Pinned Down By Familiar Roots: Andreya Triana

Behind her new direction...
Andreya Triana

To some, 2010 is a lifetime ago - most people would be hard pressed to remember even one day from it! However, the year holds particular significance for Andreya Triana as it brought about the release of her debut album, ‘Lost Where I Belong’. 

Featuring its eponymously titled single, the album, with a host of dreamy, soulful R&B ballads about love and life, was a catalyst for an artist who was already drawing the attention of audiences and peers alike. Artistic collaborations with Bonobo and Mr Scruff came along frequently, whilst appearances on some of the UK, Europe and USA’s most exciting festivals helped Miss Triana establish a solid base of fans, placing her firmly under the gaze of the music industry’s watchful eye.

But, what next? Fast forward through 2010 and 2011’s extensive touring and you reach 2012 – surprisingly - which brought the chance for the singer to finally begin penning new material, and to find out just how she arrived at her new sound and to see what she has been up to during, Clash got in touch for a chat:

What can readers expect from the new material?
Well, the new E.P that’s coming out is quite stripped down and it’s quite simple, only because when it comes to the album I didn’t want to dictate and put certain sounds in people’s minds. For me, the main thing with this new material is that it is all about the songs. I just wanted them to kind of stand out by themselves – even if it is just a piano and strings, or just a really stripped down arrangement. So, yeah, it’s all going to be stripped down and simple, but full of honest songs that are very fraught, and I think I’m just talking quite honestly about experiences that I’ve had and trying to keep it all as honest as I can.

The bare-bones approach you allude to is quite apparent throughout the new material. What processes did you go through to get there, as you quite often mention how personal the songs are and how you draw from experiences to write them?
I am always looking, but not necessarily on the lookout, for certain words that pop into my head, or experiences or whatever; I’m constantly trying to keep a log of that stuff. But, the main difference between this material and my old stuff, is that I have been working with songwriters, which for me was incredible as it pushes you to get out of the box and away from what you normally write. So, I always come to my session with an idea from something and I’ll be like “maybe in the chorus it could say this?” I try to have a really strong idea of what it is I want to say and how I want to say it before I go to any of my sessions, and it kind of goes from there really. Working with a songwriter, they kind of kick your arse – you can’t sit there working on a song for two weeks, you’ve got a day or two in the studio and of course you want to get the best song that you can. It’s really good to have someone there who can be objective and say things like “that chorus is cool, but it’s not strong enough, so how can we do that?” I wrote somewhere between 50 and 60 songs last year, which I have never done before and we basically whittled it down from there. That process in itself helps you sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. You’re constantly looking at the songs and then six months later it’s like, “is that still baying for me, or is that not working?” It’s really good to have that time and some space to develop, I think.

Are there any specific influences that steered you towards this new material?
I guess, it wasn’t so much people’s songs; it’s more like the essence of what they are doing. Seeing someone like Emeli Sandé, for example, who is really herself, with these incredible songs that talk about amazing experiences is really inspiring. Actually, I’ve been really inspired by Beyoncé over the past year; just her work ethic and the way she is involved in every aspect of what she does; it’s those things that are inspiring to me, you know, and after the last album, which was cool, I’ve just really wanted to step it up, and I’ve constantly asked myself, song-wise, how I can do that, and, in the live set, how can I do that, and so on. So, that’s really been my focus; to get inspired by artists that are really inspirational and who really take control of their creative output, both with their songwriting and with everything else. That’s what I am trying to do.

Your new material, whilst a departure from the style of your first album, still has elements of your early sound; was that a conscious decision, or do you think that style will always be apparent as it is just who you are?
I think it is just who I am and it will always be there. That’s the really cool thing about the new songs, in the live set there are so many different types that fit into different genre categories – some of them are quite rocky, whilst some are real soulful and bluesy – they’re all very different, but the underpinning thing is most likely my vocal and lyrics and what I have to say. I am always going to stay true to that, so that will always kind of remain.

The new material includes some real standouts, including your set opening, ‘Best Is Yet To Come’, and the really upbeat, Everything You Never Had. Can you tell us anything interesting anecdotes about those songs, as you quite often have interesting stories to back your music up?
Well, 'Best Is Yet To Come' is about this homeless dude who sits outside my local Sainsburys. There’s loads of interesting characters around there, but I remember one day, I was specifically thinking, “I wonder how this guy got here?” You know, “That’s someone’s dad or someone’s son. What happened? These are normal people, like the rest of us.” So I just thought about all of these characters and I just made up a story about it in my head and what might have happened, and thought about how they might be at their “bottom”, so to speak, but still, things can only get better, and hopefully, the best is yet to come. It’s meant to be a happy, hopeful song.

You’ve previously been a part of some interesting collaborations, with Bonobo and Mr Scruff, for example, but if you could bring in anybody to collaborate with you on your music, who would it be? 
Hmmmm… It would probably be Dangermouse or Mark Ronson to produce my new album [laughs] with a guest appearance from Jamie Lidell and maybe Bjork – that’d be cool!

That would be interesting. How would that sound? Describe!
[Laughs] I don’t know, like an ecclesiastic – I don’t even know what the word really means but I feel like it should be in there [laughs] – soul-fusion, funk sounding, thing! Not sure that makes sense, but I know it would sound interesting!

What’s on the agenda for the rest of the year? 
I’ve got some gigs coming up, with Hoxton’s Bar and Kitchen in April, the Union Chapel (Islington), which is going to be a really special show, on the 31st May, an EP and album coming out, and hopefully a lot of touring. Lot’s of exciting things happening, so stay tuned!

Words by Russell Cook

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