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Student Spotlight: Lana Cenčić on Her New Single “Ophidia”

Today we’ve got the immense pleasure of introducing you to the music of Lana Cenčić (a.k.a. TÍHO), via her newly released single and accompanying music video, “Ophidia.” The song is a lushly orchestrated, beautifully conceived and produced ballad, which is at times both cinematic and intimate.

But what’s so exciting for us is that Lana recorded and mixed the song herself across two back-to-back Headliners Club mentorship sessions with Martin Fowler, one of our audio production and music theory mentors here at Soundfly. Martin guided her, offering support and feedback all along the way, and pointing her in the right direction when old habits got her stuck in difficult situations. In the end, Lana’s brilliant songwriting shines through with a recording and video that are equally as stunning — and she did everything herself.

Here are some encouraging words from Martin about their session together.

“Lana is an immensely dedicated and hard worker on her stuff. She really wants to get deep into things and understand them, and she asks a ton of very well-thought and pertinent questions. She’s also quite busy (as a full-time Cirque du Soleil performer) and often traveling from international city to city. Seeing Lana’s immense growth as a producer working within Logic Pro, I believe she could produce a whole album on her own now!”

Let’s listen to the song, and below you can read my interview with Lana about her songwriting and recording processes and experience working with Martin. But first, you too can pursue your musical dreams with a Soundfly Mentor. Just share your musical goals with us and we’ll pair you up with a professional musician, engineer, composer, or music industry veteran who will help you achieve them in a personalized four-week session.

Firstly, this song is gorgeous. It’s really pretty, well-structured, and that topline melody is such a strong ear worm. Congrats! But I have to start with talking about the video; was this shot in self-isolated quarantine or did you plan the video like this in advance?

Thank you I really appreciate it! The video was shot in Sydney, Brisbane, Sao Paulo, and Vienna a few months before the quarantine actually. Because I was basically writing, performing, arranging, organizing, producing, recording, mixing the song and editing the video — and learning how to do some of the above in the process — it took months of work. I was also on tour with Cirque du Soleil at the time (before we all got laid off) and performing 8-10 shows a week as my main job.

So I worked on this project mostly on my one and only day off every week, but also in the mornings before the show or during the show when I was not on stage. It was full on.

“I had to record my guitar in the circus tent, backstage in the mornings before the show. Because the electrical outlets at the apartment weren’t grounded, I had major interference and background noise when trying to record the guitar there.”

Last December, when we were living in Sydney, I recorded and filmed the strings and I recorded my vocals and keys. I had to record my guitar in the circus tent, backstage in the mornings before the show. Because the electrical outlets at the apartment weren’t grounded, I had major interference and background noise when trying to record the guitar there.

Then while living and performing in Brisbane in January, I filmed myself playing and singing, while my friends in Vienna and Sao Paulo recorded and filmed the drum and bass parts. And I started editing the video right when quarantine started.

You made this song while undertaking a couple back-to-back Soundfly mentorship sessions, how did that support help you throughout the process?

My mentor Martin Fowler was a huge help. I don’t think I would have been able to do all of this without him. There were so many technical issues I was dealing with, as a beginner in the DIY recording and production world, which were also the reasons the recordings and mixes I tried to do myself in the past didn’t end up as good as they could have.

But also being a touring musician, not having a settled home with my own studio gear, moving every few months, I am often faced with electricity changes or grounding issues, or noisy hotels and apartments, etc.

“It’s like having a collaborator or friend by your side helping you out when you get stuck, and additionally having a pro musician that keeps it all in perspective for you when it’s time to make decisions.”

The mentorship sessions are just so perfect for me, because it’s like having a collaborator or friend by your side helping you out when you get stuck, and additionally having a pro musician that keeps it all in perspective for you when it’s time to make decisions.

Also, because I don’t have a proper studio setup with speakers and all, my mentor is always there to double check the sound on their professional equipment — not to mentioned how much he helped me with knowledge about Logic and certain plugins that would’ve taken me years to figure out on my own!

The fact that each mentorship session has a timeframe helps immensely because it gave me a schedule to get the job done where otherwise I could end up procrastinating forever. I feel like this is the best course out there for people who have a project or specific idea that they want to work on but need guidance and assistance in achieving their goals.

Awesome! So, what is the story of “Ophidia” about?

“Ophidia” a song about my healing journey. Ophidia is a homeopathic remedy that consists of snake venom and I was taking that remedy for a few years. It’s also a scientific name for all modern snakes and reptiles closely related to snakes. The name derives from the Ancient Greek word ophidion meaning “small snake.”

A few years ago I embarked on another one of my healing journeys and this one was under the wings of homeopathy. I had the huge privilege to be guided by a close friend and incredibly powerful homeopath and she helped find my constitutional remedy, the remedy that would help penetrate and unearth the deepest, unconscious wounds, and induce healing and transformation. Homeopathic remedies can be made of pretty much anything and one remedy that is made of snake venom was found to be my personal constitutional remedy. The journey of taking this for a period of a few years was wild and powerful and very intense!

