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Meet our BOTW: Ariana and the Rose

New York’s Ariana DiLorenzo is a women of many, many talents. From acting onstage in experimental theatre troupes and onscreen with a cameo in The Sopranos to popping up in Paul McCartney videos and partying with Lady Gaga, and all the while making amazing pop records with Ariana and the Rose, to say her life has been colourful would be a drastic understatement. DiLorenzo was a precocious talent from a very young age, first finding her creative voice as an actress and dancer before naturally transitioning to making pop music.

Which is where we find her today; having had a hugely successful few months that have seen the bright-eyed New Yorker’s music ringing out down the catwalks of Paris Fashion Week, DiLorenzo is now making the final preparations on a debut EP, Head Vs Heart, rich in moments of heart-in-hand honesty and towering, infectious choruses. There’s no better precedent for this than lead single ‘Heartbeat‘, which you can stream below.

In a quiet corner of North London, we met the softly-spoken 24-year-old to find out about her work on stage and screen (including some very awkward theatrical fake orgasms), the dark core of Head Vs Heart, and how she was worried that Meryl Streep might pinch her place in McCartney’s ‘Queenie Eye‘ video. 

PlanetNotion: What sorts of records did your family play around the house when you were growing up?
Ariana DiLorenzo: My dad was very much a 50s guy, so I grew up with lots of doo-wop music around. He had this one CD that he’d play in the car over and over again, with songs like ‘Lollipop’, ’16 Candles’, ‘Wake Up Little Susie’ and all those classics. That sort of stuff doesn’t necessarily influence my music at the moment, but I grew up with really catchy music all around my house.

PN: While you were growing up and hearing all this music, was there any particular moment of epiphany in which you realised you wanted to be a musician?
AD: Well, I started in theatre as an actress, so I danced from a very young age. I have that whole ‘I was three when I started dancing’ thing, and I segued into musical theatre very naturally and started singing. It wasn’t until I was 13 or 14 that I was ever in a recording studio; I did jingles and things like that. Through doing a lot of that stuff, I ended up meeting lots of different producers and writers: that was how I got into it. I always did music on the side. It was a great release.

I went to NYU for college and to performing arts school. When I was about 20, I was in with a really cool group of writers and I was doing top-lines and writing on dance tracks. That was the first time that I thought I like doing this more than anything else. One of the tracks I wrote went on a record that was going to get distribution through a label; things were starting to happen. It was all really natural. I was never dreaming of being a pop star at 10 years old or anything, although who doesn’t dream of doing that.

PN: Going back to the acting slightly, what’s the strangest role we might have seen you in?
AD: I played girls coming of age a lot, so my poor parents had to see me doing far too many awkward sexual experiences on stage. I did TV and film too; that was always far more normal though. I think the weirder things I did were more theatre-based, the less well-known things. I love to do stuff like that; I was part of an experimental theatre company in college. I got weird and loved it.

I did a production of The House of Bernarda Alba, which is a Spanish show but it was translated, and one of my characters did things half in Spanish and half in English. My character was quite interpretative and she had an orgasm on stage… My poor parents; I was only 18. That was probably one of the weirder ones that they saw. It’s a really beautiful role and she actually ends up killing herself in the end.

PN: If you were given the chance to get back into acting again, what would be your dream role?
AD: I would really love to do some more theatre. I love film and TV too, but if we’re doing my dreams then I’d love to do Shakespeare; maybe Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

PN: Your debut EP, Head Vs Heart, is out in February next year. What can you tell us about it at this point in time?
AD: For me, it’s a real introduction of who I am as an artist and a writer sonically. I really wanted to create a sound that had darker synths and dance beats, without it necessarily being straight-up dance music, which I think the record has done. I also wanted to find a way to write more pop or singer-songwriter melodies with these dance beats happening. That’s how the record came about.

Thematically, it explores all the things not working out how you would have imagined, in whatever way that is – whether that be love or more of a general look into loneliness and depression, and dealing with that. Ultimately, the whole record is pretty optimistic.

PN: For someone who’s never heard your music before, what would you hope for them to take away from a first listen to the EP?
AD: I would love for them to feel as if they know this artist; that they listen to it and can say, “I get this person.” Whether they like it or not is obviously their own thing, but I think that’s all you can hope for as an artist: that someone understands where you’re coming from.

PN: Especially on a first release when it’s all about establishing identity.
AD: Exactly. To put a CD out and have people saying, “oh, I don’t really know who you are,” is, to me, an unsuccessful record; more than sales, more than digital downloads and all that.

PN: You’ve just appeared in Paul McCartney’s ‘Queenie Eye’ video. How did that all come about?
AD: A women that I work with is a talent manager for acting, and she was representing the director of the video. When she was doing that, she mentioned that she had an artist and asked if they’d put me in and gave them some info about me. They were so lovely and put me in it.

I couldn’t believe it. When she called me, I was at Paris Fashion Week and she asked if I could come back. At this point, I was thinking this whole week is just unreal. I kept thinking they were going to call and cancel, and say something like, “We’ve got it covered. Meryl Streep’s coming and you’re not.”

But they didn’t. I got to be in the video and meet Paul McCartney and go to Abbey Road, which was unbelievable. It was so surreal to be able to actually talk to Paul McCartney about music. I got to meet Tom Ford and be in a shot with him too.

PN: Did you grow up listening to The Beatles? Any particular favourite tracks or albums?
AD: Of course. The White Album is so good. I listened to that mostly in college. Growing up, my older brother played classic rock all the time and I think, as a stand against him, I’d listen to Robyn and pop music. We would battle it out, but when I got to college I totally gave in.

PN: Your music’s been played a lot on the catwalks over the last year. What do you feel makes it such a good fit for the fashion world?
AD: I think the attitude and this darker, laidback quality that I like to have. What I like about it is that I’m not a bored or apathetic person so the music still has a passion to it.

The fashion community has been so amazing to me. When I first started sending the record out and my team was working with fashion people, we didn’t know if it was going to be something they’d be interested in. I come from a fashion background; my family is in fashion, my parents make swimsuits and they work with designers. It’s been a natural fit for me as a person but to have them accept me and my music – and to be excited about it – was such a compliment.

PN: Finally, what musician – outside of yourself, of course – are you most excited about for 2014?
AD: I really like Haim. They’re going on tour and I’m going to have to see them. I’m really interested to see what they do next. I saw The Weeknd at Terminal 5 in New York and his live show is so great. I’d love to see him again. I also love artists like Miguel and J Cole; I don’t think they’ll be putting anything new out until the end of 2014 but again; I love them. Miguel’s voice is just unbelievable.

- Alex Cull

Ariana’s debut single ‘Heartbeat’ is available now, with the Head Vs Heart EP to follow in February 2014.

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