Andreya Triana is quickly becoming one of the most recognisable voices in modern soul. Having refined her craft as a student in Leeds as well as The Red Bull Music Academy, collaborations with artists such Flying Lotus and Mr Scruff have quickly followed. Her vocals began to turn heads thanks to a guest appearance on Simon Green’s, aka Bonobo, 2010 LP Black Sands – lending her voice to 3 of the album’s tracks. This was soon to be followed up by Andrea’s debut album, Lost Where I Belong, which saw the pairing of herself and Simon Green repeated. Andreya’s second full length attempt, 2015’s Giants, once again incorporated forward thinking production topped off with the kind of soulful vocal performance she has grown to become synonymous with.
Friday 4th of March will see Andreya return to a familiar setting of The HiFi Club as she opens the Funk Soul Weekender supported by a full live band. Ahead of the show, we caught up with Andreya to talk song writing, collaborating and experiences in Leeds.
Hi Andreya, how’ve you been?
I’ve been great, I have just got back form Berlin literally a few days ago. I was there doing a bit of writing and just hanging out. It’s always nice to go to a new place and get some inspiration. So yeah, that’s been the main thing recently.
Were you there working on material for an upcoming solo project or new collaboration?
It’s was generally just writing songs for my new album and also writing songs for other people which is something I can hopefully branch out into, so a little bit of both. I think the beauty of trips like that is you never know what is going to come out of it, it could be songs for my album or material for someone else so it is always productive.
Who were you there writing with?
I was writing with my favourite female producer and songwriter, a lady called D Adams. It was just us 2 working with different producers.
What kind of material were you looking to work towards? Can we expect a similar sound that has been present on your last couple of records?
The beauty of writing a new record is that it is all unknown, I don’t have any set ideas in my head of how I want the record to sound. It is a general feeling of being open minded and seeing what happens. The early days are very much about being experimental and then before you know it an album takes shape. That’s my general process really.
How would you describe your writing style? For example, are you somebody who likes to isolate yourself from distraction or bounce off the creativity of others when trying to construct lyrics?
I don’t necessarily need to be on my own, but I definitely need a quiet space with no distractions. Some people are lucky and they can write on the road but I find it literally impossible; I really cherish having a week in somewhere like Berlin which is used as a writing trip, everyday you can spend time in the studio. Sometimes when you are away you can just switch your phone off and have a creative space which is something I really need to write songs.
Is the emotion attached to the lyrics you write something you rely on when delivering your vocal performances both in the studio and on stage?
Definitely! Pretty much 99.99% of the time all of my songs come from personal experience or somebody else who has gone through something that I can relate to. It’s always raw and honest emotion which is so important, so hopefully people can feel it and connect to it also. I like to think my songs are very honest and on stage it is important to have that energy
In contrast, how would it work if somebody wrote some lyrics for yourself, would you still be able to attach yourself to them and deliver a similar performance?
I absolutely would. For example, tracks that I used to cover by Lauren Hill, Stevie Wonder or Bill Withers’ Grandma’s Hands, I can really relate to them. It is all about connecting to the song and making it personal to you as well as connecting to the words and making your own story out of it.
You are well known for your collaborations as well as being a solo artist. A lot of musicians can sometimes struggle to share a vision with others when working together. Is this something you have ever experienced or has collaborating always been something that comes naturally to you?
Yeah I feel it has always been very natural for me, however, it’s something that happened out of the blue. Collaborating is not something I ever plan or set out to do, the process is generally working with a good friend or someone you can connect musically with and just trying something and seeing what happens, there has never been any pressure. I think it’s about having 2 different creative identities also. I have been lucky that I have been able to work with some great producers and thankfully people have connected to the music we have made.
Do you prefer to work with artists that are closely associated with your sound or others that will create more of a juxtaposition when you work with one another?
I think from my past collaboration it has definitely been more of a juxtaposition. At heart, I have always been a songwriter that likes to sit down with a guitar, so it’s interesting to work with someone like Bonobo who is really leftfield electronic or Flying Lotus. I think it is nice when you have opposite ends of the spectrum meeting in the middle, that’s where the beauty happens I think.
As you mentioned, Bonobo is an artist you have frequently collaborated with. How did this come about?
