Very good, thanks! I am just sitting down after a long day filled with many wonderful things including a great band rehearsal in which we tried the songs with upright bass. I used to play most shows with upright bass for my first album, then deviated totally from that and couldn’t believe today that I am back to basics with just piano and acoustic instruments! But every show is different, really depends on the venue… and my mood!
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Eggshell”?
It is a deeply personal song but also one I am really proud of production and instrumentation wise. I worked with the wonderful drummer and producer Samuli Kosminen on my album and I had programmed the drums for all the songs as guidelines. Some programmed rhythms I really liked and this is one of the songs where we decided to keep the beat underlying as the pulse of the song and top it with Samuli’s fantastic addition. There is even still a track in the mix where I am playing two papermates pens because I wanted to create a specific clicking noise. You don’t really hear it amongst everything else that is going on, but I know it is there and I love it!
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
I am sure it did. There is usually always a moment to a song where I go ‘eureka’ and the thought, the line or the melody that sets it all of hits me and I usually have a strong visual memory of where I was standing or what I was doing that moment, but for this one I don’t remember! Expulsion?
Any plans to release a video for the single?
Yes absolutely! But it is a difficult song to work with! I had some ideas and pitches already but because of the phrase ‘Eggshell’ being so tempting to be literal with, I am still undecided which idea will make me happy. But there will be a video! I love music videos. I would shoot music videos all day if I could, I would have one for each song.
The single comes off your new album Two-Headed Girl – what’s the story behind the title?
It was how I felt after the long journey I had made to complete and release and live the world of my debut album. Love has been good to me, but I felt torn in many ways; a heart has so many aspects, so many dreams and wishes. Once one part of your heart is happy there is still a longing left… and whoops… you grow a head! But it also a nod to a great song I heard for the first time in a pizzeria in New York and it touched me deeply and the conversation I had with my friend that day lingers in my thoughts many years later.
How was the recording and writing process?
It was fantastic. I had decided to work on the entire structure of the songs while writing them and to not have anybody else involved at the start. I played and sung and recorded everything and the things I didn’t have or couldn’t play, like drums and strings, I programmed.
And there I was with finished songs I felt pretty happy about, but I knew the programming of the drums wasn’t going to cut it. On my quest however to find out how to make my rhythms really come to life I met Jas Shaw. We were working in the same studio at the time. And he is a wonderful person and so generous with his knowledge and time. We started chatting and I played him my songs.
We agreed that the drums needed to be played by someone, but not just someone. ‘Normal’ drumming with my songs pushes them in a stylistic direction I don’t enjoy that much. I had already done some research and had this video of this amazing drummer playing with the german pianist Hauschka that I wanted to show Jas. He said: That’s him! and encouraged me to get in touch with him. It was Samuli! (The story here goes on much longer, with me realizing I had already been in contact with Samuli years back via a good friend, but that’s for another time J)
I sent him the first song, Memphis, and asked him to recreate the programmed rhythms. He asked me if he could do more than that and also produce the music where he felt like it. Of course I was happy for him to do so! We ended up sending sessions back and forth over months between Helsinki and London. After Jas heard the first two songs he asked if he could mix it. Of course I said yes!
What was it like to work with Jas Shaw and how did that relationship develop?
I loved working with him. He is very passionate in his work and at the same time passionate about any music and generous with his talents. And it is hard to come by people with such integrity. Our first chance meeting turned into chats over cups of tea and he eventually listened to my work. He was very honest and constructive about what worked and what didn’t and I felt really inspired exchanging ideas with him and encouraged by him in my abilities. When he asked to mix my album I was really happy. I have fond memories of our mixing sessions, sitting in the back of the studio and just watching him in his sonic universe.
How much did he get to influence the album?
I think he was a big influence. Simply as a person, encouraging me in my ideas. And from helping me to really decided on what direction to take for the rhythms, to the influence of his style of mixing on the entire record. It was unusual to mix an album like mine the way he did. He used lots of wonderful analogue effects and put the drums up loud!
Do all the songs on this record deal with growing issue and fear just like Eggshell? Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
I think a lot of them do. My first album was a real “heartbreak and leaving“ album, where else this one is more driven by a “I am staying but who am I?” feeling. The whole discovery of my artistic self, the growth of me as person and as a musician, it’s all in this album.
Any plans to hit the road?
At the moment there are a couple of shows lined up in London; May 9th at Servant Jazz Quarters, May 14th at Daylight music as Union Chapel and a live radio show on Resonance FM June 4th. There will be more shows in the fall.
What else is happening next in Alev Lenz’s world?
I actually have most of the material ready for my third album and can’t wait to go back into the studio!