Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Music journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
Vassy is quite the musical mixture, but that makes sense for a woman of Greek descent who was born and raised in Australia and now lives in Los Angeles. Pretty much everything about her has a litany of influences. Her debut album, Beautiful Day, has a vibe that’s one part Colbie Caillat, one part M.I.A., and with musical placements in shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Human Target (RIP!), as well as a new Victoria’s Secret campaign, that vibe is being spread far and wide.
With Beautiful Day due out tomorrow I caught up with Vassy to find out more about her music, the complications of recording while being deaf in one ear, and where all the happiness that’s so evident in her album comes from.
Adam Bernard: You are of Greek descent, but were born and raised in Australia, and now live in LA. Are there any particular aspects of you that are decidedly Greek, decidedly Australian, or decidedly American? Vassy: Yes. I am very career oriented and ambitious. That would make me American. That go-getter mentality, that’s definitely not very Greek. The Greek in me is I love family and food, and I do love the sun and the ocean. The Australian in me is that I’m very outback. I like to be outdoors a lot, and I’m a bit more laid back about stuff.
Adam Bernard: Now that you live in America, how much of an advantage is there to having an awesome accent? Vassy: You think my accent’s awesome? That’s awesome! I don’t know if my accent’s awesome, but it pops up everywhere and it’s funny how people are like “you’re English?” No. “South African?” No. “Australian?” Yes! And people always have a story, but it’s endearing, it’s very cute.
Adam Bernard: Moving to your music, I read you lost your hearing in one ear. How has it affected you musically? Vassy: I don’t have full hearing in my left ear, unfortunately, which really sucks. It does affect my work when it comes to recording, especially when it comes to backing vocals, layering vocals, and things like that, but I’ve developed ways, techniques, around it, so I can still do my job and people don’t notice. There are certain things I can’t have on my voice when I record. No Auto-Tune, no delay, no reverb. I like it very dry. I tend to take one can off my ear. When I’m layering and backing and things like that I’m very specific in how I want things, so I’m a bit difficult, but once everything’s locked in then BANG, I do my job very quickly. It’s something you get used to. It’s funny, though, at night, if I want to block out noise I’ll sleep on my right side and put my left ear up, and when I want to hear everything I’ll sleep on my other side. I remember a long time ago, I had a boyfriend at the time, and you know that very special “I love you” moment? I was lying in bed next to him, sleeping on my right ear, so I had my bad ear up, and he whispered very romantically “I love you” into my left ear. Of course I didn’t hear it, and then I didn’t say anything and he was acting really weird for ages. I was like what is going on? I was like, oh my God, did I miss that moment? So if I’m ever in that situation again I’ll be like “if you ever want to say ‘I Love You’ please say it into my right ear.”
Adam Bernard; Or if you think that moment might be coming up you can’t be sleeping on that side, you have to sleep on your left side. Vassy: Exactly! But hey, you just adapt. I’ve been living like that for eight years.
Adam Bernard: So what happened eight years ago that took your hearing in that ear? Vassy: It happened when I was born. I was born with a weak ear. It was always a bit problematic, but over the years I’ve had operations and we put this one little tube in there and it’s meant to fall out after a little while, but it didn’t, and then what happened is the tissue grew around it. That’s why I did a video for “It Must Be Love” that incorporates sign language. I feel for deaf people because I partially am. I’ve had it my whole life. It’s a long story, but at least I can still write and at least I can still sing.
Adam Bernard: Speaking of writing and singing, how did you become the musical love-child of M.I.A. and Colbie Caillat? Vassy: Oh man, what a great review and compliment! I’m fans of both of those artists. I love Colbie Caillat, she’s a very natural artist. I’m a fan of the natural. I love M.I.A., as well, because she’s natural in her own way. They’re very beautiful women who are authentically who they are, there’s nothing novelty about them. In terms of styling, and too much over-styling, they really don’t really need to do that because their art speaks for them and they just have an aura about them, so to be put in that category is really nice. I have a lot of respect for those artists. They’re both songwriters and I am, too.
Adam Bernard: Your debut album is Beautiful Day. It is an incredibly happy album. Where does your happiness come from? Vassy: You know what, I am happy. I have that in me. I really do. But it’s also really frickin hard. There are a lot of non-happy days, just over the years of being alone, being away from family, it hasn’t been easy, so I feel like when I wrote those songs I was in a place where I was happy. We go through things in life and it affects us, whether it’s relationships, being away from your family, or your career not being exactly where you want it to be, just all sorts of stuff, and that’s why it’s important to have a support system. As an artist you have this other way of expressing yourself, and that is through your art. My music is kind of an expression of reaching that place, so it resonates with a lot of people because I do want people to smile when they hear the stuff. Some people say “why don’t you do something that’s really gonna evoke emotion, you have that kind of voice, I hear you do all those covers, Etta James, you should be doing more of that Adele thing,” and I get it, it’s cool. I totally can and maybe I will for my next album, and I still do on my YouTube channel, but for this particular album I wanted to keep it in a tone. I wanted it to have a specific mood, so that from the first track to the last track you’re kept in the mood. It’s soulful, it has some sultry moments, but overall it has that infectious kind of vibe and it puts you in a good mood. That was why I called it Beautiful Day. People shoot me emails and say “thank you for this song, it really helped me through this,” so you realize wow, I actually have the ability to connect with people. You don’t really think about it too much when you’re creating. When you’re creating you’re just creating. Then people reach out and say this song made me feel like this, and you forget that you actually have this power to really affect people through your songs, and you can help them. So this particular album, I just want people to smile and feel good. Even if it just does it for an hour of their day, if I can help them smile, or just make them feel a bit peppy for a few minutes of their day, it makes me feel good.
Adam Bernard: That’s a nice way to live, making people happy. Vassy: Yeah, I try.
Adam Bernard: Is there anything else you’d like to add about yourself or your music? Vassy: Yeah, my song “Desire” is in Cabin in the Woods. It’s in the movie and it’s on the soundtrack. On YouTube I let people ask me to do covers for them if there’s something specific they want me to do.
The other thing that is close to my heart is I’m a philanthropist and a humanitarian, so I volunteer at a teenage orphanage in Hollywood. It’s a girls orphanage. I’ve been volunteering there since last year and it’s been great. I do a lot of more public stuff, as well, like I’m the face of No H8, and I increase the awareness of minority groups. We get so caught up in our own things, it’s good to stop and be like hang on a second, I really want to do this, and I want to do that, but at the end of the day you also gotta try to help someone else with their success, try to help someone else with their love life. The things that you want, try and help other people with those things at the same time because you’ll find that it’s very rewarding and the universe kind of rewards you back in a way, too, and that’s how you find those things.
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.