So the thing is, I've loved dance music since I was in elementary school, beginning with the likes of Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, and Ayla. In high school I was very much into raving...the music was my thing. I was absolutely obsessed. In college, while I studied abroad, I really became immersed in the international dance scene, and fell in love with the passion these artists had for the genre. The shows and the dancing, were so different than anything I had experienced during my warehouse rave days in Seattle, so I was absolutely ecstatic to be a part of it.
I feel eternally grateful for my time in dance music. Collaborating with artists who are so far away and so experienced, is invaluable. To be able to communicate and create something with someone you may never have met had it not been for that genre of music that ties you together, well, that's just wonderful isn't it? And to be honest, I've always been a HUGE Above & Beyond fan, so when they played my song on their podcast...I definitely freaked out. All of the support and experience I gained from that world is something I'll never forget, but I also realized how badly I wanted to do my own thing. EDM is a features game. You are a featured singer/songwriter and your lyrics oftentimes have to satiate a crowd of people who want to have fun and escape, and that's amazing, but it’s not necessarily what I strive to do. I would love to do more EDM collaborations and perform, but my heart lies with my current work. I realized that I had to save and pay for my own EP and then I could have full creative control over something I loved. My true love is Pop music. I love its simplicity...its ability to say something quick and easily, and that is what I really want to do.
I also think working with such amazing artists in EDM really taught me a lot about hard work. I want to do so much more than before because I see now it’s possible with hard work. DJ's tour endlessly around the world, more than any other type of artist. They are utterly devoted to what they do, and I admire that. Also, EDM is heavily based in social media marketing…my passion, so I learned to make connections online and market myself. EDM is a very strong community, more than any other genre of music--I knew I wanted to create a community for myself with that same power and influence.
And finally, my journey in EDM taught me to be more humble. I got super involved in the gossipy/shallow side of that world and I really disliked the person I became. At heart, I just want to be a kind person who people smile at and find inspiring, and I could see myself falling further away from that, so with The Just, Girl. Project, I'm happy to say I'm turning that around and finally finding my voice within the music industry.
Q. During your Study Abroad in London you became engrossed in the Electronic Dance Music Scene. Must've been quite exciting. Describe to us the London life and how it changed you forever...
Well, thank you for the beautiful compliment! I was raised in a very work-centric household. Both my parents, and for that matter my entire family, are very driven by their work and what they believe in. My parents are both in the social services world and so, I think my strong desire to be involved in the nonprofit world stems from their influence. They always taught me to be independent, hard-working, and to go after my dreams. I was not allowed to "talk", I had to walk the walk. On top of that, I was for most of my life, the weird kid that didn't fit in. So, I threw myself into my work and my art, creating a place where I fit in.
On the more self-satisfying side of things, I have always enjoyed writing and just LOVED singing and being on stage. I strived to be the center of attention and to express myself in every way I could. I find performance and expression truly liberating. The thing is though, I'm truly half artist and half business woman. I love art...I love music. I am driven by creative development and expression, but I also love business. It's so exciting and challenging. It pushes you to a whole other level. I started my business with the mentality that if I wanted to make my art and help others, I needed something sustainable that would allow me to do both; thus, Nailed it! Media was born.
As for my philanthropic efforts, I really feel I haven't even scratched the service yet. I only hope to affect my audience in a positive way, and show that I am able to do so. My goal, albeit a lofty one, is to inspire them!
Q. Singer, Songwriter, Performer, Business Owner, Philanthropist, Philosopher, the list goes on... Where does this burning ambition come from Ilana?
Q. Since then you have blossomed into a recording artist, receiving support from artists such as Above & Beyond and signing songs with Electronic Music heavyweight, Armada Music. How did this journey make you the woman you are today?
"I strived to be the center of
attention and to express myself."
Interview by Keran Look Loy
That is SO HARD! I guess I would have to say Alannis Morrissette and Adele are huge ones. They both have such strong voices and as woman, they are simply enigmatic and powerful. I love how they talk about their problems so openly and own who they are. I also love Hayley Williams from Paramore. She's bold and Paramore's music holds the perfect balance of Pop and Rock. She's truly the only female Pop Rock vocalist that pops into my head that's relevant at the moment. But I also have to say, Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato are huge for me. They are amazing business women and philanthropists and the ways in which they connect with their fans is absolutely inspirational. I hope to make even a fraction of an impact that they have on girls everywhere.
Q. Which artist(s) have inspired you more than any other?
Q. Disney, AMC and ABC are only some of the prestigious companies you have also worked with. Quite an impressive and comprehensive resume. How do you keep yourself organized and motivated amidst all the creative madness (madness in a good way)?
