In Conversation With - Eliza Shaddad

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Still fresh from the wake of releasing her debut album, we spoke to Eliza Shaddad about her musical influences, knowing when to chill, and the importance of being honest with yourself.

“Maybe I should move away, find something new to sink my teeth into?” ponders Eliza Shaddad in Daydreaming, one of the songs from her debut album ‘Future’ – which in her own words, was the most fun to record. Eliza, born to a Scottish mother and Sudanese father is no stranger to moving around. As a child she ended up living in seven different countries including Russia, Spain and Nigeria and this desire to escape still lives inside of her. Coming from a family of doctors of Philosophy and Architecture, music was “never a career to be entertained” as her mother made her take piano lessons as a child but she never really got into it.

It wasn’t until she was sixteen when she asked her mum for a guitar that had a really wide fretboard and was really hard to play “as a sixteen-year-old with baby soft hands” that Eliza had a taste of being able to enjoy the musical world. Though, like the piano lessons, the guitar was put to one side until Eliza started her masters and was living with a flatmate who was really into Bob Dylan. She shaved her head, alongside her sister, picked up the guitar again and wrote a song about the process of shaving her head. Following this, Eliza started going to folk festivals and learning Scottish murder ballads, which has influenced her musical sound, to this day. “I like writing really long songs with 100 different verses […] really depressing, quite drony-sounding things and I think that’s murder ballads to a tee.”

These influences from folk music are very clear and distinct in Eliza’s first two EP’s. ‘Waters’ was the first time that Eliza had ever played her music with other people – there’s a raw and primitive element that comes across in the songs, in comparison to ‘Run’, which was recorded two years later. With two years of studying production, under her belt, and the fact that Eliza had already been playing the songs live with a band, she had more of an idea of what she wanted the songs to sound like. Sticking with the same producer – Chris Bond – and working with his sound engineer brother allowed the process to be a lot faster, also. As you progress through Eliza’s back catalogue and especially coming to the album, ‘Future’, her teenage grunge influences start to come through.

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Eliza says that all of the things that come out in this album, have come from the “cuttingly honest female songwriters” that her sister introduced her to, when she was a teenager, such as Toni Amos, Jewel and Hole, (Courtney Love). Future is much more complicated than Eliza has ever gone before. Making the jump from recording demos on GarageBand, to Logic also allowed her to make the drums “infinitely better” and it allowed her to have a clearer idea of what she wanted when getting into the studio. Unfortunately, there was a year’s wait halfway through recording the album, which “was awful” but allowed Eliza a whole year to write more and get the songs to an even better state. Being a perfectionist, Eliza found it hard to let go of the songs – she sat and listened to every possible combination of songs, to find the perfect track listing and even had one song mixed by ten different people.

I wondered whether she found it hard to be so open about such a personal thing, but her response was that getting things done is “only difficult if one is not being honest with oneself.” To stand by this kind of advice and to explore every possible outcome allows you to make the best of what you have. One of my favourite moments on the album is in Slow Down, where Eliza is singing along to each note of the guitar, in such a pure kind of way. Speaking of the recording process of that song, Eliza mentioned that “when it came to mixing that song, it was a lot bigger and like ‘it’s just too much, we gotta chill it out a bit’ so we stripped it back, gave it loads of reverb and it turned into this wallowy, slightly retro sound.”

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Whilst recording the songs, Eliza always keeps in mind what they will sound like live, “I think it holds me back sometimes but I just want to be able to play the record – not note for note – but I don’t know why you’d need all the extra parts that you can’t play live.” Taking influence from Ocean Colour Scene’s Riverboat Song, makes Your Core – with its funky industrial jazz sound – feel like it is definitely going to flourish when played live, as you can “go really hard on it without it being too much.” That doesn’t mean that the live show will be without its moody, emotional moments if songs like Are You There and The Conclusion, which have explosive guitar solos that allow Eliza’s vocals to trail off so you can get completely lost in the music, are included.

As well as “drowning in stuff for the album” Eliza is organising another Girls, Girls, Girls event in January, with more details to be concrete, very soon. Girls, Girls, Girls, is an art collective started by Eliza and her friend Samantha Lido, in 2011. The art collective is in partnership with the Orchid Project, which seeks to raise awareness about the act of female genital cutting. They put on showcases for female artists to come together to celebrate womanhood and to create a safe space for each other. Underneath her bubbly, effervescent exterior, Eliza is an artist with a lot of depth and a raw, honest voice that is unafraid to be true to the things it believes in.

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Feature by Tyler Damara Kelly

Photography by Ant Adams using a Lomography Single Use Disposable Camera

Eliza Shaddad's debut album Future is out now, she will be heading out on her headline tour this November.

Live Dates -
26 November - London, UK - Oslo
29 November - Glasgow, UK - The Attic
10 December - Hamburg, DE - Nochtwache
11 December - Berlin, DE - Privatclub
13 December - Baden, CH - Zum Alten Hasen
14 December - Nyon, CH - La Parenthèse
15 December - Paris, FR - Le 1999