FROM seemingly out of nowhere arrives a stunning singer…
Of course Ina Reni has been working hard; making her mark- and preparing her music. Having discovered her through social media- and fallen for that voice and passion- I was keen to catch up with her: what drives her music; who inspires her- and plans for an E.P. The songwriter has been performing and writing; recording video diaries- and ensuring she gets her name and music heard. The half-German/half-Bulgarian artist is currently based in London (which she sees as a ‘second home’) but has been traveling the globe throughout 2015- collecting memories along the way. With so few- genuinely memorable and distinct- songwriters on the scene; too few remaining in the mind- the future looks exciting and promising for Ina.
“German/Bulgarian singer-songwriter (and multi-instrumentalist) Ina Reni started writing her own songs at the age of 14. Given her early passion for Jazz music, she soon got involved in the Berlin Jazz Scene by becoming one of the members of the prestegious National Jazz Choir. A few years later she won an online singing competition hosted by Germany’s most important music tycoon Dieter Bohlen. She subsequently got approached by German Producer Levent Canseven (Ricky Martin, Moloko) and got signed by a German independant label. In 2011 Canseven produced her self-written debut single Sagittarius- which went straight into the top 40 of Beatport Pop Charts- and has moreover been featured on the hit German TV series “Berlin Tag & Nacht”. A few years later she decided to move to London where she, after an initial exploration of the London open mic scene, quickly was invited to perform her original material at festivals and important music venues (Portobello Live Festival, London Coffee Festival, Proud Camden, Good Ship etc). Ina is currently working on creating her first E.P. in collaboration with Stampede Management .“
Hi Ina. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi Sam! My week has been good, I did some topline work for a record label; I was in the studio and I also supported my friend Jerôme on the day when he was selected as “Entrepreneur of the Year” in my function as brand Ambassadeur for his company “Phrooti”.
For those new to you and your music; tell us a bit about yourself- how would you define yourself?
I´m a half-German, half-Bulgarian singer-songwriter from a small village close to Berlin- who makes Pop/ Jazz-inspired music with very straightforward lyrics
What does music mean to you? How would you define its power?
Music is the most important element in my life, apart from my family. I listen to music very consciously and usually very loud; I can never have it playing in the background unless it’s Lounge or Classical music. At the same time, being forced to listen to music I don´t like makes me feel physically uncomfortable. In general I think music is one of the biggest transmitters of emotions in almost every society. Music has the capacity to create or intensify emotions and it gives people a channel to express themselves; as consumers and as creators. I could talk about that for hours but let´s just say: music is and has always been extremely powerful and important.
INA TV- on Vimeo; videos of you songwriting/offering music advice- seems to have captured a lot of attention and support. A lot of musicians do not take the trouble to record videos and try and connect directly. Do you think more should?
I think people that are at the beginning of their music career such as myself should focus on those “marketing tools” that they enjoy doing and feel passionate about. It needs to be authentic in order to work. With INA TV I do everything myself: I record the videos, I edit and cut the material, I upload it. People who are not able or willing to do these steps themselves would have to continuously pay somebody to do that. Then again, if you are just starting out building your music career, you should be really cautious about the things you spend your money on. Also, a video diary only makes sense if you have a solid core audience already- as people won´t watch a video about somebody they are not interested in to begin with.
On the subject of social media: how important has it been to you and your music; and are there any drawbacks to it?
I think we all know that social media is highly crucial these days for companies and artists likewise. For me it is important because it is a direct communication channel to my fans and friends. In my opinion it does however come with a massive drawback- as it makes you neglect the real world. I check my Facebook and Twitter constantly without any reason. How often do you see people sitting face-to-face to each other, silently, just checking their phones? I think social media is for some reason very addictive and if I wouldn´t be an artist, maybe I would not have a Facebook account at all.
As an up-and-coming songwriter/artist what have been the main challenges you have faced?
