AAA Music Approved: ILONA
aaamusic | On 27, May 2019
Who are you and where are you from?
I’m ILONA, an americana pop-rock artist and songwriter, with Bulgarian and Russian roots. I’ve been raised in the UK since the age of fourteen and began my music journey accidentally, after moving to London to pursue a language degree. I got discovered by my current manager and co-writer Tony Moore (Iron Maiden, Cutting Crew), quit uni and devoted myself to music full-time whilst forming my five-piece band and beginning to play everything from open mics to festival stages.
What inspired you to get into music?
I wanted to combine strong diva-lika female lead vocals with real love stories, and was immediately infatuated with country music. I’ve always loved classic rock too, as well as the sound of the 80s. My inspiration to play pop-rock and americana came together after years of listening to Bryan Adams, Sade, Phil Collins, Fleetwood Mac and Shania Twain, not necessarily reflective of their exact style but more the feeling I got with each of my favourite songs that made me naturally write the music that I do now.
What have you done?
In the past 5 years I’ve released a large collection of singles, mostly digitally, and two EPs. The second one, Fragile Heart, was added to wonderful playlists around the world that I treasure a lot, such as British Airways in-flight entertainment and Cafe Nero. I pride myself most on being given the opportunity to play absolute dream venues of mine I never thought I could, that have resented unique chances to connect with unique people – The US Embassy in London, The Athletes Safehouse at The Olympic Games, The House of Commons, and the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. All unforgettable, beautiful shows.
What are you like live?
The best tour has been my latest American tour, where the band and I drove across many states laying shows in a few towns and stopping over to stay and get to know and make new fans. Between New York through to Washington DC onto Nashville, we made beautiful friendships, sold out venues and played live on a few radio shows. I’ve been lucky enough to support Passenger, The Dunwells, Hudson Taylor, Paul Rodgers, and Jamie Lawson to name a few.
What makes you different?
I call it hot country-pop rock. It stands out in it’s honesty and the message it carries to empower women and heal our wounds in spite of our fears, to be brave, courageous and confident. I think my Eastern-European roots and childhood in a small village in Bulgaria definitely shaped my songwriting, as I have experienced both a life of struggle, and a life full of opportunity; a different world to the one I am living in now, where you didn’t dare dream, you just survived and hoped for the best.
Physical vs Downloading vs Streaming…How do you listen to music?
I believe that, as streaming has grown into being the most popular choice of obtaining new music, we as artists don’t have much choice but to get in the game and adapt to it. It’s essential to be creative but also to be flexible. I love holding and playing an actual physical CD but as times change, there’s a certain beauty to be found in a sea of easy access and the ability to discover playlists as you stumble upon so many wonderfully talented unsigned artists’ work, and neither you nor them would have so many chances of being heard if it’s not for streaming platforms. In terms of making a living however, it is definitely much harder, as well as more difficult to get signed and tour successfully.
What have you been listening to?
The Neighbourhood, Billie Eilish, RITUAL, Sam Fender, and Asking Alexandria’s latest album.
What are your aspirations for the future?
Writing new material and recording more singles, to be released every few months. Touring the US. I’m also a part of a brand new writing collective named HERA that focuses on dance and house anthems, and I’m excited to be involved. The ultimate dream in the future is to headline an arena tour travelling to as many countries reaching as many audiences as possible, and to be truly happy and at peace knowing my music has made a real difference in someone’s day, and hopefully, life.
Questions answered by: ILONA…