June: An Interview With Polish Artist YANA

Scene from “June” Official Music Video

Artist YANA recently presented the third and final single from her debut album “Solace,” which will be released on April 1st, 2022. It is titled “June.”

“June” is a delicate solo piano piece. It explores the concept of being fully present in one’s life — and the importance of letting go and surrendering so this can happen.

This single celebrates vulnerability and encourages listeners to find a sense of inner peace even though they still struggle with fears, failures, and sorrows. It features subtle and slightly muffled piano music that creates an intimate feeling and encourages the listeners to look deep inside themselves.

YANA explains that she wrote “June” in the summer of 2020. At the time, she was feeling a lot of “tenderness” while “daydreaming” and “longing for something undefined.”

The music video that accompanies YANA’s single was created with the help of director Magdalena Zielińska and cinematographer Mateusz Kanownik. It was filmed on Fuerteventura island, which is one of the Canary Islands in Spain.

June poster

YANA is a violinist and composer who hails from Gdańsk, Poland. She graduated from the Academy of Music in the violin class, but she is known for creating beautiful music that combines a variety of classical instruments, including string instruments and the piano, with more modern electronic sounds.

Throughout her career, YANA has worked with many famous musicians, including the singer Oly and the producer MaJLo. She also partnered with producer Tjomur to cover the song “We Contain Multitudes” by Ólafur Arnalds and authored the soundtrack of the short film “Nice To Meet You,” which was directed by Marianna Korman and premiered at the Tofifest film festival in Toruń in June 2021.

Those who want to listen to “June” can find a link to the song here. They can also watch the music video below via YouTube. To keep up with YANA and her latest works, fans can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Interview With the Artist

Artist YANA – Photo: Justyna Szyszka

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

I started my musical education when I was eight years old. My main instrument was the violin, but I have always loved to play the piano. I had a piano in my family home, and my dad used to teach me how to play. During my studies at the Music Academy in Gdańsk, Poland, I started to compose some little songs for the piano. I have always felt this inner imperative to create something, to learn more than just difficult classical compositions for the violin. I listen to a lot of music from different genres, and merging them with a classical craft seemed to be a nice idea. I felt like I needed to create my own world where I could speak through music. That’s pretty much how I became YANA.

Who are your favorite music composers? How do you bring their approach into your playing?

It is no secret for people who know me that I like Ólafur Arnalds’ music very much. His works inspired me at the beginning of my path as a composer to mix my classical world of instruments like strings and piano with a hint of delicate electronics. I like his approach to arrangement and sound, which is crucial when it comes to this kind of music. But there are lots more. I don’t categorize my favorite composers into the genres they represent. I’ve been listening to Jonny Greenwood a lot lately. His approach to creating a movie soundtrack for “The Power Of The Dog” is amazing. But the next day, I switch to Ravel or Debussy and dive into their world with equal intensity. I tend to listen to music and analyze it, whether it is a hip-hop song, some techno, or a neo-classical composition. I listen very carefully and try to figure out how it was recorded or what part of the beat makes it have such a drive. Sometimes a seemingly insignificant element can become an inspiration and push your technique as a composer much further.

How much practice do you need daily to maintain your technique?

I feel that in my life, I have practiced quite a lot as a violinist… after all, it was 17 years of education. Now I play the piano much more than the violin, trying to play every day. It is very important to feel comfortable with the instrument to be able to create a very specific kind of sound. I started my project as YANA four years ago, but only recently can I say that I fully know my piano. So it is rather about the constant process of seeking the perfect sound than focusing on the literal sense of the “technique” word.

Can you tell us about the challenge and thrill of playing solo?

As YANA, I play on the stage together with the string quartet, so it is not a typical solo performance. But on the other hand, it is for me in a way, as I am the leader first time in my life. I also play the synth and control the electronics, so it is completely different from playing violin among other musicians in the orchestra, which I had been doing for many years. It is a great challenge and responsibility, and the feeling of freedom when doing something that is entirely yours… I am very excited about this year’s concerts promoting my debut album and that we can finally bring this music to the live audience.

“June” is the third and last single before your debut album release on April 1st. Please tell us how it compares to your previous recordings, both personally and musically.

