When you’re the granddaughter of disco legend Donna Summer, music comes second nature. Delivering the same soulful vocals as her iconic grandmother, 18-year-old VIENNA’s sound pays homage to her family roots, while still looking to the future—a sleek, synthesized stamp on the landscape of contemporary pop that sounds wonderfully fresh on her new single, “What Are You Waiting For.”
We caught up with the rising artist to discuss being inspired by her famous family, moving to Nashville and listening to Radiohead with her dad. Stream VIENNA’s latest track, below, and hear an exclusive remix by Brooklyn-based DJ Lauren Flax.
Who inspires you?
“Definitely my grandma. I watch videos of her all the time honing in on her craft, and it always reminds me that if she can do it, so can I. My mom also inspires me—she always listens to what I have to offer and inspires me when she sits down at the piano and plays some things she wrote.”
Where are you from?
“I’m originally from Baltimore, Maryland, but moved to Nashville when I was 8, and I’ve been here ever since. And it’s music city—the opportunities here are endless, and there are always places to go and play out or people to write with. This town has really shaped my style of music.”
What was the process like making this new single for ReverbNation’s single series, The Watch List?
“Definitely something new. I can say I’ve never done anything quite like this before. It was refreshing getting to collaborate and get a new perspective and look on writing. It was definitely work, but completely worth every second. When I went to New York, me, Simon and Dave sat in the studio just singing whatever melody came to mind and recording it—that was fun. I’ve loved getting to see things from a different lens and really stepping outside my comfort zone of what I normally write. It’s been truly incredible and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”
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Describe your songwriting process.
“Depending on what I feel, I’ll either write the melody or lyrics first. If you write the melody first, you have a foundation where you can fit in the lyrics how you want and write them accordingly. If you end up writing the lyrics first, you can find a melody according to that, so it’s usually whichever one I feel first. Sometimes I sit down and just play the piano, and a melody will spring from that. Other times I’ll be incredibly inspired and driven to a theme, and lyrics will come flooding in.”
What are your short term and long term goals as an artist?
“Honestly, and I’ve always said this, [my goal] is to change people brought my music. Growing up, music was the one thing that in a sense held me together, and shaped me. I want to be able to do that for people. Whether they need encouragement, or something to relate to what they’re going through, I want to be able to inspire people to do what they love and let people know that they are far from alone. Short term I would say would just be trying new styles and really seeing the different ways I can flourish as an artist.”
Who are some of your favorite artists, new and old?
“My current favorite artists are Frances, Saint Motel, always and forever the lovely Johnnyswim and Cage the Elephant. I wouldn’t say these artists are old school in any way, but I’ve always loved Ed Sheeran, Regina Spektor and Imogen heap—especially Regina Spektor and Imogen heap [because] these are people I grew up listening to. Me and my dad listened to Radiohead growing up so I’d say them and Coldplay were huge influences in the way I write and process lyrics.”
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