I only needed one listen to fall in love with Joana Espadinha’s second album “O material tem sempre razão”. A summerish and hypnotic record that has situated Joana as an essential artist on the Portuguese’s scene, and a total revelation inside the world of the dream-pop.
So as soon as I had the opportunity to interview her and spoke about this record, her work as a composer, the live performances and the future; I just couldn’t resist, and I took the chance.
Enjoy the interview and Joana’s music below:
Who is Joana Espadinha and why did she choose music as a profession?
Joana is a woman with Alentejo’s roots, who grew up in a family environment where creativity and music have always been very stimulated. Music has always been part of me, like imagination, and writing, but for a long time, I didn’t see them as a professional option. I wanted to be a journalist, I went to study law, and it was only when I felt like a fish out of water at the University that the music came out stronger, and I went to study at the Hot Clube. From then on, I felt that I found myself, and always went after that passion.
What is one of your most beautiful memories related to music?
I must have been 10 years old, and I went to audition to integrate the choir of the Little Singers of Estoril. It was my mother’s idea, and I remember asking her “But I sing well?” I had never seen myself as a singer. I remember that I was very nervous, so when I was asked to sing, to repeat a phrase that played on the piano, I thought I had to say the name of the notes as well. I was very focused on looking at the piano and struck some with distress. The teacher looked at me very seriously and said that I just needed to sing. Then, when it was over, he called my mother and said that I should really study music, and also an instrument. It’s one of the happiest memories of my childhood.
Many songs from your first album were composed in Amsterdam. What was so special about that city and your life there that inspired you so much?
Although I love Amsterdam, I think it was the absence of my country that inspired me the most. Sometimes we only value what we have when we move away, and as cliché, as it may seem, homesickness was crucial for writing. Then, it is also the powerful way I lived such a drastic change, the new friends, the different ways of life that i didn’t know. Amsterdam also lives in its interculturality, and because I worked in a restaurant, I learned a lot about the habits of each country.
Finally, it was essential the influence of the musicians I got to know, at the school and beyond that.
How would you describe being a female artist in the music industry nowadays?
I live in a particularly happy period for female artists, I feel that we have a voice, and the world wants to hear us. We are more and more, not only singers but composers, arrangers, instrumentalists. On the one hand, I feel that this is the result of widespread access to music education, but also of the fact that some prejudices have been broken.
It still happens to assume that I don’t compose my songs, or that I only wrote the lyrics, just because I am a woman, although I don’t think it is something that people are aware of. I still get some mistrust when I assume those functions, that for a long time were mostly performed by men. But all this is changing, and is going better.
What was the biggest challenge you had to face as a musician after all these years?
I’d say it was fear. Fear of not being able, of my work not being accepted, and even fear of the stage. This sometimes made me go down paths that were not so honest, but I soon realized that it couldn’t be something I’m not.
Your last album “O material tem sempre razão” (2018), has a cohesion and a polished sound that many artists with long careers would love for their albums. How was the work of creating this album? What was it like to work with Benjami on this project?
Was very good. Benjamimis an old school producer; he makes arrangements, chooses songs, suggests alterations, plays almost every instrument and this has opened up a wide range of possibilities at the very start. I think from the beginning he had the vision of what this record could be in terms of sound, of his imaginary. The pre-production phase was a process of discovery, and it gave a damn of enjoyment; choose each sound, and watch him to experiment rhythms with MPC, bass lines …
Above all, we worked in partnership; I never felt that nothing was imposed. We were always deciding together, and there was so much respect for each other and the songs.
“Leva-me a Dançar” was one of the most successful songs in Portugal last year. How does it feel to know that the audience appreciates your music and often becomes part of their lives and memories?
I feel thrilled. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that a song I’ve written has become part of people’s lives.
You are a very prolific composer, who had worked with artists like Carminho and the promising Elisa Rodrigues. Do you feel pressured when you write for other people? How is it to hear one of your compositions in a voice that is not yours?
I really enjoy writing, and writing for others is liberating. Usually, when I write, I later imagine the song in the interpreter’s voice. This happened with Carminho and also with Elisa, and it’s incredible to hear them just as we imagine, or even better. It becomes easy when they are such inspirational singers!
It was hard to leave the jazz behind and dive into the dream-pop sound that emanates your album “O material tem sempre razão”?
I don’t feel that you can “leave the Jazz”, it is present in the way I sing and write, although it is not so noticeable. I continue to give Jazz classes, and to collaborate occasionally in some Jazz projects. But the most remarkable thing about me is the composer side, and my songs are actually Pop songs, which is what gives me more joy to write and sing. As long as I’m in love with what I do, it’s not hard to make choices.
Your tour around Portugal is almost over with the last concert being in Covilhã (18/5) at the New Art Fest. How was the presentation of this brilliant album? And the public response to it?
We will continue with concerts for the summer, although they haven’t been announced yet, so it is far from finished! It has been very good to know the audience of this record, and to see people singing the songs. It is surprising indeed. I am particularly happy when we saw children at the concerts, and almost always I go to speak with them.
It may still be a bit early, but are you already thinking about your third album? Or will you leave a considerable amount of rest between projects?
I’m starting to think and write for a third album, so I hope the “rest” won’t take so long.
This is a matter of personal interest. This album that emanates melancholy and warmth , is screaming to be released on vinyl as a last goodbye to this project. Is there any chance of this happening?
I’d love to, but I do not know yet.
If you could only listen to an album all your life, what would it be?
I think it would be “Clube da Esquina”, by Milton Nascimento and Lô Borges.
And the last question. What is the most important thing you would like to tell people about you and your music?
Maybe to explain that the name of the record, which is the song “O material tem sempre razão”, It is a call to authenticity. We are surrounded with products that appeal to a fast consumption, and which at times show very little of the artist, and of the person in question. Usually, we don’t have the time for this authenticity, which is not so obvious, nor so successful, because it doesn’t fit in the usual moulds.
There is a proverb that tells us, that we can’t go against the material, as well as we cannot go against what we really are.
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