Where She Belongs

Published May 20, 2015

ABOVE: ANDREYA TRIANI. PHOTO COURTESY OF GEORGINA MARTIN.

“I would describe my philosophy toward music as being as open as possible,” singer-songwriter Andreya Triana says. Born and raised in South East London, Triana’s music is infused with jazz, pop, and classical elements, and paired with her deep, soulful vocals. As she sings, “When I open my eyes / I see there’s so much beauty / There’s so much more than I ever believed … It’s all feels like gold to me / It might not be a diamond / But it shines for me,” on “Gold,” the lyrics reflect her process of moving forward and overcoming struggles.

“Much like any creative person, you question yourself all the time,” she continues. “Some days it’s brilliant, other days you wonder what you’re doing and if you’ll be able to work. The biggest thing is just keeping positive and believing in yourself.”

Last week, Triana released Giants, the follow up to her 2010 debut, Lost Where I Belong, via Counter Records. Through the journey in the last five years, her process became more about language and use of metaphor, focusing on painting pictures through words and telling honest stories. “I’m talking about all the things I experience as a human being, as a woman, and as a creative person trying to live my life in the best way possible,” she explains.

Triana first emerged within the music industry in 2006 after participating in the Red Bull Music Academy in Australia, and since then she has collaborated with acts like Flying Lotus and Bonobo, who also produced her debut.

We spoke to the musician over the phone from her home in London just before the release of Giants.

FROM 70 TO 12: I was touring quite extensively with my first album, maybe for a year and a half or two years. After that I was like, “I need to have a breather. I need to figure out what I’m doing.” So I’ve been writing for three years, chipping away, really working on my songwriting. In that time, I wrote 70-plus songs. The beauty of time is that you have the space to live with things for a while. When you’ve written a few songs, it becomes really clear—the ones that stick, that really move you, or the ones that caught and then a week later you’re like, “Naah.” The process of elimination and seeing what could stand the test of time helped [distill the number of songs] to 12 that would fit on the album.

FINDING HER WAY: I think, [on] my first album I said things, but not in a strong way. This new process, I was delving a lot deeper emotionally and lyrically. I really got into metaphors and strong words to encapsulate ideas and put a strong vision in someone’s mind, to really paint a picture and tell a story. But that’s a lasting process. That will always continue.

FOR MY MOTHER: “Everything You Never Had” is a song I wrote about my mum. She had me when she was 18 and we struggled financially, but she was amazing. I wanted to write a song to say thank you. I remember [at one point in my life] I was a bit all over the place and I called my mum, “Mum! What do I do?” and she’s like, “Andreya, it’s yours for the taking.” That’s really stuck with me. So many people have amazing talents, but the difference is that few people believe they can or choose to go for it. The times when I’m struggling, I take a step back and remember what my mom said—”It’s yours for the taking. You can do this.” She’s been constant support, always rooting for me. She’s my biggest fan and my biggest critic.

AT THE AGE OF SEVEN… I was obsessed with [music]. It was a thing that moved me and made me dance and made me happy. As I got more and more interested, more and more obsessed, I started writing poetry. Then I started making mix tapes at home and recording my own songs using two cassette tapes, recording back and forth.

ROOTS OF STEEL: One of my earliest memories is that my mum used to play in a really big steel drum band. She took me to rehearsals, and I think I screamed my head off because it was so loud, but I remember being really moved by the music at a very young age. Even now, when I hear people play the steel drum on the street, it’s an emotional experience.

ONE HOUR, ONE SONG: I met Flying Lotus at the Red Bull Academy in 2006 when we were both participants. Everyone was collaborating and you got to meet people from all over the world, so we had studio time for an hour, I heard the beat he did, and wrote the lyrics in about 20 minutes, then we put the vocal down. It was a simple, straightforward thing. It’s been nearly 10 years, and still, I would say [being at the Red Bull Academy] is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

ON INFLUENCES: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was probably the biggest influence on me musically. I absolutely adore her. I also love Björk. At the moment, I’m really into Emily King and Sia—she’s really inspired me, the way she started off as a featured artist for other people and has gone on to become an amazing solo artist. Jamie Lidell, also, I’m a big fan of—super soulful, really experimental, amazing electronic vibe, but still a killer songwriter.

WRITING SONGS IS… like solving a puzzle or doing an equation—you have to keep chipping away until it fits and it’s right.

GIANTS IS OUT NOW VIA COUNTERED RECORDS. FOR MORE ON TRIANA, VISIT HER FACEBOOK.