Arima Ederra comes with a maturity so far past her years it can be shocking to find out her music comes from such a young soul. Her debut album, Earth to Arima, gained heavy praise around the blogosphere for its timeless quality and natural composition. She recently spent some time in the studio preparing her upcoming sophomore effort, Temporary Fixes, with help from Converse Rubber Tracks.
Converse Rubber Tracks is a platform that provides recording time to local emerging artists, free of cost, with no strings attached. For Converse Rubber Tracks’ global initiative, Converse partnered up with legendary studios all over the world to invite emerging artists into the studio to help them record and produce music in a space they otherwise may not have been able to have access to. While the advent of homemade studio spaces has become more and more commonplace, there's still a magic to being in a space with history embedded into its walls–and Ederra used it to its full potential.
Prior to the studio session, Ederra discussed with the producers what she wanted to do online via Converse's web form. The artists share what they want to accomplish, what their music is like, what they want to get done, etc. While usually the Converse Rubber Tracks program is only one day, they got to spend two days in the studio with her. "She knows what she's doing and what she wants and my job is to kind of facilitate that. She sang something and asked me for my feedback and I was just listening to her sing, and she sings so beautifully, I was like, I don't think there's anything that I can tell you about singing. You've got it," Converse shares of the experience. "Her process is she likes to listen several times and then is like, okay, I know what I want to do and then she goes out and does it." While Ederra came in knowing what she wanted to record, one thing that proved most useful in the recording via the production process was the chamber reverb, a very reflective room you can send sound through and it adds an echo to the sound. They used the room extensively throughout the two days. Now enough about the process, let's let Arima Ederra speak for herself...
You used to perform in talent shows. What were your acts like?
I actually started my own talent show back home because we didn't have much of a music scene there. It was like an open mic night so there were comedians, there was a lot of poetry, a few local rappers and lots of singers as well.
You always dreamed of being a singer but thought it was only a dream. What drove you to pursue it as an actual career?
A few years ago my father past away, three years ago exactly, and I spent a lot of my time when I was writing in the hospital with him and, even though it's a really sad thing, it really inspired me to do what I want to do with life. Life is so short, you know, as cliche as that sounds. I was really inspired to live life the way that I want to and not please anybody else. So when I started the open mic night, I was doing a lot of covers and then I gradually got into doing my original music. A lot of people were giving me positive feedback and asking where they could get copies of my music. I was like, okay maybe I can try this out, it sounds interesting. So I started working on my first project when my dad was in the hospital and after he passed that's what really pushed me to putting it out.
What is your musical background?
I've never had any musical training aside from choir in elementary and middle school. I've never gotten professional training. My family's huge music lovers. I'm Ethiopian and our house is always blasting with jazz music and lots of afro-rock and blues, just lots of cultural music and that's all I listened to growing up.
You seem to be very connected to your Ethiopian heritage and speak Amharic. How does its roots influence your music?
It's everything really. All my music now especially was super inspired by my background. I listen to the textures and different sounds, the emotion. Lots of Amharic and Ethiopian music is very deep and it's always these very vulnerable love songs.
The track you're working on today, is it going to be part of Temporary Fixes?
It is going to be a part of it. I've been working on all of Temporary Fixes here so it's been really exciting.
Where does the title Temporary Fixes come from?
It means a few different things but the jist of it basically comes from seeing how life is so short. It's about taking the highs you get from everything and just enjoying the temporary fix whether that's love and romance, whether that's family, whether that's just experiencing something for the first time and getting this high from it and being really excited about it, if that's reading a new booking or watching a cool old film. It's about taking that high, that fix from it, and using that for your personal growth.
How does Temporary Fixes compare to Earth to Arima?
That was heavily jazz influenced, lots of early 90's R&B and hip-hop as well. This project is a little bit different. Like I said, lots of textures. We've been adding live sounds to it as well. There's not many samples in the music. [It's] more personal too. Earth to Arima was an intro to Arima. It was very sweet and soft. Temporary Fixes is just me. Everything that I've experienced, every fix that I've had over the past two years.
Speaking of sounds, how do you approach song-writing? Do you come in sonically and find meaning from the sounds or do you start lyrically first, pulling in from your poetry background?
Normally for my songwriting, I get inspired by the production and I'll go in and basically record a melody and different harmonies that I hear and let it come out of me. Then I listen to the melody back over and write to the melody.
How did you come into this space? Did you come in with a blueprint or did you let inspiration come from your surroundings?
I knew pretty much exactly what I wanted to do. I recorded everything, all of the songs that I wanted to re-record here, so we would have reference tracks and that way I could utilize the time and space as best as we could.
How many tracks did you record?
I recorded four yesterday and I've recorded two and worked on the third one today.
On your former record, you worked with various producers for each song. What is your relationship with your producers like? Were there any involved with your upcoming album or was this more of a solo approach?
The process has changed a little bit. When I was in Vegas, I was able to work hands-on more with a lot of the producers there. In L.A., it's kind of the same thing. I've been working with a few producers here locally like my friend Tamir and Henry that are in there. They're awesome, great producers. So with Temporary Fixes I've worked with about four producers and they're all people that are close to me. We've been able to work on it hands-on versus just working with people from all over the states.
Where we're at, Sunset Sounds, it has a lot of history. Were you able to get a tour of the space and learn about its past?
Yeah. They gave me a tour when we got here yesterday and my favorite room which is Studio 3. They told me that Prince recorded some of Purple Rain in there and that just blew me away. They haven't changed anything since the late 70's or however long it's been there. I was really impressed by the orange carpet on the wall and just the feel in there is very analog. I was really, really excited to be here after seeing that.
How did you find out about Converse Rubber Tracks? What was the audition process like to be selected?
My sister got an email from Converse and she was like, yo this is a really great opportunity, you should apply for this. I applied for it right away and went to http://www.converse.com/rubbertracks. I had to give them a little information about myself and what I would do with the studio time and give them a little bit of my music and applied online.
What was your very first recording like when you decided you were going to put a song together?
The first song I recorded, my best friend produced this song for me. This was my first time trying to write to music because I usually just wrote poetry. We stood outside of Taco Bell, I think I was eighteen, and wrote this song to one of her beats that she just made. She was really good friends with her professor who worked at The Art Institute [who] was an audio engineer there. He let us come into his home studio and record it and it was terrible. I did not know what I was doing. I had one vocal track and was like, oh maybe we should add harmonies and stuff. I didn't know how to record it but he was so helpful and really helped me with it.
Speaking of poetry, what is your history with it? How often did you write and what artists and styles inspired you the most?
Definitely I would say Maya Angelou is probably my favorite poet. I did it really because I had no other way of expressing myself. I would write every day. Since I could remember writing my first haiku in elementary school, I would write every day. It just became a part of me.
What advice would you give to other musicians wanting to follow in your path?
Just be you. Don't compromise who you are. Just be you, that's the best advice I can give, as simple as that is. You can be the greatest you. It takes so much more energy trying to be other things and trying to fit in in other places. The best advice I can give is staying true to yourself.
What does music mean to you?
Music is the equivalent to breath to me. It's how I live, it's what allows me to have creative freedom, creative expression, even if I wasn't pursuing this as a career I would probably never stop listening to music, never stop writing music. It's a part of me, it's embedded in me.
When can we expect to see more from Temporary Fixes?
I will be releasing a song from this amazing session probably within the next few weeks and Temporary Fixes should be out in November.
What can people expect to hear?
Don't expect, just be open. I would say it's just different. It's a totally different approach, a new layer of me that I had never even discovered. It's just different.
Story by Jordan Blakeman
Photos provided by Converse Rubber Tracks