Raw lyrics, emotions and stories: Irina Imme on her journey so far, and future plans.
Psychology student turned artist; Irina Imme has set her sights on becoming a rising star on the UK music scene. Born in Bucharest, and raised in Brussels, Irina grew up with a range of influences from modern singer-songwriters like Taylor Swift, all of the way to the emo side of the spectrum with bands such as Twenty One Pilots and My Chemical Romance, which helped to shape her genre style and lyrical content.
Irina has over 250 songs written to date and with her songwriting being compared to those like Swift, Tyler Joseph and Marina Diamandis, it’s only fair to say that Imme is well on her way to making a name for herself.
Her latest EP release “U & Me” came out back in 2020, at the height of the pandemic attracting listeners from 70 different countries. Those same listeners can now look forward be to her debut album, aimed for release in 2023.
A lot of Imme’s lyrical content covers topics related to mental health, bullying and heartache, subjects that many listeners will be all too familiar with.
These are topics quite close to home for Imme, revealing to us how she’s struggled with bullying, loneliness, and anxiety on and off throughout her life, and how her songs initially started out as diary entries to help her work through processing these difficult life scenarios.
Her raw lyrics have left a positive effect on fans who have confided in Imme about how her songs would help them through hard times due to feeling like someone finally understood exactly what they were going through. A lovely moment for Irina as she aims to try and help people as best she can.
As for what the future holds, Imme aims for three things; to release her debut album, to tour the UK, or even the world, and to perform her music in front of others. Other aspirations include being able to collaborate with Twenty One Pilots, one of the main artists who influenced her.
We caught up with Irina Imme to talk about her music career so far along with her inspirations and aspirations for the future. Let’s get into it!
Thanks for taking the time to speak with IAMUR Irina. Do you want to start off with a bit of an introduction and tell us about what got you interested in writing and performing music?
I became interested in writing and performing music when I was 13 years old. I got my first keyboards when I was around that age and I taught myself how to play. As I was learning to play the keyboards, I also started writing songs. I didn’t think much of it at the time, I was mainly writing songs in order to process hard life situations. It was kind of like writing musical diary entries! As a teenager I also became a huge music fan and would go to concerts almost every weekend. I was particularly really into Taylor Swift and Twenty One Pilots growing up, and I think listening to those artists really shaped the sound of my own music. I was a huge emo kid (and still am!) and listened to a lot of bands like My Chemical Romance and Panic! at the Disco. I also enjoy listening to bands like Queen and The Beatles. A lot of my music, particularly some of my unreleased material, was shaped by that as well. Later on I started teaching myself to sing and play the guitar and the ukulele and invested in a piano.
I understand that you play a number of instruments – can you tell us a bit about that, and which of the instruments you play give you the most satisfaction?
I play 3 instruments: piano, guitar and ukulele. I am self-taught in all those instruments and I mainly learned to play by watching others play online, so I’m not very familiar with sheet music! Interestingly enough I would say I am probably most comfortable playing the guitar. However when it comes to writing songs, I usually feel more comfortable writing piano-based songs, probably because that’s how I initially started writing music. I enjoy playing all 3 of these instruments and each of them allows me to explore a different set of sounds and genres.
In addition to being a multi-instrumentalist, you also span a number of genres, not limiting yourself to a particular style. Of all the various types of music you’ve written and performed, which would you say feels most like ‘home’ to you/ where are you most comfortable?
I would say a lot of the stuff I’ve written falls under the alternative rock category and I am most comfortable writing in that genre. My two EPs “This Little Girl” and “U & Me” mainly contain songs in the alternative pop genre and I am quite comfortable writing and performing in that genre too. When writing and producing some of the songs on “U & Me”, I explored the electropop genre, a decision that was influenced by my love for the album “Vessel” by Twenty One PIlots which is one of my favourite albums ever. I would say the music that I write is influenced greatly by the music I listen to. I definitely make sure to add my own touch to it as well and I just love experimenting with different genres, often in the same song as well. For instance, when I was writing my song “A Sky of Gray” from my debut EP, I was writing it as an alternative rock song that I could also see as being part of a musical soundtrack!
At last count, am I right in saying you’ve written over 250 songs? That’s quite an achievement, and I’m keen to know where that drive to create comes from, and also hear a bit about your song writing process. Can you talk a little about that?
Yeah I have! Thank you! Quite simply put: I consider myself to be quite a sensitive person and I haven’t exactly had the most stress-free life so far. I mainly write about my own life, my emotions and the ups and downs (mainly the downs) that come with being me. I also romanticise absolutely everything that happens in my life. There are songs that I’ve written, particularly songs that will feature on my upcoming albums, that were originally inspired by certain people I know or real life events that I have been through but then went through the process of being transformed into something totally different. For example, there is a song I wrote at the start of 2021 called “Hannah” which was initially inspired by someone I knew in real life but the lyrics in the songs mostly describe a version of that person that I had a dream about at the end of 2020 rather than the person themselves. Kind of like a fictional character. I was really pleased with myself when I wrote that song because I feel like it explores this idea of falling in love with romanticised versions of people that we create in our head rather than the people themselves. I also write a lot of music about mental health struggles, bullying and loneliness as these are all themes that have been present in my life growing up. I often come up with ideas for songs at the most inconvenient times, like when I’m at a social gathering or in a classroom! I either come up with a melody or some lyrics on the spot and when that happens, I excuse myself to go to the bathroom but what I actually do is open the Voice Memos app or the Notes app on my phone to record and write whatever melody and/or lyrics just popped into my head. Then when I have some time to myself, I grab an instrument and a pen and I transform it into an actual song. My best songs usually come to me at the most unexpected times.
