“BREAKING IN MY OWN ZOO”
Electric sparkling trip-hop & neo-soul” singer, Elena Shirin got back off tour in Northern California and released her solo album. The theme music sum up how many of us felt as we began to emerge from the trauma of pandemic: a little changed, a little tired, a little rough around the edges. The music of Elena Shirin, the singer, songwriter, artist, photographer, has a rigorous, art-school weirdness that can be both entrancing and estranging. She often writes melodies, which she then intersperses with dissonant passages.
Elena recalls one of her collaborations in 2019 where she toured across America with the US band Moon Hooch 26 shows, while being a student in Linz, Austria; preparing for the that crazy journey with To-Do list, climb up Mount Everest readiness, examining required technical skills for electronic live sets for large venues.
The tour was also her first solo show coupled with being the painter and photographer for MH, and doing that almost every day for a month, sleepless and exhausted driving through the country.
Two months before the tour started I was living and studying in Linz, Austria. I was in my little castle-like home starting to prepare for this crazy journey. As I wrote down the To-Do list, I looked at all the things that needed to happen. I got dizzy as if somebody would have told me that I have to climb up Mount Everest.
The next thing that happened was that I totally froze. I didn’t even want to start working through the list. I was so overwhelmed by knowing that I will have to do work that requires skills beyond my technical knowledge of producing and mixing in order to get my electronic live set ready for big venues. At the same time songs weren’t even done, I had to figure out a complete new system of performing and make some major decisions like quitting my studies and quitting my apartment since I was planning to stay in the US for longer. All of this caused that, for a week or so, I didn’t even want to wake up. I couldn’t get any work done because I was so not feeling ready for it.
One day I was sitting on my bed, couldn’t even close my eyes to meditate to the sound, because I was so far away from being at peace of mind.
I was sitting there, staring at the wall and started to cry my eyes out because the meditation touched me so deeply, my thoughts and feelings shifted. I felt so much inspiration spreading out in my system that as soon as the meditation was over I ran to my little home studio and started screaming words and melodies off my chest (and I have NEVER screamed in my music before). The song ‘LANDESCAPES’ was born. After that I got to work.
Touring with Moon Hooch is an experience in of itself. They are the most dedicated and disciplined artists I have ever met. The whole team is vegan. Being introduced to this healthy touring and life mentality was very inspiring to experience and is an attitude to keep. On tour I did not only performed my solo show for the first time, I was also the photographer for MH and painted my own merchandise every night. After doing that almost every day for 1,5 months while going cross country with hardly any sleep I had my first burn out.
It was definitely very challenging but also a dream come true. Playing in front of 500-2000 people each night was an incredible experience. And it was only the start. After that I joined them on the road for another year.
What is the creative culture scene like where you live?
It is beginning a big change in the Viennese art scene in the last ten years.
The creative scene has become a more welcoming community.
“I feel like there is less elbow dynamic where people see it as a competition. ”
This is especially true for women in the arts.
How did you get your start?
My mum was a photographer and painter. So from the very beginning I was surrounded and immersed in art.
Her Art University was my second kindergarden. Music was always something that moved me deeply. First it was through dance. Then when my mum gave me a keyboard for my 6th birthday a whole new world opened up. Without having lessons I started building a relationship with the piano in a very primitive way. Black keys, white keys, recognizing a reccurring pattern. I was improvising for hours and trying to play songs that I liked by ear. A year later i started classical piano lessons. I was 12 when I started to write songs. Since then, I have been in several projects, bands and collaborated with a string of producers and musicians. I never wanted to be a singer. During High School I was played on the radio the first time and collaborations kept coming. Sometimes it feels like the music created it’s own space in my life and I was just watching it happen.
How was your situation during the Lockdown?
When covid hit we just got off tour again and my partner at the time and I stayed at his parents place in Northern California. We ended up buying an RV and lived in the middle of nowhere in that RV for 4 months. It was definitely a rough environment to spend the beginning of lockdown in. During that time I released my solo album. I don’t recommend releasing an album in Europe while you`r on the other side of the planet with hardly any wifi…
Then I lived with friends in San Francisco while looking for my own place. I ended up moving to Santa Cruz where I found a beautiful home with beautiful people and started working as a piano teacher. I stayed there until I came back to Europe this Summer. I really miss this place.
What inspired you to start working toward creating art?
Life. Art was a very normal thing for me from the very beginning. I never forced it. It was just there and always part of me.
What was the best decision in your artist’s life and career?
Following my gut.
“From A to Be” – what does “arrive” mean to you?
Arriving in a place within that allows you to find home wherever you are.
What are your studio days typically like?
Writing and recording vocals, producing demos, working on sound design or arrangements.
There is no end to finding your style. But I got very close to it by working in all kinds of genres and having the chance to experience all the different vibes and then picking out the bits and pieces that resonate with me the most. By working hard and taking my creativity serious enough to know that there is always a way.
Producing the Music Video for the Track of my upcoming EP ‘ARMY OF LOVE’
FROM A TO B: Elena Shirin – From A to Be (lnk.to)
♫ UPCOMING SHOWS ♫