Iris Esell – prefers to move rather than impress

Published: 2006-11-30 by Sebastian Tiger

Iris Esell’s music embraces a variety of influences and it is not entirely easy to categorise the genre. It has its roots in the musical span from pop to soul, but is also influenced by disco, jazz and classical music. Rhythm is important to Iris, who has worked for many years as a DJ and she explains that the connection between music and movement is central to her.


This rich variety of genres stems from Iris’ childhood. Everyone in her family had a passionate relationship to different types of music. Her grandfather was a composer and pianist, who had been educated in Paris. Her father wrote music and her mother the lyrics for his songs.

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Her grandfather introduced her to the classical masters. Iris’ feelings were strongly moved by their music and even in her early teens she wanted to become a conductor or opera singer.
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Singing was not enough
At school, Iris was regarded as a rebel. She was the first one to dye her hair and she dressed differently, so that others called her "the punk". But this punk listened to the music of Beethoven on her Walkman, which scared the pants off the guys who once grabbed the earphones off her. "Listen! The punk’s listening to Mozart".
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Classical music faded into the background somewhat when Iris discovered jazz and blues at high school. By then, she had already decided to devote her time and energy to music. "What else would it make sense to be doing?" she mused. She began taking singing lessons, but they soon came to a halt.
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“I already had my own, very strong understanding of music. My expectations clashed with those of my singing teacher so it was impossible to carry on with the lessons. Furthermore, I saw singing as so classically feminine, just standing there like an instrument. I wanted to write music. The desire to compose was so powerful that I simply couldn't shake it off.”
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Down-to-earth and spiritual
Writing music in a family where everyone is musical can be difficult for a teenager. So Iris shut herself away when she started writing. She says she was afraid of being inundated with good advice. She gradually discovered that several of her friends also wanted to write music.
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“But they soon gave up. They expected and demanded so much of themselves that they lost all inclination to write.”
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Iris describes her music as down-to-earth and spiritual. It has a traditional structure with an introduction, verses and choruses, and she hopes that it is felt to be inspiring and well-written. She wants the listener to feel emotionally moved.
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“It is more important to me that my music moves a person's feelings than impresses them. But obviously, the acknowledgement is important too – I wouldn’t like anyone to experience feelings of repulsion and disgust when listening to my music.”
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Like doing a jigsaw puzzle
Iris rarely finds she is lacking material for her songs. She often has quite the opposite problem.
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“I get so swamped with ideas, especially in the mornings and evenings, that it can actually be annoying. I record everything on my mp3 player and sort it as and when I get time.”
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Iris says that writing music is rather like doing a jigsaw puzzle and that she finds it easy to see solutions in a composition. When she writes, she always starts with the tune. She has almost never put music to already-penned lyrics, she relates. The lyrics (which are always in English) always get written last of all, after she has composed the harmonies and finished arranging the song.
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Iris believes that her DJ skills have helped her as a song writer and with the production of her debut album "Iris", which was released in autumn 2005.
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“Being a DJ is similar to being a chemist. I know that I can achieve a mixture of music that keeps people on the dance floor. This was useful when making my album.”
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One CD a year
The record companies that Iris was in contact with before her debut album wanted to pull her one way and then the other. They wanted to say what sound the album should have and who she should be working with. Iris finally decided to go it alone so that she could create the album after her own mind. She declares that she intends to continue working this way.
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Iris’ debut album is the result of a close partnership with her boyfriend Richard Reynolds, who is also a co-composer on three of the tracks. They will continue developing their work together and have decided to try and produce one CD a year. The next one is due to be released after the summer and will include a fairly scattered mixture of styles.
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“It is an upshot of my special weave of musical experiences. It will be a mixture of James Bond music, disco, thoroughly prepared strings and choral arrangements, some Russian music and lots of drama.”
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It seems like those who want to put a label on Iris' music are in for a tough autumn.

Mattias Franzén


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