July 2009

"I Am"

Interview with Ana Silvera

Written by Imran Mirza

Ana Silvera. It's a great name, isn't it? We're blessed here at Liberation Frequency to be offered our fair share of artists to cover, but when you're pitched the chance to attend a live event where your host for the evening is a beautiful, classically-trained pianist and vocalist called Ana Silvera, something in you just tells you it's something you can't pass up.
It turns out though that the intrigue only starts with the name, and the more you explore the woman behind it, the web opens up revealing this fascinating air of mystery, charm and charisma that draws you ever so slowly towards her. Naturally, the portal to unravelling this mystique ... is through her music.
Born in London from Syrian/Irish descent, the 27 year-old's travels have taken her from Crouch End to Majorca, Berlin and Ibiza, and even seen her adorn the stage at the Royal Opera House and sing solos with the English National Opera when she was in her teens. Music seemed to be the inevitable path for Silvera to follow, and it was a decision she reached through her love of writing, "I do remember deciding that I wanted to be a writer, probably as that was what my mother did, and took to creating these clunking melodramas about immigrants and farmers. My dad played the guitar and penny whistle so I learnt folk songs like 'The Last Rose of Summer' and 'Whiskey in the Jar', plus all those 60s tunes - Carole King, Joan Baez, James Taylor. My mum was more into soul and jazz, as well as classical composers like Bach, Dvorak, Arvo Partt. Strongest influences on me were probably more sensibilities of sound - I have always been more drawn to purity and melancholy."
Watching Ana Silvera grace a stage is a real treat as, through her profound warmth and fluency, she manages to grasp your attention as you linger on every word she sings, and every piano note she plays. 
As seemingly impossible as it would be to rank any of Silvera's talents above another, there's a certain magic that she manages to encapsulate in her songwriting. Having earned her degree in Literature, her passion for the subject spills over into her music with enthralling results, as they can often show Silvera at her best - her desire to comprehend and inhibit lives, emotions and experiences, other than her own have lead to compelling pieces of music, like 'Salome', the biblical character who infamously demanded Herod Antipas for "the head of John The Baptist"; or the song "Nadezhda", that tells the story of the wife of a Russian poet who memorised her husband's banned writings until she was able to have it published years later (Osip Mandelshtam was killed by Stalin's regime). "As time has gone on, the act of songwriting has become such an important act for me. It sustains me, it helps me make sense of the world, it clarifies my own experience of life to myself, and hopefully to others too." 
Further detailing the songwriting process, Ana goes on to explain, "I've learnt to be patient when nothing seems to be coming together, because I have come to realise that every abandoned song, or scribbling, or drawing is part of a wider creative process - even if that is simply the process of discovering what you wish to reject, don't wish to be - and that eventually bears fruit. But yes, generally, I have several songs in progress at once, some are hares, some are tortoises."
Silvera's talents have been matched with a veritable dream team of creative partners, and these collaborators work well in nurturing her strengths and developing tender and intimate pieces of music as a result. Ray Singer, head honcho of Singer Records and a producer who made his name through his work with Peter Sarstedt ("Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?"), Japan, as well as two of David Sylvian's solo projects, leaves his indelible mark on the project, along with contributions by Brad Albetta, famed for his work with Rufus Wainwright, Willie Nelson and Martha Wainwright.
With collaborations from such highly respected musicians, standout songs litter Silvera's ever-growing catalogue, but the one that fills her with the most pride actually turned out to be her first attempt of arranging - 'All the King's Horses': "I had a couple of false starts trying to record it in New York and London, both of which I scrapped because I hadn't properly thought the instrumentation through. It gradually emerged that it needed to be like a rattle bag, a kind of ragged, touring circus troupe, banging on sides of chairs, tambourines, penny castanets, a recorder, double bass, a French horn, a violin, claps, it all came together. So it makes me smile when I hear it."
With the debut album on the verge of its release, having been recorded between London and New York, Silvera's star will inevitably and deservedly shine bright as her music and her name reaches a wider audience. Music, at its best, inspires, and that's the gift Ana Silvera brings to you with her release.

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