EACH time I experience a musician…
who hails from a different part of the world; I am keen to ask how the scene differs there – compared with here in the U.K. Venice-born IAKO has moved to London but tells me how the cities differ; whether there are any performances coming up; how it feels putting out the debut single, Queen of Balance – and, what the story behind it is.
I learn what we can expect from the forthcoming Queen of Balance E.P. and when IAKO decided music is what he was supposed to be doing; if there is a new artist we need to keep our eyes out for; what he has planned for the remainder of this year – the songwriter selects a contemporary banger to end the interview with.
Hi, IAKO. How are you? How has your week been?
It’s been fantastic, thank you! I played a great gig on Monday night; quite a good crowd and it went well, as we were trying out a couple new songs for the first time. Also, the feedback for Queen of Balance has been incredible so far, so I’m super-excited.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a twenty-two-year-old singer-songwriter, originally from Venice. I moved to London three years ago to make music and here I am today, trying to get my first record out into the world. I’ve just released my debut single, Queen of Balance; I’ve got another single coming out on the 20th April and an E.P., set out for release at the end of May.
It’s a very exciting time for me because it’s my first release ever.
Queen of Balance is your debut single. What is the tale behind the song? Is it exciting getting that first song out there?!
I went through a terrible period at this time last year which forced me to put music and all projects aside for quite a long time. Towards June, when I was finally getting better; I sat down and decided that I really wanted to express those moments and personal experiences in my music. Queen of Balance is the first song that came out. It’s about a relationship of course, but it’s mainly a reflection on my personality, role and perception of that relationship.
It’s incredibly scary to put out such an intimate song as your first single but, as I said; it’s been well-received by the media so far - so I’m quite excited.
I believe the E.P. of the same name is out soon. How much does transition and the idea of movement and relocation play a role?
I’m a very rational and observant person and I’m constantly striving towards something new and different. This means that, often, I can’t quite relax and enjoy what I’ve achieved because I’m already worrying about the next challenge. In that sense, the idea of movement as a constant drive to adapt to different situations is one of the main themes of the record.
Will there be more singles from the E.P.? Is there a particular song, from the collection, that stands out as being especially personal and striking?
It’s funny, because the next single, Paint, is one of the oldest songs I’ve ever written. I wasn’t really comfortable talking about myself back then, so I used to write little stories which I would then turn into a song. Paint tells the story of a couple who lives in a dystopian future where all the colours are gone; although, it’s not about a personal experience: it’s a very important song to me, as it reminds me of my very early stages in music.
You have Venetian background – based in London now. How do those different worlds and people influence you as a songwriter? Is it very different being in London?
A lot of my writing revolves around the contrast between the two cities. Venice is a very safe and dangerous environment at the same time. You’re surrounded by people you’ve known since you were born, which is really comfortable - but you can easily get stuck into one common mentality and give up your passions because you’re afraid of judgement.
On the other hand; London is incredibly chaotic and lonely but it really allows you to push your artistic vision to the limit. I’ve changed a lot since I moved here and I think London has had a huge impact on me. I’ve grown to be a big fan of such a fast-paced lifestyle; although I come from a completely different background.
Surrounded by history and beauty; was there much time for music living in Venice? Which artists do you remember listening to as a child?
I never really thought music was gonna be my career, despite always being really passionate about it. There’s not much of a music scene in Venice; so I never really thought of being a professional musician/artist in Italy.
My dad is all about the old Blues, so I grew up with B.B. King, John Lee Hooker; Albert King etc. But, he was also into Funk and Disco music. Quite far away from the songs on this record, I know! I can hear more of those influences in some new stuff I’ve been writing recently.
Was there a moment where you knew music was what you were supposed to do? Was it quite scary making that leap?
I went to uni for a while back in Venice. I was studying literature, which is what I thought I would do for my whole life - but the course was not challenging at all. I was studying the same things that I knew since I was fifteen. I remember being so unmotivated and feeling low cause I had no creative ground to experiment with. So that only lasted for a few months.
I was never really scared about the choice in itself; it was way scarier once I actually got to London, cause I was only eighteen and completely on my own.
Are there any tour dates coming up? Where can we see you play?
I’m playing a full band gig on 15th April at Notting Hill Arts Club and then, on 24th May, at The Finsbury. I’m gonna be adding new dates very soon, so keep an eye on my social.
How important is the stage for you? Can you articulate the feeling of being up there, performing to the people?
Because of the intimate nature of my music, I always try to be as genuine as possible on stage. I talk quite a lot in between the songs and I try not to take myself seriously as the songs are already quite intense. This record is all about the atmosphere flow, so you need to be willing to get into a certain mindset to enjoy it. The other night, a guy walked up to me and described my show as ‘educational’.
That made me so proud!
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
2018, for me, is the year to really get my name out there as much as possible. I’m building a small team and I’m hoping more and more people are going to get involved. I’m also experimenting with completely new music genres. I don’t want to get stuck or too comfortable on one thing - so, you can expect very different projects coming up in the future.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
I remember playing a house gig back in Venice - it was a tiny living room and too many people turned up; so there was no space left for performing. I ended up sitting down on the floor and holding the piano on my legs, which made the whole atmosphere even more magical as we were all incredibly close to each other.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
For all I can see at this point in my career; you need your own thing. It needs to be genuine. There’s so much music out there right now, that being similar to anyone else will destroy your career in the long-run; although, it may boost your self-esteem temporarily.
I think audiences need personalities to follow rather than just nice and familiar songs. Having said that; I’m a very new artist, too, so I’ll happily listen to any good advice!
IN THIS PHOTO: Sakura/PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Taylor
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
My friend, Sakura, is doing quite a good job at the moment. She’s had two singles out already - and I think you will hear from her in the future.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I don’t really have much time away from music at the moment. I’ve been working for over a year on this record and I’m still promoting it - so that’s quite a lot of work to do. I also teach piano to kids in a music school; so I, literally, spend most of my days doing music, one way or another.
I do read as much as I can when I have time. That’s what helps me turn my brain off when I need to. I’m really into non-fiction at the moment.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
I’ve had this song on repeat for the whole day: Young Fathers – In My View.
I love how the production flows together with the song - and I think some of the rhythmical and melodic motifs in the song are absolutely genius...