Journey of Little Wins: An Intimate Conversation with Jewelia on Music, Life, and Self-Discovery

Welcome to an intimate exploration of artistry and self-discovery with Jewelia, the rising star whose music is a testament to life’s Little Wins. In this exclusive interview, we delve into her childhood in Romania, the transformative move to London, and the intricate tapestry of influences that shape her unique sound. As the creative force behind every track on her upcoming album, ‘Little Wins,’ Jewelia opens up about the evolution of her musical style, the challenges and triumphs faced during the production process, and the profound connection she shares with her fans. Join us on a journey through the melodies and reflections that define Jewelia’s path, offering a glimpse into the heart and soul of an artist poised for even greater heights in 2024.

Happy New Year, Jewelia! To kick things off, how was your festive season?

Jewelia: It was great, thank you! I took a couple of days off around Christmas and New Year’s Eve to spend with family and also enjoyed a few quiet days reflecting on what went well in 2023 and what I would like from 2024.

Can you share some memories from your childhood in Romania and how your early experiences shaped your interest in music?

Jewelia: I was drawn to music since I was a small child. Nobody in my family has a musical background, but my mother used to sing all the time around the house growing up, so maybe that played a part. I remember being around three, and seeing a street musician playing a keyboard. I was fascinated and immediately asked my parents if I could learn to do that too. The next step was a keyboard, then piano lessons, and this is how it all started!

Were there specific musical influences or artists during your formative years that had a significant impact on your decision to pursue a career in music?

Jewelia: In Romania, we have something called Palatul National al Copiilor (The Children National Palace), where they run free courses and activities in music, dance, sports, drawing, etc. That is where I first started learning the piano, which was the catalyst to my songwriting. It’s also where I recorded my first original songs at the age of twelve; the in-house engineer gave me my very first copy of Cubase, which was what set me on the path of starting to produce my songs on a computer.

Moving from Romania to London is a significant step. What prompted your decision to relocate, and how did that transition influence your musical journey?

Jewelia: I lived in a few other places in the UK before ending up in London. I moved to the UK to study a Music Technology course at the University of Surrey, so I lived in Guildford as a student, then went on to do a Masters in Audio Engineering at the University of Hertfordshire. For a brief time, I also lived in a village near Cambridge called Saffron Walden. But of course, all the fun things happen in London, so it made sense to relocate here!

Were there specific opportunities or aspects of the London music scene that drew you to the city?

Jewelia: London is great! But if I’m honest, I’m not sure if it necessarily has the best music community in the country. For example, in Cambridge, I found a very welcoming and tight-knit community; you would see the same friendly faces at all open mics and gigs, and it was easy to make friends. London is a bit more intimidating in that respect, and (at least for me) it seems harder to find one’s place on the scene. But there are countless opportunities, and so much of the industry is here!

Beyond your music, what are some of your favorite hobbies or activities? How do you like to spend your leisure time?

Jewelia: I don’t have a lot of spare time, but when I do, reading is what relaxes me the most. I also love traveling, and it might sound weird, but I love planning and researching destinations almost as much as the actual holiday! Ah, and of course, playing and cuddling with my kittens, which I’ve had for about six months now. A good book in hand, a purring cat on my lap, and a cup of tea, that’s the magic combo!

Can you tell us more about your latest single, “Invisible Wall,” and how it fits into the overall theme of your upcoming album, ‘Little Wins’?

Jewelia: In video games, an invisible wall is a boundary that limits where the player can go, even though there’s nothing physically there to stop them. It seems like the perfect analogy for the pre-guided life pathways that society tends to force us into, but also for self-limiting thought patterns, both of which are driving ideas behind the concept of “Little Wins.”

What inspired the title ‘Little Wins’ for your new album?

Jewelia: Oh, I did brainstorm so many title ideas! All the songs on the album have a common theme: self-acceptance. We all do the best we can at a particular moment in time, with the resources we have at that moment. Those resources can mean anything: time, energy, knowledge, confidence, money, love, other people, self-belief, self-love. So really, there’s no point in beating ourselves up, and instead of constantly focusing on the climb ahead, we should take some time to look back and see how far we’ve come, and learn to celebrate the little wins!

The press release mentions a blend of ’80s synth-pop, ’90s elements, and early 2000s indie-pop crossover in “Invisible Wall.” How do you navigate these diverse influences to create a unique sound?

Jewelia: There was a time when I thought that maybe I should have a more clearly defined, consistent sound, but since I am the one behind the creative process, the songs end up being inherently me! So I don’t worry too much about this, or try to reference; I just sit down and have fun writing whatever feels right, which is often a subconscious blend of my favorite elements of various artists.

How has your musical style evolved from your debut album, ‘City of My Mind,’ to ‘Little Wins’?

Jewelia: “City of My Mind” was essentially a chamber pop record; it featured lots of orchestral instruments, the writing was more quirky and experimental, and most parts were real, recorded instruments. Nothing is to say that I won’t go back to exploring that direction in the future, but lately I’ve been into a synth-pop/indie-pop direction. I’m writing catchy melodies and trying more upbeat numbers, and I am not embarrassed to admit that I like making pop music!

You mentioned writing “Invisible Wall” back in 2017. How has the song evolved since its inception, and why did you decide to include it in ‘Little Wins’?

Jewelia: While working on “Little Wins,” I remembered this song and dug it out of the vault. It seemed to fit right in, all I had to do was tweak the lyrics slightly, adding in the references to silver and gold [medals], and ‘punching’ into the Invisible Wall, rather than simply ‘breaking’ it to fit with the boxing gloves aesthetic of the album. From the original version, only the synth parts were kept intact. The vocals were re-recorded, backing vocals added, new guitars, synth bass replaced with real bass, and also the drum machine made way for real drums recorded in the studio.

