and spread her gospel. Having reviewed her last single 'Rise', I found myself an instant fan of her music. The ensuing plaudits and feedback that that track received from online channels must have been pleasing for Elena; and I was keen to pose that question to her. Arriving at our interview, Elena is dressed casually; there are no layers of make-up and distractingly-overpowering perfume. In the flesh she is incredibly striking; possessed of a startling beauty and a very cheeky smile, it is very relaxing being in her presence. In conversation, Elena is incredibly down-to-earth; someone whom you could chat to for hours. Her natural warmth and friendliness will separate her from many of her peers.
My initial question focused upon Elena's forthcoming E.P.: how was it to write, record and prepare her innermost current ambitions. Leaning back, the question is given a little consideration: "Quite stressful" has been the experience, yet it has been a necessary process of perfectionism.; some sections have had to be rewritten, and ideas changes. With a smile, Elena stresses that it is "definitely happening". She was keen to state that she did not want to rush a release. Elena has made sure that her first E.P. is one that is distinctly 'her' : time has been taken to make sure that the quality is of the highest standard. Elena realizes that by unveiling her work in stages: interview; review; E.P. etc., there will be a gradual build-up; and hopes that the overall effect will be more potent ; that her music will reveal its charms and will remain in the memory for a long time.
The E.P. is to be entitled 'Hold On', Elena tells me, named after one of the tracks from the release. Also included within the three-track release will be 'Rise'. When I ask what one can expect from the E.P. Elena has a think, but then sits straight up. The overall sound of the E.P. will be "very different to Rise". That track, she states, is a "ballad/ pop song"- simple and effective. To compliment 'Rise' there will be a track which is "upbeat and poppy" and well as a more "emotional/sexy" number. It is obvious that a lot of hard work and focus has been paid to 'Hold On'. As exciting as her first step is, Elena emphasizes that she has not gone "too crazy". She does not want to make her work too diverse and fragmented; whilst the E.P. promises range and surprises, the abiding coda is one of personality and individuality. Elena explained that she is happy with the overall sound of the E.P. and how it is coming together ("I am where I want to be right now"). Elena's voice is all her own: a distinctive and personal tone will run through the E.P.
As we relax into conversation a bit, I ask about 'Rise': whether she was surprised by its success and popularity (to date the music video has gained 1,696 views on YouTube). There is no hesitation as she answers: "Yes". Elena did not expect to make a video for it, and was taken aback by how much the song resonated with people. Happy that it "meant a lot to people", it has provided her with impetus to go on recording and aiming high ("It shows that there is a fan base out there"). Regardless of the success of 'Rise', Elena points out that her career is in its infancy. She has been singing for only a year or so, and has not as yet been gigging.
I was made aware of Martyn Corbet a few months ago. He is a close friend of Elena, and- as she attests- someone who was the "only person that believed in my passion". Elena slyly grins and points out that Corbet was pretty firm with her, with regards to getting her voice and talent to its peak. Before embarking upon the E.P., Corbet advised Elena "go away and practice for 3 months". Having collaborated with and produced Elena, her friend was eager to make sure that she was at the peak of her power before setting down songs on tape. Elena used the three months (or so) to work on her vocals, hone her talent and make sure that she was fully ready to record. It is clear that Corbet's influence- as a producer and friend- has meant a great deal to her. He is someone who clearly has a lot of belief in the budding star, and is as determined as anyone to make sure she gets the credit she deserves. I am keen not to interrupt as Elena praise Corbet's legacy and influence. He is an important figurehead for her that has helped to mould the music that Elena is making.
The coffee shop starts to empty slightly, as we approach 3:45pm. I notice that the rain outside has abated, and there is a relaxing stillness about us. Elena is a genuinely positive and good-natured conversationalist. She is someone who is happy to talk about her music, and provide as much information as possible (she was worried she may have talked too much- I was quick to point out that she did no such thing). It is a comfortable conversing with her. Answers are full and complete, and fascinating titbits and factoids are interspersed with personal recollections and insights. The voice that encapsulated and seduced 'Rise's wonder; is one that sounds like no other. There is no histrionics nor emotional overacting: it is straight-forward and stunning. I was fascinated to know where that voice came from; whom influenced Elena's sounds and consciousness. The Beatles are an influence for Elena. She explained that growing up in her family home on Skiathos Island, her mother used to play 'Yellow Submarine'- a song that she adored for its childish silliness. She goes on to say how much she respects what The Beatles did and achieved: a magnum of gilded songs that were simple, memorable and life-affirming. It is the way in which the '60s legends managed to burrow into your skull, that Elena hopes to achieve with her music. 'Rise' was built around a repeated coda of "Thank-you"; a sentiment that sums up the song's themes, and one that remains in your memory for a long while. It is the way in which effectively simple tunes and lines can get into your brain, that Elena hopes to accomplish with her music. Her lyrics have a brevity and directness that she hopes will be quoted and talked about for years to come. If the sound or words are too complicated or cluttered one runs the risk of being passed over. As well as the Liverpool quartet, a wide-range of artists are beloved and remembered fondly. Pink Floyd were big names in the Stathaki household.
I was very keen to know what Elena has planned for the rest of this year- as well as 2014. She is keen to get E.P. number two (and three as well) released "hopefully by next summer", and says that she "wants to play as much as possible and collaborate with as many different people as possible... I want to get my name out there a bit further".
After we finish the recording we, linger for a while. Elena is a bluster of adorable smiles, humour, intrigue and layers. She talks fondly and openly about her personal life and family. I listen fondly as she paints pictures about her childhood in Greece. She is a very honest person whom wants to embrace as many people as possible. In spite of setbacks, heartaches and a lot of hard-work, her diligence and determination are starting to pay off. In spite of our pre-existing friendship, I have gleamed and learned more about Elena in our interview than I had done previously. We discuss the local scene (in Surrey), and it seems that as far as the future goes, Elena may be setting her sites far and wide when it comes to gigs. But as she has stated on many intervals, we are witnessing her first steps. In the coming months we will be seeing and hearing a lot from Elena, as she begins to reveal her songs to the world. In a way she has little in common with her contemporaries, as she favours a natural look; being who she is all day- not hiding behind cosmetics and fake clothing. Our heroine wants to appear as a role model to young women, men and everyone else. It is not a publicity trick; nor a cheap ploy. It is who she is, and who she will always be. By being genuine and natural she appeals more real and relatable; so if you see her in the street you can say:
Elena Ramona's single 'Rise' is available at:
The E.P. 'Hold On' is available shortly.
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