Interview by EDF
Three days after her final tour date at London’s Dingwalls, which is reviewed elsewhere on this site, I had the pleasure to interview Emiliana Torrini. Here was the most down to earth, carefree and fun-loving person you could meet who embraces everything around her and is able to use those experiences to create her songs.
You have finished off your two-month tour by supporting Gabrielle on her tour and with the Dingwalls gig. How were you received on the English leg of this tour?
They went quite well, actually. It’s always difficult because we were supporting Gabrielle so it was a completely different audience, so we knew it would be difficult. It was actually great. People were listening but some places were difficult. We had a great time.
Was it the same reaction when you supported Sting earlier in the year at the Royal Albert Hall?
We did four gigs with Sting and it was very much alike. It was a nice vibe.
At your Dingwalls gig, you started signing autographs as soon as you finished the gig.
I never think about it, I just do it.
Is it natural for you?
No, it could never be natural. It can be very surprising.
Your mother is Icelandic and your father is Italian. Were you influenced by Italian or Icelandic music when you were growing up?
There was not a lot of Italian music in the house. My dad had soundtrack music, the Godfather and that sort of stuff. I wasn’t versed very much with music except when the radio was on whenever my mother was doing the hoovering. It was ‘hoover’ music. It was mostly jazzy stuff, Leonard Cohen. I was also in a choir that performed a lot of Icelandic and Latin music. My granddad was a jazz pianist. I wasn’t listening to a lot of music at the time. In Iceland there was a war going on between Wham fans and Duran Duran fans. I would just lie. If I were asked whom I liked and saw a Duran Duran badge on the person, I would say Duran Duran. I wasn’t really interested in it at all. I didn’t hear anything that I really liked. When I was ten, I moved to Germany for a year. I heard acid house for the first time. It was completely crazy. I was like “Oh my God, what is that?” I never heard anything like it. My cousins would listen to music but I was never interested. I was busy doing other things. I only became a music fanatic when I was older.
Who do you appreciate musically and who would influence you?
I don’t know. I never had an idol or anything like that. To me it was always little things that make a big thing. I like normal things like life; the colourful members of my family, falling in love with people and stuff like that.
Your album has been out for a while now. Will you be doing more gigs and promotion in 2001 or will you be recording new material?
I will be recording a new album soon. I am going to America first to promote ‘Love In The Time Of Science’. It is a difficult album to promote because it’s a concept. It always hurts when it is taken out of perspective like singles and stuff. To me it’s an album so I have little to do with the singles. I put it in the hands of Tore Johansson and I trust him. I just want to do the album.
You mentioned going to America. Do you know when people can expect you over there?
We will start with a few gigs early next year, maybe New York and Los Angeles and then we will go on a promotional tour. I’m excited by it because I love playing live.
Will you have the same members of your live backing band?
Maybe, it will depend on budgets. They are a great band and I am completely in love with them. I hope we will get to work together in America too. I’m really looking forward to it. I will be going on a Hillbilly search.
You just might find one or two. Have you been to America before?
I’ve been to L.A. and New York before. I love New York but L.A. gave me laughing fits. Everything that gives me a laughing fit, I’m happy with. I’m a really bad tourist. I just love getting into the middle of things in New York, the people and stuff.
Roland Orzabal from Tears for Fears features a lot on the album. Did you learn much from him during the recording of the album?
He is a lovely guy. We had a lot of fun working on the album. I learnt a lot from everybody and we learnt a lot from each other. Roland was great. I did not know anything about Tears for Fears. So I approached him as “Hi”. We had a great time and great food. I was stuffing my face and had cucumber in my hair. It was a nice time.
Are you looking forward to the break during the Christmas holidays?
Not really. I just want to keep on going, tour a bit more. I’ll go home and say I’m going to chill out and I never do. I’ll probably be busier during Christmas.
Maybe, writing more songs?
No, I never do. I’m such a lazy cow. I’ve got a short attention span. You have to send me off to a desert somewhere. Saying that, I’m looking forward to working on the next one, just collecting ideas from people and stuff.
How did One Little Indian sign you up?
I was a ‘dinner lady’ singer in Iceland. I was in a band and I wanted to record some songs for my Dad’s birthday. I went to the studio with a friend and we recorded songs by the Velvet Underground, Stevie Wonder and stuff like that. We were just having fun and I was experimenting with my voice. I was screaming some blues, jazz, whatever I could find. I did it not just for the songs but also to see if I could sing them. My friend said why not just make an album for fun, just for us. It got out of hand, it went really well. We would sell copies when we played restaurants and private parties to make extra money. The owner of One Little Indian heard me at one of those restaurants.
Bjork is also signed to One Little Indian. Has her music influenced you in any way?
Not really, I got a bit paranoid because I was asked so much about it. I started to think at one point that I was. I haven’t even heard the first album or any of the Sugarcubes stuff. My influences are more from cinema music, classical music, folk and Icelandic music.
You can hear some of those influences on the album, as the songs are also melancholy?
There are a lot of Icelandic bands who are a lot like that. I don’t think it would have mattered about what style I would have done.
It’s nearly the case that it’s hard for female artists to make it big compared to their male counterparts?
It has been very difficult when people have their mind set that certain people influence you and when you say that you are not, they don’t believe you. It would hurt if you cared but I don’t really care about that. I just go on with what I do.
Regardless of that, one thing that was evident at your Dingwalls gig was that you must have had fans there from most of the European countries?
It was great, I love that sort of thing. My favorite music is Minnie Riperton, Yabi You, some Icelandic bands and World Music. I’m influenced by everything, mix it into a soup. I was asked to make a list of my Top 10 albums from the year 2000 and I had a problem with it because much of the music I like, especially World Music had been released before 2000. I wanted to put them on the list. There is not much stuff from 2000 that I like. I love it when people give me music. It’s the best gift in the world. You say so much when you give somebody music. When you hand over a CD, you are so eager for the other person to listen to it, there is a message there. It’s like a magic gift. There is a new band from Iceland called Egill with an album called Tonk of the Lawn, which is very good. Mun is another.
With those bands you’ve just mentioned, there would be more of a chance for their music to be played on radio stations in Europe than here in England?
It’s such a business here. Music lovers are disappearing, creating their own labels. If you don’t prove yourself after your first album, you’re out of there. That’s exactly when you’re starting to learn. These labels are getting rid of artists who could change the world if they were given a chance. In the old days, those guys would have made six albums before they were known. Now they get one chance. That’s why you need to go out and find out about these artists. In America, the market is quite strange, there is a place there for every type of music. As with Damon Rice who supported me at my Dingwalls gig. I really liked his music and lyrics. There is a lot of magic out there. It’s just finding it.
PHASE9 would like to thank Emiliana for a wonderful interview and wish her future success.