An artist spotlight with Irenka.
By Cynthia Jalil for Jalil Photos & Tone Dose Music.
I'm originally from Belgium, where I grew up. I've been performing here and there for a few years but consistently for about one year now, both as a solo artist and with other musicians. David Ryan usually accompanies me on the drums. I've also had the addition of string players in the past. I'm auditioning some bass players now. I would love to have a full-band sound, so we are building towards that.
2) How do you classify your style of writing both lyrically & musically?
Haha, always THE toughest question to ask an artist, right ;)
Really, the listeners are more qualified to answer that, but I can tell you what I'm told most often. They say I'm a mix of everything with some "cabaret" jazz-rock influences.
From my point of view, I approach every song differently as I see each song as a story of itself with its own feelings and message that it wants to express. I like to say that I paint songs with all the colors of life. Lyrically, my French musical influences lead me often to using metaphors, and come up with what could sound to an American listener as a strange chord progression musically. But my writing style has also evolved since living in Nashville, music city :)
3) Who are your musical influences?
Gosh, I listen to such a diversity of sounds, probably like most people these days. I grew up in a multi-cultural sea, listening to music in Czech, French, English, Spanish, Italian. But I can name some artists that have definitely made a strong impact on me : Emilie Autumn, Mypollux (French metal band), Camille (French artist), Fiona Apple, Keny Arkana (French artist), Amy Winehouse, Jean-Jacques Goldman (French artist), Beethoven, Schumann, Celine Dion, Iveta Bartošová (Czech artist), Yuki Kajiura (Japanese composer), the 80s disco, and 90s rock and pop. Nowadays artists and bands like Pentatonix inspire me to keep going forward with my sounds and ideas.
4) As an independent artist, do you self promote or do you have a team that helps with promotions?
I do all of my promotion myself, with the help of my drummer.
5) What was a deciding factor in your decision with making the move to Nashville, TN?
The European socio-economic climate and mentality was a little depressing for me. People don't really go after their dream or believe. I don't want to generalize, but the vibe I felt in the environment I was in was like an omnipresent sarcasm. I felt I needed the candid outlook and entrepreneurial mindset of the American mindset to have a chance to grow and feel empowered to make things happen. Having decided I wanted to experience living in the States, I looked at my savings account and it told me that L.A. or N.Y., although being significant musical poles, were out of the equation. Thus... I landed in Nashville, Tennessee, as a French alien amidst country music land, and it's all history from there.
6) I should tell you that I was asked to interview you by C.W. Fields - musician/writer/music producer who recognized your talented at your recent gig together at: CQ Heights Coffeehouse on Sunday, June 7th @ 6:30pm, Houston Heights, Houston, TX,
How was that gig for you?
It was absolutely wonderful! It was my first time playing in Houston, and the place was packed! I very much enjoyed sharing the stage with C.W.Fields, who is an incredibly multi-talented artist and multi-faceted person. We also had Kidd the Great, join us with his soulful vocals and hip hop tracks, so it was quite a mix of musical genres. It was great that we got to do that in an intimate environment like the coffeehouse where the audience was so close and felt like part of the show.
Can you give me an idea of what someone like me - who has never been to your show would experience musically?
It would be a Euro-American musical experience, mixing French and English in a variety of genres, from ballads to upbeat rock, swinging gypsy jazz tunes, cabaret, or experimental electro. Dark European tunes with warm smoky vocals sprinkled here and there with breathtakingly high notes. A multi-cultural celebration of life and music, of all human feelings, and the total acceptance of oneself.
To summarize it with a quote from someone else : " Irenka is a true original, an artist with a sound and musical vision completely her own. " Dave Isaacs, Nashville Guitar Guru
I don't know what else to say... come and see me, I want to meet you ! :D
7) What are your current or future plans with regards to recording new releases?
I have some new material I wrote this year that I am planning on polishing and releasing before the end of the year indeed, so stay tuned. One is called "Just Be", a song about simply being yourself, despite the pressure of the surrounding world. Another one is called "Never Fall In Love With a Married Man" (this one requires no comment haha). Add me on social media and subscribe to my news to be the first ones informed. I love treating my subscribers and followers with some free tracks ;)
8) Are you currently on tour or will there be a tour soon?
Right now, I am staying in Nashville for a couple months, because I'm working on a new music video for my French industrial-r'n'b song "Comme Si" to be released on Youtube. I will also be upgrading my website www.blackswanworld.com so my new releases and merch will be available online.
