Monday 19th February 2018
Born in Greece, Irene Skylakaki studied in London before moving back to Athens to pursue music full time; an endeavour that led to her releasing two critically acclaimed albums in her native country. She has also supported such artists as diverse as Macy Gray, Jessie Ware, Beirut, Daughter, and Cass McCombs. After returning to the Capital, Irene forged her path onwards through serendipitous circumstances – she met Lola Marlin (Director of Sarm Studios), who introduced her to producer Danton Supple, while trying to retrieve a lost dog in Maida Vale. This meeting led Irene to writing an albums worth of material within two weeks, containing the songs which form her upcoming EP “Planet”.
How did it all start for you, and what was the decision behind making a career out of music?
At school I guess I was a bit immature and didn’t have a lot of interests. The only thing I really cared about was music. I studied Law in London to prove to myself (and my parents) that I was capable of academic success, but I soon realised that I was following a path that wouldn’t lead me somewhere. I always wrote songs on the side and was lucky enough to be picked up by a Greek producer who loved my music and helped me make it in Greece. Having released two albums in Greece which did well, I felt like I owed it to myself to try to pursue music on a larger scale, for a wider audience, so I returned to London and met Danton Supple, who produced my upcoming album ‘Matterless’. It all happened very quickly and quite serendipitously.
You originate from Greece, but how does the music scene compare to the UK?
The Anglophone music scene in Greece is quite small. In London it truly feels like the sky is the limit, with so many incredible talents from all over the world residing in just one city. I believe it’s the right environment for an artist to blossom and it’s really a matter of endurance and staying focused, as London can be a very hard city to survive in financially, as a rising musician.
Your debut EP “Planet” is due for release on the 16th March. How are you feeling about getting new music out there?
I’m very excited. I’m an impatient person and I’ve waited so long for this release. As it’s a very different industry compared to Greece, I wanted to first find the right team here to support me with this effort, instead of just releasing everything and hoping for a miracle. As David Bowie had said in an interview about pursuing music, 50% is art and 50% is business. He always gave a 100% to both.
How did you find the process of putting your EP together, and were there any tracks that didn’t make the cut?
Planet is a selection of songs from my new album ‘Matterless’, which will be released later this year. I didn’t want to give too much away from the album at once. I have a friend who is an artist and has great taste in music. We sat down together one day, listened to ‘Matterless’ 30 times and rated the songs. After a couple of bottles of wine, we were able to select the songs for ‘Planet’. It was a very collegial process!
Could you tell me more about the inspiration behind “Planet” and are there any artists or ventures that have encouraged you on this release?
A feeling of isolation and romantic failure inspired ‘Planet’. I love Marika Hackman, Laura Marling, The XX, Daughter, and I feel I’ve been really influenced by their sound.
How does it compare to your previous releases?
I’m older now, so hopefully my songs are more mature. I think that songs are a representation of the person who wrote them. When I release a new song, I feel like I’m releasing myself. This album is even more autobiographical than my previous ones and I feel much more ‘exposed’. In a bizarre way, I find this process very soothing. As if by sharing something so intimate, I’m exorcizing pain by helping others feel less lonely and isolated.
Who are your biggest influences and how do you draw upon your inspirations when writing and performing?
Leonard Cohen is my god. He was a great songwriter from the beginning, but through the years he developed his art both musically and lyrically in an incredible manner. I believe in artists who have longevity and are not numbed and reassured by temporary success. Artists who have a fire inside them. Like Joni Mitchell, or David Bowie.
Who has been your favourite artist to support so far?
It’s a band and it’s ‘Daughter’. Apart from awesome musicians, they were super lovely people too. I have a little girl crash on Elena Tonra. Such a beautiful person and artist!
How are you feeling about your upcoming headlining show at The Islington, and are there any tracks in particular that you’re looking forward to performing live?
I can’t wait! I really like The Islington as a venue and I’m sharing the stage with a brilliant greek artist and friend of mine Katerine Duska, who is travelling from Athens just for this show – it’s going to be a great night. I can’t wait to perform one of my new songs called ‘It’s Getting Darker’, which, as the title gives away, is darker and quite intense when performing live.
What have you got planned next, and where do you hope your music will take you?
I’m recording my next EP at the moment with Andres Mesa, sound engineer of Phil Manzanera, and planning more gigs for the following months. I hope my music will take me to another planet and I’d love to take you with me!