Starting out studying for a career in law, London-born, Greek songstress Athena Andreadis quickly decided to follow her true passion and moved to study Classical and Jazz at Trinity College in the UK. She says she got things moving “the old fashioned way”- sending out lots of demos and keeping her gigs diary active after the Arts Council of England supported her first tour. Her vision played off and after the release of her first record, one of her songs was played at a London Olympics Campaign.
She is a voice for Concern, Save the Children and many other humanitarian causes, including being an Ambassador for the Plastic Coalition. Her songs are often inspired by sustainability and ecological issues, such as solar power (Ready for the Sun) and spiritual interests such as meditation and community (Stronger). Athena has collaborated with many Internationally acclaimed, award winning artists and songwriters, her voice and lyrics are often commissioned for film scores and commercials and she said finding out that Leonard Cohen was a big fan was incredibly inspiring and moving for her.
Naia Reid: Athena it’s so nice to have you!
Athena Andreadis: Thank you. I love your magazine…it’s wonderful, we need those stories and that element of sunshine brought back into everyday life!
NR: Exactly…it’s all about bringing spirit and soul back into the world! Your parents are both Greek and you were born in London, is that right?
AA: Yes, I was born in London and when I was 4, we moved back to Greece and I went to an international bilingual school until I was 18, then I moved back to the UK to start law at Bath University, fast forward the London years and then America called 2 years ago!
NR: Greece has so many romantic connotations; the legends, the spirituality of the island. This must have had an effect on you growing up, shaping you into the soft, soulful person you are now.
AA: As a child I could look out my bedroom window at Mt. Olympus and the Aegean Sea. I still remember the smells…the summers are magic there. When I write these days, part of me goes back to my childhood memories and somehow in the melodies, lyrics and rhythms, you can feel the Greek influence.
NR: When you moved permanently over to the big smoke, how was that transition for you?
AA: It was a natural progression, I was getting a lot of work in LA in songs and TV. I was coming over once a year anyway and getting a little sick of British weather. Most of my friends had moved away and I was feeling the need for a change. I was on a silent retreat at the Joshua Tree in the desert, when I had a moment where I felt I had to move here, something was guiding me. I have no regrets although it was hard, with family still all in Greece and starting again on the other side of the world.
NR: How did you emotionally handle taking on such a big change?
AA: Song writing! I wrote a song “How to start Again- where wildflowers grow” inspired by the incredible flowers that pop up in the desert in Spring, it was like me trying to find my roots again, to blossom. it was easy in a sense, because people were so warm and welcoming. A lot of people knew who I was and stuff I’d done. Leonard knew my work…so everything flowed because of the seeds planted in London. Some days I’d wake up and wonder what I was doing, but overall it was amazing.
NR: America opened up the movie industry for you, you wrote songs for a Spielberg series and a CBS series. It also gave you access to a very like-minded eco-active community or charities and NGOs to network with. You were invited to sing at a Cradle to Cradle conference and invited to be an Ambassador for the Plastic Coalition, tell us about your active involvement in these things.
AA: Our main mission with the coalition, is to reduce use of single use plastic- bottles, take-away coffee cups, straws etc. So much plastic ends up in the ocean, which sea-life ingests, introducing it into the food chain. They say if we keep polluting at this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans within 2 years! Consumerism has gone very very wrong. I wanted to help. My CDs have no plastic, they are printed with eco-friendly ink, I use a stainless steel re-useable drink bottle…these are small but practical everyday things that do make a difference and start conversations that you can use to share information and knowledge.
NR: So what are your top tips for things people can do around the home to start immediately making a difference?
AA: I started up a hashtag #onethingIcando and used to post ideas regularly.
My top favourite is the reverse osmosis water filtration system, which is the best for your health and for the planet – say no to one-use straws, use Tupperware or glass options and for groceries, bring bags. Buy in glass not plastic and bring your empties to the farmers’ market for reuse- support local and less packaging-use the three R’s – reduce-reuse-recycle. Try not to use it, if you have to, use it again, final step is recycling, because even in the best case scenarios, only 20% of the material collected actually gets recycled. Unplugging is an easy one, take things out of sockets. Don’t leave things on standby.
