Even though singer-songwriter Elena was born in Canada, she’s best travelling around and now she resides in London. She caught our attention after we heard her latest release.
We will be reviewing the song on the New Music Sunday playlist and we will share the thought we have about the track. Today we want to celebrate the release and we are thrilled to be sharing a more in-depth conversation with one and only Elena.
Tell us about your journey until the moment you released ‘Build a Ship’
My last release was almost a year ago, and those songs were ones I had finished mid 2019.
When Lockdown happened in 2020, I was living in New York and it was the first time in my life where I actually could just focus on music and creativity 24/7. The lack of social encounters was jarring and depressing at first but drove me inward, and
I began creating from a place where I stopped wondering how my songs would be interpreted by the listener, and instead just told my stories.ELENA
I completed a concept album, “Holy Tender Artist”, and this is the first release from the project!
What does ‘Build a Ship’ mean to you?
There’s a frequent feeling I used to have, where I’d wake up at a lover’s house after a one-night-stand, and they’d be so unclear about their intentions. I’d leave not knowing if they liked me, if this was a casual thing, or if they wanted to see me again.
And finally I asked myself, “ELENA, DO YOU EVEN LIKE THEM? Or do you just want to be liked?” (“how you gonna love a girl who hates the way you love her? I hate the way you love me”)
When I’m sad, I revert back to things that I used to do as a kid, like build treeforts, rafts, play with lego, etc… so as I wrote this song, I pictured me being sad and empty, wondering if I was loved…
Then going outside to play and being like, “honestly, who cares about that boy. I can build a raft/ship and sail away and venture through the world on my own.”
You have such an inspiring story. You were not being allowed radio and access to popular music while growing up, yet you still decided that you want to become a pop star at the age of 10. Was that a way to rebel against your parents or you simply felt the calling?
No, nothing rebellious about it. Pop music actually blew my mind. Like, I would walk into a supermarket and hear a song and think, “this feels so inspiring and happy and familiar, even though I’ve never heard it before!” I was allowed to listen to such limited music growing up, that to purchase a Christian CD I had to write an essay to my parents about the appropriateness of the music and lyrics. Then once I won my case, I was finally allowed to purchase the CD. Of course, I would listen to it on repeat for months before my next essay was approved, so I really savored whatever taste I got of music.
Pop music feels so accessible and exciting. It takes an entire emotion or thought, and condenses it into one powerful line or summary.
You’ve been studying classical piano. However while listening to your music, the guitar seems to be the main instrument. Do you mainly write songs on a guitar?
I usually write songs over beats or tracks or productions I make. I like how guitar sounds, so will bring it into a lot of the final productions on my songs. And I don’t write often on piano – the classical training makes me want to use the piano as a voice instead of singing over it.
Berklee College of Music would be a dream come true for so many musicians. What are the things you will always remember about studying there?
It was a dream come true. I auditioned twice to get in before I was accepted, and spent my entire time there trying to get more scholarships so I could actually stay there. My first semester there was the most special because I felt so full of wonderment. Working with other songwriters for the first time, and hearing “actual” singers sing my songs was so exciting. It was the first time I had really seen my dreams and ideas form into a physical reality that included other people.
You’ve written hundreds of songs in your career. What happened to them? Did you give it to other artists or they are sitting somewhere in your drafts?
They’re all sitting here with me. I’ve edited some from many years ago that are going to release later this year. And I plan to give them to other artists or simply record them myself in the near future.
You lived in Canada then moved to Boston and New York and now you are in London. Did these changes have an impact on how you see/write music?
Completely. I grew up in the wilderness, so country and folk music fit that energy well. Boston finally drew me to write really good pop songs, but I was so focused on studying and music-business there. New York was wild and I lived such insane stories as I tried to survive, that my writing and approach to songs completely changed. Or progressed. And now London – my quality of life has gotten so much better in London and I feel much more in my flow and less in survival mode. I’ve written a lot of happier songs here that genuinely come from a place of contentment.
Your sound was changing a lot and you seem to be drifting between acoustic and pop music. What can we expect from your upcoming EP and album that you are planning to release in 2021?
I’m releasing a very pop EP this spring, with songs that I wrote these past few months. I worked with a different producer and in different studios than my previous work, and went for bouncy melodramatic happy sounds. Zara Larsson is a good sound reference.
Then the album, “Holy Tender Artist” was recorded last summer in New York with my main producer Pablo San Martin. It’s my baby from lockdown and has multiple stories and themes weaving throughout it – more alternative sounds in the electro-pop genre, a few piano/vocal-based songs, and upbeat songs such as “Build a Ship, Bonnie & Clyde, We Can Grow Old Together”. It’s still being mixed and mastered and will be released around the summer/fall of 2021.
Tell us more about your creative process. What is the source of inspiration for you?
Men and myself. I think I date people just to write songs about them, and it’s starting to make me date only really weird and bizarre people and never be in “love” love.ELENA
So, I should probably figure that out.
What is the biggest lesson you learnt while trying to make it in music?
There’s no end goal. And even if you have an end goal in mind, there’s no guarantee you’re going to live to see that day. Enjoying the process of “making it” makes the process much more enjoyable. Imagine being one of those artists whose work doesn’t get recognized until after they’ve died – you could be the most iconic person and live a life thinking you never made it. Life’s too short for that. I’ve decided I’ve already made it, and if the rest of the world takes a while to realize that, so be it.
Close your eyes. Imagine its 20th of January 2022. How would you summarize 2021? (what do you want it to be?)
I’ve released an album and EP into the world and settled into my flow. I ran the New York marathon. I got to go home to Canada and see my family again. The world reopened and a new era began. I connected with tribes of people who align so well with me, and by me living in my truth, I helped them live in their truth. I listened to my intuition this entire year rather than reasoning with it, and it took much better routes to places that my human brain wouldn’t have thought of. I became my dream person.
Make sure to connect with Elena
Introducing » Artists We Interviewed