Every Monday we will be bringing you interviews with unsigned UK or Ireland artists for Independent Music Monday. Recently we caught up with unsigned singer Yana to find out more…
Where are you from and how did you first get into music?
I come from Czech Republic. Music has been part of my life as long as I can remember. My mum used to teach me a few things on the piano when I was a kid but it never got anywhere. I’ve been more drawn towards the guitar, started playing quite late but I love every minute of this journey. I told a friend, a fellow musician, some time ago that I’m not somebody who had this childhood dream of being a musician, it just came naturally and he said that’s because I didn’t choose music, it chose me. Might sound cliché but I realise more and more there’s something about it. A real calling. A vocation as Mark Geary once said.
Who were your musical influences when you were growing up and who are your influences now?
My biggest musical influence growing up was a group called Spiritual quintet, formed in 1960 (their 60th anniversary next year is their final season). They sing spirituals, gospels, renaissance ballads mostly in Czech and a few in English. In recent years they've started to perform more and more original songs. No matter who the members were, their harmonies were always incredible. The line-up has changed many times over the years. My first musical hero is called Karel Zich, at times Czech Elvis Presley for the similarity of his voice. Karel was the singer and played 12-string guitar which is an instrument I adore. I owe him a lot. He's the one thanks to whom I first picked up the guitar. He sadly passed away 15 years ago. I was deeply saddened when it happened. Strangely, I experienced very similar feelings years later. That's related to the second part of your question about current influences. There are many to name but some stand out, especially somebody without whom I would never start writing and performing. The late Fergus O’Farrell of Interference. I had the great fortune of calling him a friend, his inspiration both as an artist and as a human being is constant. He's always present in my songwriting, I often think about him in my day to day life too.
His passing was a huge turning point, it hit me harder than I expected. I realised then yet again life is too short to live somebody else's life and it's time to follow my heart, my passion and my dreams. As the saying goes you only regret things you didn’t do instead those you did. Ferg's songs are truly golden, I continue to be amazed by the power of his lyrics. I've always loved songs with meaning and that's probably why I try to write such songs myself. Speaking of other influences, there are likes of Glen Hansard, Mic Christopher, Cloud Cult, Nick Cave (I have always been drawn to the dark lyrics) or J Eoin. In recent years Colin Vearncombe’s poetry and his album Water on Stone is my frequent companion.
How would you describe your sound?
Atmospheric folk with dark lyrics.
What is your latest release called and what was the influence behind it?
My debut single (out September 9th) is called "Distant Shore" and it's also the title track of my upcoming debut EP recorded in AP Studios in Dublin in March. The song has probably the strongest connection to Ireland of all the 4 on the EP. Inspired by the abortion referendum that took place in Ireland last year. I was trying to put myself in the shoes of somebody facing such a difficult situation, having to make a life-changing decision abroad, alone, without knowing anybody there.
What’s your local music scene like?
There are many talented musicians of all kinds. And more and more people are starting to write and sing in English. There used to be an open mic night in my hometown for a few years but sadly not anymore. In 2015 a new festival called The music marathon was established and it involves classical music, folk music, busking, theatre, fire show, etc. This festival makes the city of Brno part of UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
What do you have planned for the next 12 months? Any albums or festivals?
My plan is to release the second single from the EP in November and then the EP itself hopefully in February next year, depending on how things unfold. I’ve been invited to a lovely event called Bridge of Song in Castlebar, County Mayo in Ireland so I’m really looking forward to playing there and everything else that comes along. I started to think about the next recording project, nothing confirmed yet, just love playing with the idea.
And of course, there is a plan to launch the EP once it's finished. I even have an idea about a location but it’s still work in progress. Forming a band might be a good idea too yet quite challenging location-wise but we'll see. I decided to set myself a little challenge and apply for a few festivals in my country next year. Always moving forward.
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
My first collaboration came along when I wasn’t really looking for it... sometimes from the darkest times the most beautiful works of art can emerge. When Fergus passed away I wrote an emotional tribute and my friend and fellow songwriter Liam Oragh put music to it and so the song The Book of Your Life was born. It's the most personal and most important song I've written to date, emotional to perform. We then wrote another powerful song, a tribute to the late Dolores O'Riordan. Liam always encouraged me to share whatever new lyrics I might have so I shared a wee idea with him when Dolores passed. He was very touched and created another beautiful song that I think will resonate with people when they hear it.
In fact, my biggest dream of collaboration came true when one of my dearest friends and the mystical man that is Liam Ó Maonlaí joined me on piano and vocals for the two songs, including my debut single. It’s more than I could ever wish for and I finally believed this really happened when the recordings were done. I literally cried from joy listening to the final mixes and I guess this is the best feedback. There is another dream collaboration on another song from the EP but you’d have to wait a bit longer till I reveal the details. You’re in for a treat, that’s for sure.
Any another dream collaborations? Sure. I would have loved to work with Fergus O'Farrell or with Mic Christopher but that can’t be done anymore. There are other people I have in mind for future projects but will keep it a secret for now.
Any funny stories surrounding your live performances?
I was doing an interview with Keith McLoughlin on Together FM, discussing my music in general and I was planning to play two songs there, one of them being a fresh one at the time and I simply couldn’t remember the first verse. I ended up looking up the recording of it so it could remind me. I felt really bad about having to do that but was reassured these things happen.
There’s another moment I keep thinking about and that’s connected to the recording of the title track of the EP. Liam and myself recorded a few takes, liked two of those and went to listen. I would have gone for either one but Liam was trying to persuade me to go for one more. I didn’t want to do it at first but there’s simply something in him you can't resist when he gives you that look :) and you also know when somebody with such an extensive experience has this feel, you better trust it. So I did. And I will be forever grateful to Liam for this because it ended up not only being the best take but also the only one on the title track where he joined me also on vocals. Simply the most magical experience I have ever been involved in.
What is the one thing that you want readers to know about you?
I may not be born Irish but my heart surely is.
You can find out more about Yana via Bandcamp, Facebook, Soundcloud, Spotify, Twitter or YouTube.