The success and longevity of products it is up to us…it’s up to demand. If no one wants it, it will be reduced or fail. I worked with Starbucks for charity…they give money back every time you bring your own carrier…you have to make it cheaper to entice people to change their learned habits…legislation has to change, but at grass roots we can do this easily. You could go for a hybrid car (I have a Prius…it saves gas and does it bit.) You could buy a used car, or used clothes (I love amazing vintage clothes), basically, get really aware about buying and throwing things! Stella McCartney for example is part of a bigger initiative to lead change. She’s part of the Fashion Positive Initiative, which reuses the materials in the chain.
In Athena’s words:
“Most humans have good intentions; the problem is most people never really think about the problem or coming up with a better solution. The song I wrote “Asleep at the wheel” is about how we kind of took a wrong turn and we’re asleep on the journey. It’s never too late. The most important thing is the moment of awakening- now you know, so now you can do something about it…”
NR: You were quite ill some years ago with a constantly upset tummy. You did a lot of research and reinvented your diet: effectively curing the problem naturally. Can you share the process and where you’re at now?
AA: I had really bad pain in my tummy, for several years. I decided to examine my diet, which involved keeping a diary. I found a health professional who suggested reverse osmosis water, vitamin supplements and other homeopathic treatments. The first 6 months was really tough and I had to be really disciplined. I changed to organic food and gave up sugar. I educated myself as much as possible and ended up getting quite passionate about cooking great food in a way that you could never tell that the usual ingredients were replaced by healthier options. My friends just couldn’t believe it, so I made a little cookbook, with delicious Mediterranean recipes inspired by my grandmother, with my healthy twist…I may publish it sometime!
I eat very little meat and when I do I always ask where it came from and how it was raised. If everyone did this, we wouldn’t have the problems we have now.
NR: That sounds like it needs to be made public! So did you conclude that the problem was allergens or toxic build up?
AA: I think it was toxic build up, we are exposed to so many toxins in every-day life, it’s a slow build up that you don’t notice until it has a good hold and has so many effects on the body and your health. I’m not really allergic. Rule of thumb: if there are more than 4 ingredients you can’t pronounce in your food, don’t eat it! You have to trial and error to find what works for you.
NR: Can you eat what you want now, or have you stuck with a particular balance that works for you?
AA: I know what suits me now; non-processed, a lot of veg, like 80% (raw and cooked), a little protein, goat yogurt (for ethical and health reasons), eggs- free range of course, very few grains. The balance depends on your metabolic type. Some people need more carbs. Carbs don’t work so great for me. If I feel tired, I switch to my Go2 diet. It becomes a way of living you can fine tune. It doesn’t have to be daunting. You don’t get sick so much, your body heals faster, your energy improves. Getting to know the stranger you live with, your body, how it reacts etc…its fascinating!
NR: For someone so busy, it’s really essential to understand yourself, to maintain a healthy balance.
AA: Absolutely. I wouldn’t be able to write if I didn’t quiet the mind and tap into something bigger than me to draw inspiration from. I have to keep my body fit to sing and to give the best of me. Silence is the first step, once that happens outside, you notice the inner craziness of the mind, it’s like traffic jam in there, so many thoughts…this is where you need to train, although it’s more like watching…you realise its changeable like the weather. In between waves there are moments of stillness, that moment of no breath, that stillness feels like a homecoming. It’s pure joy, it feels like your true nature, it rests me more than sleeping.
NR: Life philosophies: most important to share to inspire people.
AA: I’ll share a little trick I use myself. We all forget and we all need to be reminded! I put reminders on my phone: one of my philosophies- “Are you breathing?”- sometimes we almost stop! Jack Cornfield, one of my favourite philosophical/spiritual teachers says: before reacting to something, always ask “what’s my highest intention” and maybe you can come up with a better solution than your first reaction. Let things come to you, it’s a balance of tension and release “enjoy the ride”- don’t forget, with all your goals in the way to enjoy the everyday things. Be present, in the moment as much as possible. Remember who you really are.
