Athena interview: English-Greek Pop Star Dips a Toe into the US Market

(Los Angeles) I have often remarked that, as one of the music capitals of America – and possibly the world – Los Angeles attracts talent from around the world, and the artists who come here bring with them international experiences and influences that make the Southern California music mix such a rich tapestry. A colorful new thread is now being added to that tapestry: Athena, (AKA Athena Andreadis) the Anglo-Greek singer, actress, poet and prose author who spans two and now three continents. Athena is in in LA wrapping up her first American-produced album assembling a local tour. She is working with The Cult and Bjork-producer Ethan Allen and a host of collaborators including Jimmy Paxson of Stevie Nicks.

Patrick. Athena, by now you know I am very happy I decided to stay a little later at the Hotel café and see you. Was that your first foray into the LA music market?

Athena. Yes. That was my first LA gig. I played at South By Southwest before, but that was the first LA gig. There will be more.

Patrick. You are wrapping up an album now – your first in the USA, I understand – with Ethan Allen. Where are you producing it?

Athena. We are recording at the Village Studios in LA. They are gorgeous and so historic. It is amazing how many wonderful artists have recorded there – artists who I really admire and who have influenced me. It was really a wonderful experience actually being there.

Patrick. Your music, your photographs, your interviews all lead me to believe that your home is in London and despite the song “Finding England,” I think your heart is in Greece – am I right?

Athena. (laughing) I guess my soul is Greek. And my parents are Greek. But London is a very important place to me. I was born there. I became the person I am in London musically. But yes I do go back to Greece to get inspired, particularly by the landscape and the people.

Patrick. Is being geographically-divided a good feeling or does it bring some angst – or both?

Athena. It can be a wonderful thing. I am kind of a bit of both (UK and Greece). So you get a bit of the best of both worlds. My family is split – my sister lives in Greece, my friends are in London, I am now in LA. It can be hard also, but I love LA. The song “Ready for the Sun” is about LA. I have been coming to LA for the past three – four years, doing co-writes with other artists and having my songs placed in TV and film here. The first time I landed here, I remember thinking “Wow – this feels like home.” [It] feels like Greece and London combined. I love the sense of joy, the weather and the friendliness of the people…I am happy to spend more time here.

Patrick. You are kind of a household name in England – and in Greece. You have been all over British radio, your music is in commercials, television shows and movies and you have even be the subject of a documentary on the BBC – probably something no other performer your age can say. So why has it taken you so long to come to the US?

Athena. God knows! I wish I knew. I have been doing a few things like playing SXSW and doing co-writes. I have done music things here people don’t know about – behind the scenes things here. But I now I have decided to record here and do gigs in a bigger way.

Patrick. Is this a tough market – the US and specifically LA?

Athena. The US as a whole is a huge country, but so far LA has been very good to me. From the first moment I got here, I quickly met Ethan Allen, who is Ben Harper’s producer and wonderful human being and super talented. He immediately got my music. I quickly formed my band with great musicians, all LA-based. It feels like a dream…it is really wonderful.

Patrick. You sing in Greek and English – sometimes switching language in mid-song. Which language do you prefer to sing in?

Athena. It is a tough question. I have written more in English, so I am more comfortable in English. Greek is more poetic but the words are longer, so it is harder to fit the words into a melody. Greek is just different. I write my own Greek songs, but it is kind of a side project because I love the language. I like to [do] that when I go back to Greece.

Patrick. You have a remarkable ability to bond with an audience – to be magical and approachable at the same time, a skill great actors possess. Have you ever thought about acting – stage or screen.

Athena. No I haven’t, but I’m open to it. I did a course in London with actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company and that was an amazing experience. I am not acting when I am on stage. I am trying to be as honest and as vulnerable as I can be…I just try to be myself. If I can do that, maybe I can get to a deeper place where I can connect to the audience who has been through similar things and allow them to become vulnerable by allowing myself to be that way.

Patrick. Your song, You bring Me Luck – is that about a special person?

Athena. Well, yes, it was.

Patrick. Not all of your songs are about happiness like your song, “How to Start Again” which is deeply emotional. How do you manage to deliver that kind of powerful emotion?

Athena. That was about the same person that “You bring me Luck” was about. My experience goes into my songs.

Patrick. I wanted to ask you about your charity work.

Athena. I am involved with Save the Children – one is one of the charities I work with. I was involved in the UK part (Love the Children). It was a very moving experience. They invited me to sing “Silent Night” for their Christmas drive. I was in the studio and I saw film of starving children and it was such a moving cause. I also work with Concern and with Starbucks. We have been raising money for the past year for families in need in Greece and Cypress. It means a lot to me and it is something I plan to do more of.

Patrick. Finally, when will we see the new album.

Athena. It should be out in a few months and we will release one song very soon, and then the whole album. I am in the process of finishing the record. I have an LA-based artist shooting video of the recording process and we will post the video on my YouTube channel in a couple of weeks.

Patrick. Thank you for spending the time with us today.

Athena. Thank you it was fun.
Patrick O’Heffernan.

Athena (Athena Andreadis)
The new album (no title yet) will be released in a few months.

Listen to the full interview here.

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