Your approach to song writing has been likened to that of Tyler Joseph, Marina Diamandis and early Taylor Swift. What are your thoughts on those observations, and aside from those mentioned, which other artists do you draw influence from?
It’s such an honour for me to be compared to those artists, as those are people that I’ve looked up to a lot and learned a lot from. I would say that apart from those 3, I also draw influence from several other artists such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Gerard Way and Halsey. If we are talking about the more recent stuff I’ve been working on, I’ve also been drawing influence from Radiohead and Mars Argo. I’m excited to share all the new music with my audience.
Outside of the musical influences, I’m interested in what other things influence your music. I know that some of your songs explore themes such as mental health and bullying, which can be a difficult topic to sing about. Can you talk us through what informed these choices in your song writing?
Growing up I was a fairly lonely kid. I never had many friends and i found it quite hard to relate to my peers. I got bullied on and off throughout my entire life and this constant feeling of loneliness and being misunderstood led me to also have struggles with my mental health, particularly anxiety and depression. These themes of social isolation and mental health were present in a large part of my life so they ended up featuring in a lot of my songs. I always say that if there is even one person out there that comes across one of my songs and feels less misunderstood, then I have achieved my goal as a musician and even as a human being.
Have you met anyone who has listened to your music and shared their own stories relating to these kinds of topics?
Yes I actually have. I know someone who listened to my songs “A Sky of Gray” and “Yellow Sandcastle” when they were going through a hard time mentally and they told me that it really made them feel like someone understood what they were going through. Hearing this kind of stuff really makes my day because at the end of the day I just want to help people and make this world a better place as cheesy as that sounds! I have another friend who was going through a break-up recently and she, along with some of her other friends that were feeling heartbroken, listened to my EP “U & Me” in order to help her process what she was feeling at the time and move on. I even got told that one of my fans from Asia went to the beach and wrote the lyrics of my song “Yellow Sandcastle” in the sand! I found that so cool!
I’ve read that you studied psychology at university, and that you also teach music. How do you prioritise your time between these things and, is psychology still a big chunk of your life?
I have studied psychology up until this year. As someone who has struggled with her mental health, it was very useful and enlightening for me to look into this topic more in-depth. Now that I have finished my psychology studies, the next step for me is to start studying music. It was hard convincing my family (and still is) that music is not just a hobby for me which is why I didn’t study music earlier.
I do not actually teach music right now, I may have said that I would like to though! I wouldn’t mind teaching music later on in my life, but I have not done so as of right now as I said. I have given people some tips on songwriting here and there and I taught a few of my friends the basics of playing guitar if that counts! But it’s not been a serious thing.
Thinking to the future, where absolutely anything is possible… What would you put on your bucket list for what comes next?
Musically or just in general? When it comes to music, I definitely want to release an album in the near future, I have more than enough material for it but I am just waiting to get the right production for it. I also really want to tour the UK or even the world and play my music to people. I am a lot more comfortable with playing live music than I used to be so this is definitely something I aim to do a lot more. Generally speaking, I want to travel more as this is something I enjoy doing. I suppose if I tour the world with my music though I would be killing two birds with one stone!
If you could collaborate with anyone on a musical project, or live show, who would it be, and why?
I would love to collaborate with Tyler Joseph or Josh Dun. I think that is a big goal for me because they just inspired me so much growing up, it would be such a cool experience. I also see myself collaborating with NF. He’s such a good rapper and I have written a couple of songs that I feel like could do with a rap verse or two. In terms of production, I would love to collaborate with Jack Antonoff on a couple of songs. I’ve just fallen in love with every project that he’s worked on.
You’re currently working on your debut album having released a number of singles and the “This Little Girl” EP. When can listeners expect to catch your latest release on music streaming services, and what might they expect to hear?
I have release two EPs to date: “This Little Girl” and “U & Me”. I aim to release my debut album sometime in 2023, if all goes to plan. It is a project that I’m really happy with and I really hope that my listeners will enjoy it as well. It’s going to be an alternative rock album, and it will sound a bit different from anything else that I have released so far, which is why I am both excited and a little nervous to release it to the public! The songs on this album still explore familiar themes such as mental illness and heartbreak, but in a much darker way. Some of the songs on this album are also influenced by my dreams, and the title of the album itself came to me in a dream!
Once again, thank you so much for talking with IAMUR Irina… one final question. What would your advice be to anyone who wants to pick up an instrument but is unsure what to do next?
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me! I would honestly just tell them to go for it. My advice would be to just pick out whichever instrument feels most right and start finding online tutorials and things like that. The internet is an incredibly useful tool when it comes to learning something new such as playing an instrument. And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun with it!