NR: Often when people find themselves in the spotlight, they change dramatically. One of the buzz words about you that keeps popping up everywhere is “authenticity” I have so much respect for that…can you share your tips on how to stay true to yourself.
AA: It’s really important to have the courage to be yourself. It takes serious courage. It’s tricky…we’ve all been influenced by what others want of us/to be liked. Leonard Cohen comes to mind, he was so inspiring, so incredibly humble and generous, it’s such a wonderful quality. He said “the songs aren’t ours anyway…we help by channeling them”. We all die- so let’s enjoy and do the best we can and celebrate diversity, embrace it and learn from it. Through meditation, you start to see these things for what they really are. We all have the human condition and it’s about how we deal with it.
NR: Tell me about working with Leonard.
AA: We share an incredible love of Greece. He had a house in Hydra and said he had the “happiest years” of his life there. He wrote a lot of songs there. The melodies in “Travelling Light” have a Greek feel to the melody with the bouzoukis and mandolins his son chose to use. I was inspired by him at very young age and to discover that he was a fan of mine was truly amazing. It was a true blessing to meet him and sing alongside him… the experience was almost holy. He had been an ordained monk, living in complete silence in the mountains for a considerable number of years. It was so sad to lose him…it was only a couple of months after we met. His legacy is so strong I feel he’s still around somehow. It’s just a change of form.
NR: So it was a meeting of kindred spirits really. You recently played me a beautiful tribute that you composed for Leonard, Called, “You, Called Love”, about how you imagine he felt when he decided to come down from the mountain to share the wisdom and be in this world. Thank you for choosing FtC to premiere this amazing track… The beauty and pain of the duality of this life and the sweet nectar of love in it all…it’s so exquisitely written and performed.
AA: Thank you, yes I wrote this from a very genuine place, so inspired having been invited to sing with him on ‘Traveling Light’ (on his last album ‘You Want It Darker’), I was really touched by Leonard’s teachings and his presence, which profoundly impacted me. In a twist of mysterious synchronicity, I finished writing the song
the very day he died. Thank you Leonard Cohen. This song is for you.
NR: You’ve been really busy recently: You have a gorgeous, brand new album just released, called “Ready for the Sun, featuring tracks like “You Bring Me Luck” and “Stronger” for which you produced a really beautiful video. What else have you got coming up over 2017?
AA: My album “Ready for the Sun” has just released, Leonard’s tribute is now also available. On 7th March, I’m going to start a new series at Ghenghis Cohen Theatre in LA called “Athena and Friends” there will be one every season. It’s a little LA gem, tucked away, very intimate, incredible reputation, great acoustics and history…that’s my immediate thing. I’m going to Invite all these wonderful artists I keep meeting, song writers, female producers, there’s an amazing pool of talent behind the scenes here that I really want to facilitate, connect and support…I’m dying to get them all collaborating!
NR: There’s something really beautiful in gathering to share and create…there’s that magic that we spoke of at the beginning…that’s a big part of what we are doing with Face the Current!
When you do things that serve others, it has a power way beyond your own. It gives life meaning. I believe in these souls, they need the exposure and I want to introduce them and see what happens. Every series will be different. Its open to everyone; all races, genders, but with a spotlight on extraordinary women: I want to highlight female film composer, producers, give exposure to role models & talent young emerging artists and talent in a difficult industry…I’ve been so blessed, so it’s a nice way to mentor. I have some shows here and I’m scheduling my European dates now. People can join my mailing list to get updates on gigs and events. I’m writing for a couple of films and with a few other artists…and there are all kinds of events with the Plastic Coalition…lot’s going on!
Thank you so much for your time Athena, we wish you all the very best with your new album and your wonderful tribute to Leonard Cohen, it’s an honour to have you share that with the world here!