We caught up with Greece born artist Lara Eidi, for an interview following the release of her latest single ‘Damien’.
Tell us about yourself?
I think that’s a fair question although I find it sometimes two-fold: I was always under the belief that defining yourself as a person goes hand in hand with defining yourself as an artist, so here it goes!
I’ve been singing and performing since, well, I could make sense of everything. I was born in Athens to a multi-cultural house, bursting with sounds of English, French Arabic and Greek, so music made sense as the universal language for me.
My father is a brilliant amateur musician, as is my brother, and pianist Uncle Billy Eidi in France, so naturally it seemed to find me drawn to it at an early age. I loved the stage, and that energy I got when able to communicate things which couldn’t be expressed through words solely.
My first time truly connecting with the higher energy of music was with the piano – I found friendship, meaning and purpose. Always a performer throughout my teenage years, it was when I met my theatre director Peter Rose that I truly understood what it meant to be an artist. He motivated me to pursue music not just as a profession but as a way of life. Hence, years later, after being a session singer for jazz and folk bands, I decided to really make it my life.
My journey as a songwriter began at 24, and touring became possible and truly opened my eyes to the possibilities as an artist. At Guildhall, I was immersed in the beautiful chaos that is London, and I slowly started to fuse the freedom that jazz has to offer with folk.
More importantly, my years in London were some of the hardest, yet most beautiful years I could have asked for. They say London has that ability to draw you back in just when you’ve had enough, and it’s true. For me, I could see myself striving for an identity more so than I had in Greece, and so when COVID came round, that wish came true, as I found myself in Athens. This constant change is what defines me as a person, because it through music and art that I can make sense and adapt, growing as a person.
What is your songwriting process?
It is the process which changes from one form to another, never the same but always with the same intention: to create a moment, which turns into a song.
I had the honour of being an artist in residence recently at The Word Mill, in Axat France. Being in a town of 400 people next to the River Aude and the Pyrenees mountain you might say helped in the writing of two songs ‘Turn of The wind’ and ‘On My Way Home’. This was an example of how really letting silence take over and help you have the headspace for writing works wonders – it also reminded me of a previous residency, in a completely different setting. It was during Winter, in January in Brighton.
The atmosphere automatically sets a mood to your process – and so I literally had to force myself to stay in the home studio in our friend’s not come out till I had written. What came out was 5 pages of anger – yes, of course, love does that. But then, the second stage is what can you do with this? How can you allow yourself as a songwriter to be completely raw and honest through your music?
Well, this has to happen when you’re willing to be non–judgmental. Nothing is ever going to be as good as is when you perform it. It’s kind of like respecting the creative process itself. It’s important to say that at the time, I was still coming off being in an intense two year very conservative jazz program, so it was hard to find my voice again as a folk- songwriter.
I did though, because it hit me that the two can coexist – the structure of a chord sequence which gives way to vocal and melodic freedom. Repetition in songs is often my go-to point for making something stand out, so in the case of ‘Damien’, it was in the fervent chord sequence in live performances became the solo section.
The octave jump just happened because I felt like I couldn’t get away with just showing one emotion in a song. It had to be vulnerable, and as a consequence, for aspiring songwriters – you have to be vulnerable to develop your craft. The result will always be meaningful if you believe it to be so.
Tell us about your latest release?
I recently released new and old – remixed material because, like most musicians during Corona, it made sense to do so. ‘Damien’ is a song about letting go of a love that can no longer be anything but a manifestation of longing in itself. ‘On My Way Home’ is about my community of people who wander but are not lost. I also just released ‘Here and Now’, a collaborative project initially written for George Floyd.
I commissioned singers, dancers and activists to partake in a video whilst they listen to the song, the result of which was nothing short of beautiful. Its a song of hope, unity and solidarity. The video can be found on YouTube, and I am releasing the original vocal version next week (myself singing).
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
I hope to elevate, heal and bring joy to fans. Whatever they feel, I try to convey that. The most personal of songs I write always seem to become universal once fans here them, I’m told because they can relate to it in their own way.
Who are your musical influences?
This needs an entire book… Just kidding!