The main challenge for me is feeling insecure about my ability and my own intuition. To make things worse, the music industry especially at the bottom is full of overconfident weirdos who criticise your choices; your music, your approach. I think you need to find a balance between standing your ground and being open to criticism, suggestions and new approaches. It´s a really thin line and the better you can balance it, the better the quality of your decisions.
On that note- and if you could offer advice to any upcoming singers- what would it be?
Not sure if I am yet in a position to do so but from what I know today I would say: trust your intuition; be organised, be humble, have faith.
If you could choose your ‘dream line-up’ (and perform with any acts past or present) who would they be?
I love Jill Scott and Tori Kelly; wouldn’t want to perform with either of them though because I would look like a loser. I would love to sing a duet with a German artist called Helge Schneider. My mother thinks he looks disgusting but I am a big fan (Google him and decide for yourself!)
I often ask musicians this question: what inspires your songwriting and creative process?
My own life usually inspires me. I mix my own stories and feelings with those I have witnessed somewhere. Sometimes I also write about things that I don´t have a direct connection with- but which moved me in some way like for example a story in the news or a movie.
One of the best things- that attracted me to your work- is your blog (http://www.inareni.blogspot.de/). There is a lot of posts/photography; a great range of places and countries: what motivated you to start it? What have been your best memories (of this last year)?
Well, initially I wanted to make a blog for my family and close friends- because I was living abroad and I wanted them to have a little insight in my life. Especially for my mother and grandmother who always wonder what I´m up to and worry about me. Also, I started developing an interest for photography- which is my second passion. I have a lot of good memories from this year, they range from times I have spent with my family; mellow summer evenings in London to all those moments when I felt that people really like my music. Performing at the Good Ship was definitely one of these moments.
You are currently based in London- and have German heritage- and spend a lot of time travelling. Where (for you) would you call home? Which cities/countries are most inspirational/important to you?
My home is definitely in my little village next to Berlin. I have lived in many countries and cities, all of which I still feel emotionally connected with. At the age of 16 I had lived in France in a little village which is still very dear to me. Then I lived in Spain and after that in the Ukraine. Kiev is a beautiful city and I have grown to be a big fan of the Ukrainian culture. London has always been a bit difficult for me: everything seems so rushed and anonymous. But right now it´s my second home and I love the fact that in London it doesn’t matter where you come from or how you look like. Unless of course you´re British, that’s kind of a big deal.
You have had a busy 2015. Can we expect some new music in the next few months/next year?
Yes, definitely. Creating a debut E.P. is a tricky thing: there is no second chance for a first impression. I worked with many people and I have only recently found the right team. But we are now at the last stages of the planning phase and I am pretty sure that the E.P. will be released in the first half of 2016.
Knowing a lot of female performers- and another question I often ask- is there a particular pressure to look/act a certain way? Do you think women in music are expected to fit into a certain mould- or have you not faced that sort of pressure?
I look at it a little bit differently. I think there is a pressure to be a “consistent package” as an artist. In other words, if you make straight pop, you should look like a fashionista. If you make Alternative-Rock, you better look a bit edgy and say bad words to the camera. At one point I was really obsessed with making sure my outfits really suit my musical style; but then my manager told me just to chill. Again, at the end of the day it´s authenticity that matters.
In terms of new music- and albums released this year- which would you rank as ‘essential’; which are your favourites?
My favourites records this year are Snoop Dogg´s “Bush” and Meghan Trainor´s “Title”. “Bush” has been produced by Pharrell- and pretty much every song is a tune! Pharrell himself says it´s better than his own album. It´s what I listen to when I´m driving. Meghan Trainor´s album is very different as you can imagine but brilliant all the same. She is a massive songwriting talent in my opinion, her songs are very cleverly-written and every part is a hook. It´s a great record for when you´re getting ready or…cleaning the house!
Finally- and for being a good sport- you can select any song (and I’ll include it here):
India Arie – Video
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