If you want the perfect soundtrack to your summer sunsets, look no further than Lions Head. The easy-going, road trip pop of New Yorker singer-songwriter Ignacio (Iggy) Uriarte is uplifting and spontaneous like his interpreter. His first single ‘Begging’, released in 2015, was a success: two million Spotify streams, Top 60 in the German charts and over one million video plays. It was followed by a tour with Joris and Milky Chance and numerous festival and club appearances.
With over two million streams just in the past five weeks, Lions Head’s second single ‘When I wake up’ is on the fast track to becoming a worldwide hit. The artist, which also plays guitar, bass, piano and drums, creates smooth, suggestive atmospheres in his forthcoming album ‘LNZHD’, scheduled for release in September 2016. We talked to Iggy about his music, singing at the Met Opera, as well as his upcoming tours in June and the autumn.
Interview by Livia Formisani
What is the origin of the name ‘Lions Head’?
Iggy: Usually people have a good story for that; I don’t. My name is difficult to remember, and there was a lion around – a lot of lying around – when we were recording the first songs. Somebody I know was at Lion’s Head [a mountain, AN] in South Africa, and somehow it all came together on the spur of the moment.
How did it start?
It just kind of happened. I started following some ideas in composing and this is how ‘Begging’ and a few more songs on the album came to be. They gave me a picture of what I wanted to do, singer-songwriter music you can still chill and dance to. Usually, singer-songwriter music has pretty traditional drums, which immediately give you the campfire vibe, but I wanted the discotheque at the campfire. I love how the analog synth sounds, so we combined it into a loop beat you can dance to.
You lived in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain… How did that affect your production?
The most important thing about being an artist is to make yourself uncomfortable on a daily basis. It gets you further. Being in a different country made me do that more because I had no other choice.
As a 7-year old you were already a member of the Met Opera Children’s Chorus. Was there a moment when you realized that singing is what you have to do?
[It was] since then, absolutely. I had a great chorus director at the Met, Elena Doria, an amazing person who totally changed my outlook on music and discipline. One day she said: ‘None of you are ever going to amount to anything in the opera’ and I remember I thought ‘I don’t care what you say, I am going to make it!’. Then she added: ‘And if you weren’t thinking the whole time what a nasty old lady I am, and that I am wrong, you’re even further away than you thought.’ That taught me that part of it is not giving up.
Then I grew up and started writing pop music. I still love classical music, but I just gravitated towards writing pop music. I loved songs by the Beatles, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Serge Gainsbourg, Bob Dylan. Songs telling a story, a moment, a feeling. I was in garage bands, as front man and playing guitar and bass.
What are some of your musical influences at the moment?
Lately, I have been listening to Chopin, Meghan Trainor, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Phoebe Ryan, Moderat.
In your upcoming album ‘LNZHD’ you talk in an authentic, real way about what have been defined ‘snapshots of life’.
The album is just a collection of my experiences and how I see things sometimes. It is about feelings and the stories behind those feelings. My life has been a bit of an adventure, a journey, an experience… There is not one word to sum it up, that’s why I wrote a whole album about it.
Atmospheres in your album are chill and smooth, uplifting, like a road trip. How do you do it?
I am relaxed when I am writing or performing. I think it comes from singing. It’s something I have been doing my whole life so I relax when I am doing it.
How do you generally find inspiration?
In other art. I get inspiration from other people and filter it through myself, losing my ego in other people’s art. Immersing myself in a book or a movie, a symphony, a documentary… And then digest it, make it come out of your own subconscious.
Where and how would we find you composing?
Everywhere. It happens all the time, it never stops. It could be on the road or in a hotel room, there wouldn’t be a specific time. The last girlfriend I had would say my name for minutes on end and I didn’t hear her, or I would hear her only the last time, because I was writing a song in my head.
What advice would you give to a would-be artist?
If you have this thing inside that says you can’t do anything else, and you wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if you were doing something else, then just go for it and don’t give up. It will lead to something.
This week, Lions Head will start their SEE YOU TOUR in Germany.
Can’t wait? Check out Lions Head on Soundcloud.