At the moment: a very old CD Alanis Morrissette’s ‘A Jagged Little Pill’, Joni Mitchell, Dianne Reeves, Barbara Streisand, Nina Simone, Dhafer Youseff, Ben Folds.
What’s funny is that every time I listen to someone I write a completely different style to them. Goes to show you how amazing music is – it changes into your own voice thanks to all the beautiful music that’s already out there. Oh and listening to Laila Biali a lot these days, I love her covers!
Who are your non-musical influences?
I would have to say conversations with people are truly inspiring. You can understand so much from a person by just listening, and also, paying attention to their gestures, tone of voice- it reveals a lot about how we feel and think.
The sea is my second influence and mountains. Elemental forces such as these in nature truly have always been my platform for contemplation and realization. They move as you move, and sometimes if you’re lucky, sort of sing back to you the song you were already writing in your head.
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
In my hometown of Beirut, at the old Phoenician, Roman Baths. I was on my first tour in Beirut with my cellist and musical brother, Stavros Parginos. My friend Tamara Qiblawi had arranged a few extra gigs for us then, and when we showed up to play Fete De La Musique, this was our last one.
I remember looking at the crowd of 500 ( seemed magnanimous at the time) and looking at the world through the eyes of a person who realized where she was performing: in a 4000-year-old amphitheatre. We played better there then we had ever played before, busting out our covers of Mumford and Sons, Imogen Heap and ending in a crowd- sing along to my song ‘Singing Ah’.
I glanced to the right of the stage and caught a smiling security guard filming and dancing along. I feel so blessed for that moment. The warmth of that audience is the warmth and kindness I felt every time we played in Lebanon.
What is your funniest gig moment?
Well, if you count tripping over wires in jazz venues that are so tiny, you can literally breathe on the person in front of you then MANY!
Ah, you got to love jazz venues. I remember playing at the Hampstead with my trio, Naadia Sheriff and Dave Manington, and because I can’t understand audience silence in Jazz venues, I started chatting up a storm to the audience.
So much so I asked them bluntly, after five songs into our first set “I can’t tell if you’re polite, British or just scared to react “. It resulted in a lot of nervous laughter then roaring laughter- and after that – I made sure to remind them that it’s ok to react to music once we perform-after all, I reminded them – I’m the Mediterranean in temperament.
A lady approached me and thanked me for the music. Saying that it’s a relief to know artists don’t take themselves so seriously, but she was relieved to know that she could engage with performers.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
Obstacles for bands and artists, unfortunately, in this day and age, are always going to be there. I feel brave enough to say this: even when COVID wasn’t around, it became clear that the music industry suffered a large gap – there are hardly any managers, producers and companies which help artists.
This whole business of ‘DIY’ in-fact doesn’t help musicians already into their careers, nor at the beginning. Why? Because the internet has made music so accessible it makes listeners unable to discern one artist from the other – therefore, there’s an unnecessary pressure to put out more music then you’re physically and financially able to.
I understand YouTube, CD Baby, Bandcamp those platforms allow us to survive, and now with COVID, our concerts cancelled. Not that easy to pull off a live stream (I know I’ve done a few) and when we do, it’s hard to ensure monetization, and also, it’s very strange performing to a screen. This isn’t how music is supposed to be experienced.
Throughout lockdown, it was the arts in general that kept people going. People have to remember we need to keep going to provide that for everyone.
Nevertheless, we sill continue to do our work and create.
What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting out?
Respect your co-workers, as you would respect yourself. Respect your craft, as you would respect music itself. Be kind with yourself, and keep an open mind.
What makes a good musician is the ability to not care about how they are perceived, but rather, how you can convince people that you enjoy what you do. Trust me; you don’t want to lose this!
Finally: it’s a longgggg road trip. Take the time to take a few stops on the way. You never know how much you can change, be inspired, and also inspire others.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
Well, I would like to perform again. To tour with my favourite musicians. And to acquire a team who can manage it. I hope to be able to do this, whatever may come!
Thanks for your support folks 😊
In addition, we have included Lara in last weeks ‘Hot Picks’ blog, check it out here!
FV Music Blog August 2020
Want to have a feature? Contact us here!