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INTERVIEW: Ezinma

Hi Ezinma, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hey! Thanks for having me. I’ve been good. These past few months have been crazy but all good stuff. I’m excited for this EP. It’s going to be a great year!

Can you tell us more about the story behind your track ¨Unraveled¨?

Unraveled is based on Maurice Ravel’s famous violin piece, “Tzigane.” I’m a classically trained violinist and “Tzigane” was always one of my favorite pieces because it’s wild and carefree. I wrote “Unraveled” at a time when I was unraveling. i felt trapped as a classical musician. Teachers were always telling me I was doing “too much” for Mozart, or my vibrato was “too wide” for Bach, or I was taking “too much” time in that measure of Brahms. I respect classical music so much, but I felt boxed. I felt I couldn’t express myself within the limitations, boundaries, and constraints of classical music. Around this time, I began experimenting with electronics and looping. I started by working with classical music and putting it into different contexts–how would Bach sound looped? Could I turn some Leonard Bernstein into a hip hop beat? What about a Vivaldi EDM track? From there I turned to “Tzigane” and knew it would make an awesome house track. This song is about my departure from classical music. It opens with a bit of the original violin solo from “Tzigane” then turns into a electro-pop dance beat. The name “Unraveled” is actually a play on words because the track is very Un-“Ravel” —as in Un-Maurice “Ravel.”

Did any event in particular inspire the song?

No single event inspired this song. It was about feeling trapped as a classical musician, almost as if I was in a small box. I had this image of me coming undone, literally unraveling in this box. Stepping out, I find a whole new world of music and endless possibilities. If I had to isolate one event as the inspiration of the song, it’s that first step out of the box.

The single comes off your new EP I Am Ezinma – how was the recording and writing process?

The process was very organic. I wrote the EP over the course of a year-and-a-half. At first it was just me messing around in Ableton. I posted some stuff on Soundcloud and had very positive response so I decided to write more, that turned into “I’m going to make an EP,” and now the EP is becoming an album. Probably the most interesting development was the addition of lyrics. These songs were first instrumental tracks. It’s funny because deep down, I always wanted to sing on the tracks but felt i wasn’t good enough to be a singer. So one day my friend was listening to the EP and was like this is dope but you need lyrics, “why don’t you sing?” I’m not sure what it was, but at that moment I was ready to take the leap. The next day i started writing lyrics and melodies. I’ve always loved writing and melodies come very easily as a violinist so the writing process was surprisingly smooth. What was more difficult was overcoming my fear of singing. I’ve never been a singer and to be honest I’m very self conscious of my voice. I think that comes from my classical background where to be a “singer” you need training, the best teachers, and years of experience–which simply isn’t true.   Standing in front of the microphone for the first time was SO HARD, but now that we’ve been recording for about a month, I hear my voice in the tracks and I’m loving it.

How has been the transition from Nebraska to NYC?

When I first moved to NYC it was of course challenging–didn’t have much money, lived in a terrible apartment–but the energy of the city feeds me. I was at The New School when I moved to NYC so i had the safety net of school (which i am very grateful for). What I like about New York is you can be whoever you want and no one cares. In places like Nebraska where the culture is homogeneous, you are acutely aware of how you are different. As someone who is mixed race (my Mom is of German descent and my Dad is from Guyana, South America) I experienced a lot of racism and self hatred due to my differences. In my late teens I started to become more aware of the racial context in which I live. I read more and opened my eyes. it was getting out of Nebraska that helped me accept who I am. The EP “I am Ezinma” is actually a declaration of my identity and the bold telling of who I am.

How the environment and culture of both states have influence your music?

My mother is a nature essayist and as a child much of my time was spent outdoors. i went to school on farm, went for long walks with my mother in the prairie and woodlands, we’d make things like dandelion soup. I loved it. She was always teaching me about plants, insects, animal tracks, crops, bird calls, and pretty much anything to do with Nebraska wildlife. Nature is always my muse, specifically the sounds and textures of nature. In my music there are lots of samples from animals, wind in the trees, bird calls, etc.

In what personal aspects of your life did you inspired to write the lyrics on the album?

My lyrics usually come from relationships, experiences, and sensations. It’s funny because since i started writing lyrics, i don’t really see things as “good” or “bad” the way that I used to. These days, if I have some terrible experience I’m like “hey, this is my next song.” I’ve always turned to writing to process what is happening in my life. One song in particular, “Spacemajik” was about ending a very serious four year relationship spring of 2015. It wasn’t a breakup where i was on the floor weeping, pulling out my hair or anything like that. It was one of those things where my heart started to detach from this person a year before the actual break up. Even though i loved this person, it so badly needed to end. The song paints that feeling of ambivalent farewell. “you’re great, i’m great, but it just didn’t work, so see you around.” that type of thing. Other songs are more image based. Textures, sounds, tastes, and places from my childhood such as the linden trees which grew past the barn at my preschool in Nebraska or the taste of honeysuckle from bush outside of our home. Everything in my life is fair game when it comes to writing lyrics. Its scary to be so honest, but at this point in my life I don’t want to hide who I am anymore.

Any plans to hit the road?

I’m a performer, so i can’t wait to get on the road! First step is finishing the EP and ultimately the full album.

What else is happening next in Ezinma´s world?

Been in involved in lots of projects. I just finished playing with an opera company based in Brooklyn, I scored a short independent film, I’m playing fiddle on a pop-rock album for a New York signer songwriter, I’m gearing up for a few shows with a jazz/disco orchestra, and i’ve been in the studio finishing up my EP! It can be overwhelming to be involved in so many projects but I find it creatively inspiring to go from writing the music for a sci-fi drama, to playing in a classical opera, to singing pop vocals. It’s cool to have so many different creative outlets.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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