I have been finding out about U.K.-based singer-songwriter…
Marina Avetisian and her new single, Shivers. It is from her E.P., All Shades of Blue (out on Friday), and, to me, has shades of Joni and Norah Jones – a hard blend to articulate and easily cohabitate together. She explains how she arrived from Russia (where she is born) and the role of Jazz, Classic and Folk in her early life; what it was like working with Nathan Britton and Brando Walker at EC1 Studios – and the story behind her latest single.
I find out more about her London life and what she has planned; what music means to her; a new artist we recommend we check out – and where she is heading in the coming days.
Hi, Marina. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi. It’s been really good, thanks.
Getting ready to travel to Greece; the E.P. is out on Friday - so all is just great.
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
I'm a singer and songwriter, born in Russia. I have lived in the U.K. for the past fifteen years. I have many different influences from different folk traditions and my diverse cultural backgrounds - which I take a lot of inspiration from.
My new E.P., All Shades of Blue, is coming out on the 28.07 and it's very exciting. I'm hoping it will tell you a bit more about me.
Shivers is your new track. It lives up to its title and has romance, lust and purity at its heart. Was there a relationship/person that inspired the song? What would you say the song represents?
It started from just one line someone said to me and a very easy, light; free and beautiful feeling around it - and I think that is the mood of the song.
But, then, the song also evolved into something that has a deeper meaning for me. Shivers is a very romantic song but it is (also) a metaphor for other aspects of relationships - like relationships with life, soul; freedom, yourself and everything.
That is also the main theme for the E.P.
It has embers of modern Soul greats like Norah Jones. Were genres like Soul and Jazz prominent when you were growing up or do you take a lot from modern artists like Jones?
Thank you for such a reference.
I love Norah Jones. I went to see her in Somerset House a few weeks ago and it was stunning. She is definitely an inspiration.
All Shades of Blue is the new E.P. What kind of memories, events and emotions influenced the songwriting?
Songwriting is always different...
It can be some emotion, feeling or just a moment; sometimes, a very small moment or feeling that might seem insignificant and then it becomes a song. Sometimes, it's a whole song that just comes like it was always there - and I just had to catch it. Sometimes, it's several stories in one song.
But, it always comes from the heart-rhythm.
All Shades of Blue has a lot of romance as it’s always inspiring - but it also reflects on many other things like sense of freedom; following dreams, letting things go; connections with ourselves and each other.
I like using metaphors in songs - so it's not always straightforward.
Nathan Britton and Brando Walker feature. It was captured at EC1 Studios. What was it about those musicians, and that space, that really spoke to you?
I am really lucky to meet Nathan and Brando and work with them. They are just amazing!
I felt they really got me: my music and mood and this connection is precious. They helped me to create the natural, organic sound. They are absolutely incredible musicians - ‘sound ninjas’ - and wonderful people! We had a lot of fun recording All Shades of Blue.
Also, EC1 Studios is a great space; relaxed and focused, which is perfect for recording. It is really well-equipped and, of course, the most important thing is people who work there. They are all very professional and lovely.
There were two other musicians recording with us: Yelfris Valdes played Trumpet for Campervan Blues. He is such a great trumpet player.
Andrea Callarelli recorded Guitar for all four tracks. Me and Andrea have been playing together for few years. He just moved back to Italy and I miss him - and our good times creating music together.
You were born in Russian and have Armenian-British roots. How does the music scene differ in this country – compared to countries like Russia? How important is your heritage and upbringing to your music?
I was playing piano as a child. Then, I played in my first band when I was fifteen. It was a girls’ band. We played Jazz standards and I played bass, there. Then, I sang in a Funk band but then I moved to U.K. – so, I didn't get to experience music scene there for very long.
But, I know some wonderful musicians out there and I know that there are many very interesting things happening. I think all my backgrounds and the diversity of cultural upbringing are integrated in my music.
What kind of music were you listening to in Russia? Was it more mainstream Western sounds or did local artists make an impression?
I grew up, mostly, on Classical music as my grandmum was a classical pianist; some Beatles and Rolling Stones (as my dad loved them); some Russian and Armenian Folk - as that what was around.
I used to love one Russian band when I was a teen but then I discovered Jazz, Blues and Soul - and realised I loved that band cause they had many Blues elements in their music.
There were few other artists I remember that influenced me a lot. I still remember hearing Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder for the first time.
I also remember my friend went to U.K. for summer-school and brought me a tape with OK Computer by Radiohead. I was blown away. This album is still one of my favourite.
My dad used to take me to different gigs when I was a child and I remember Sting, Ray Charles; Tina Turner and James Brown. It was very inspiring to see them live.
It seems, when you came to London to study, you fell in love and never looked back. What was it about the city that hooked you in?
I love the diversity here and it never gets boring...
There is always something new to discover in London. It is always moving and changing. I love the fact you can meet anyone from absolutely any corner of the Earth and connect.
Of course, London's art and music scene is just mind-blowing.
Do you ever get to go back home or does life here keep you pretty busy?
Unfortunately, I don’t go home very often but I see my family and my childhood friends around in Europe.
I should try and go more often.
Can you define what music means to you? Is it freedom or a sense of unique expression, would you say?
Music is a journey: it's constant discoveries; it's a connection with everything: a romance between soul and matter.
What kind of live dates do you have coming up?
I'm off travelling to Greek islands and will be playing around there. Live gigs in London will be set for the end of August/September.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
It's probably not that new - but I (have) just discovered him a few weeks ago and I love it.
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Let It Die by Feist
I just love her: she has been one of my favourite for a long time. I love every single song on this album.
Shadow Theate by Tigran Hamasyan
It's unique and complex: a beautiful fusion of Jazz and Armenian tradition.
Play by Bob McFerrin and Chick Corea
Just because it's perfect in every single way.
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
Always be your authentic self - because there is no one exactly like you.
Always listen to your heart and do what feels right to you and, regardless what anyone says, never give up - and follow your biggest and wildest dream.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name any song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Lines by The Hics. It’s pretty magical.
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