“Ela“ marks the solo debut from Dom La Nena, a Brazilian born cellist who has worked with such artists as Jane Birkin, Jeanne Moreau, Camille and Etienne Daho. Finding that she wasn’t comfortable recording her music in a traditional studio, Dom was invited by Piers Faccini to try working in his home studio. It proved to be a better environment for Dom, and liking what he heard, Piers ended up working on the songs with her. The resulting album has an exquisite, somewhat dark sound that surrounds multilayered cello with minimalist arrangements of guitar, piano and other instruments. Singing in both Spanish and Portuguese, Dom proves to be as talented a vocalist as she is a cellist. The following is an email interview with her.
Having performed as a cellist with other artists, had you always wanted to also do your own music? What made you decide that this was the time?
I always wanted to compose my own music, but for a very long time I was too scared to go ahead…it was close to impossible.
I started to write these songs when I had finished touring with Jane Birkin a few years ago. At that moment I had some free time for a few months, and just for fun, I decided to work on it… but initially Ii had no intention of becoming a singer or to make an album with my music. that desire came when I finished a few songs that I really liked, and then I decided to share them with some people around me, and then to record it.
Do you feel that your work with others has influenced your solo music music at all?
Of course, it’s always rewarding to play with different people!
Did you write the album as a whole, or are there musical ideas that date back to before you started really focusing on your own music?
All the songs of Ela came at the same time, during a very short period (less than 1 month).
How would you say that the material evolved from when you started work on the album to what we hear on the final release?
When I was in the writing process, I needed to record the songs immediately with their arrangements, otherwise there was no fun, it wouldn’t have been exciting otherwise. This was the process that I prefered. Of course I was at home with a very basic material so I could not make it all like I imagined. I basically had my cello, a little keyboard and a little acoustic guitar, so I had fun making strings arrangements .
The first time I went to Piers Faccini’s home studio, I recorded it all like I had done for the demos. then I started to add a few other elements with the instruments that Piers had in the studio, and then I gave him all the songs and told him he could try anything he’d like!
In some songs he changed a lot, in others he did not add anything, but for me there was something really important and that I think we succeeded to keep: the innocence and the freshness of the demos.
I’m curious as to what factors went into deciding what language is used on a particular track? To what extent might it be dictated by lyrical content vs sound/atmosphere it evokes?
I did not choose the languages… the melodies came often with some words, so sometimes they came in portuguese, sometimes in spanish. some sounds, some notes resonate with a particular word.
I didn’t think “i will write a song in spanish”…otherwise it wouldn’t have worked!
But I have to admit that on the first songs I wrote I was very shy to show it to people who where close to me, so I was very happy to write them in portuguese – this way they could not understand the lyrics, as I live in France!
Working with Piers Faccini on this album, what was the creative/collaborative process like? From what I’ve read, it seems like after you did the initial recording it was a long-distance collaboration?
Initially we were not really supposed to work together on the album. He just invited me to use his home studio since I was looking for options to record my songs. When I went there I worked for a few days and he listened to a few songs and liked them a lot. Of course, I wanted to ask to him to play and sing on it, but as I had no label and no concrete project, I was too shy to ask him. Thankfully, he suggested it himself that he should put some guitars, some backing vocals…
I stayed there for a week or so, working alone. I then gave the songs to him on a hard drive and told him to feel free to do whatever he wanted.
After he worked on the first 3 songs I just loved what he was doing… so we decided to make all the album together.
So, we spent very little time together in the studio. But we used to talk a lot about it, and we did work a lot together on the mixes and mastering.
Your bio mentions that you’d made previous attempts at going into a studio to work on your songs – could you elaborate on what those experiences/results had been like?
Yes, I tried to record them in a studio but I did not feel comfortable with the vibes of a regular studio. Since I had no label, I was using a friend’s studio, so I wasn’t paying for it. But eventually there was so much pressure that I felt totally unproductive.
It’s funny because I really like to do studio sessions for other people, and I never thought that I would not feel good making an album in that environment, but I stopped the process after 1 week of work and decided to make it all by myself at home or wherever else…
Was it always clear to you what type of arrangements/instrumentation you wanted, and the role of cello, within your solo music?
I had composed the songs with the arrangements (mainly cello arrangements). Sometimes, in songs like Ela or Dessa Vez, I started to record a bass line that I liked, then I added another cello track, then other, etc, and finally I got the song !
Piers is also on the Six Degrees label – did he get you involved with the label, or vice versa?
Yes, Piers introduced me to Six Degrees as he was already working with them.
Have you been performing this material live? If so, do you perform with other musicians? What is the instrumentation like? Would you say there are any major differences in the way the music comes across compared to the recording?
Yes, i’ve been playing it on stage and for the moment i’m playing alone. I use a loop station on the cello, and have a little toy-keybord, some little percussions, a ukulele…
Of course the arrangements are not very close to the album, but I like to be alone on stage!
Do you see your solo career as the focus now, or do you plan on continuing on also touring as cellist for other artists?
My focus now is my solo career, but I like a lot to play with other artists, so I have some parallel projects…like my duo called “Birds on a Wire” with Rosemary Standley, the singer of the band Moriarty. We play cello-voice covers, and we will also be touring during 2013-2014.
I’ve been also playing my songs with Piers Faccini, and his songs too!
For more info on Dom La Nena, check out her official website.