Brooklyn-via-Berlin’s very own singer-songwriter, Panteon, just released her latest track, “The Hill.” It’s an elegant, ethereal single, written in less than an hour as she sat staring out of the window at steep, snow-covered mountains at the Banff Center of Arts and Creativity, moving and swaying with a grace found only in nature.
I got the chance to talk with Panteon – aka Yvonne Ambrée – about traveling, “The Hill,” and her upcoming EP. Read on for more 😉
Let’s start at the beginning; how did you find your way into music, and how have you used it to cross both physical and mental/emotional boundaries in your life? What do you consider to be the greatest boundary that you’ve overcome?
I grew up in a musical background, with my mom being a choir-singer and my dad being a music enthusiast with a huge vinyl collection and great knowledge about every record he owned. Since I was always singing with my mom, I don’t remember ever thinking of doing something else except becoming a singer-songwriter. So many things in life always change and we’re always searching for something solid – a constant variable – and “music” with all its parts – being it just listening or creating – has always been one of the few constant things that made me come back to who I am and to see the bigger picture, especially during difficult times.
How have your travels impacted you as a musician and songwriter, as well as a person?
Traveling is probably one of the most overwhelming and unexpected beauties of life. By that, I don’t necessarily mean booking an “all inclusive resort” at the most beautiful beach in the world – although that sometimes sounds tempting, as well – but merely exploring other parts of the world, meeting people and learning about new cultures. It really opens your eyes as to what and how other people live, and that boundaries are merely in our heads.
When you look at the news, all you hear is destruction, hatred, and conflict all over the world, but, with very few exceptions, I’ve experienced nothing but hospitality and open faces whenever I traveled and was in need of help. Personally, that has always been a really rewarding experience for me, besides all the inspiration and in/output I take out of my travels. As a result, a lot of my songwriting plays with the idea of new situations, places, moments and how it affects me as an individual.
What’s your creative process like?
Usually, I pick up the guitar/piano and come up with a chord pattern and melody. I always invent some words and, a lot of the time, some of it will stay while I write the lyrics. I have a notebook filled with ideas/stream of consciousness/stories from travels etc. and always try to find the lines that feel good with the parts that I just came up with.
What inspired “The Hill”?
“The Hill” was written during my residency at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. I wasn’t planning on writing new material, but planned on finishing songs I wrote while traveling through Mongolia. After an interesting and eye-opening conversation with one of my fellow participants one evening, I woke up the next morning and wrote the song in less than an hour. It really came out with no hesitation and/or struggle (finishing other songs sometimes can take days) and it plays with the idea of nature versus modern life filled with technology and distractions. The chorus line “You pulling me to the wire and telling me to cover up the fire” refers to the idea of suppressing instinct and intuition and trading it for a life of seeking constant momentum.
Why do you think it’s so important to connect with your inner voice and to focus on life as it happens around you, especially in a time when it’s so easy to do the exact opposite?
I can feel when I’m not happy and I know that connecting with nature or even just taking a walk always helps to put things back into balance. The word “inner voice” can mean a lot of things to different people, but to me, it just means to be grateful for the moment, stop judging and, instead, accept it. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s such a hard thing to do – especially in a world that teaches you to look for happiness everywhere except within.
What can you tell our readers about your upcoming EP?
My upcoming EP will have more electronic influences, and, on the production side, it will get a little bigger as well. My main focus, however, will always be crafting a good song and telling a story. It will contain sounds and anecdotes I collected during my recent travels and overall might be a bit more uplifting than my first EP (…at least I hope so…lol).