Irenka * Brings European Pop to Nashville
Nashville’s most unique singer/songwriter, Irenka *, born in the Czech Republic and raised in Belgium, brings her own brand of world-inspired alternative pop to Nashville. That’s Irenka singing “Comme Si”, from her album “Wait 4 it. . . “, you’re listening to now.
Indie Insider Nashville was fortunate to get to talk to her recently. She happily shared her thoughts on her childhood in Europe, coming to America, and her upcoming tour. Read on…
Tell us about yourself.
Indie Insider Nashville: Tell us about your childhood. Where did you live? How did the place you grew up and the people there inspire your career in music?
Irenka: I grew up in Belgium but as a foreigner. My mom is Czech and my dad is American so I grew up in a trilingual home, which is a culturally enriching experience in itself. The great thing about radio in Belgium is that they play music from all over the world – mainly European and American, along with some from the African continent. So I got exposed early on through my multi-cultural parents and through the Belgian culture to a lot of different influences. I danced to many rhythms.
My mother loved to sing and dance so the theory that I would have inherited those passions from her is entirely plausible. [laughs] There is a baby video of me shaking my head in rhythm before I could do anything else.
For me, music has always been a source of joy and comfort, and I see how artists change the world and impact lives, and it’s the most beautiful thing. But where I grew up, there wasn’t a single person who was a full-time artist, musician, songwriter, producer, manager, label owner, or such. I only knew it was possible from watching people on TV.
The stories of my musical idols are the ones that kept me dreaming about pursuing something my immediate environment would deem “a crazy dream”. It was so unconceivable and unspoken about that I kept it to myself.
One day, an older friend of mine turned me on to a French indie metal band called Mypollux and we went to their show. It was the first time I was confronted in real life to some strong-minded individuals who believed so much in their art and dreams that they set up everything themselves from their garages and were making it happen all by themselves. I was taken aback. Especially by Lussi, the lead vocalist and lyricist. Eventually I thought “if she can do it, I can do it” and set out for this long adventure!
Indie Insider Nashville: You have a beautiful voice with an amazingly wide range. Did people you cared about ever tell you that you couldn’t make it in music? How did you overcome the naysayers?
Irenka: Yes. That is a big dark part of my childhood. Here’s a short version: My older brother was very jealous and abusive towards me. Despite that, as my first experience of unrequited love, I would look up to my brother and have high admiration for his opinion. I loved singing and dancing above anything else. But he couldn’t stand my voice. It was the most annoying sound to him. He would hit me to stop me from singing and mock me constantly.
At the age of 15, most of my self-esteem and joy was gone and I wanted to disappear from the planet. I kept singing quietly to myself but at some point I realized my dreams had been stolen from me, and I thought everything was over. I was barely singing anymore. I was very upset that my parents let that happen to me under their roof and never acknowledged it.
As a result I had to make a drastic decision to turn my life around and start living again. I cut my whole family out for several years. It has taken me over 10 years to slowly rebuild myself and is still something I carry around and work on every day.
People will only see you where you are when they meet you, and compare you to what they know, but inside, you know how long of a journey you have traveled. So make sure to take their opinions with a grain of salt and be kind to yourself. Feedback is good but I stay as far away as possible from anyone whose motives are negative and destructive towards me and my art. And I make it a point to always be supportive of others and encourage/empower them to follow their dreams.
Why did you decide to come to America?
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