Andreya Triana

The Bonobo and Flying Lotus collaborator chats about her new album & how she unexpectedly found herself in the top 10...

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 30 Jan 2014
  • min read
Andreya Triana’s music straddles the intersection where soul, folk and jazz meet. She captures the lingering atmosphere of all three pillars of American music, paying her dues to 50 years or more of classic songwriting.

Since 2010 her raw vocal style has earned her collaborations with an esteemed list of artists including Flying Lotus, Mr Scruff and Bonobo, while a remix of her track Everything You Never Had by man of the moment Breach earned her a place in the top 10 last month.

We caught up with her earlier this week to chat about the making of her new album, which she has been crafting with songwriters Paul O’Duffy (Amy Winehouse) and Dee Adam (Newton Faulkner).

With more than 50 songs now under her belt, she talks through the process of whittling them down to put a coherent together, explains what she looks for in a producer and reveals why it was so weird to find herself in the top 10...

What’s your first musical memory?
It definitely comes from my mum. She was a single parent and used to take me everywhere. She played steel drums so at a really young age she’d take me to her practices, which were really loud. I used to scream my head off! It’s my first musical memory. Unfortunately she didn’t carry on playing because I would get so distressed.

Were there any artists you really looked up to when you were growing up?
Gosh, yes, there were loads. Apart from crying at my mum’s steel drum rehearsals I think I was really moved by music at a young age but never really understood why. I was always drawn to soul music – Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers – and then as I got a bit older people like Lauren Hill were a huge influence.

When did you think that you could have a go yourself?
I’ve always sang but there was a distinct point where I decided I’d do it properly. I was living in Brighton and I had loads of crap jobs. I remember calling my mum one day to tell her I was going to do music full time. She asked if I was sure. I went into my wardrobe and threw out all the clothes I had for my temp jobs – all those horrible polyester trousers! It was a sink or swim thing and I’m so happy that I just went for it.

How did you fall in with Ninja Tune?
It all happened very naturally. I got into the Red Bull Music Academy and did a track with Flying Lotus that Bonobo heard. Bonobo is signed to Ninja. At the time I was living in Brighton, and so did Ninja artist Fink. I ended up meeting him too.

Before all that, I lived up north and did a song with Mr Scruff, who’s also signed to Ninja. All these little threads came together and led to the same place. So when me and Bonobo started hanging out and making music, Ninja seemed like a natural place to go.

You’re working on your second album at the moment. What do you think about your debut Lost Where I Belong when you listen to it these days?
It feels an absolute world away. When me and Bonobo made the album I wasn’t signed, I didn’t have any money at all. I was scraping together the money to come to London every week to sit in his attic and chip away at the songs. I had four-chord knowledge on the guitar and I wrote all the songs myself. So to me it represents a real determination and trying to do the best you can with what you have. I look back at it and feel really proud but also think, ‘Arrghhhh, it wasn’t good enough!’

Why not?
Now I want to write stronger songs. I really want to tell a story and dig deeper into past experiences and emotions that I think I shirked away from in my last album.

Where are you at with the new album?
I’ve been writing like mad. I think I’m probably 50 songs deep and I’ve never worked so hard at songwriting in my entire life so it’s been a real journey. I’m in the process of selecting my favourite 12 to 15 and getting together some ideas for the sound. It’s all starting to come together.

What’s the process of whittling down your set from 50 songs to 12? What are you going for?
Some songs are great in the moment but won’t sound good in six months. I really want to write songs that I’ll love in 10 years time, songs that I really love and believe in. The main thing I’m trying to do is tell stories and be honest, and you can tell a song that grabs you every time.

It’s been really collaborative. I’ve been working with songwriters; I’ve worked with Paul O’Duffy who wrote Wake Up Alone with Amy Winehouse. That’s been an incredible experience. I’ve also been working with a songwriter called Dee Adam, who’s really talented. We’re still open in terms of production so we’re just whittling it down at the moment.

What do you look for in a producer?
Firstly, someone who is really passionate about the songs, someone who is really open musically, and someone I can have a good laugh with and hang with.

You mentioned Paul O’Duffy and Dee Adam there – what did you learn from working with them?
The main thing is that they’ve really kicked my butt. They’ve made me learn not to settle. If I want to say something I need to look for a clearer or deeper way of conveying it. I should never be happy with what I’ve written in one day. I should always look at it a week later and try to refine it. They’ve really taught me to push myself and delve a lot deeper.

Your music crosses many boundaries and genres. Is there one type of music you feel most affinity to?
I’m really attracted to acoustic sounds and raw sounds. The stuff I’m really feeling at the moment is James McMorrow. He’s just put an album out called Post Tropical which I think is really beautiful. Emily King, she’s incredible as well. It’s about having really beautiful songs, raw vocals and the music really supporting the song. That’s ultimately what I aim for.

So was it weird to get a top 10 with electronic producer Breach last year?
Yes! I think the weirdest thing is that the final track was so different from the original. It was a piano ballad I wrote about my mum and all of a sudden it became a club banger! But I have to say when people are feeling something you’ve written or had an input in, it feels so good. I was so happy and it was brilliant that people were enjoying that song in whatever shape or form.

Have you got plans to work with him in the future?
Possibly. He’s definitely a dab hand with the remix, so we’ll see what happens.

Has that success influenced the sort of music you’ll make in the future?
No, I don’t think so. The remix came about organically, it wasn’t planned. It wouldn’t veer me off my trajectory. I’m going to continue to make raw organic soul music.

Do you have a publisher, if so, what’s that relationship like?
Yes I do – I’m with Just Isn’t Music, the publishing arm of Ninja Tune. I think having a great publisher is absolutely vital. The music industry is changing every single day and my publisher is the main thing that brings in money and gets me syncs. Ninja have been absolutely brilliant in getting my music synced to an IBM advert and a Rachel’s Yoghurt advert. It’s all very well to tour, but when you’ve got that other side of things that’s chipping away in the background, it’s vital that your songs are going out into the world and finding other avenues and income streams.

Andreya Triana recently received funding through the PRS for Music Foundation Momentum Fund to record her new album.