Bedouine (real name Azniv Korkejian) has that warm honey tone folk artists only dream of. She fosters an instant familiarity with her music; like you've been listening to her songs your whole life - but wouldn't mind if that just kept on going.
Born in Aleppo and raised in Saudi Arabia before immigrating to the US, Anziv and her parents first settled in Boston before moving to Houston, and eventually making her own way up to Los Angeles. This nomadic lifestyle has not only influenced her moniker (she is named for the Bedouin people of Middle Eastern and African deserts), but also her lyrics, the shining feature of her acclaimed self-titled debut album, released last year.
We caught up with Azniv in the lead up to her performance at world music festival WOMADelaide.
BNKR: Hi Azniv, how's your day going?
Bedouine: We’re at the theatre in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and things are starting to get busy…I’m just trying to find a quiet corner.
You’ve just made your US television debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers – how was that?
It was really really exciting! I’ve had a long time to think about it – I was pretty nervous, so in a way it was relieving for it to be over. I feel pretty good about it – you know, I’ve rewatched it a couple times now and I can tell I’m a little shakey, so looking forward to doing more and not being as nervous, you know? But I feel good about it, considering.
I just wanted to have a quick chat about the start of your career – did you have a ‘lightbulb moment’ when you knew that music was it for you?
It’s kind of slowly kicking in, to be honest. I’m feeling better and better about it now, but I’ve always thought it was way too unrealistic of something to really strive for. It was so gradual, the whole process of releasing the record, so there wasn’t any one moment where I thought, ‘Oh, this is what I’ll do for the rest of my life’ – I think I’m still kind of … settling in. Because you know, you just never know what’s sustainable. But I feel pretty good about it right now.
What’s your earliest memory of music?
Well, my mom had me playing the piano when I was five, so in one way or another it’s a big part of my memory. But it wasn’t till I was older that I picked up a guitar and started writing.
I’m sure you get it in every interview, but you’ve lived in a lot of different places during your life. Has being involved in these different musical scenes – these different sounds – have these influenced your own sound?
I don’t think that the places have necessarily influenced the sound, I think just the experience of moving around, and feeling maybe like a detachment to any one place. I think that found its way into the music more than the influence of any one place.
Was it quite a lonely experience for you as a child?
No, I don’t think so – it was really exciting. I think leaving Saudi at a young age instilled in me a desire to keep moving, because that was the only place I felt really attached to, and since we couldn’t go back, I didn’t really feel like I needed to stay in any one place. I wouldn’t say it was lonely – I think I just had a short attention span. [laughs]
I think that something that really stands out to me about your music – and that is obviously a really important part – is the lyrics. They’re really beautiful, and obviously quite personal.
You’re welcome. Do you feel vulnerable when you’re on stage performing – I guess revealing yourself to, basically, complete strangers?
That’s a good question. Sometimes I think it depends on the bill – for instance right now I’m opening up for José González and it feels like a really good match, so I feel like the people who are here to see him, they kind of know what they’re getting themselves into, like a pretty intimate performance – especially this tour because he’s solo, as well as me. So I don’t feel very self-conscious in a situation that makes sense, you know? The more that you feel like the audience knows what they’re getting themselves into, the more confident I feel performing these songs.
But … sometimes when you play a louder audience, when you’re opening for a louder band, you wonder … I might feel a little silly - not because of the songs, but because the audience might not really be prepared to really settle in for such quiet music.
You’ve mentioned that you specifically had Spacebomb Records in mind when you were creating this album – could you tell me a little bit more about why you wanted them to be involved?
So Gus [Seyffert, producer] and I were working on the record for a few years before Spacebomb was involved, so I wasn’t really thinking in terms of labels really until I met Matthew [E. White, founder of Spacebomb]. When I met Matthew and shared my music with him, he became such a supporter that the idea of being with a label that was just a huge supporter and loved the music was really exciting. And then as we were wrapping up the production, we knew that they would be doing the string arrangements, so we didn’t want to close up any songs and not allow them to do anything … it was a good fit.
I think you can really hear how well you guys connected – it’s pretty evident on the album.
What other artists are you listening to at the moment, and why do you connect with them?
A more current artist that I've been listsening to is named Jessica Pratt. Her music is really beautiful – I think her songwriting is really special. But I don’t listen to too much music to be honest, I listen to a lot of talk radio at home. But as I’m touring more I do want to get to know all the bands that I'm touring with. But for now, Jessica Pratt is one of the artists that really blows me away with her songwriting.
What draws you to talk radio?
I think it’s something … yeah I don’t know. It’s just something that I’ve got into the habit of turning on – I have like an old little radio at home, and when I come in the door I turn it on. It’s my way of keeping in touch with what’s going on in the world, and how I like to receive my news, and I just love NPR too. I love having it in the background.
I wanted to talk to you about WOMADelaide too – we were really excited to see you on the lineup this year, so congratulations! Have you been to Australia before?
I haven’t! This is my first time and I'm so excited.
Are you going to be doing any other travelling around, apart from Adelaide?
Yeah, I think Sydney and Melbourne.
Okay great! That’s really exciting.
Yeah I’m so excited, I hear such good things about it. I feel like everybody's there right now, or about to be there. I guess this is the season to escape the winter and go places. [laughs]
Finally – I just wanted to ask what else you had in store for 2018?
Well, besides all the touring – really thinking on the next record, I have a lot of it mapped out so it’s just a matter of finding some time and figuring out how I want to approach it, recording wise. So I think that’ll be a big focus.
Feature image via The Guardian.
Words: Lucy Ahern