Emiliana Torrini is half Icelandic, half Italia, borned on may 16th, 1977 at Kópavogur (Iceland). She grew up in Iceland in a town outside Reykjavik and spent her childhood summers with her grandmother in the far east of Iceland out in the wild, spacious countryside. Her teen summers were spent in Germany with her Italian uncle. She joined a choir aged seven and sang soprano till she was 15, when she went to opera school.
“I got into other music rather late because we didn’t have any records, well except lots of classical, my mum’s Greatest Love Songs compilation from the TV and Leonard Cohen whom I love. Then we got MTV. We were the first people in our town to have it and I would stay up all night to record from the late night alternative shows, making tapes to take to school to brag about my musical findings.”
She recorded a few jazz and blues songs for her father’s 50th birthday which then became an album that sold 15,000 copies in Iceland and remained at number one for many months. She followed this with an equally successful album of which 50% was co-written by her and hence the beginnings of her writing career.
“I spent this period singing in restaurants, bars and hotels all over Iceland.”
And that is how she was discovered by One Little Indian where their MD happened to be eating. Emiliana consequently moved to England where Roland Orzabal from Tears For Fears co-produced her worldwide debut.
“I wanted to move to India, learn the classical techniques there, then move to Bulgaria, be a gypsy, and learn the techniques, and keep moving and learning new ways of singing – but instead I came to England and made a pop record.”
Love In The Time Of Science
A rare mix of passion and poignancy, Emiliana’s debut signals the emergence of a bold new talent. She signed to One Little Indian in 2000 releasing her first single “To Be Free”, soon after. “Love In The Time Of Science” was recorded utilizing the production skills of Tears For Fears’ Roland Orzabal. They met through a mutual friend at One Little Indian and the resulting album sounds startlingly mature for a first outing. Curiously enough, Emiliana had barely known of Tears For Fears (“I had heard, like, one song”, she admits,) but, although an initial attempt at writing together didn’t work, the decision to have him produce was clearly the right one.
Throughout the record, lush, magnificent soundscapes roll effortlessly into jazzy grooves, and the songs have an epic quality, without being bombastic or overblown. Most importantly, the music’s dramatic twists perfectly compliment Emiliana’s unique vocal histrionics.
“Music should be intimidating and beautiful at the same time”, says Emiliana. “It should be like falling down on your bum, and not knowing if you should laugh or cry.”
With its unusual mix of the cerebral and visceral, the extraordinary and everyday, Emiliana manages to do just that. Blissful one moment, bereft the next, she playfully combines cinematic melodrama with moments of the whimsical, all filtered through Emiliana’s own unique perspective.
Emiliana’s growing popularity is momentous – already 60,000 converts cherish a copy of “Love In The Time Of Science”. Similarly, her live performances are always captivating and invariably sold-out affairs. In fact, on her recent European tour hundreds of fans had to be turned away, every night, from her French and German gigs.
Emiliana’s endearing personality has evoked an equally positive response from the media. She’s graced countless magazine covers and is a firm favorite of Dutch, French, German, Italian and Scandinavian radio, who’ve all play-listed her singles.
The result of her b convictions can be heard to startling affect on “Love In the Time of Science”. It’s one of the most beguiling debuts in recent memory and confirms Emiliana Torrini as a gifted song stress, rather than just another run-of-the mill, female vocalist. It’s also an album that never fails to surprise and delight.
Emiliana Torrini wrote Kylie Minogue’s “Slow” in 2003.
So opens Emiliana Torrini’s second album, a soft-yet-searing collection of twelve intimate and atmospheric songs that will whisper their way into your bloodstream. Back in 1999, when the singer released the critically acclaimed Love In The Time Of Science, Emiliana came out with a gorgeous, electronic trippoppin’ vision of endless summer and moonlit nights out. Following her departure from One Little Indian, there’s a new introspection, closer to Nick Drake or Jolie Holland than Portishead or Goldfrapp.
The 27-year-old singer and writer has nonetheless been busy since Love In The Time Of Science. She moved to Brighton, joined the cast of Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers to perform the enchanting “Gollum Song” wrote and toured with Thievery Corporation, and wrote a Number One Hit for Kylie Minogue in the shape of huge-selling pop smash “Slow”.
“It was a very fun thing to do”, she says. “It was an opportunity to dust off my dancing shoes and write music that I don’t normally write but love, and then keep the smokey-little-bar-music to my self.”
“Slow” was written and produced with Brixton-based producer Mr Dan, midway through the sessions that became Fisherman’s Woman. After writing with a number of different artists, Emiliana was introduced to Mr Dan – and they clicked immediately.
“It had been so long since the last album, and I was in two minds of doing it again”, she says. “I was very nervous about going back, but we had so much fun doing it. It is just one of those collaborations I have been waiting for all my life.”
Emiliana decided to go back to basics and write with just a guitar and no electronics or programming. The pair jammed out the songs in Dan’s dark Brixton basement with Dan on guitar and Emiliana conjuring up the lyrics and melodies. After that they recorded the record in The Exchange in Camden.
