East London based, Vilnius born singer, rapper and producer, DAIVA, started singing before she could talk. Growing up in Lithuania, DAIVA was uncommonly drawn to the more American sounds of J Dilla, Lauryn Hill, Joni Mitchell and Prince. DAIVA incorporates these soulful influences into her music by blending them with the ethereal sounds of her homeland and the culturally diverse vibrations of London to create a modern mix of R&B, pop, urban, and jazz. Now, after years of being part of successful musical projects, she has released her first – debut solo single ‘MESH‘.
We sat down for an online video chat with Daiva to talk about her musical journey, going solo, love for hip-hop and her message to the world.
Daiva, how are You doing during this time?
DAIVA: I’m doing actually good. I’m very relaxed. I’m quite enjoying this quarantine thing. Because it is so much time for creating something, for writing songs – no distractions, so, yeah, it’s quite good.
Speaking of new music – You just released your debut single and video ‘MESH’ and while it is your debut single, You have been around in the music scene for some time now.
DAIVA: I have, yes. I have been, for quite a long time actually.
Why don’t you take us back to your first steps in music and how was the journey till now.
DAIVA: I started in a music school, I started singing jazz. And I went to a lot of vocal competitions when I was young. But at the same time, I really found love for hip-hop music and for rap. And so, after school, after singing Ella Fitzgerald and all of that, I was going home and learning raps, you know, like learning all the lyrics to rap-songs.
What songs were your favourites? From which ones you learned rap?
DAIVA: I loved ‘Fugees’, so I know quite a bit of Fugees raps, like ‘Ooh la la la’ (song ‘Fu-Gee-La’) and ‘Ready Or Not’, all of those. And I used to love ‘Cypress Hill’ and ‘A Tribe Called Quest’, all of that, ‘Common’. A lot of different stuff. I used to learn these lyrics, but I did not know what they were talking about, but I loved the flow. So, I was writing down how I hear it and then just trying to imitate. Because in jazz I used to learn scat, so that’s how I would do it. I would write down “skibabbupbap” and then come back home and write down like “yo,” – all that kind of stuff.
Were you surprised about some lyrics, when you found out what the lyrics actually meant?
DAIVA: Yeah, I was. I really liked the song called “Boom Biddy Bye Bye” by ‘Cypress Hill’ and it was like a really violent song, about killing people or something, because it went like “boom biddy bye bye, line up on the floor, now you all gonna die”, kind of like this. It’s very rough. And when I found out what it’s all about, I was like… whoops!
So, after hip hop, where did you go from there?
DAIVA: So, there was this competition called “Fizz Superstar”, I don’t know if you remember it, but it was a long time ago, before X-Factor. And it was in the Baltic states, in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. And my dad kind of dragged me into the audition, and I sang and they took me in, and I became one of the three finalists. The winner was Kerli Kõiv from Estonia, now she’s a big star. And that’s how it started for me, coming into the attention a little bit. After that I started singing with ‘Saulės Kliošas’, a very famous Lithuanian funk band, and after that I went to sing with then ‘Brass Bastards’, which became ‘Kimono’ and alongside there were a lot of other things. I studied in France so, I did a lot of featuring with a lot of people. So, different things. When I started writing my own songs I thought, I’ll probably need to put them out, but I want to do it my way, without anyone else and without compromising what I want to do – I can only do it exactly the way I want to do it, so that’s how I came up with MESH and hopefully I will still keep on going.
Definitely, I hope you do. You mentioned influences from Cypres Hill and rap and you learned jazz, at this point, how would you describe the sound of DAIVA?
DAIVA: I think it’s quite jazzy, it’s a lot of hip hop, but also it’s quite dark maybe, but at the same time it’s not too experimental. It could be like a mainstream, but it has a certain non-mainstreamy feel to it, I think. It’s a very bad description. (laughs)
I’ll take it. When you announced the song, you presented it with a sentence – “Part of me wants to dominate the world, the other part wants to run and hide.”, so what is the story behind MESH, because from what I understand it is sort of dedicated to a person as well?
DAIVA: Basically I wrote this song when I wasn’t feeling my best, and I was struggling. I had a lot of thoughts in my head and a lot of anxiety, and I just thought I’m gonna write it all down. Almost like a diary and it was very open, I didn’t filter my thoughts, I just wrote it down, and that’s how the lyrics came to be. There are a couple messages in there, one of them being – encouraging myself to go forward to not be afraid, and the other one is talking about my situation with moving from Vilnius to London and feeling like I’m really no one there, so many people, so overwhelming. A lot of those kind of thoughts that make you a bit anxious, and you’re like – I don’t really know where I’m going, you know.
I was about to ask that – right now you are living partly in Vilnius and partly in London, was that move inspired because of music?
DAIVA: Yes, definitely. I always wanted to live in a big city, since I was listening to Cypres Hill and the Fugees. I was looking at those videos of New York, and I was like, I wanna live in New York! I don’t even care, if I will be broke, I wanna be in New York! It was always my dream to, at least, try to go there and see if I can do something there. I didn’t go to New York, unfortunately. Yet. I hope one day I will. But I went to London, because my friends were there, and I had finished my studies in Vilnius, and I wanted to move there and just see how it’s gonna go. So, we moved there with the whole ‘Kimono’ band, we started playing a lot there in different showcases and different really cool venues, started getting some recognition and attention, it was going great. But then someone had to go back and it just all kind of went like… you know.
DAIVA: Yeah, exactly. I stayed (in London) and now I’m just trying to make it my own way. It doesn’t matter if it’s in London or here, because thanks to internet you can be anywhere really.
