CULTURE

The haunting new voice of clean-cut urban blues

His fame first spread by word of mouth. Like a well-kept secret that those who knew could not keep themselves from sharing, his album «I Am a Bird Now» was passed from one person to the next. That is how it came into my own hands. Few were the evenings that did not begin with his music playing on my CD player last summer. Antony Hegarty is a gifted singer-songwriter, a fallen angel of darkness who came into the light to put words to the truths of his heart. Words and whispers about loss, loneliness and unrequited love, which balance on the sounds of the guitar, violin and cello. And his voice: It’s chilling, almost haunted, fragile, mysterious, fascinating; a voice that combines the hues of Nina Simone and David Bowie. Now, Antony is bringing his clean and clear approach to urban blues to Athens, where, along with his band the Johnsons, he will play at the Vrachon Theater in Vyronas on Sunday. Kathimerini had the opportunity to interview the artist just a few days before he left New York to begin his European tour. Very few artists convey the sense that they were born to write songs and sing. You appear to be among them. I started buying albums at the age of 7. When I was 11, I was given keyboards and began experimenting. I already knew what music I liked and I had posters of the pop stars I admired in my room. The truth is that for as long as I can remember, I used to get excited with anything that had to do with music. What type of voice moves you? The ones that lay themselves bare, even if on a technical level they occasionally make mistakes. I love singers who sing from the heart. If you are looking for names, I’d say Otis Redding, Elisabeth Frazier, Jimmy Scott, Nina Simone. Fantastic singers. Your most recent album, «I Am a Bird Now,» was a resounding success with the public and critics alike. Did you expect this? It was a surprise not so much because of its success and the good reviews, but because it appealed to so many people of different ages, social backgrounds, countries. It is a huge reward for an artist when his work touches such a broad audience. Do you think that may have to do with the fact that the tone of the album was confessional? I don’t know why, because while it has a lot of very personal stuff, it is also really influenced by others. Creativity is always related to personal experience, but also to our observations of the world around us. Friends, situations, events… How would you define success, or rather, real creativity? I will answer very personally. Music, or creativity through music, is my freedom. My liberation, more precisely. The whole world of sounds, colors, shapes, movement is my liberation. We waste a lot of time and energy on self-censorship and self-criticism. We don’t need to. The more spontaneous we are, the more real we are. You have to jump into the void when you feel it and if you want to think of the consequences, do it later. But take the risk. Do you think things would have turned out differently for you if you hadn’t moved to New York? If I hadn’t moved to New York, I’d live in London. But, I owe a lot to New York. This is where I have felt my senses become sharper, my aesthetic mature, I had a lot of experiences, I lived the underground scene from the inside, I met important artists. Such as Rufus Wainwright and Devendra Banhart. Who else have you worked with? Lou Reed and many others. All these artists are my friends. I admire them and love them, because we are joined by the same honesty in what we do. They, like me, stand naked in front of music. You have also began a collaboration with Marc Almond. Yes, we are currently in the recording process. I used to follow Soft Cell a long time ago and I was always charmed by Marc Almond’s personality. Do you ever envy the work of other artists? I admire it, I don’t envy it. I am not at all competitive. I’m happy when good music is being made. Will your upcoming concert in Athens be the first time you’ve visited the Greek capital? Yes, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about Greece. I wanted our tour to take us to places we hadn’t been before. It’s a good opportunity to see new places and meet new people. Sussex, Amsterdam, California and New York Antony Hegarty was born in Sussex, England, in 1971. He spent a short time in Amsterdam before moving to San Jose, California, with his family, and has lived in New York since 1990. In New York, he joined the avant-garde music scene, formed a cabaret ensemble called the Blacklips and performed at various clubs around the city. In 2000, he released his recording debut with the Johnsons. One of the highlights of his career came when he met Lou Reed, who, charmed by the young singer’s voice, invited him to sing on his album «The Raven» and to join him on his 2003 tour. His 2005 album, «I Am a Bird Now» launched Antony’s name globally. His Athens Concert, at the Vrachon Theater in Vyronas, will take place on Sunday, starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale at Metropolis music stores and Ticket House (42 Panepistimiou, tel 210.360.8366). Telephone bookings by can be made on tel 801.116.0000 and 210.678.6000 (for cell phones). Tickets cost 35 euros if purchased in advance and 40 euros if bought at the theater’s box office.