Continuing this week is a series of documentaries
exploring the musical influences of four of the
most successful artists in contemporary English
folk music. The programmes are part of Five
Culture, an initiative between Five and Arts
Council England, which is devised to encourage
people to participate in the arts. Using exclusive
footage and interviews, this week’s film focuses
on Athena – a young singer-songwriter currently
making waves in the music industry.
Athena Andreadis was born and now lives in
London, but she grew up in the bustling Greek city
of Thessaloníki. She made the decision to
become a singer at the age of six and spent much
of her youth singing at home. “I had to do it,” she
explains. “Nothing else made sense.” Though she
writes most of her songs in London, Athena
returns regularly to Greece to draw inspiration
from the country’s unique sights, sounds and smells. “This place gives me a lot,” she says.
Athena’s distinct, haunting voice and intimate personal songs have won her a loyal following.
She released her first album, ‘Breathe with Me’, at the beginning of last year, and has just two short tours of the UK under her belt. In September 2007, she performed at the St Ives end-ofsummer
festival in Cornwall with a band made up of musicians she met while studying in London.
As the cameras join Athena and her band backstage at the festival, the musicians poke fun at their folk credentials by making a mess of their dressing room, before immediately tidying it up.
For Athena, writing songs is a deeply personal process that can only happen once she has emptied her mind of conscious thought. “It’s very much a meditative thing,” she explains. “Don’t think – just feel.” Once in her creative muse, she draws inspiration from all around her, including the most mundane of sources. Sitting at the piano, she describes how the opening lyrics of ‘Green Eyes’, a song from her album, were inspired by a cup of coffee that had gone cold while she was trying to write. This simple, personal touch is key to Athena’s music. “Essentially, it’s about capturing truth and capturing intimacy,” she says.
“It’s about capturing magic.”
In striving to express her inner thoughts and emotions, Athena plans every last detail of each song – leaving nothing to chance. Certain piano chords are chosen to represent intimacy; a simple, speech-like voice is selected to evoke a tone of storytelling; while a more breathy voice might symbolise the expression of raw emotions.
In terms of her accompaniment, only acoustic instruments will do. “I love acoustic instruments,” she explains. “I love how they resonate.”
Despite having only been in the business for a short period of time, Athena has caught the attention of critics and fellow musicians alike.
“The first time I met Athena,” says Chris Difford of Squeeze, “it struck me instantly that she was hugely talented.” Chris and Athena now meet regularly at a converted monastery in Italy, where Chris runs a workshop for songwriters. During these sessions, Athena drives her fellow musicians, always putting in a complete performance despite the lack of an audience.
Athena has made the brave decision to keep control of her own career thus far, despite a great deal of interest from major record labels. A degree of independence is an essential part of maintaining her own direction, and allows her to travel freely around the country, meeting and performing with a number of different musicians – many of whom help her craft her unique style. “It’s all about meeting the right people,” she says.
Chris Difford is convinced that Athena is managing fine without the backing of a big label.
“I don’t think she needs to be packaged by anybody other than herself,” he explains. “She is simply and beautifully her.” But Athena is constantly evolving and seems ever-eager to develop as a songwriter. “The moment I stop challenging myself and learning and trying to do better,” she says, “something in me will die.”

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