Eliza Shaddad's Future
Eliza Shaddad creates music that makes you feel deeply. Her debut album Future was released last month and has been on high rotation, soundtracking dark and windy autumn evenings here in London.
Lola caught up with Eliza to chat the album’s journey, her musical background, and Girls Girls Girls - the feminist arts collective she co-runs which merges music, art, science, and tech, creating safe and inspirational spaces for women.
Words and photos by Lola Stephen
It’s been a slow and steady process for Eliza Shaddad, but her debut album Future has finally arrived, and it was more than worth the wait.
Coming two years after the release of her last EP Run, Eliza’s first full length sees her sound evolve into something slow driving and moody, creating an incredibly beautiful and almost nostalgic body of work from start to finish.
“It was a long and hard, often quite depressing process”, Eliza says describing the album’s journey, “We started flying, it was right after we finished touring the last EP… we had booked into a studio for month but it just didn’t work out. We ran out of money and time.” But it wasn’t all wasted as she says, “We got stuck in to a few songs, enough to know that we were really excited with how they sounded.”
With the spark of these sessions, Eliza slowly wrote more material in the background all while enduring a string of push backs and cancellations, “I found myself not trusting anything, I felt so used to disappointment - not towards anyone in particular, just the whole situation was frustrating.”
When a project takes longer than intended to finish, it’s always worth wondering if the extra time to breathe and gradually work aided the final outcome, “I’d like to say it was for reason, it would have been a completely different album if I was able to make it in one go… But I would be lying if I said that I thought it was how it was meant to be”, she says. “I don’t really like breaking up a piece of work like I did for this, it was hard to have spent a whole year writing new material and then get to the end and be like well I have better songs now for this project, so I’ll have to start mixing it up.”
However after a final session backed by some funding and favours, Eliza and her band returned to the studio a year later to finally lay down the tracks and complete the album, and the outcome is incredibly special.
Released on 26th October, Future is emotional, beautiful, complex, and truly very fascinating. “It felt like my birthday the whole week leading up to release!” Eliza says. “I’m happy that it’s out and I’m satisfied with it and the fact that it represents me as an artist thus far.”
As an artist, Eliza herself has an interesting journey. Half Sundanese, half Scottish, she grew up in Spain, Nigeria, Slovakia, Poland, and Russia, moving every three years due to the nature of her mother’s job. Learning piano from an early age, Eliza first picked up a guitar at 16, “I learnt a few riffs, but it was really hard to play because it was a Russian classical guitar and with enormous action and space between the strings, and I have these tiny hands trying to crawl my way across this guitar.”
After putting the guitar down for a while, Eliza got into rap and hip hop at university until she started frequenting folk festivals which made her pick up the guitar and start song writing again. Releasing her first EP Waters in 2014, Eliza also featured on a Clean Bandit track, all spurred after realising music was exactly what she wanted to do. “I was applying for PHDs and I was quite unhappy, just trying to figure out what was making me annoyed. I’d just never had the balls to do it, so I tried and here I am. A million years later releasing my first album.”
Alongside her music, Eliza also runs the feminist arts collective Girls Girls Girls with her friend Sam which they set up when they first moved to London seven years ago. “We set it up because we were playing loads of really bad gigs”. Eliza explains that the combination of crazy lineups and people just turning up for one act and leaving, led to the inability to experiment or take risks. “We felt like women were underrepresented on bills back then - and now - so we decided we wanted to make it female-led to try and address the balance.”
Girls Girls Girls not only exists to create a space for female performers and artists, but also to raise awareness for women around the world who have been affected by Female Genital Mutilation, working with the charity Orchid Project who advocate and work to end this awful practice. “We thought okay, we’re helping ourselves because we’re probably gonna play at these nights, we’re helping the wider community of women artists within London and if we connect with Orchid Project too then we’ll just be standing in solidarity with women all over the world who have been affected by this just horrid thing.”
Since the inception, Girls Girls Girls has put on events all around London and the UK, linking up with local artists, creating a safe space to perform, and to have discussions and open conversations. “At the last event, we had music, art and film, but for the first time we had an entrepreneur speak.” Speaking of the next event she’s planning for 2019, Eliza wants to get more women in tech and science involved, “I think it would be nice to forge links between those different communities, because it’s just so separate in a lot of ways and I think that strength comes from unity. People like Imogen Heap - just trail blazing in terms of tech, music, and combining them together. If Girl Girls Girls is gonna do anything, why not that?”
Talking about the women in her life who inspire her and her work, Eliza looks to the diverse range of women she’s surrounded by throughout, “I went to an all girls school and there was so many incredible girls and so many brilliant teachers” she says, “My mum’s incredible, there’s loads of overachieving women in my family, I’d struggle to choose!”
“If I had to pick one to write a letter to, it’d be someone like Tori Amos. When I was growing up my sister introduced her to me and we used to scream sing to her songs. As much as I’m not making the same kind of music at all - her lyrics are so direct, blunt, revealing and powerful, and the music is so layered and textured and live she’s just a machine. I don’t know anything about her personal life, she might be a dick or she might be a legend, I’ve got no idea, but as a musician I think she kicks arse and I’d be well up for telling her that.”
Eliza Shaddad’s debut album Future is out now. Listen here.
Catch Eliza on her EU tour:
London - Nov 26 - OSLO
Glasgow - Nov 29 - The ATTIC
Hamburg - Dec 10 - Nochtwache
Berlin - Dec 11 - Privatclub
Baden - Dec 13 - Zum Alten Hasen
Nyon - Dec 14 - La Parenthese
Paris - Dec 15 - Le 1999