Listings

    No events to show

Follow

Twitter

|

Facebook

|

MySpace

|

Last.fm

RSS

Subscribe

Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Johanna Glaza: Letter to New York – Review and Interview

Johanna Glaza combines the vocal prowess of Kate Bush with a love of unusual songwriting structures inspired by Philip Glass - the resulting EP is stunning.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Johanna Glaza by Daisy Steele
Johanna Glaza by Daisy Steele.

Letter to New York is a stunning showcase for multi-instrumentalist Johanna Glaza, channeling the vocal gymnastics of Kate Bush and the idiosyncratic song structures of Philip Glass. Here she tells us more about her songwriting influences and process.

Johanna Glaza portrait
Which musicians have inspired you most, and why?
My bible is Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony N3. I heard it for the first time a few years ago and it had such a profound influence on me,as if it cut me into tiniest bits and pieces in order to make something completely new. At the time of recording my first EP I was listening to Philip Glass. When I heard him I thought- oh my god, this guy ripped off my future ideas I would have had by the age of 60 or so ;). Letter to New York came from endless plays of Ravel’s Sheherazade. Listening to it, I imagined not a boring opera diva but some mysterious creature living in a completely unreal world, singing with such unhuman longing. It sounded so unfamiliar I wanted to take this vibe to the contemporary scene. Recently I have discovered Arvo Part, so I guess the next record will have his imprint.

Johanna Glaza by AmeliaGrace
Johanna Glaza by Amelia Grace.

How many instruments do you play and what is your current favourite?
I taught myself to play piano, keys and ukulele. I even attempted a bit of glockenspiel on my recent record. Each time I try out a new instrument I feel like a kid, it gives me freedom of being not perfect. Different songs inspire different instruments. Piano for me is a very independent instrument with a very strong voice of its own, sometimes it feels like a battle of egos when I try to sing to it. So I choose ukulele for more intimate songs. I love how it sounds like a little harp at times. But my top favourite instrument will always be my voice. There’s just so much you can do with your voice. On one of my tracks I used it as a percussive instrument. On others it served me as a ghostly choir. There’s no distance between you and the instrument, you are the instrument yourself when you sing.

Johanna Glaza the tree
What prompted your intriguing song structures, and how are they created?
Well, I sort of always struggled with writing songs of conventional structures. The ironic thing is the harder I tried to make them conventional, the more I’ve been scolded by my first listeners for their complicity. So one day I gave up and decided to try whatever comes instinctively to me, even if I can’t understand it myself. When I wrote Letter to New York I wanted to stay faithful to the linear structure of the letter, because the letter itself can’t be repetitive. So I wrote the words first, and then sat down and sang them to a simple piano riff, and kept all the bits and pieces that came then. I was so surprised when my brother, who is my harshest critic, rejoiced that finally this song’s structure has made sense to him. I was like, you kidding me, it makes hardly any sense to me now!

JohannaGlaza_LetterToNewYork cover
Why did you want to write a Letter to New York?
To be honest I can’t remember how it came to be. I guess just like with all messages or letters sometimes we have this urge to speak to the person, we grab a phone or a pen so spontaneously. Only in my case it was the place itself I wanted to connect with. I missed New York. My first solo shows took place in that City, it gave me courage to do what I do now. Sometimes I felt so isolated in the basement studio when working on the record, I had to remind myself about the place that inspired me the most, my glass kingdom.

What is your favourite bit of the big Apple?
L trains on the subway. My friend called it the beautiful people line. So true! I met so many beautiful people on L trains and heard some of the most unusual music from busking musicians. Forget about the old tired covers you hear in London. People play mainly their own tunes there, and with an open layout of two way platforms it’s a perfect spot to gather a crowd. I can’t tell you how many times I missed my train to be able hear one more song. And I was never the only one do so.

How did you make the video for Letter to New York? any challenges or best bits?
I’ve chosen to shoot the video in a very wild, uninhibited place in Lithuania called The Dead Dunes. It is a very special place on the coast. No one is allowed to walk there, but a few years ago a local woman showed me the secret path to the dunes. Anyone could be transfixed by the complete solitude there. I imagined this is a place where the main 3 characters of the song – Black Crow, Koyote and the mysterious Wind – could meet. But a week before the filming there was a huge fire in the nearby forest. It’s a miracle we managed to get there at all, and when we did it was an alien world, all black dust. We felt there had to be another scene of the rebirth in the sea. I was with a dream team of crazy inspired people, you see. It was +2C outside, everyone was wearing winter jackets and I went into the sea to be reborn. I would do it again if you ask.

Letter to New York by Johanna Glaza is out now and can be bought here. Catch Johanna Glaza play live in London for free on 11th September at The Finsbury.

Tags:

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Similar Posts:

Leave a Reply