Ilana Lorraine creative director, singer/songwriter, mentor from London. She is co-founder of a music night Sessions58 along with Nate James. She is also founder of The Coach House Retreat? We at Those London Chicks are pleased Ilana has taken the time out with chat with us.
Ilana had you always known you wanted to pursue a career in music or were there other ambitions as you were growing up?
I’ve always been into the Arts, all kinds of performance. At one point I thought I’d move closer to theatre & performance arts as I did so much of this in my childhood but always tended to gravitate more towards singing & songwriting throughout my teens. Music was also a huge part of my life from the earliest memory back at home. My entire family can sing & our home would be filled with song so often. I have fond memories of our traditional Friday nights dinners singing around the table in 5 part harmonies.
What has been your musical journey from that point until now?
So from my school days and through teens I was heavily involved in Musical Theatre. I played lead roles such as Oliver in school and youth clubs and was part of the Choir & theatre & dance clubs. Age 9 I started songwriting and writing poetry and formed my own Pop Girl Group. I entered my first song into a competition which got into the finals and was televised on ITV. It was similar to X Factor called “The ILEA Arts Festival”. I would say that was a pivotal moment in my life that really paved the way for my future career. I went on to study Commercial Music at University of Westminster where the course taught Music Performance, Business & Production. I then got offered work experience role at Sony Music Entertainment which soon turned into a full time role as Artist Relations Executive leading me to quit Uni. That was like a dive into the thick of the Music Industry where I was looked after personal affairs for Shakira, Destiny’s Child & Jamiroquai as part of the Artist Roster.During this time I started the private jam sessions & recording sessions in my home which became known as The Musicians House. This was also the start of something that grew into the artist movement I have today. I then spent 10+ years working in and around the Music Industry taking on various roles in Event Production, Artist Relations & later in Brand Partnerships too whilst also running guest lists & promoting club nights in the thick of the London scene and more exclusive jam sessions & events in private residence too. Whilst all of this was going on I had also put my music online on various music platforms & was voted Most Popular Unsigned Act on Slice The Pie where I later raised £15k in finance to produce my Debut Album “My Little Tree”. Actually over the years I worked some pretty awesome roles and with some big chiefs in the Industry that gave me a 360 degree perspective of the music industry which has assisted in the Creative Production & Artist Development I do now. Since the first album i’ve written & collaborated on many projects & set up a private residential studio in my home 2 years ago where I worked with multi-instrumentalist Mo Pleasure to help coach artists & provide a place for artists to connect & grow. That’s a whole other long story but this is where The Coach House Retreat Concept formed. I’ve been back and forth to LA songwriting with producers & recently became an Artist Ambassador for a few brands including Harman International, JBL & AKG. I’m now gearing up for a second release, hoping to be 12 songs to be out early 2019.
“…a space for talent to come together and share their music.”
Were there any obstacles along the way. If so, how have you overcome them?
I would say that there were many stumbling blocks and hurdles along the way but these in turn became the things that led to so many opportunities and fortune.
Writers block at Uni was one, but that led to me focusing on the business side & producing shows which then in turn got me the extensive incredible opportunities to work in such incredible companies and to gain such an array of experience and knowledge of the music industry and how it works. Plus running nights and working in the various positions got me connected into the thick of the industry where my peers all grew into major positions. Your network is so so important too.
We at Those London Chicks are all about positive thought brings things into fruition. What is your ultimate dream career or otherwise or both?
I already love what i do but my dream career would be an extension to this. As mentioned as well as being an Artist in my own right I’ve always loved producing shows and providing hubs for talent to connect and grow, from The Musicians House to The Coach House & Sessions58. So i guess my dream is to have my own premises to run my own members club and house my artist hub, like my own Motown. A space to empower artists & build a community to bring about positive change and a more united hub for talent to grow within its own community. I’m all about positivity & light – You can hear it in my lyrics of my songs.
The music business is notoriously hard for women. If you’ve felt that, how have you dealt with it?
Yeah i definitely felt that. I remember that I was advised not to apply for the full time role as Artist Relations at Sony, when I was an Intern, as they said they only wanted a male to take the role!! Well I did apply and I got it however after a year in the role I lost my job to find out that the Male who took the role was 10 years older and someone I had trained myself. No hard feelings though as I appreciate the time I had there.
In the music industry there always seems to be a pressure to get the image “right”. Which is why shows like The Voice exist (success based on talent only). Is that something you’ve bought into? What are your thoughts?
For me I believe wholy in authenticity and raw talent. Getting it right in my eyes is being YOU, shining your own true light and unique colours. This is a concept I bring into my artist development with artists and something i think makes the best artists.
Who is your biggest music inspiration and why?
I’ll have to say Michael Jackson. He was always my biggest inspiration, his whole artistry and how he embodied music. The message within his music too was always so positive and so powerful. He was all about positive change in the world.
You started the highly successful singer/songwriter night Sessions 58 with Nate James. Tell us about the night?
Sessions58 started at the Apartment 58 Members Club as a night to showcase talent in an intimate setting in the style of a living room. As mentioned earlier I had been running private events for years in my own home and this intimate setting was always something I found really special. So it has always been held in intimate speakeasy style venues. It’s home is now in Shoreditch at the Looking Glass Cocktail Club where you go through the mirror to discover new artists. The whole idea of the night is to provide a platform for emerging talent to perform with the support of a house band. Nate James and I host it and we have 12 artists perform a couple of original songs and 1 feature per week. it’s every Monday night. We have a very loyal following which has become a solid artist community, The Sessions58 Collective.
Why did you guys start it?
We started it to provide a space for talent to come together and share their music and also to help expose unknown artists.
You are also founder of The Coach House Retreat. Tell us about that?
The Coach House is a pop up concept (until we find a new home) to enthuse, inspire and educate artists through music, creativity and wellbeing. I set this up at The Coach House 3 years ago where I used to put on private events including things like Life Coaching, Masterclasses & TeaNJam – private jam sessions and showcases. Right now it’s about developing artists to be true and authentic. I create opportunities for artists to work with established and successful players from the industry and to help them build their personal besboke artist brand.
Why is giving back important to you?
I come from a family that was always heavily involved in community. My father is a retired leader in the Jewish Community after having given 30 years or more to supporting the community, and my Grandfather was a Rabbi for 50 years. So community has always been a huge part of my life. This was my foundation and since childhood I’ve always had a desire to bring people together and aid other artists in the areas that challenged me most on my own artistic journey.
I’m always interested in discovering a songwriter’s process. What is yours from idea to song?
It’s different every time but I normally start with chords on guitar or piano and melodic and lyrical ideas come from there. I will almost always press record as soon as I start jamming ideas cos i believe that some of the best magical moments come from a jam when you least expect it. I’ll normally start with a flow and go from there where I listen back and start to shape the pure concepts once i’ve found the spark.
How would describe your style as an artist?
I would say that my style is a fusion of nostalgic jazz and blues with a progressive soulful feel. You can hear elements of traditional jewish music interwoven with even a touch of lovers rock too i think as this was always music that was part of my life. My songs have a sentimental feel where I always shine a hopeful positive message within the lyrics too.
You juggle so much Ilana. What do you do for ‘downtime’?
My downtime is Yoga, Family & Play, by play i mean just enjoying life, surrounding myself with the people I love and I think music is even a huge part of my downtime too.
Finally, what’s next for you?
Well this is the year that I am launching my new project so you’ll be hearing that soon.
I just became an Artist Ambassador for JBL & AKG and am putting together a series of Pop Up Gigs in the UK and planning to tour around the globe too with my material with a production team to film the content.
Interviewed by Karen Bryson
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