It’s a whole new beginning.
DAIVA: Yeah, I hope so. I’m just exploring.
I think it’s a good way to find yourself, by trying out different things. You mentioned the message of the song – music is the medium through which artists usually express their messages and maybe even their point of views. What are the messages that you would like to address in your music, or what are the topics you would like to raise awareness to?
DAIVA: I guess just discovering yourself and discovering myself through music, ’cause it’s very therapeutic for me. Also maybe a little bit about environment, I would like to say something inspiring about how’s it all going, but I haven’t made a song like that yet. Also, about the beauty of nature, because I’m getting older and I’m appreciating just being within yourself, being in peace, being in nature. I guess we’ll see what’s gonna come out.
If you had a chance to share a stage with any musician in the world and time, living or dead, who would be your dream musician to share the stage with?
DAIVA: Oh my God, I don’t know, there’s so many! I don’t know there’s a lot of people, maybe James Blake. That’s the person that just came into my mind. Maybe Noname, I love Noname. Maybe Lianne La Havas. Something like that.
You already mentioned appreciating the nature. What else besides, music – making music, listening to music, what else makes your heart happy?
DAIVA: I really love cooking, so that’s my biggest passion aside from music, I guess. Cooking and travelling, and seeing different cultures and different people. What else? Plants.
Maybe you can combine cooking and singing, it can be a singing cooking show!
DAIVA: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking, I need to do something like that – like a YouTube channel, where I sing and cook and sing songs about the dish or something. Actually, there is this guy, who is really cool. I can’t remember his name, but he sings like a reggae tunes and he’s like “I have a cucumbaa”. I don’t know if you’ve heard him, but he’s amazing. And he just sings about health, health benefits of different vegetables. So, yeah, I need to do something like that.
It sounds good, I would definitely watch it!
Taking aside the situation that we’re all in right now, because no one knows how it’s going to go further and what’s the reality going to be in a couple of months, aside from that – for you as an artist what, do you feel, are your biggest challenges and how do you deal with them?
DAIVA: I guess, the most important thing for me would be to stop second guessing yourself and just be more confident in your own vision and whatever you feel that you love. Show the world just that, rather than ask other people if they like it or not. Just do you, and be yourself and spread it out.
Basically, trust yourself and trust what you do is enough and it’s gonna resonate with people.
DAIVA: Yeah, exactly! Just be your authentic self, what you have, just your own authenticity. Because we are such different people and it’s beautiful when you just let it shine, rather than trying to be someone else. Or like someone else because it’s the standard of the music business or mainstream and getting more likes, or getting more followers. Just do you and don’t care about that stuff.
That’s a good advice. What is your ultimate dream in the future? Let’s say where would you imagine yourself in 10 years?
DAIVA: Mmmm… well, I really hope I can make a living from music, I guess that’s the biggest goal. And I hope there’s gonna be people who enjoy listening to my music and I can keep going and just staying inspired by the fact. Yeah, I guess that’s my goal with music, and with other things, as I said, I love nature, I would love to live somewhere near the forest, have a studio, record there, invite musicians and just be like Rick Rubin in his Shangri-La studio. That would be cool.
Like living in a jam session in the nature.
DAIVA: Totally. That would be so nice, I would love that.
Considering the current situation – we’re all in lockdown, all in quarantine, we have to stay home – what are some new discoveries for you in music, what has been on your playlist lately?
DAIVA: Aaah, I need to check it out. Oh, so, I found this really cool song, that I really like and I’m showing it to my friends but they don’t get it for some reason. But I really like this song, and it’s called ‘Vibe’, and it’s by Cookie something … (‘Vibe’ by Cookiee Kawaii. -ed.) Yeah, so, anyway, I like that song, and then in general I just listen to a lot of old music. Unfortunately Bill Withers has passed away recently, so I’ve been listening to a lot of his music again. And just revisiting some albums that I used to love – like Janet Jackson ‘Velvet Rope’ I was listening to yesterday, and Donny Hathaway, Brandi, kind of old-school 90’s R&B.
I guess we’re all at this point revisiting some memories, you know, going down memory lane, some music we used to love, something that inspired us when we were younger.
DAIVA: Definitely, I’m very much doing that and also there’s been so many great Instagram live concerts!
DAIVA: I’ve been watching H.E.R. She’s a soul singer and she plays guitar and she’s just really really cool. So, I saw her live and yesterday Jill Scott and Erykah Badu were having a live together, I didn’t watch it because it was very late but I’m gonna check if it’s on YouTube.
Yeah, a lot of those lives are later on YouTube, which I think is really great that even if, because of the time difference, you miss some of them, you can still enjoy them later. It’s a very intimate moment for artists to be performing from home and letting your fans in, it’s such a nice thing they’re doing. Have you yourself thought of doing a living-room session?
DAIVA: I was actually thinking of doing maybe a DJ set and sing some songs live. I still need to get the iRig, I think it’s called, just to set everything up so it sounds good. But we did a live session with Kimono, we did a Facebook live and then we did Instagram live for the first time. And it was scary, because there’s no audience, and there’s no one to talk to. I want to say something and there’s no response. It’s just, yeah… it was a quite weird experience.
Like talking to yourself?
DAIVA: Yeah, kind of.
I really hope you will do a living room session, maybe a kitchen session with cooking and singing and maybe introducing some new recipes. I would really like to see that. And for everybody, go check out DAIVA’s new debut single MESH! And I really hope that you will soon release more songs and make also cool videos for the songs. MESH has an amazing video.
DAIVA: Thank you. I’m quite proud of it.