23rd June 2022
Interview: Amy Bell
A long and winding road led Ariana Savalas from attending a Catholic convent school, to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art studying Shakespeare in London, to burlesque stardom and gaining international fame as a renowned songwriter, cabaret queen, and one of the founding members of vintage phenomenon, Postmodern Jukebox.
Her collaborations with Postmodern Jukebox, timeless in a way that parallels her own original music, have garnered hundreds of millions of views online and repeatedly reached #1 on the iTunes charts. She’s travelled the world on tour, from Vienna to Singapore, performing for the masses in legendary venues such as Radio City Music Hall, The Greek Theatre, and the O2 in London. A singer, songwriter, dancer, and multi-instrumentalist, the PMJ princess has solidified herself as the musical burlesque queen and the mistress of the modern Moulin Rouge.
Hi Ariana, thanks for talking to ReVamp, growing up, who inspired you on your musical journey?
I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic, and my mom brought me up listening to all of the alt-pop legends, Peter Gabriel, Annie Lennox, George Michael, David Bowie. They were such brilliant artists and songwriters, but what really drew me to them were their vibrant, over the top visuals, the avant garde and wild ways they told their stories! I came to love burlesque and cabaret for the same reason.
But I must say that growing up, Robbie Williams was hands down my biggest inspiration. A family friend from Germany introduced me to his music when I was a teenager, and gave me a bunch of his records. I, in turn, memorized every lyric, every guitar riff, every drum line to his classic albums, Escapology, Life Thru a Lens, Sing When You’re Winning. While all of my friends in America were rocking out to Britney Spears, I was harassing the American radio stations to play Angels and Feel. His lyrics are what made me want to become a songwriter.
You have a new single ‘What Do You Wanna Know’ released on the 17th of June, how is this different from any of the other singles you have released?
What Do You Wanna Know was produced by my dear friend Steve Power. Up until this point, I produced almost all of the music I’ve written and recorded. But with this song, I heard Steve’s production in my head immediately after writing it, and I knew he was the only one I could trust to give it the production it deserved. I basically told him not to listen to me, and that I trust his instincts with my song more than I trust my own! Best decision I ever made, he did such a brilliant job.
What do listeners want them to feel when listening to this?
I can only hope that, with a song like this, listeners won’t feel as alone in wondering what the fuck they’re doing with their lives, at any age. I also hope that knowing someone else has been in the exact same lost place they have, even if they don’t know me, is in some way healing for them. And…of course...if it isn’t too much to ask, I want them to memorize every line and belt it at the top of their lungs out the windows of their car.
When you are writing and recording, what is your process?
It always starts with lyrics for me. I love writing melodies, but they never come as naturally to me as poetry does. Most of the time, a song will start out as a poem. If I don’t immediately hate the poem and spiral into a pit of self loathing after writing it, I’ll head over to my piano and see if some magic is possible. All of my favourite songs I’ve ever written were composed in less than 20 minutes. If I’m spending three hours on it, it’s probably crap.
‘What Do You Wanna Know is a very catchy title, what made you want to write this single?
I was going through a particularly tragic time in my personal life when I wrote this song. Very scary and painful. The lyrics “What Do You Wanna Know” came from an actual conversation that I had with my boyfriend, who was trying to console me. He asked me to tell him what I was thinking, and I said “What do you wanna know, how I’m 34 and can’t get my shit together?”. Those words ended up becoming the exact lyrics of the song.
What is next for you?
I’m going back on tour in July, and my album is being released this year, huzzah!