Local girl charming UK listeners with her debut album

She belongs to the generation of younger musicians spreading the word about their work through the website, writes her own music and lyrics and remains reserved despite predictions by reputable British media that she stands to go down as one of the year’s major discoveries. Born in London and raised in Thessaloniki, Athena Andreadis eventually returned to her birthplace where she has been based over the past 12 years. Though she studied business administration, Andreadis, it seems, was guided by an artistic undercurrent from early on, as suggested by her penchant for penning poems in both English and Greek from an early age. That led to additional studies in classical music and jazz. Enthusiastic press coverage, based mostly on favorable impressions generated by her performances – including one at the Womad festival – had begun surfacing long before Andreadis put out her debut album, «Breathe With Me,» released in the UK earlier this month. Andreadis’s work carries world-music influences and atmospheric acoustic instrumentation, draped in a warm voice seeped in journey and emotion. Most of «Breathe With Me» was recorded in Athens with plenty of Greek musicians on board. Local musician Giorgos Andreou contributed to the production. We caught up for an interview in London on the eve of a 20-date British tour. Did you return to London for greater opportunities regarding your business studies or was it for the music? I returned only for the music. I thought the possibilities here would be different. This, however, didn’t concern the musicians and collaborators I would find, because in Greece there are exceptional musicians who have nothing to envy in Europeans. It was a matter of language. Despite the fact that I had also written some songs in Greek, I had decided that I would begin with songs in English. Does London remain a meeting point for musicians from all over the world? Is it still a fertile place for new things? Of course. I’ve met lots of musicians and, through MySpace on the Internet, continue to meet some London-based musicians who are easy to get together with. But you’ve got to find your way alone and make a huge effort to draw the attention of a record label that will cover the production costs of your album. Despite the press’s positive response to my shows, I paid for it myself and an independent label will take on the distribution only. What direction have new trends taken? Is there any music that’s new and definitive? New fusions are being created which cannot be easily defined or categorized – not even by journalists. New things aren’t focused in any one direction. Does the mass media – and I mean the mainstream media – support this kind of musical activity? Are there any major TV channels and radio stations offering support? Yes, there are, and they help a great deal. The BBC helps a lot and there are lots of radio producers on Radio 3 that dig deep. But that’s got to be preceded by word-of-mouth publicity. In my case, that worked considerably well for me through the live shows I’ve performed. A few people heard about me and got involved. Do you think there’s fanaticism and conflict between the listeners of different musical styles? This exists but I don’t think it’s intense. The biggest problem is the rush by some people to categorize you. They believe that you’ve got to belong somewhere. If there isn’t a little tag placed on you, they can’t deal with you. And the existing labels are too few to cover all of us and our differences. The press release I read about you refers to Manos Hadjidakis. Do you consider that to be your most important connection with regards to Greek music? We listened to Hadjidakis at home during my childhood years. I would also add our traditional music, which I discovered at a later age. I often put on traditional Greek songs for my musicians to listen to. They like the material a lot and some have been influenced in the way they play. Do you keep up to date with modern Greek music? Whenever I’m in Greece, I buy CDs and make it a point to catch as many shows as I can. Recently, however, I experienced something for the first time: Though on all previous trips I couldn’t isolate the fact that I was Greek and listened to the music as a Greek, the last time I came down with some of my musicians and saw their reactions, I tried to experience it from their vantage point and listen from the perspective of my English side. The result was impressive. I drew strong energy, both from the musicians and the contact between audiences and the artists. My musicians were surprised to see all the people singing. We went to see [Dionysis] Savvopoulos, [Christos] Thivaios, and [Giorgos] Andreou… I realized, yet again, how powerful the lyrics are in Greek music. In England, too, the so-called songwriters who focus particularly on their lyrics have been on the rise over the past few years. Would you consider your songs to be love songs? Even when it comes to the love songs, I take care to add another dimension. Would you write political songs? I don’t know how easy it is today to write political songs in the form we know. The problems are major – like the environmental issue – but this can’t be expressed the way it was by Bob Dylan or Joan Baez. Even so, I really liked Neil Young’s last album. Do you feel that the people in England want to react to certain things? Definitely, I can see it. You should have seen what happened on the streets of London when Iraq was invaded. Everybody was out there. But there’s also disappointment that concerns our capabilities. The people feel that they don’t have options and often give up on what they’ve been fighting for. Do you see any development of powerful collective movements with vision and interest for rebellion among the youth? This is happening but the collective movements aren’t based on activist logic. They’re trying to find other ways. Everybody’s trying to do it his or her own way… You’re currently preparing for a 20-date UK tour. The shows will take place at small theaters with a capacity for about 500, and I’ll be accompanied by three musicians – guitar, double bass, percussion – with me on piano. Two of the musicians are English, and the guitarist is Norwegian. Will the album be released in Greece? It will, but not right now, in several months’ time. It’s a record that was mostly recorded in Athens, and to help cover the cost of its making, we needed to conduct a small fund raiser among friends and relatives. (1) This article was first published on February 25 in K, Kathimerini’s weekly magazine supplement.