As soon as I have my new releases available, I'll be back on the road again, to share the love and music, and meet all those lovely people everywhere around the States, and hopefully the world soon! I am dreaming about touring Europe in 2016.
9) More and more recording artists both old & new have become more accessible to their fans these days, are you accessible to yours? And if a fan reaches out to you on your social media platforms, can they expect a response from you directly?
Yes, I am always in touch with my supporters, my little Black Swans. I respond personally to all my emails and messages, and enjoy reading everyone's comments, feedback, and messages of love. It means the world to me. Of course I can get caught in busy schedules, touring, and down the road there will be a moment in my life where I won't be able to answer everyone, even if I wish I could. But while I can, I'll do my best to be there for everyone. My whole musical endeavor is centered around my principles and values, which are centered around the people and strong human connections.
To get in touch : facebook.com/irenkamusic, twitter.com/irenkastyle
10) As a part of my interview preparation, I listened to your Reverbnation Catalogue. And I quite literally was blown-away by the different styles of music! And so, I thought it would be interesting & fun if you would give us all a brief description of what each song is about?! And what was your inspiration for writing that particular song?!
Haha, I LOOOVE this question ! Ok here we go :
1) Dreamland (Stormy) - This song is about leaving your comfort zone to sail towards your dreamland, but after you've built up the strength to leave, there are still all those day-to-day obstacles to brave in your way on your journey towards the dreamland
2) A Reason To Hate Me (Sassy) - A song about a love declaration with a twist. I wrote this after a curious experience where a guy had presumably fallen in love with me, but when I hinted on the fact that I wasn't feeling the same, he became aggressive in his pursuit. I thought this was completely contrary to the true feeling of love, which should be sweet, caring, and selfless, where the other person's happiness and well-being are more important than having that person for yourself. If not, is it really love?
3) Comme Si (French) - My very first song that I wrote when I was 17, and I was running away from home. I had issues in my life that I was struggling with and everyone around me was trying to meddle in and figure out for me, when really I just needed to be given some faith and space, and deal with it myself.
4) Autumn (Instrumental Beautiful) - The Fall season inspired me this little instrumental piano piece in 2012. It reminisces the nostalgia after Summer, with its falling leaves and light breezes, early sunsets and chilly evenings.
5) It Burns (Crying) - A soundtrack about physical abuse. I had some men in my life who weren't able to control their anger, and think they could dump their nerves on me, violating my private space. The title of the song refers to the burning feeling that an aggressive/unwanted touch leaves on my skin. I have a very sensitive relationship with touch.
6) Daddy's Girl (Electro/Dance/Chaotic) - A bittersweet dance track built around memories of my dad watching the news, switching between channels in different languages (he's a linguist). My dad was more interested in the news than in the kids, so there is kind of a double meaning to the phrase "I am not daddy's girl". I played around in the audio production program and found a setting where my voice would sound like that of a child. I'm still working on the track. I love dancing but I thought it would be interesting to hear more dance songs that don't involve necessarily first-degree sex, and perhaps some alternative content. I conceived this track as a playful hard dance song.
11). Before we end this interview, is there anything that you would like to say to your fans?
Of course I want to start by saying a big fat MERCI / THANK YOU !
Just like many others, my life has been a sequence of big highs and big lows and in those dark moments, I have my favorite artists to sing to me, be there for me, entertain me to forget about life, and keep me going, holding on at least until tomorrow. That's why I wanted to be an artist, to give back, be there for you, to share your tears and smiles, and I am sooo stocked and honored to be able to do that with my life!
Find your inner LoOney Toon, because LoOney Toons never die, they never feel shame for being silly, and they're always in a good mood, despite giant hammers slamming them into the ground. Be happy, be healthy, be YOU! You're awesome, unique, and beautiful, I love you :)
1) Dreamland (Stormy)
2) A Reason To Hate Me (Sassy)
3) Come Si (French)
4) Autumn (Instrumental Beautiful)
5) It Burns (Crying)
6) Daddy's Girl (Electro/Dance/Chaotic)
* Also on Soundcloud.
Thanks again, it has been great chatting with you!
The pleasure is shared ! Anytime ! Thank you for your interesting questions and checking out my music.
I will be looking forward to hearing more from you in what I hope will be the very near future! Cheers for a successful & prosperous musical career! Enjoy the rest of your day!
Thank you! You too.