Interview with Joanna Swan (Ilya)

Our site presents an interview with Joanna Swan (Ilya)


- Are you planning to release a new album or only singles in 2021 ?

- Yes we are hoping to release an album this year!

- What style are the new songs?

- We are working on a collection of songs that have a hymn/spirituals quality to them.

-Describe a real-life situation that inspired you

- I am also an artist (I paint and make jewellery) and this makes so many real life situations from the mundane to the amazing constantly inspirational to me. I am a danger to myself as I am always stopping to gaze in awe at things whether it be a dustbin or a mountain!! (I must stop doing this when driving!) I am a colour addict and so I frequently get stopped in my tracks by colour. I can tell you what inspired me to want to be a singer and that was the first time I heard the Beatles and then Ella Fitzgerald ... then David Bowie and Motown sealed the deal! I started as a backing vocalist at 17!

-What are your favourite and least favourite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?

- I love playing in the open air the best but playing Ronnie Scotts (with ILYA when we were with Virgin) was wonderful as the place was in a 1950's time warp of red velvet and black and white photos of jazz great everywhere! There have been plenty of horrible venues over the years ... but mainly that was not the venue but the dreadful sound system and acoustics! No thinking back there were horrible venues with terrible toilets and no backstage areas to get changed in. I'm claustrophobic .... so underground venues stuffed full of people was nerve wracking!

- What is your creative process like?

- We are both songwriters but Nick is vastly superior to me, so mostly Nick writes the songs with the acoustic guitar and then we work them into shape and if they can be strong with just voice and guitar we start to record them. Bouncing ideas back and forward. Sometimes the process of chucking ideas at them works and other times we spend weeks going off in the wrong direction!

-What is the most trouble you've ever gotten into?

- Getting caught in a rip tide .... it was so frightening! And getting caught out half way through an art foundation course when I was 18, as I lied about having qualifications. I never had any as I left school at 14 to work in a vintage clothes shop. I thought school was boring and a waste of my time and it was such a rubbish comprehensive school that nobody noticed I wasn't there anyway.

- If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

- It's all changing itself .... the internet is forcing changes ... everyone want's their music for free now, so unless you have ingenious marketing skills I think we are a dying breed. We are not really as we just do it anyway regardless of money or career .... you can't actually stop if its in your blood!

- What do you dislike about the music world?

- Do you mean all us musicians? .... Nothing to 'dislike' there ... but everything to love! Music is a great healer ... it reaches the parts so many other things can't go near!

- What would you be doing right now, if it wasn't for your music career?

- I paint and make jewellery. It's all very compatible with music and anyway with covid our career has been on a very low burn with no gigs at all in 2020! Thank god for our patrons who support us at - as without them, last year we would have gone under. As it was we took some of the songs we had been putting out over the last 4 years through Patreon and were able to release and album called Severn. Do check it out on

- What's your strongest memory of your childhood?

- The over-all strongest memory was that it was such a happy childhood. Bohemian parents that were happy for us 5 siblings to run wild and always a house full of friends, visitors (and lodgers on several floors of a big old Georgian house that was bought for £1,300 in the 1960s!. Our Christmases were magical with presents, which were often hand-made by our creative parents.

- What was the most memorable Christmas in your life?

- Pretty much all of them as a child. This 2020 Christmas will be memorable in that for the first time in my life it was not with our huge family around the kitchen table! The first time ever not spent with my parents! That's hard to forget!

- Which gift impressed you the most?

- When I got a pushbike a 13 .... I was desperate for one and my parents never bought new things so I never thought they'd be able to afford a bike but they managed to get a great second hand one from friends that were moving abroad. I had it for a good 10 years! I went everywhere on it!

- Do you like to cook? Do you like the process itself or the realization that you will bring joy to your loved ones?

- I love to cook for both those reasons. I never follow a recipe as I like to improvise. I am a good cook.