“June” is a part of something bigger – the album – and this is the first difference. It is one of the most personal and intimate songs from “Solace.” I think my approach to the sound evolved when compared to the previously released songs; I tried different recording techniques to find the one I liked. It is always about saying something that is beyond words, and music helps to express it just perfectly. I think my music is a natural reaction to my current feelings and the place I am in my life. It is important to point out that I am in a different place when creating music than when releasing it. This is quite a long process between those two points.

How did you choose the single title, and was there a message that you were trying to get across?

I wrote “June” one summer evening. June is the only month with such short nights in Poland. It is very warm, full of singing birds and the smell of grass. I always enjoy it a lot, but I’m also aware of the fleeting nature of this moment. It is not easy to describe the sense of lacking something that simply cannot be named. The feeling is both tender and painful, yet so strong that it might be overwhelming. I guess “June” describes something that is beyond words and embraces that feeling so well.

How do you think the cast, shooting location, and general visuals contributed to the song’s aesthetic and mood?

When I first described the pictures and feelings hidden by the song to the director Magdalena Zielińska, she came back to me with an idea for the video that seemed to illustrate “June” just perfectly. She wanted the music video to focus on the impressions rather than the plot, and that was exactly how I felt about the song. The main protagonist, played by the actress Joanna Niemirska, faces the unnamed longing I have already mentioned, but finally finds relief in the present moment. The video was shot on Fuerteventura, and I think the beautiful light and colors together with the rawness of the island created a unique atmosphere for this delicate, almost improvised piano song. Also, shout out to the cinematographer Mateusz Kanownik for doing such an amazing job.

What are the challenges facing young classical artists today?

I think that both classical and non-classical artists are facing the same problem, which is being pushed to work without any breaks. What I mean is that the world has become very “fast,” and there is always this kind of hunger for something new. If you are a beginner, you need to do something all the time, I guess: release new songs, albums, play concerts, be active all the time in case of not being forgotten. It is also much easier to make music at home and get it on streaming services, so there are plenty of musicians and artists. You must work hard to get heard. If you are a freelancer, you need to not only make music but also create a visual layer of your releases, take care of your social media, be your manager, booker, etc. Even if you have people taking care of these things, you still need to create a multi-dimensional vision of whom you want to be and how you want to share your art with the world. Music is no longer enough.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences?

Classical music is elite in a way, and it is pretty obvious. It requires a special kind of attention, awareness, mindfulness. It demands concentration which seems to be rare nowadays, especially when it comes to the younger generation. They especially need to feel encouraged to go to the philharmonic or the opera. I think that these institutions might often be perceived as a bit out-of-date because of the audience’s dress code or something like that. Maybe these spaces are kind of scary for some people, but they shouldn’t be. I think that it is good to go beyond the walls of these buildings with classical music and tame it with some less typical spaces. Same the other way – it is good to invite different artists from the various genres into the walls of philharmonic to grow the audience. If they familiarize themselves with the place, they might be back later and listen to some Beethoven or Mahler with joy.

What’s next for you? How do you see your career evolving over the next five or ten years?

I’m already working on my next album, which will be very stylistically oriented this time. I want it to be more cinematic for sure. I already have many ideas for both the music and the visuals. I would also love to write some movie soundtracks in the future. It is something that attracts me a lot. But well, time will show how it all works out.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Does it even exist? Well, when I think of happiness, especially nowadays, I think of peace – world peace, inner peace. I think of the health and happiness of loved ones. I think of the time for work but also the time spent with nature, walking among the trees in silence. I think of people living in harmony with themselves and every form of living that exists next to them.

What is your present state of mind?

Currently, I’m worried, like probably most of us. My heart is full of fear, and I feel deeply sorry for the Ukrainians facing the horror of the war. This is happening next to my country, and Polish people are helping a lot, as the Ukrainians are fleeing their homes and coming here. We are very united in this situation, which makes me proud. I also wonder why, in the history of the world, this must still happen. The lunacy, insensibility, the war. Why does someone have to suffer all the time?

In your opinion, what is the role of an artist in society during conflict and war?

I think the role of artists in such moments is critical, especially of those very significant, with a considerable number of followers and a great audience. But for every artist, it is important to spread the right news and sources and encourage others to help. If you have this kind of “power,” it is a good moment to use it, to spread the word. I think this is the power of bringing people together and making each of them significant in an important matter that affects us all.