By Juliana Russell
While promoting her lusciously dark and beautifully percussive song “Valentine”, Echoes took the time to speak with Juliana Russell from Black on the Canvas, over Skype from London to California, where we discussed the immeasurable hurt of heartbreak, compassion for yourself during hard times, and the priceless moments of touching people’s lives with music.
Thank you for doing this interview! So what is your music about? How did you get started?
Echoes: Oh, how did I get started? Like any singer, you say you’ve just sung forever. My dad’s got a great voice; he would sing around the house all the time. I went to music school a couple years ago, just tried lots of different things. And kind of recently in the last couple of years, found my sound: as in, this is how I want to write, this is how I want to sound.
Oh, cool. What did you study in school?
Echoes: I did languages at university, French and Spanish, so completely unrelated. Then I joined the “real world”, got a job, realized I didn’t like it, then went back to music school.
Okay, nice. How would you describe yourself as a musician? What’s your music like?
Echoes: Music’s very… Honest. That’s one way I like to describe it. My lyrics are very real, about stuff I’ve gone through, stuff people I know have gone through. But the sound itself… It’s kind of ambient R&B. I like to leave a lot of space for interpretation. Then it’s got deep bass and driving drums too. I love a heavy synth pattern. It’s a real mix of stuff.
So what are some of your main influences and inspirations, musical or otherwise?
Echoes: Influences, musically… My dad used to listen to absolutely everything. So it would go from Michael Jackson, then flip to Lionel Richie. And my brothers were really into rock—kind of angry boy music. (laughs) My big sister, and best friend, got me hooked on R&B, which will always be my heart. So it’s kind of everything you’ve soaked up over the years. In terms of when I’m making music, I love Missy Elliot’s beats, they’re so iconic. Then FKA TWIGS at the moment has a really cool space-y vibe going on. But British singers and songwriters have nailed the honest, genuine sound—think Adele, James Blake. So it’s kind of a mixture of those. Otherwise, in terms of art, in terms of life, it’s really just observing friends and family, seeing what the world and people are going through, and using that mainly for lyrical influence.
Talk about your new song, “Valentine”. What’s it about? What does it mean to you?
Echoes: Well I’m quite sarcastic in real life. (laughs) So the very first line, “Keep all your valentines.” You know when you’re over it, like I’m done with the movies, the love songs… Just keep it all! When you’ve gone through a break up, no one really tells you how hard the other side is. Like everyone sings about how lovely everything is during. But when you’re out on the other end, it is quite a dark place. So the song is quite dark. It’s about a girl almost turning into a robot, cause she’s been hurt so many times—she’s hardening to love, turning to metal. And she’s warning a new guy not to bother trying to maker her fall in love again. It’s nothing personal, but… “You don’t know what I’ve been through.”, one of the lyrics. That’s what the image in the video is about—the robotic panels of the face pulsating. So that’s what I was going for! Cheery! Yeah, the chorus, “No one ever tells you how.” How numb you are, when it doesn’t work out.
Oh, okay. Yeah. What programs and equipment do you use? How do you make your music?
Echoes: Dee Adam, who I work with, is the most amazing producer. She sits down, and I’ll sometimes just sing her a melody, and she’ll play some stuff under it, make a beat, and we’ll create a song like that. So she’s really the technical woman to ask. (laughs) But it’s all done in her Notting Hill studio on computers, desks, and instruments!
So what’s your creative process like? How do you go about making a new song?
Echoes: It can start from anything. “Valentine” actually started because I was humming something in the shower. You know, you run out of the shower, and you grab your phone… And I just sang the first couple of lines, and I sent it to Dee, and I said “I think I’ve got something here. What do you think?” And she said “I like it. Come down to the studio.” And then she put some beats under it, and we wrote the rest of it. But it can start the other way around too—she’s just playing some chords, and I’ll start humming. And then a song comes bottom up. So… Really just however.
Did you face any technical or creative challenges while writing or recording this song?
Echoes: This particular song wrote itself very quickly, which I think a lot of the good ones do. I think sometimes when you’re struggling, it’s maybe cause the song wasn’t meant to be written. That could be a bit fancy… So I don’t remember any particular troubles… No, not with this one at all.
Okay, cool. So in general how do you deal with setbacks and challenges?
Echoes: You’ve got to allow time for them. That’s one thing. When you’re trying to put out a single—this single’s out this month, but the genesis started early last year. So things take a long time, and then if you’re mixing and mastering things, you’ve got to be prepared for human error, and people being away and sick and all that type of thing. So you just need to not be too hard on yourself. There’s only so much you can control, and as long as you’re doing the best you can… Well, you’re trying! (laughs)
Yeah, totally… Do you perform live very often?
Echoes: I spent a lot of last year kind of locked away writing and recording. Cause you write loads of songs, and then cherry pick the ones you’d love to perform to people. But I love performing and can’t wait to get back out there. We’ve got some exciting stuff coming up this year. We’re playing at the Royal Albert Hall, I’ll be playing at a couple of cool festivals… including Henley Festival where Elton John headlines our day—to be on the same bill as him is nuts. He’ll be amazing to see… And I’ll be in some London gigs. So, yes, we’re around!
What are the best and worst aspects about performing, to you?
Echoes: The best is, hands down, that moment… We played a gig last month, and I was singing a song that really means a lot to me, and I saw a husband and wife reach for each other’s hands. It was that moment of… Touching people’s lives, just creating a little moment in time. And they didn’t have to say anything. It was absolutely priceless. The worst things… (laughs) Everyone has had those gigs, starting out, when you’re just playing to the bar staff. (laughs) There are those gigs… When you’re like, “ I’m giving my heart and soul… To no one!” Those are tough!
Oh no! (laughs) So what are some of your future plans?
Echoes: Well getting busy for festival season… That’s always a dream, because the summer festival stage is just the best stage. The One Bit guys did a cool remix of Valentine that I can’t wait for people to hear, and the second single ‘Blue Deep’ will be out after ‘Valentine’ too.
But I’ve nearly finished recording enough solid material for an album, which I’ll be working towards for the end of the year. But maybe put a 4 track EP out towards summer… just kinda test the water, and then yeah, we’ll see how it goes! It’s a bit of a “release it to the fans and see what they say” kind of industry!
Okay, yeah! So there’s you and one other person? Is that who Echoes is?
Echoes: Echoes is just me! I am Echoes. But Dee’s on production and we work well together. I have a great bunch of backing musicians I can rely on for different shows. So it kind of ebbs and flows. But yeah, I am Echoes.
All right, cool. Any final thoughts, or parting words?
Echoes: (laughs) Parting words! No, well… “Valentine” is a bit of a roller coaster. It starts off quite dark and slow, but at the end, you’re kind of dancing to this weird, dark, miserable song. In that way, as love is, kind of up and down, and up and down… And that’s what the song reflects.
Yeah, totally. Awesome, thank you so much!
Echoes: No worries, thanks for the interview! It was fun!
Listen to Echoes’s new single “Valentine” on soundcloud:
Watch the video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGTuLBVaG_I