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Sitting at a noisy café in the Brixton district of her hometown of London, England, Andreya Triana is wearing a wide-brim hat and smiling non-stop. She is as cute as a basket of puppies—and just as irrepressible. The singer/songwriter is enjoying a rare spell of not touring as she prepares for the tidal wave that is sure to accompany the release of her second solo album, Giants.

It has been five years since Triana’s debut, Lost Where I Belong, on Ninja Tune’s Counter Records imprint, but she has hardly been dormant. Besides posting colorful shoe selfies at regular intervals on her social media platforms, Triana’s soulful voice is featured on two tracks from Bonobo’s best-received album, 2013’s North Borders. Triana spent months on end touring with Bonobo as North Borders gained more and more momentum. Meanwhile, cutting-edge DJ/Producer Breach remixed Triana’s piano-driven ballad “Everything You Never Had”, the closing track on Giants, far ahead of the album’s release. He turned the song into a massive club hit and Triana into an unwitting EDM über-diva. In the process, the track has two lives: as Breach’s “Everything You Never Had (We Had It All)” featuring Andreya Triana, and as Triana’s own song, “Everything You Never
Had Part II”.

“It was super cool how that happened,” Triana says of the Breach correlation. Starring on other artists’ music is familiar territory for Triana. Before her solo work, she found her way onto Flying Lotus’ “Tea Leaf Dancers” and Mr. Scruff’s “Hold On” as well as the aforementioned Bonobo connection, which began on his album, Black Sands. “Those guys do not compromise creatively,” Triana says. ”It’s tough to stand behind all the music you create with outside pressures and people telling you how things should be. That’s something I learned from them: to have integrity and to believe in the music you love. They’re really inspiring.”

Bonobo produced Triana’s Lost Where I Belong in his attic in London before she received a record deal with Ninja Tune. She, in turn, traveled back and forth from Brighton, a satellite town, to work with him during her time off from work. For Giants, Triana applied for and received financial support from Britain’s Performing Rights Society’s Momentum Music Fund, which is set up for artists to break through to the next level of their career. Triana was prepared with songs already written, both on her own and with professional songwriters, Dee Adam (Armin Van Buuren) and Paul O’Duffy (Amy Winehouse). She spent a month in Los Angeles with Aqualung’s Matt Hales refining what she had, as well as writing with Hales. Backed by five years worth of experience and the confidence of being an established musician, Triana’s growth on Giants is marked.

“The second time around I had a lot more things in place, I felt a lot surer of my direction, and I had a much bigger vision for myself,” says Triana. “I wrote [more than] seventy songs. I worked with all manner of songwriters. In my songwriting sessions I pushed myself as hard as possible. I went deeper lyrically and emotionally; I tapped into subjects I never would have touched the first time around. I stopped doing collaborations and giving my energy to other projects. When you’ve got that headspace, it’s easier to focus on your own thing. It was something I wanted to do for myself. It was an intense process—but really amazing at the same time.”

The combination of Hales’ ability to put artists at ease and make them feel safe, yet daring them to push past their comfort zone is what Triana needed to get to the next level with Giants. The confessional quality of her jazz-informed, soul-drenched, husky voice carries over from her previous work. What’s new on Giants is a loss of innocence that is replaced by a natural confidence that nudges towards ambitious. This can be heard in the multi-textured layers of both musical and vocal harmonies on the bold title track. In complementary contrast, on the intimate piano-and-strings number, “For A Friend”, Triana sounds like a veteran soultress—Nina Simone or Erykah Badu—with the same level of nonchalant perfection.

“I never feel satisfied with what I’d done,” notes Triana. “As an artist and a songwriter, you always want to push yourself. I always want to do better. I find the idea of a future where I keep songwriting on a bigger and bigger scale and what is going to happen musically really exciting.”

Text by Lily Moayeri