We spoke with the rising star, Azusena, about her roots, urban music festivals and her love of poetry after her set supporting Alpines at Soup Kitchen in Manchester.
I’d like to start by talking about your song ‘Crosby’, which I really, really like. What inspired you to write that song?
A: I was going through a period in my life when I started writing music but I would see the visuals first, so that’s the way I wrote ‘Crosby’. I kind of saw it as a film, in a scenic way, before I wrote it. I built the song around a guitar loop and added strings to make it seem more cinematic.
I believe you worked with the producer Dan Carey on ‘Crosby’, and he’s also worked with Sia and Bat For Lashes. Are they artists that you’ve been inspired by?
A: I do like Bat For Lashes, I really liked a lot of her earlier stuff when I was growing up, I think it’s amazing and I like her personal style as well. It’s wicked.
What was it like working with someone like Dan who has so much experience in the industry?
A: I’ve learned a lot from him, because I’ve worked with a lot of different producers and he made me feel the most comfortable with expanding my sound. Working with him was a real learning process and a lot of growth happened in the time that we worked together, especially for me as an artist.
BBC Introducing in Merseyside have been supporting you quite a bit recently, what’s your connection to that region? Don’t you also have some American heritage?
A: I’m part American… and English… and Iranian! Part of my family is in the Wirral in Merseyside, so I grew up there, I’ve spent most of my life there. It’s great to have their support. Merseyside is home for me.
The Line of Best Fit and DIY Magazine have also caught on to your music, how exciting is to see the interest around your music growing?
A: I was talking about DIY a couple of months ago and saying how I would love to have a feature in there. I love the style of it, I feel the same about i-D Magazine as well. All of these kinds of magazines celebrate diversity and different culture, and I love magazines like that.
You’re playing Outlines Festival in Sheffield in a few weeks, which is one of many emerging urban music festivals similar to Dot to Dot and Live at Leeds. What’s your opinion of these new festivals?
A: I feel like “the more, the merrier!” really. Especially for new artists, there is so much new music out there now and I think that this kind of festival is really good for picking people who wouldn’t get picked for other things. I also think there’s a whole new brand of artists coming, and these urban festivals are certainly a good thing for those artists.
Are there any festivals that you’re desperate to play in the future?
A: I would like to play Glastonbury, I’d love to.
I’ve heard that you’re a big fan of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, what draws you to his poetry in particular?
A: He’s my favourite writer, I really connect with the way he’s so direct in his approach to every topic that he takes on, whether it be love, death, sex. I read a lot of books and poetry and up until I found his work, I couldn’t find a writer that I fully connected to. I wasn’t particularly trying to connect with any writers, but after reading more of his work, I realised that he was the one who has changed a lot of the way that I write music and see things.
Another artist who is a big fan of him is Lady Gaga and she has a passage of his poetry tattooed on her arm! Are you a fan of her and did you see her Superbowl performance?
A: I think she’s great, she’s amazing. I didn’t see the full performance but I saw snippets of it online. I support artists growing and doing different things, whilst staying true to themselves and obviously she is one of those people who expands and takes risks, and I really respect that.
You painted the single cover art for ‘Crosby’ yourself, which is awesome. So is it important for you to have a hands-on approach and to be the director of how Azusena is presented artistically?
A: Yeah, especially with writing this music in the way that I did, where I saw the visuals first. I got into painting more and more and I used to draw a lot, I saw a lot of colours and different designs when I was writing the music, so it’s so important for me. The music and the visuals go hand-in-hand together. They complement each other.
Finally, what are your plans for 2017? I believe you’ve already recorded your debut album?
A: This year we’re going to release the singles, there’s a couple of them. The album is looking like it’ll come out in 2018. We’re going to spread the singles out across this year and I’m really excited about it. I’ve had these songs for such a long time, for maybe a year and a half now? And I just want to let them go!