I was inspired to write and dedicate a song to it because I learned very viscerally how our deepest wounds and shadows hold our deepest healing and our innate gifts, but only after we are courageous enough to face and embrace them!

“I have to turn within to find stability and peace, and a deeper meaning of why we are all here, what it all means. That journey within to heal my own traumas has been hugely inspiring to my songwriting.”

What else motivates and inspires your music?

Mostly spiritual themes, my own healing path, my own experiences which were quite heavy throughout my whole life: like being a war refugee in Ex-Yugoslavia, having to escape and move as a child every few years, disconnection from my family from the age of eight, and not belonging to any certain place in the world, dealing with health conditions, identity issues, etc.

For all of the above reasons, I realized at a very young age that life is fleeting and the existence of the material world something unreliable, and that I have to turn within to find stability and peace, and a deeper meaning of why we are all here, what it all means. That journey within to heal my own traumas has been hugely inspiring to my songwriting.

I am also a curious observer of our society, culture, and people’s behavior.

I’m impressed with how balanced everything sounds: including the multiple backup vocals with the lead, all of the mid-range layers like the piano, synth, organ, guitar and violin, etc. What did the process of mixing entail for you?

Thank’s so much! Again, Martin was responsible for guiding me in the right direction with so much of that. When it came to the balance of all these instruments in the mid-range, I learned from Martin that I have to somehow create space for each of them through EQ subtraction or and panning.

At first I couldn’t hear the finesse of two or more instruments fighting for their space until Martin pointed it out — or I would hear it sound a bit muddy or peaky, but would have zero idea on what to do about it. This is still something I will have to do and repeat a lot, mixing song after song, to become better versed in recognizing and hearing these frequencies and acquiring the right knowledge and tools to fix them.

What is the song structure of “Ophidia” and why did you choose that form of organization? 

Its simple:

Intro – Verse 1  – Chorus 1  – Verse 2  – Chorus 2 – Bridge – Interlude – Verse 3 – Chorus 3  – Outro

Most of the time when I write, I make decisions quite intuitively — I kind of just go with the flow. While I am playing and writing, I feel out whether I want to hear a section again or if once is enough, if it actually needs a bridge or not, etc. I let the song guide me, and sometimes I have lyrics that I feel like adding, so I’ll add more verses. Or sometimes I like to break the flow of a song and go into something completely different because I like the excitement of it.

This song is pretty classic I would say.

“Being able to get in touch with my own inner little voice gave me a sense of clarity, direction, and guidance in my very turbulent life. And especially in times like these, uncertain and turbulent as ever, this is what I would like to inspire people to do and what I wish for everybody to achieve.”

What’s your favorite lyric in this song and why?

In the very beginning, I really like this line:

“So can you help me, heal me and deeply feel me? Then don’t be scared , my poison is as poisonous as yours.”

This is my first encounter with my medicine, with my healer. In homeopathy, it’s all about finding a remedy that matches your frequency, like a vaccine or an antiserum. So the snake venom  is the frequency of my wounds and darkness and receiving the remedy of another snake’s venom is known to equalize and heal the symptoms. I am talking to my remedy and saying: you don’t have to be scared because my poison is as poisonous as yours, I am made of the same stuff as you.

And I also love this line:

“How will you show me, teach me and then allow me to meet you and to join you in the darkness of my soul? Will you just bite me, drink me or will you fight me? I will surrender to the remedy you hold”

What will this journey be like? Will you fight me, bite me, drink out my blood? In the end whatever happens, I will surrender to your healing. Before you surrender to the remedy, there is resistance and a fight and the more you fight, the worse you feel. That stuff is crazy powerful and hard to explain to people who have never experienced it.

What can we expect from your TÍHO project in the future?

More self-produced songs and videos, with my skills growing hopefully, better and better mixing and production, and with a wish to bring it into a more electronic direction!

My dream has always been to touch people’s hearts and inspire them feel connected to their intuition and their inner little voice. Being able to get in touch with my own inner little voice gave me a sense of clarity, direction, and guidance in my very turbulent life. And especially in times like these, uncertain and turbulent as ever, this is what I would like to inspire people to do and what I wish for everybody to achieve.

TÍHO stands for Quiet in Croatian, my mother tongue. It symbolically stands for the inner, little, quiet voice or the intuition. Is it the name of the project and my artistic name.

I am TÍHO. I am quiet.

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Jeremy Young

Jeremy is a Montreal-based musician, sound artist and improviser who loves giving advice to emerging artists on how to make their tours more effective. He writes, records and performs electroacoustic "concrète" music for tape, oscillators and amplified objects and surfaces, as well as solo guitar. He has performed and released material throughout Europe and the UK, Asia, the US and Canada, mostly with his trio Sontag Shogun.