Private Playlist: Genevieve Artadi is learning Bach and living moment by moment

Genevieve Artadi. Photo by Kevin Sauzéat

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments.

Genevieve Artadi is most widely known as one-half of KNOWER, the avant-pop duo she formed with musical polymath Louis Cole in 2009. Prior to meeting Cole, she graduated with a degree in Jazz Studies from CalStateNorthridge and continued her studies at CSU Long Beach. In keeping with KNOWER’s borderless approach, the group has performed with Sweden’s Norrbotten Big Band and opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers; collaborated with Pomplamoose and Snarky Puppy; and helmed an ever-changing live incarnation of the band. Recently, Artadi released a dazzling full-length solo album, “Dizzy Strange Summer.

For this edition of Private Playlist, Genevieve Artadi shares music made by her friends, loved ones, and lifelong influences, from Nancy Wilson to Pedro Martins.

“[Nancy Wilson] has something I aspire to with my singing: to hit hard emotionally, but without sounding like I’m trying to convey an emotion. Just being that emotion.” — Genevieve Artadi

GENEVIEVE ARTADI: I’m doing well. I’m meditating every day, which is helping me a lot, just being aware of all the things I’m doing on a moment-by-moment basis. And I’m always surrounded by people that I love, thankfully. I’m never just alone for long periods of time. So I’m enjoying the company of a few people. This is a time when everybody’s isolated, so I’m lucky in that way. I’m enjoying messing around, cooking and playing piano and doing Duolingo. Little activities to keep me busy. And I have music to help me.

I'm usually pretty shy about sharing music. All of my friends are excited and always exchanging music, but I'm pretty shy about being the one to say, "Hey, check this out," you know? I go through periods where it's quiet, and I'm just not listening to music while I do things or scoring my day. But lately, I've been in a mood where I'm playing music for different activities. I've been trying to learn Bach's “Inventions,” so I'm listening to classical piano music. I like to color my hair different colors, so I have specific music that I'm playing while I color my hair blue.


Pedro Martins is my boyfriend, and we have a long distance relationship. Right now he lives in Brazil, and I live in Los Angeles. And thankfully, we have our music to connect with. He reached out to me on Facebook years ago, and we met in person in London. I had a show and he was mixing his album there, so we met at my show. We met onstage; I was like, “Do you want to solo on my song?” And I wasn’t expecting his music to be so hard-hitting and so deep. And from there, we just connected on a really deep level. So I wanted to play a song from his album, “Vox.” And it's the first song of his I heard that blew my mind. It's a beautiful melody, the kind of melody that I wish I could write. It goes on and on and develops; it doesn't just give itself to you and repeat over and over. It's incredible.


My brother and I took piano lessons in high school. And I would try to play harder pieces, but he can really play. And to this day, he practices really complicated, tough stuff, but it’s the most beautiful music. And I learned this piece from hearing my brother play it. Chopin's "Tristesse" sends this wave of calmness [over me] and puts me in touch with the beauty of the world. It's so beautiful, and makes me feel so warm. I'll pull it up if I want to feel that feeling too.


String Boys make music that has this mix of beauty, craft, and humor. I put humor all over my own music; there's almost always something funny in there, because I love to laugh. I really love comedy. And I appreciate funny people so much, because I think they're in touch with the sadness of the world, or things that can be aggravating or frustrating, and they can transform it into something beautiful and make light of it. This song definitely falls into that category.


Lately, I've been working really hard on my voice every day, doing a lot of exercises and pushing my limits. And I always go back to Nancy Wilson. She did an album with Cannonball Adderley [which includes] this song. She sings so sweetly, but with such fire; I really felt like she understood what she was singing. There’s a conversational tone about the way she sings, but there’s also this mastery of her instrument. And that’s something I aspire to be able to do with my singing: to hit hard emotionally, but without sounding like I’m trying to convey an emotion. Just being that emotion.

"A Sleepin' Bee" has this light, beautiful jumpiness to it. And I think it has so much to do with how she uses dynamics. She makes every moment interesting in the song: it starts off real soft, and then she hits it hard at a certain point. It's so easy to take for granted, but to come up with that, and to do it so spontaneously and so naturally, it's just the most beautiful thing, and it brings me a sense of joy. It's pretty rare when I can feel that lightness.


I met Isis Giraldo, aka Chiquita Magic, at a really good friend's wedding. We played at this venue that she books and runs with her partner in Montreal called Cafe Resonance, and she opened for me. She plays synth bass with her left hand, chords with her right hand, and a little drum machine, and she sings. This particular track is a more gentle one. I wanted to play it because it's gorgeous. It’s in Spanish, and I don't even know what she's saying, but I'm still very moved by it. I love it.

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