In today’s interview, Bleached got the opportunity to speak with Canadian singer-songwriter and producer Biawanna. Only five months into her debut, the Vancouver native is tirelessly working to widen the lane and write new narratives for those in the LGBTQ+ community. With hopes to create music that is a solace for all those who feel overlooked, Biawanna speaks to us about the endless cycle of falling in and out of love, her family’s musical background, and much more!
Enjoy the interview.
“…I promised myself I would stand up for myself as well as others who may not be able to stand up for themselves.”
Before we begin, would you like to introduce yourself?
A: Hi I am Biawanna from Vancouver, Canada. I am a songwriter, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer.
The 28th of the month marks your 5th month as an artist; How has this journey been so far?
A: Managing everything myself has been a learning process. Balancing personal life with work life is something I still have to get better at. I tend to work non stop. I am constantly trying to figure out how I can do something better. Being able to have artistic control has felt freeing. I’ve been receiving a lot of positive feedback over the work that I have released and the acceptance has been heartwarming. It keeps me going. It has taken a while for me to believe in myself. I was the kid eating alone in the library at school using reading as an escape.
My breaking point was a year ago. I was at a Skytrain stop listening to music and someone smashed a bagel in my face. They walked away calling me the worst names possible leaving me stunned and confused on the platform. I called my parents and asked them to drive me home. I cried and cried because I felt like worthless trash. My mom helped me through it and I promised myself I would stand up for myself as well as others who may not be able to stand up for themselves. That day I found the strength and confidence I had needed to create this project.
Growing up, did you always have aspirations to be a musician? Was there a specific moment you realized this is what you wanted to do with your life?
A: I lived with my grandparents on my moms side for a bit when I was growing up. They are indigenous Fijian/ Solomon Islander and came to Vancouver Canada on November 29 1976. My grandpa used to play guitar and sing in a band back in Fiji. They toured back and forth around New Zealand and Australia. I grew up with my family singing Fijian songs at all of our family functions. They always had perfect harmonies and knew exactly what to sing as some of those songs were passed down from generation to generation. This inspired me to learn how to sing because I didn’t really think that I could.
As my family was tight on money at the time, I ended up torrenting vocal lessons to learn how to sing. A few years later my dad thankfully bought me a drum kit and a guitar which I practiced to songs by The Strokes everyday. My dad took me to a few guitar lessons and he would support me whenever I had a high school band performance. Both of my parents love coming to my shows and are really supportive. My aunt gave me her old macbook at which point I downloaded Logic and started putting my demos down on a computer for the first time. I did all of this while going to school and playing soccer 6 days a week trying to get a scholarship. My mom would drive me to all of my soccer gigs. Sometimes we wouldn’t get home until 11pm on a weekday.
I didn’t take music as seriously as I do now until my mom got sick. I realized that my music helps me the most through life. I have the ability to help other people similar to me by sharing my perspective through music and that’s what I will continue to do. I don’t want people similar to me to be or feel alone.
Your first single “Take You Back” was released back in September; can you explain what the song is about for those who have yet to hear it?
A: I wrote ‘Take You Back’ a couple of years ago and finally put it down while I was inspired by Janelle Monae, Kehlani’s ‘Honey’ and The 1975’s ‘Somebody Else’. I thought that there needed to be more representation for when a queen breaks another queen’s heart. It’s ultimately about love and how it can be difficult to realize when something has become toxic. It is about learning my personal boundaries and how not having or knowing them can lead to me forgetting who I am. When I am in a relationship with someone my significant other often becomes my best friend. In queer relationships specifically, it can be hard to say you’re never going back to a person who understands the things you’re going through. Especially if that person is a big part of your support system and you might not have anyone else. I was nervous (about its release) as this song is very personal but I was also really excited for people to hear it. Every song is personal but I truly found my sound and voice in this song.
You followed this release with your songs “Young and in Love” and “Partner in Crime” and “Care” – all of which generally depict your thoughts on relationships & companionship. Where do you usually draw inspiration from when writing your lyrics?
A: Growing up I was absorbed in literature, graphic novels, music, video games and film. I used to write my own fantasy novels and ideas I had for video games. My dad would supply the video games and my mom would give me books with little notes of how proud of me she was on the front page. My early songwriting had a lot of video game, film and novel references but these days I’ve grown to write about my life with added references when they fit into specific moments. These subjects definitely still inspire the way I write. My inspiration also tends to come from collaborating with other people. I treat each song like writing a story.