We originally wrote some songs together which turned into my album, then following that came his album, Black Sands, which I wasn’t even meant to feature on. He approached me with this one song which quickly turned into 3, so it all happened very organically. It changed my life featuring on the album, however, the first step was getting into the Red Bull Music Academy which was where I met Flying Lotus which then led on to meeting Bonobo. Being on Black Sands was huge, and I don’t think I ever understood how many people were into that album until I played with him at Alexandra Palace which was completely sold out and they were all singing the words to The Keeper back at me.
Has soul and jazz music been something which has always been present in your life?
I grew up in a family of music lovers so there was always music playing in my house which ranged from soul to reggae, pretty much whatever my mum was into. My mum was a great singer but she never perused a career in music. It was all natural to me and I was obsessed with music from a young age and the obsession continued to grow, and then one day I took the crazy step of trying to make music my job!
Aside from other musicians, what factors do you think have helped inspire the type of artist you are today?
I think it is simply experiences in life really. I am mixed race so my cultural background is a big influence on me. Also my surroundings, I lived in South London which can be quite rough and then moved to the West Midlands which was very different. I’ve also lived in Leeds and spent a lot of time in Manchester and Brighton as well as travelling the world and touring which allows you to see and collect so much which opens your eyes and mind.
To what extent did working with producers such as Mr Scruff and Flying Lotus allow you to experiment with new sounds whilst maintaining the integrity of your soulful vocals?
It is not music that I would have made myself so to get the opportunity guest on that kind of music that I really enjoy is fantastic. It also pushes you as a vocalist and a songwriter so it has been a great thing to do.
Your most recent LP Giants sees you continuing to incorporate forward thinking production, do you feel you are quite a progressive artist emerging from the world of Jazz and Soul?
Well that’s more for other people to make their mind up and say! I’m just trying to learn and grow whilst putting out music that hopefully uplifts people in some way. I look back to my own past and childhood in which I experienced some tough times where listening to soul music was really something that pushed me through and gave me something to hold on to. If I can do something similar for even just 10 people that will make me happy.
Since starting out you have released 2 full length records as well as number of Eps which have amalgamated in you being labelled as one to watch back in November by The Guardian. Would do you agree that you are quickly becoming one of the most recognisable voices in modern soul music?
Anything like that which provides a platform for new people to listen to your music is always great. I’m always working away behind the scenes, so whether I get the one to watch or not I’m always trying to move forward, but it’s really nice to be recognised for sure.
An integral part of your journey was studying music technology whilst living in Leeds, to what extent did this experience help pave the way to the success you are enjoying right now?
Aside from studying for my degree I was doing everything I could outside of university such as work experience, gigging with my band and working at a radio station. I learnt a lot in Leeds and made connections that helped in the future, for example, I met a guy called Noah Ball who was putting on his own nights and has since gone on to put on Soundwave festival in Croatia. He has been booking us since day one and it was through him that we played our very first gig at HiFi.
It is quite a common occurrence for students to become exposed to new genres and styles of music when they come to university. Was this the case for you when studying in Leeds?
It was huge, for me Leeds was the main place that I started gigging a lot with my band and where I discovered jazz along with a lot of jazz musicians I would jam with and go to gigs with. I had never really experienced that before. Funnily enough, going to HiFi was a huge thing for me, there was always a great gig happening which everyone was into at the time. Leeds holds some great memories and provided a lot musical growth and exploration during my time there.
What type of nights did you attend when you were living in the city? Was it mainly soul or did you experience the selection of electronic and dance nights that have been running in Leeds for many years?
I remember seeing Mr Scruff in my first year of university which was amazing. I also saw Soweto Kinch at The Warbrobe which blew my mind, he was absolutely incredible. I lost count of the amount of artists I saw play at HiFi!
Finally, as you said, you have a lot of memories of attending and playing HiFi, does it almost feel as though you are coming full circle when you return to open the Funk Soul Weekender with your live band this Friday?
It really does, it is such an honour. It was the one place for me as a student were me and my friends could head out and hear the music that we loved. So to now return to the stage as an established artist is amazing.
Photo courtesy of Logan Media Entertainment
Originally published to Ticket Arena – 29/02/16