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:: Spotlight :: Emiliana Torrini interview

By: Mike Gee

Oh England, where art thou, old, cold, miserable England? Or something like that; a proper note of woe to introduce Icelandic singer songwriter, Emiliana Torrini, who apart from being musically schizophrenic is bemoaning the lack of snow in England.

“Seven years and not a flake,” she says, from her home in Brighton. “But it’s a brilliant place to me. A really weird mixture of soup and gloop. Brighton Palace looks like a dollop of cream.
“Actually, it does remind me a lot of Reyjavik. It has similar vibes. But the locals wouldn’t know what to do with a coffee house if it hit them on the head. It has a few bars which close at 11pm, then there’s always complaints about binge drinking yet they don’t have anywhere to drink until 3am. I’d appreciate it if there was bar that stayed open late. Then I could go there and drink wine and talk rubbish. After all, it’s part of my job and I love it.”
All this is said in an accent that instantly reminiscent of Bjork’s - although don’t compare Emiliana to Iceland’s most famous export - it rankles. And, to be honest, they don’t have that much else in common.

Torrini’s fine debut, Love In The Time Of Science, was a pure mix of luscious trip-hop and pop and contained the addictive single, Unemployed In Summerime - which was genuinely sexy and seductive. Then she went quiet, only bobbing up here and there on various projects. She performed Gollum Song for Lord Of the Rings: The Two Towers, wrote and toured with Washington’s Thievery Corporation and co-wrote a smash hit for Kylie. Yes, you read that right - Emiliana co-wrote Slow with Brixton-based producer Mr Dan (with whom she has also forged a production team). We’ll get to that a little later. Firstly though to a her new album, the basically acoustic folk/pop Fisherman’s Woman, a truly beautiful pared back little gem that has absolutely nothing to do with her debut and everything to do with Torrini developing her own voice as Rough Trade founder, Geoff Travis, says. “I think she’s found her place and who she wants to be,” he told me, recently. “I found her first album a bit all over the place. This is the real Emiliana.”

The fact that Travis signed Torrini is a compliment in itself. He isn’t interested in no-talent-all-looks-for-the-sake-of-the-hit artists and in Emiliana he sees a performer who he thinks will go the distance.
In a way it is what happens when life’s sweet turns sour. Torrini’s musical change and emergence as a potent singer/songwriter is the product of several factors but one of the most significant was loss.

“There were a lot of things that influenced me, she says. “I wanted to write differently. And I wanted to breakaway from being put in a bracket with - and constantly being told I was like - Bjork. I got a lot of that and it just got to appoint where it was so damaging and annoying. Then I lost my favourite person in the world. He died. Things like that have a huge effect on who you are. It changed everything for me. You learn to walk and talk with completely new emotions.

“I lost interest in music and it wasn’t until I met Thievery Corporation that I found it again. So when they called up and asked me to do some stuff I said, ‘Why not’. After all, I had nothing else to do. I learnt how to write in a different way with them.”

And then there was the total unexpected of Slow and having a hit record.
Emiliana laughs and says that until that moment in time she’d never even considered having a hit or chart success.
“Dan and I were writing my record,” she says, “and half way through we started getting a bit tired so we decided to take a holiday and have arrest. It was then I got a phone call from Parlophone asking if I wanted to write some songs for Kylie. I was like ‘What!’ and ‘Why?’ It seemed to me that I was a strange person to ask.
“But you have to do things you wouldn’t normally think of doing so we went to the studio for an hour and wrote most of the song, then we went to the pub and got drunk and finished it later - and they actually used the demo.”
Next thing, Mr Dan and Emiliana knew they had on their hands.

“It was really fun,” she says. “For the first time in our lives we found ourselves at the top of the pops. I mean, never did I think we’d ever go there, that I’d ever go there. I don’t think the music we are making is ever going to get us there. So we found ourselves watching Top Of The Pops and it came on and we were really proud.”
Recording Gollum Song in the fabled Abbey Road studios was another thrill, albeit a tad daunting, but Torrini says nothing beats the satisfaction she is getting from Fisherman’s Woman.

“I feel for the first time that it’s something I’m really excited about,” she says. “I’m a really late developer. Before I came to England it was all about singing and voices. And then with Love In the Time Of Science I sometimes felt a bit up. Now I feel like I’ve really made my start. This is me, Emiliana.”

“Fisherman's Woman” is available through Rough Trade/Shock.

Emiliana is touring Australia soon. See our national gig guide for the dates.

For more information, visit