“Well one thing I knew very well is that I wanted a very intimate vocal sound”, she says. “This album was recorded with candles, laughing fits and my duvet. We were sad leaving Brixton. I love it there”, she says. “It can suck the life out of you and then blow you full again. Depends what mood it’s in. Brixton is like a huge ‘me me me show’.”
Intimate. It sounds like it: opening gambit “Nothing Brings Me Down” gradually builds from sparse beginnings; Dan’s acoustic guitar, light touches of piano – to a textured, gentle circle. Album highlight “Sunny Road” sounds as if it could have leaped out of a dusty, lost Leonard Cohen session, while “Lifesaver” floats along a mysterious, fairy-tale accordion melody, accompanied by the ambient creak of boats on water. “Thinking Out Loud” whispers of Eastern Europe and the Appalachians before album closer, “Serenade” multi-tracks the listener into a moonlit dream which references clouds, dark vines, temptations and new tomorrows. It’s evocative and heart-felt – a handcrafted jewel of a record. Fisherman’s Woman also includes a song, “Honeymoon Child” written by smog’s Bill Callahan, who Emiliana spent some time writing with in America.
Fisherman’s Woman is a very different beast. It is themed around loss, and how it feels to lose people; sometimes it’s dripping with sadness but more frequently imbued with almost magical optimism.
“Fisherman’s Woman is a letter I wrote to a person that I lost at that time. I coped by thinking I was with a fisherman. They can go on sea for months like my friend’s dad. Her mum saw him twice a year maybe for a fortnight at a time”, she says. “It was a little bit like Alice in Wonderland. The falling into a hole, the madness of it all.” Despite the sadness, Emiliana remains positive. “I could never write a wholly sad album”, she says laughing. “There are too many moon rivers to see and life to live. Fisherman’s woman has been a way of making things whole again.”
This album is sincerely honest and as endearing as they come. And it’s lovely, too.
Me And Armini
“Me And Armini” is a hugely ambitious and aspirational pop record with Emilíana’s soaring voice centre stage, bolstered by a rich gamut of musical styles. From the summery skank of the title track to the surging, breathless “Jungle Drum”, the spine-tingling “Big Jumps” and the cave singing of “Gun” this is a truly fantastic album.
Title track “Me And Armini” is a song about “stalkery love” – over a hypnotic track reminiscent of classic Dawn Penn, Emilíana recounts the story of a burly Icelandic policeman depositing an obsesso-fan back to the airport (having travelled from Italy to come and live with her in her family’s home). There is a certain cheer and joie de vive that comes with the recounting of this dark story.
“Life is never better than when it’s raw,” explains Emiliana.
Here lies the very essence of her artistry; music in thrall to the true wonder of being alive.
Emilíana cheerfully describes being sat with a friend in a cemetery in Nice, staring at the gravestones and huge epitaphs;
“These beautiful angels and tombstones, how silly – that’s all life comes to. People really want to believe there is something more, it makes them lazy about the moment”.
“Big Jumps” is about taking those chances – chiming guitar and delicate synth swooshes, combine with Emilíana’s yearning voice to unforgettable effect.
The pedigree paring of Emiliana’s song writing and Carey’s sonic alchemy previously combined to world-beating effect when they co-wrote / produced “Slow” for Kylie, and individually when Emilíana sang “Gollum’s Song” on the Lord Of The Rings soundtrack and Dan’s production work on the new Franz Ferdinand and recent Hot Chip records.
Emilíana beams with joy talking about working with Carey.
“Dan will play something and I will see a panoramic view of what I want to sing about. We’re always laughing, coming up with mad ideas, I’ll say “lets do a Chinese acid version of “Hey Joe!”” and he instantly will play something that sounds exactly like that. Thank God we are working together he said otherwise no one would understand you! People search for their musical partner all their life and I’ve found mine.”
“We wanted it to sound like what would happen if you left a couple of kids in a studio with all the guitars, microphones and instruments in the studio plugged in and ready to record. We tried not to demo the songs at all, just doing things in one take to try and preserve the immediacy, and just generally have fun!”
This easy rapport meant the record was written in just 2 and a half weeks, with long brakes in between, a change in the song writing process for Emilíana.
“It’s taken me a while to realize that songs just want to be born, it has very little to do with you. It’s like a room full of balloons and you’re pulling one down by it’s string…”
Songwriting took place in Oxford and Emiliana’s native Iceland (she holds the record for the most weeks at the number one album spot).
“Iceland is a big influence for me – the landscape, the people, my family… My Aunt and I decided to go for a little drive. 6 hours later we were on top of Snaefells glacier in the middle of the bright night, we were walking through these caves that people used to live in–called the singing caves- you could really feel the weird energy in some of the places. We spent most of the night spotting animal shapes in the ice and frightening ourselves in the silence above the clouds.