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Aida - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Aida - Interview


Aida Zilelian is a New York singer-songwriter and solo artist. She has just released her debut CD 'Wide Eyed', a mini-album of seven songs, which she describes as "a blend of aggressive-acoustic, i

Aida Zilelian is a New York singer-songwriter and solo artist. She has just released her debut CD 'Wide Eyed', a mini-album of seven songs, which she describes as "a blend of aggressive-acoustic, indie neo-folk rock". Twenty six year old Zilelian, who records and performs under the moniker of Aida, wrote her first tune at thirteen, composing it on her family's piano. She first started performing in public seven years ago by singing in coffee houses and working with other musicians who would accompany her on guitar while she sang, but two years ago, wearying of this , she self-taught herself the guitar and turned solo. " I was really tired of depending on other people to work with" she tells Pennyblackmusic. " I had always used a guitarist, and at the time I was dating someone. He would play and I would sing, but he was very unmotivated and I carried a lot of it on my shoulders, getting the shows, getting people down to the shows, and also doing all the press stuff. I just decided "This isn't working out with him. I better learn how to play the guitar because I don't want to find anyone else again." I didn't really have any prior experience, but because I had played the piano for about ten years off and on, that helped me to learn the guitar a lot more quickly." In the time since then, Aida has performed at various clubs and venues in New York, and especially at CB's Gallery, an acoustic extension of the famous punk and hardcore club CBGB's, where she has held several residencies. On the strength of her shows, she was offered a record deal last year by Pantz (www.pantz.com), a small but expanding on-line record label. She recorded 'Wide Eyed', which is limited to 500 copies, over three sessions last October, and it was released in March. "I was going through a very strange period." she reflects, talking about her choice of name for the CD. " I was involved with a heroin addict at the time of its recording, and I was writing in my journal. I don't write in my journal very often, only when the shit is up the creek, but at the end of the entry I wrote "I guess I'm finally Wide Eyed". It just sort of fell on top of me then and I took the title from that." The lyrics of the album are similarly introspective and reflective. Some chronicle the slow burn fall-out of long term relationships collapsing ; others are about the thrown together intimacy of short term flings and one night stands. There are songs too about abandonment and betrayal : failure of lovers and friends to match up to expectations, and the inevitability of change and sometimes of having to find the courage to move on. "They are all personal" Aida admits. "I can't seperate myself from what I write. All of them are true. I can't write anything that is even mildly fabricated or embellished." Aida's voice on 'Wide Eyed' is reminiscent of Tori Amos, her voice having a similar pitch and range. The CD is reflective too of Elliott Smith, its sound also having an understated edge. Recorded unpretentiously, the production on all seven of the songs is minimal, and has , as Aida describes it "no fancy posturing, no showy dramatics and no cutesy flair." "I wanted it to be raw and sort of hollow" she says. "I wanted to know,as it was my first record, how I sounded clean and then to build up. I wanted to progress from something very simple to something perhaps more bombastic in a few years time." While the subject matter of 'Wide Eyed' is often melancholic and downbeat,its lyrics are written entirely without self pity, and there is " no victimization of emotions". It describes instead "just life as it happens." In part a reflection on her own struggle to survive playing music and also to release a record, Aida sees it, as well as being about the "dissapointments of the past and the realities of the present" as also being about "the triumphs of the future". "Although my songs have a very naked sound, there is also something uplifting about them" she explains "Which carries you and which makes you feel that however bad and strange and often uncentred things are, you can often get back to yourself without any help." At the moment, largely through word of mouth, Aida's profile is developing. 'Wide Eyed' has been a reasonable success, and her live reputation is growing. "I've had bad shows in the past." she laughs. " I've had five people show up a couple of times. Once it was a football night or something, and another time it was a big concert night. The Chili Peppers were playing and noone came. Big deal though ! That happens to everybody." Small turn outs though now seem to a part of her past , and at her recent gigs Aida has regularly attracted strong audiences of over one hundred. She has also begun to play shows outside New York, and has played dates in Boston. She also has other concerts planned too for Michigan. Colarado and Los Angeles later this year. Despite her reputation as a solo artist continuing to develop and expand ,Aida does not want though to record another album in the same style as 'Wide Eyed'. While she admits because of her bad experiences with other musicians in the past to being "very gun shy", she would like now to form a band. " I think that I needed to make a point to myself to do 'Wide Eyed' without any assistance" she reflects " And now that I have been able to, I need to shed my negative attitude about playing with other musicians." " I'd like to find two solid performers to back me up, who know how to leave their ego by the stage door. Right now I want to get a bassist, and a percussionist to maybe make things sound fuller, and then eventually maybe also a cello player and an upright bass player, and to do something dark and brooding, but not plodding." While she is happy to continue to playing solo shows for now, her plans to build up a band are already progressing. It will be interesting to hear where this exciting and raw new talent goes next. Further information about Aida can be found at her website www.pantz.com/aida

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Aida - Interview

Aida - Interview

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Wide Eyed (2001)
New York singer-songwriter Aida's debut album 'Wide Eyed' is striking in its simplicity. It has no overdubs, no sound effects and the production on it has been played down and is deliberately minima

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