A Chat with Lara Eidi (29.08.2020)

Lara Eidi left us with a sense of belonging with her single ‘On My Way Home‘. Now she is hitting us with some heartbreak and sadness with her single ‘Damien’. The single uses her combination of jazz, folk and world music to help you find some resolution. We sat down with Lara Eidi to talk about the single, her music and much more!

OSR: You have been performing since a young age, what first drew you to this?

Eidi: Sound, really. I was always drawn to the incredible power of sound, whether it comes from a human voice or an instrument. I was quite drawn to its healing effect and found myself completely immersed in anything musical since a young age. One of my earliest memories I have as a performer was with the Athens National Youth Choir and its 6-week production of Carmen. I was 10, and was in charge of ‘Les Enfants’. I remember the pure joy I felt at being given the responsibility to lead 20 young singers behind me and “charge” in a street scene between the children and adult actors.

The marriage of music and theatre seemed so natural because it echoed what many artists I admire find thrilling about performing: you bring a sense of life with you on stage. So for the audience and actors alike, you’re “heightening” the human experience, even for a brief moment.

OSR: How do you feel obtaining your MMus in Jazz Voice from The Guildhall School of Music and Drama has impacted your music?

Eidi: Wow, that was a while ago! I never in my life imagined I would be studying jazz. Before I decided to pursue this crazy journey I was already a performing artist and songwriter, delving between the folk and jazz scenes in my hometown of Athens. I knew though that my future lay outside of Greece, so when I started to realise the effects that improvisation had on my singing, I decided to apply and lo and behold, 8 years down the line my life completely changed because of my two years of Guildhall.

I have to be honest and say that it impacted my music not so much as a jazz musician but as a musician on its own, if that makes sense. I often collaborated with classical, world and jazz musicians all at once whilst a postgrad student, seeing it as a blessed opportunity to expand the ways in which I could use my voice and musicianship not just as a performer, but as an educator and workshop leader. As a result, I took a keen interest in workshop leading which led me to become a passionate educator in music (University of Leeds Songwriting Lecturer, City Academy Principal Singing and Songwriting Teacher).

I loved the feeling of knowing the potential of harmony, greatly helped and shaped at Guildhall, which led me to take an interest in West African Vocal Harmony and likewise, Contemporary Orchestral Jazz ( Vince Mendosa in Particular). Suddenly, musicians I listened to in my childhood seemed a lot greater and more fun to understand!

OSR: Is there a backstory to your new single ‘Damien’?

Eidi: Yes! Of course, there’s always a backstory to every song, isn’t there? Firstly, I should say it was officially released now but recorded two years ago. I wrote it, as all love songs go, after a heart-wrenching story, composed at a friend’s house in cold, wintry Brighton on a windy English January, the repetitive chorus was written before the rest of the song. It felt like a catharsis was ready to be performed, even though the lyrics suggest a sense of “ why?” I feel like the verses clarified the story in my head and provided a narrative for what we can learn from, well, love in all its glory.

OSR: What is your creative process? Do you start with lyrics or a melody?

Eidi: This process is always an everchanging one. Melody can show its face one day and lyrics another, you just have to be willing and brave to jot ideas down as they come. Inspiration hits me in the most unexpected of ways sometimes, and other times, I create an environment which sets boundaries for creative exercise like for example using two chords and improv so I can create a chorus. Truly, I draw on life stories and things I feel are prevalent in humans and nature for inspiration.

OSR: Having travelled a lot, does your environment affect your music?

Eidi: It has indeed. I think this is the question I get asked the most, as I was born in Athens to Lebanese–Canadian parents, studied at an international school, then Scotland, then England. I always adapted to where I lived and who I surrounded myself by, sometimes in ways which were initially unrelated.

For instance, I wrote the most folk-inspired tune ‘Within-without’ which seemed more like an Irish ballad at a friend’s house in Lebanon. So, the environments would change and my music would tell a different story each time. In London, where identity is a really big deal for a lot of people, I took pride in just enjoying the music of my ethnic roots as much as other kinds of music. So I look at my music as more of a result of the people I’ve met and their influences. Case in point: I owe my love of folk music to my parents and their love of Dylan, Safka and Mitchell.

OSR: ‘Damien’ was originally premiered in 2018, why the long wait to officially release it online?

Eidi: So, as aforementioned, I released the video as a live recording initially because the performance of it I felt had to be captured as a raw sentiment. The audio came later after I played it around a few times and it received radio airplay (BBC Radio London, Folk Radio UK). I think the wait was more to see how it would change, songs sometimes need that.

Lara Eidi

OSR: If you could perform at any venue in the world, what would it be and why?

Eidi: That’s a tough question. So I’ll be cheeky and provide two locations I think, I would love to perform at the Herodian Atticus Theatre in Athens, just as much as Baalbek in Lebanon. Both ancient amphitheatres, both my hometowns and both magical places. Imagine performing in an amphitheatre that’s 5000 years old and surrounded by nothing but sky, mountains and the vast infinity of sound. It would be a dream come true!

OSR: Who would you most like to collaborate with?

Eidi: You guys are too much! Tough question as no right answer! Ok let’s see: anything Vince Mendoza conducts would be a dream, Kronos Quartet and Ibrahim Malouf.

OSR: Are you planning any further releases related to ‘Damien’ such as a music video?

Eidi: I think for now I’ll just leave it as a live performance video (recorded live at The Preservation Rooms in London, available on YouTube) and see if I add instrumentation to it for a video, that would be cool!

OSR: What else can we expect from you in the next 12 months?

Eidi: I don’t want to jinx it, but more projects then I dared to dream of during lockdown. I’ve already completed one, the original score composed for award-winning film director Natasha Giannarkis and her European premiere of “Home Tapes” (Syros International Film Festival), an album with my jazz trio (Dave Mannington and Naadia Sheriff) and a new vocal folk ensemble with my fellow singing friends and family.

Thanks to Lara Eidi for chatting with us! You can find more about her on her websiteFacebookTwitterInstagram and Spotify.

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