Take You Back was finding yourself again after a breakup. Young and in Love was finding love after the breakup and feeling alive. Care was the good sex and hope that comes when you’re newly in love with someone. Partner in Crime is
My next single ‘Chances’ is coming out on March 8 and will be the end and the beginning of a cycle. It is about growing up with parents who are separated, generational trauma and trying to change the cycle for the better by taking accountability. It’s about learning from our mistakes instead of continuing to mess each other up.
I was watching the show American Horror Story and dug deep into the theories people have about how each season connects. This inspired me to write something cohesive about my experiences. With these singles they are going through a life cycle of love and loss. Biawanna is the main character throughout my writing. They are able to say the things I struggle to express in real life.
“I started this project because there aren’t enough people like me putting out this kind of music in my community.”
As a singer-songwriter, a majority of lyrics or ideas are taken from personal experiences. How much of your personal life do you think you will reveal through your music? Would you consider who you are as an artist and who you are as an individual similar, or even polar opposites?
A: I intend to be as honest as I can be. I have a few songs that I am tentative about releasing as they are extremely personal and touch on some heavy subjects but Biawanna isn’t afraid to say these things and they will be released in the near future. We share experiences but I’d say Biawanna is more fearless and outgoing than I am. I won’t necessarily explain everything lyric for lyric because I want people to relate to it in their own way. If you could hear a diary these songs would probably be mine.
As someone who is still very new in the industry, can you remember the emotions you felt right before your debut? Did you have any fears (or hesitations) about anything? Is there any words of advice you can give artists who (may) have content, but are too anxious about getting feedback?
A: I was anxious about receiving hateful feedback because it is lyrically a queer song but it also touches on a subject that people can relate to regardless of who they are or what they believe in. The actual feedback from it surprised me. People loved it and I am really grateful for my supporters. I believe in everything I choose to release and if I didn’t I wouldn’t want it out there. I started this project because there aren’t enough people like me putting out this kind of music in my community. My advice would be that it is ok to be anxious and afraid of releasing art that can make you feel vulnerable regardless of who you are. If you can put it out there you might be surprised at how many people come forward relating to it and thanking you for your work.
Your latest song “Partner in Crime” was released last week, how has the reception been so far? What was the process like making it?
A: The reception has been great. My friend Larry Ohh from Rhode Island, U.S.A sent me the beat for ‘Partner in Crime’ and I immediately went through my demos and found lyrics and a melody I thought would fit. That was the difference between ‘Care’ and P.I.C. With ‘Care’ I had sent my vocal stems, synth work and bass to Larry and he came up the beat, mixed and mastered it. Each song is different and I collaborate with various artists so it really just depends on the song.
“I do want to leave a lasting impression for future generations.”
Judging by your releases thus far, is it fair to categorize you as a Pop / R&B artist; or do you think you’re still discovering your sound?
A: I think that is fair but I am also pushing myself to incorporate various genres in my music. I am still discovering what I can do and boxes make me want to think outside of them.
Are there any artists that have influenced your current sound? (Ex. people you listened to growing up, people you currently listen to…)
A: Growing up I listened to Lauryn Hill, The Fugees, Tracy Chapman, Bob Marley, Amy Winehouse, The Offspring, AC/DC,Queen, The Ramones, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, The Spice Girls, Lead Belly, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and The Inkspots. These artists inspired me lyrically, musically and performance wise. I am currently hooked on Janelle Monae, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Hayley Kiyoko, Troye Sivan, Jessie Reyez, King Princess, Princess Nokia, I M U R, Tierra Whack, Kehlani, Daniel Cesar, SZA, Beyonce and Solange.
Are there any artists/musicians you would like to work with in the future?
A: I would love to work with any of the musicians I’ve listed. It would be a dream. Janelle Monae is definitely at the top of my list.
One thing I’ve noticed about you is your consistency and drive; what are some things you are hoping to accomplish in 2019? Is there anything we should look forward to?
A: I am committed to this project and will push it as far as it can go. The drive comes from my parents believing in me and supporting me through everything. I do want to leave a lasting impression for future generations.
I want to put out an EP this year and get over 1 million streams on Spotify. I will be starting to play shows in March as well as releasing a new single with my friend Des Hume on March 8th. There are also a few songs I am featured on coming out in the next couple of months. I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with the sensational I M U R. The track will probably be coming out in late spring/early summer. If you haven’t heard of them you should really check out their music.
Lastly, are there any words you would like to share with your supporters?
A: Thank you for your support and continuing to listen to my music. You inspire me to continue making music and I can’t thank you enough.