ARRIVING in the U.K. and laying down her mark as…
one of the most intriguing new artists on the block; I speak with Spanish-born Vivienne Chi about her move to Britain and whether, having come to a new country, there is a sense of displacement and identity struggle. Her songs deal with issues such as this and JUNK – always dislike an upper-case song-title, but there you go! – so I ask about the song and what compelled its creation.
She talks to me about her influences and how important London is to her; the music she grew up with and, with new material in her pocket, whether we can see her perform in the near-future.
Hi, Vivienne. How are you? How has your week been?
I’m great, cheers.
Could do with some sun, sand and sea.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
Hello. I’m Vivienne Chi.
I’ve been writing music for about ten years; working with different artists producers and musicians. It’s been an amazing, tough industry - but I’m embracing that aspect of it.
I’m a bit of a loner: keeping the creative flow going is my constant goal. I’m really enjoying where I’m at the moment; putting songs out there and moving on to the next…
What is the story behind the single, Junk? Tell me more about it…
Junk is about the balance between freedom, happiness and madness.
As humans, we have delicate relationships with our minds, mental health and a responsibility for our own mental hygiene. I think we also put ourselves under immense pressure to earn, work; socialise, follow the rules; break the rules, be cool; be relevant - and it’s never-ending. I remember watching a homeless lady in Camden who appeared mad - but also free and happy.
Maybe a little madness is the answer? Who knows?
In terms of sound; how would you say the song differs from the single, Vivienne? Did you make any big changes in terms of style and approach?
I’m lucky enough to work with an amazing producer called Harry Tarlton. We get each other, creatively.
I wanted gypsy-liberated layered noise, pots and pans; festival sounding with big drums…to reflect the idea of the song….like theatre; a story.
Vivienne was the same in the way it has an aggy chorus and a delicate verse - to sync. with the dual -personality of the song.
Your songs talk about belonging and personal realisations. Having moved from Spain to the U.K.; do you feel you struggle with identity and your place in the world?
Especially, trying to get into the music industry - where you are rejected and questioned and pick apart ALL the time. It messes with your head. When I moved back from Spain, I knew no one in London - so had to start from scratch - I grew up fast. I’m naturally a shy person, so it was tricky.
I’m at the point now where I’ve found some amazing people to work with (and friends). I’m just doing my thing and loving it.
What compelled the move from Spain to Britain? Is there a marked difference between the music scenes in both nations?
I moved from a small town in Spain where there was no opportunity for music for me - apart from bar gigs.
London is completely multicultural with so much to offer, music-wise. I knew I’d learn a lot and get something going much easier here.
How important is London and its heartbeat to the rhythm and dynamic behind your music?
I keep saying I’d like to get out one day but I’m basically sucked in now!
All my work, friends (everything) is here and I travel enough for London to stay fresh. I know so many people putting on nights, making amazing stuff happen - it’s hard to leave.
The people I work with have been conditioned, musically, by London - the standard is so high that I’ve been able to make some good music.
When you arrived in London, you had to juggle working various jobs with recording. Do you still need to do that or have things got ‘easier’ since you starting getting attention?
It’s a case of spinning plates: keeping different projects going; staying in the loop.
I’ve never had a nine-five so I’m used to being proactive. I guess things have gotten easier, yes…my time in London has given me the chance to establish myself as a performer.
How important are those plaudits and praise to your passion and determination?
It’s really amazing to hear lovely compliments. It does mean a lot to me.
I do music to feed my soul but I also want people to feel it and like it and identify with it. I’m putting parts of my life down on tape - including my struggles. If I can, in some way, help someone who’s having those same troubles then that’s amazing.
Can you give me an indication regarding the artists who you grew up with? What kind of music did you hear as a child?
Prince, Massive Attack; Leftfield, Kate Bush; Jeff Buckley, Björk; Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu; D’Angelo, ZZ Top; Portishead, Layla Hathaway and De La Soul
Is there an E.P. or album coming in the future? What does the rest of the year hold?
I’m putting out an E.P. towards the end of the year…
What tour dates do you have approaching? Where can we come and see you play?
I’m not playing live until next year…
I’m independent, so I have to manage my time really carefully. I’m going to focus on this E.P. release.
Then, next year, I'll do the festivals …
Who are new acts you recommend we check out?
I’m obsessed with a band called Honeyfeet. I think they’ve been around for a while. I caught their set at Wilderness festival and then Boomtown. The front-lady is out-of-this-world-incredible. Her voice is something else.
If you each had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would it be and why?
Lenny Kravitz - Mama Said
The first album I owned. My cousin bought it for me. I was so thrilled.
Prince – Diamonds and Pearls
Changed my life.
D’Angelo – Voodoo
For obvious reasons.
Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
I sang, sang (and sang) to this album. Fave track: Tell Him.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Dig deep, keep creating; don’t rush to put music out. Wait until you’re one-hundred-percent happy with it.
Work hard. Exercise!
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Lover, You Should’ve Come Over – Jeff Buckley
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