Ummmmmm...who said I was organized ;)? I would classify myself as organized chaos. Honestly, I just do what I need to do when I need to. If that means giving up my social life for a few months...I'll do it. And I'm very lucky that I have such amazing friends and amazing business and creative partners that keep me grounded. I'm talking about you John Renfrow, Ashley Allen, Ashley Sholer, Gabriel Benjamin, and Ryan Hopkins. These guys are everything--they have been there for me through it all. I think it’s important to have a strong network you can rely on, or you'll lose your head!
I can't even begin to express how much London changed my life. I had traveled before, but this was a whole other experience because I was on my own. I traveled every weekend to as many countries as I could, meeting as many artists as I could that I had engaged with on Myspace (YES, MYSPACE). London is so magical! It is metropolitan and modern, but so rich with diversity and history. The fashion, the music, the architecture...are so particular and beautiful. I love it there. I would give anything to live there again someday. I've since gone back several times and every time I fall more in love with the city.
What I learned from my experience in London was simple--Europeans value relationships. They hold family, friend, and working relationships to a high degree, and I love that. If you are genuine and true, they really do embrace you as one of their own. And the best part about this magical land? You are able to travel to so many countries easily and become inspired by your surroundings. It makes for amazing songwriting. I think traveling is the best thing you can do for yourself. I've been to 21 countries so far but I have so much more of the world to see. I encourage everyone to travel at some point in their lives.
Q. If there's one thing you could change in music today, what would it be?
Yes, finally! This is the thing in life I am currently most passionate about. The Just, Girl. Project is a fiery musical movement that empowers girls to be embrace their passions, be blatantly honest, and take ownership of their individual struggles. I just finished my solo debut EP, Just, Girl. This body of work sheds light on the struggles I’ve faced as a young woman and the mottos I’ve adopted to overcome them. I’ve put my heart and soul into this project. A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon a startling subculture: social media accounts devoted to the promotion of anorexia, bulimia, and self-harm. It broke my heart because, not only did I feel saddened by these negative messages, but I also related to them.
I think we can all agree that there are plenty of negative messages being fed to girls throughout the media, society, and within their personal lives. But, let’s be honest, no one can ultimately bring us down if we’ve decided to own how incredible, amazing, and unique we are! I think we often encourage girls to play the victim and blame society for how they feel. I think girls have the power to create their own happiness, and I hope that my music can help them get there. That’s why I created my music. I wanted to provide something functional and relatable that spreads positivity, inspiration, and happiness. The name was inspired by one of the songs off the EP, Just, No. I love the way it is spoken out loud...with a pause. This idea that it’s Just, Girl...meaning just you…no one else--These songs are for them...and only them, to allow them to see that they can decide whether or not to be okay with themselves, and reiterate the fact that no one has the power to alter who they are but them.
With this project I want to tour and create inspiring music videos and social media campaigns. I also want to start a foundation, a record label, an Etsy store, and so much more. I started this movement with the hopes of satisfying all of these goals. It's my baby!
Q. You have a venture called The Just, Girl Project. What inspired you to create this? And the name, what exactly does it mean?
Q. What message would you send to young men and boys regarding your project and your thinking?
This project may say "just, girl." but it’s not just for girls. It's for anyone that aspires to take ownership of whom they are and go after what they want. Since I am a girl and that is what my songs reflect, I felt that that was my core audience. I think that it’s important as a brand to have an audience that you know and aspire to influence. I am trying to inspire girls to be better to themselves so that they can be better to the men in their lives. Ever heard the saying "Happy Wife, Happy Husband" :)?
Well first off, feminism at its core is the ideology that men and women should be treated equally, so anyone that doesn't agree with that is not of my concern. Honestly, for those who know me, know that I am not fond of that term. I think feminism has so many different branches and it’s been branded by many as an extreme ideal, but it’s (as I said before) absolutely not. I'm just trying to relate...I know girls. I do not know boys. No woman can honestly say she gets men...because we just aren't men. My music can be enjoyed by women and men alike, but I am trying to inspire girls because that is what I know and can relate to. If you want to brand that as feminism, then great, but I'm just being honest with myself. Target marketing is where it’s at. So, why can't I pick an audience and speak to them?
Q. How do you respond to the backlash of those (both men and women) who would call your thinking perhaps outdated or "feminist"? (Not the opinion of Scorpio Jin)
I really believe that you can do anything you put your mind to. Just don't let yourself get in the way of you. I do that a lot...and it annoys everyone, including myself. Try your best to really do what you want to do in life, because it’s so incredibly short and it would just honestly suck if you weren't fully you.
Q. Leave us with some words of Inspiration
Q. Describe yourself in one word
"I knew I wanted to create
"I am trying to inspire girls to
be better to themselves..."