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People Profile – Elena Ramona – A Passionate Voice

‘This local singer has been humming since before she could speak. Talk about a natural born talent!’ . . . writes A. Singer.

Elena Ramona

Singer, songwriter

 

How did you get interested in music?

As it happens, no one else in my family is musical, but it’s always been as much a part of me as my arms and legs. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember – I was humming before I could even speak! When I was little and my mum would be making dinner, I would be sat there at the table, humming. My brother, who is a bit older than me used to go “shhh”! As I am not sure he found it quite as endearing.

I must have been about six when I was given a recorder for Christmas, and I would just constantly record myself speaking and singing into it. I was given another when I was a bit older and ended up amassing quite a few cassette tapes with different harmonies on them and silly songs about childhood. I was always in my room recording because I was a little bit of a loner at school.

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How was school?

I was quite academic, sort of middle to upper ability, and also very shy! I was actually brought up on the Greek island of Skiathos, so I went to school in Greece from the ages of 5 until 10. I often got into trouble for singing when I wasn’t meant to, and was shushed at school too! At 10, I moved to England and went to a boarding school at Warminster. It was a completely different change of culture and scene, and a bit of a shock to me – but I realised I had been given an educational opportunity so I got involved. I joined the choir and always put myself forwards for the main part in all the musical productions the school put on, because of this, I became known in school for my musical ability.

You can sort of “reinvent yourself” with music and I really did use it to help boost my confidence when I was young. Being a young person is difficult and I would definitely say that my music got me through some hard years trying to adapt to and figure out who I was. Over medication, over anything, I would recommend music as a fix-all, it tops everything.

How have people encouraged you?

The boarding school was quite musical and was always very supportive of me, and what their pupils wanted to do with their lives in general. I think I was lucky to go to a school like that that realised not all students would be “mathematicians” or “physicists”, and that there would be students who wanted to be artists and musicians too – we all just kind of got on with it really. My manager is also very supportive – I don’t think any other job would be as flexible and as decent and accommodating as they have been to me there. My job and my music coexist nicely because of this support.

My mum always told me from a young age: “do what you want to do”. She is English so her story is that she went on holiday to Greece, fell in love with a Grecian man and started a family and a life there. It’s sweet in the way that I’m sort of doing the reverse, but with music. I’ve pursued my dreams here while my family are in Greece. It’s nice to go and visit them in the summer while still being able to come back to England to follow my dreams. It really is the best of both worlds.

What languages can you speak?

My parents actually taught me Greek and English at the same time, my mum would talk in English and my dad would talk in Greek, so my brother and I learnt both languages. Sometimes, if I forget an English word for something, like you do, I’ll know the Greek word for it instead. Apart from Greek and English, I’m not fluent in any other languages, but I tend to be good at picking it up quickly so if there are people speaking in another language in the shop at work, I can almost catch what they’re saying!

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Do you have any other musical abilities?

I play a little bit of piano, but not really enough to sort of sit there and play something from Beethoven for an audience. I’m more of a vocalist really. If I was playing live, I’d definitely have to get someone else who was a lot more confident than me to play alongside instead of attempting to do both at the same time. I’m no Elton John! I prefer to focus solely on the vocals and the lyrics, and how I’m sounding

What did you do after school?

After completing A-levels at school I came straight to the ACM at Guildford to do a diploma degree in vocals and contemporary music. At boarding school we were taught in opera and classical theatre – so lots of jazz hands! To come from the classical training in boarding school, straight to a contemporary style was a bit strange. However, having experience on both sides of the spectrum meant that I knew where my limit was which I think is very important if you want to know what you’re capable of. I’ve made lifelong friends at the ACM who share my passion, many of which are still in Guildford – following their dream like me.

What’s it like having a retail job at the same time?

I’ve been at the Steamer Trading Cook Shop in Guildford for about three and a half years now. Some people might assume that it’s holding me back, but that as much as I love my music, my job keeps my “head in the clouds and my feet on the floor”.

I’m very grateful to have the best of both worlds. My job in the shop builds my people skills, and my coworkers are lovely, but most importantly it means I’m not doing music all the time. If all I did was work on my music, I think I would take it for granted. I wouldn’t be as creative as I am because I’d have it on a plate. Because I’m not spending all my time on it, the time that I do spend becomes precious and makes me appreciate it more – and also value the music that I’m making.

We heard you got some publicity with the BBC?

I did! I actually went back to my boarding school and did some mentoring for some students there, talking to them about the music industry and what to expect as an aspiring musician. As I’m managing own career at the moment, I reached out to BBC Wiltshire and asked them if it would be at all possible to come and talk about my experience at the school, and do a live session. The lady I spoke with was really nice and said “sure, come and see us”. I built a rapport with her and basically, emailed again before Christmas and asked if I could come and do a catch up and talk about my new single, Neon Lights. I think they thought it was nice to see someone from the school progressing as an artist.

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What inspired your new single – Neon Lights?