As the sole writer and producer of every track on ‘Little Wins,’ can you share some insights into your creative process and collaboration with Andy Denyer?

Jewelia: We work on so many projects together, either on my music or various freelancing gigs. We work on arrangements, play live together, or make music videos together. For example, the Invisible Wall music video was a joint effort. I thought of a concept, and Andy did a brilliant job with the filming and editing. It comes easily because we are partners both in music and in life!

Could you highlight one or two tracks from ‘Little Wins’ that hold special meaning for you?

Jewelia: “Second Best” has a special place in my heart, but I’d like to talk now about the song that was written as a bonus track: “You Were There.” After all the merciless self-judgment throughout the album, this song comes like a balm for the soul, a recognition of how important it is to have supportive people around, and a token of gratitude to everyone who has been there for me. It only felt right for this to be the bonus track, which was added to the album as a result of reaching a stretch goal on Kickstarter.

Let’s talk about the concept of ‘Little Wins’ and celebrating achievements along the journey. Can you delve deeper into the inspiration behind this concept and how it’s reflected in the album’s tracks?

Jewelia: Most of the songs are actually quite self-deprecating, such as “Loser,” “Extra,” and “Second Best.” This album was not written as inspirational but as an honest realization that perhaps we are not that one-in-a-million success story that awes everyone, and that’s ok: it doesn’t mean that our struggles and our achievements, big or small, are not worth celebrating.

From a young age, we watch stories of victory against all odds and are besotted with the chosen one, while getting accustomed to looking down on the average people and their struggles – the irony being, of course, that we are them. We are told that we can achieve anything, if only we try hard enough. As inspiring as this sounds, it also implies that we only have ourselves to blame (regardless of systemic disadvantages, biological limits, financial difficulty etc.) for having an average life, in a world where mediocrity is viewed as being worse than utter failure. Something is messed up here, and I thought it was worth exploring. In a way or another, all the songs are reflecting this theme, from the opener “Invisible Wall” to the final track “The Comfort of Falling,” which closes with the final line “We do the best we can.”

An Intimate Conversation with Jewelia

How do you hope listeners will connect with the overarching theme of ‘Little Wins’?

Jewelia: I do hope they will relate to it; after all, we all do the best we can every single day, and we all deserve to feel proud, or at least appreciative of our efforts.

Your journey in music has involved studying law while attending the Music Conservatoire in Bucharest. How did you navigate these different paths, and what ultimately led you to pursue a career in music?

Jewelia: In Romania, many parents still think that the safest and most successful careers are being a doctor, engineer, or lawyer. I was encouraged to study music but also to have a backup plan, and that was Law. And while I enjoyed it and I was good at it, Law was never my calling; I was always going to choose music.

How has your background and upbringing in Romania influenced your musical style and perspective?

**Jewelia:** I can’t think of anything specific. Of course, my upbringing in Romania has influenced my perspective and my creative expression simply because it’s such a big part of who I am. I’ve been told several times that my vocal timbre is quite recognizable, and of course, language influences emission and the way one’s singing voice sounds, so I’m wondering whether that might be due to the fact that I sang in Romanian for a big part of my life. Also, being away from home and family and navigating life in a new country has been fuel for lyrics and song inspiration, such as “Aquarium” which was used as the soundtrack for the mini-series “13 Shades of Romanian” or “Flowers,” a song about feeling like a citizen of nowhere following the UK’s exit from the EU.

‘Little Wins’ is not only written but also produced by you. What challenges and rewards did you face in taking on such a central role in the album’s production? Can you share any specific moments or tracks from the album that hold particular significance for you?

Jewelia: I enjoy immensely the songwriting and the production process, that moment when after a few hours of immersing myself in the studio I end up with a brand-new piece of music that didn’t exist hours before. A couple of songs that I particularly enjoyed producing on “Little Wins” are “The Quiet Ones” and “Queen of Make Believe.” The process was very quick for both of these. The Quiet Ones was written and arranged to almost its final form in an afternoon, only a couple of weeks before the album was due to be sent for mixing, so it was a last-minute addition to the tracklist. Queen of Make Believe was incredibly enjoyable to produce; it started out as an idea for a song to send for Eurovision, and I fully and unapologetically went with the synth-pop/euro pop vibes!

How does it feel to receive support from notable figures such as Abbie McCarthy, CLOUT, and Amazing Radio in your musical journey?

Jewelia: I am very grateful for any support that my music receives, and of course, it is incredibly validating to receive good feedback. Abby McCarthy once mentioned on one of the BBC Introducing shows that my track was “self-produced and sounding great on the waves,” and it felt great to hear that! Whenever I get a playlist add or a radio play, it validates my process. It’s a real little win to know that these little tunes that started out in my bedroom studio are making their way into the world and doing well.

Your Kickstarter campaign for ‘Little Wins’ exceeded expectations. How has the support from your fans influenced the making of this album?

Jewelia: The album would have definitely not sounded as good without the Kickstarter support. I was able to work with some amazing mix engineers that used their craft to take my songs to the next level, adding that extra spark and polish that was needed to bring them up to commercial standards. I also wouldn’t have been able to release on CDs, vinyl, and cassettes, or to put any budget into promotion, advertising, or making music videos.

With the release of ‘Little Wins’ on April 19th, what are your plans for the future? Any upcoming projects or goals you’d like to share?

Jewelia: I’ve been neglecting the live performance side of things, so I would like to perform more gigs this year, hopefully in different cities around the UK. In terms of releases, I already have ideas for my next ones, and have quite a few new songs in the backlog, waiting to be finished, so watch this space!

How do you envision your musical career progressing after the release of this album?

Jewelia: That’s not something that I can predict, my biggest hope and wish is for my music to reach more people in the future! 

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