I would say it’s about mainly being yourself. One of the lyrics is “we won’t change to fit in a design” and It’s that whole kind of “just be who you are and enjoy it” theme. The first line is “we’ll walk together, I’ll colour outside the lines” and I’m just trying to represent all the musicians and artists, and say “we’re a bit quirky, we’re a bit crazy, and a bit cool” and, you know, “this one is for you guys”. I just want to say with this song: “you are the neon lights”, “your mind is vibrant, and it can go anywhere you want it to”. That’s what I’m going for. It’s a very vibrant song, the video has a hip hop theme and neon lights shining everywhere.

Do you have a Process?

Depends what mood I’m in! I can’t sit there and wait for it to come, I’ll just end up biting my nails. There’s no pattern, it’s not planned, and I can’t force something out or it will end up sounding forced!

To be honest, it happens mostly when I’m at work, when I’m not feeling musical at all. Sometimes it’s the melody that comes first, and sometimes it’s the lyrics. If I’m having a really bad day, my mum always says “write everything down”. If a melody comes and I think “oh that’s good” I’ll get my phone out and record it.

I always try and inspire people with my lyrics and think about what situations affect everybody, not just me – so it doesn’t come out “poor little me”! Especially young people trying to find and be themselves, I just want to get across to them: “Just do you”.

Songs spoke to me when I was younger and now what I really want to do is speak to others through music too. I think it’s so great how you can use music to let people know that it’s okay, and that other people have had the same problem they’re going through.

I’m a perfectionist so I don’t stop tweaking a song until I’m happy with it. Any songs I’m trying to release, they always go through my mum first, no one else, because she’ll tell me how it is.

I’m always writing silly little songs about my life that take me twenty minutes, but my debut EP took a year to release because, even though the songs were ready, they weren’t perfect.

Neon Lights is actually recycled lyrics from other songs that didn’t work out. It’s made up of a year or so of backlog of lyrics from my bag and my big lyric book.

As a musician you’re always growing, so your song that you thought was awesome six months ago, usually sounds terrible later! Even now, the chorus to Neon Lights, I’m going “what was I thinking??” It’s definitely a learning process, and I’m teaching myself song writing skills and learning from other people with their songs and feedback. I love good constructive criticism, and different people’s ideas like: “why don’t you do that?” or “how about this?” I’m also still learning what works for me and what my niche will be – defining my brand so that when people hear it, they know it’s me.

Do you have an agent?

I don’t, I’m doing everything myself – which is obviously tough – but hugely rewarding. I’m doing it “the old school way” as I like to call it. It’s definitely rewarding to have the chance to show people why I’m good and speak for myself, so when the hard work pays off – I know it was all me.

How do you finance a record?

It wouldn’t be doable without my friends who believe in me. One friend, who I went to ACM with, is a very good producer and is the sound behind Lying Blue Eyes and Neon Lights. It’s great because it gives him exposure as a producer and helps me as an artist, so we’re helping each other. I’m out of pocket quite a lot as retail doesn’t pay much more than the bills, but I’m lucky to have people who believe in me enough to want to help me for free.

Do you have any musical influences?

I would have to say the Beatles for that old school rhyming style, and that human sound behind the music which I think we’re missing from music today sometimes as it can sound a little fake. But, each to their own – that manufactured sound is great when you’re in a club! Elkie Brooks is a big influence because her voice is very similar to mine in that we both have quite a husky tone.

I also love a bit of Michael Jackson – his “History” album was my first CD as a child, given to me for Christmas when I was 7 or 8. I would play it over and over, and I think I remember pretending to be a cat with it on in the background.

There are modern day artists I love too. If I had to pick a couple to work with, I’d say Eminem and Sia because of the personal story behind their songs – which is something I’d love to portray to my audience – that I’m not a karaoke singer, singing someone else’s song.

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What are your future aspirations?

To always be happy and have faith, first and foremost. Musically, I’d love to be a recognised songwriter and lyricist, and have more of a fanbase. I’ve got three or four songs in the pipeline, ready to
come out. The key thing is I’ve got a backlog, which is something I didn’t have last year! I’m just aiming to get as many interviews as I can, get myself out there, and have more of a sort of stamp on what I’m doing.

I’d love to tour and go to Glastonbury. Something I’m actually trying to do at the moment is get a jazz band together to get more of a fuller sound. I just think a jazz element would sound great with the kind of style and tone of my music.

How did you connect with Cranleigh Magazine?

Online is a huge platform for musicians, the possibilities are endless now. I spend most of my evenings searching for magazines and radio stations I can get in contact with, and I knew each area
would have a magazine I might be able to reach. I found your social media page on Facebook and it’s lucky that you guys saw my message so you could help me out!

 

 

You can find Elena on her Social Media accounts
https://twitter.com/elenaramona90
https://www.facebook.com/elenaramonaofficialpage/
https://www.youtube.com/user/TheStathaki1/

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