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Lyonne shares her musical journey and more from Argentina to Denmark

Lyonne makes the switch from Buenos Aires to Copenhagen, bringing with her a unique musical sound.

Photographs: Anahi Bangueses

Text: Jakob Weizman

Vanina Lion, known by her artistic name of Lyonne, has a sound that cannot be compared to anyone else. The same can be said for her story about her move to Denmark three years ago.

Every international has something within them that they bring over to Denmark's melting pot of cultures. Lyonne's musical upbringing in Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital, transcended to Copenhagen's upcoming music industry scene in only a matter of time.

Lyonne describes her music as the soundtrack to J.D. Salinger's esteemed novel Catcher in the Rye, drawing comparisons to that of Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow and Sting.

Where the musical journey began

"Since I was born, music has played a major role in my life, and I always took it very seriously. I had a band in Buenos Aires when I was 18," said Lyonne. "I studied social communications in Argentina, but I've always been into music, and started learning guitar when I was 13. I'm not a guitarist, but I use the guitar to accompany me in my songwriting and when I'm singing."

During her studies, Lyonne met her husband Dan, who is Danish, while he was studying abroad in Buenos Aires for a year. In 2003, the two decided to move to Malmo, which was the best way for Lyonne to get a visa and be close to Dan's friends and family in Denmark.

"When we moved to Malmo in 2003, I was just playing music for myself, I wasn't performing or writing new music, then we went back to Buenos Aires where the kids were born," revealed Lyonne.

Back home in South America, they decided to enrol their daughters, Emma and Olivia, in a school that was focused on music, which became Lyonne's reintroduction into making music once more after her hiatus.

"A lot of the teachers were professional musicians. At some point, I performed for the kids, and the teachers really liked it, so we started working together," said Lyonne.

Diving into music once again, she sent out her demos to a professor she had in university who was a famous musician by the name of Jorge López Ruiz, a renowned jazz musician and composer in Argentina. He had played together with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillepsie. He was so kind listening to my demo, and said I had two possibilities: "Either embrace who you are and be the artist you were meant to be, or do something else, but you have to know that it will always come back to haunt you." It was an eye-opener to hear that from such a guy.

Keeping her mentor's advice in mind, Lyonne began to work with Ruiz to create her first EP, No Intro which was released in 2015. This Denmark based, Argentinian born musician describes it as the "kickstart of my professional career," eclipsing genres such as indie pop and jazz.

A music critic from one of Argentina's well-known newspapers, La Nación, described her music as "songs that flirt with pop, urban and avant-garde folk of New York cafes, with the indispensable ingredients of jazz."

Set course for Denmark

Gripped with a relentless passion for evolving her sound even further, Lyonne signed with the record label Acqua Records in Buenos Aires and began working with her band to create her first full-length album. The end product, Such a Distance to Cross, was released in 2017, expanding the horizon on her career.

However, that horizon expanded across the Atlantic Ocean as Lyonne and her husband decided to travel for a few months, part of that time being in Denmark where they enrolled their two daughters in a Danish folkeskole to see what life would be like living in Copenhagen.

"My husband thought it would be a good idea for our daughters to try and see what a Danish folkeskole was like, and we both wanted them to have this experience," said Lyonne. "They were so happy, and soon started questioning why we chose Buenos Aires to be our forever home, so the whole thing made us question our future plans."

Having just signed to a prominent record label in Argentina, Lyonne and her family had to decide between either staying in Buenos Aires or moving to Copenhagen, and in the end, she has no regrets about how the future played out in the years to follow after 2017. Wanting the best for her children, the choice was clear.

"It was an amazing experience, and it made it easier to move here. For the children, it's been an easier adjustment as my husband had already taught them Danish. The most important difference was the independence that they could have here, in Copenhagen, it's not like that in Buenos Aires," said Lyonne.

After spending some time accustoming and adapting to Danish life and culture, ensuring that her daughters were also settling in, Lyonne began to investigate another way to continue her professional career as a musician.

Second Album: Late Night

Only knowing one person and one record studio in the music industry in Copenhagen, she was able to overcome obstacles and won a grant from a funding organisation for promising musicians, which allowed her to start producing and recording her second album.

Working with local jazz musicians in Copenhagen, Lyonne worked throughout 2020 with Gramercy Records to release Late Night, which came out just last month, 13 November, which is available on all streaming platforms, such as Spotify and Youtube.

"Late Night has 12 tracks performed by my Danish jazz sidemen and myself. The songs have an intimate feel, and we explore what Late Night means to me, the time for introspective moments to surface. A space of genuine connection with oneself, and a time to let go of possible impostures, to face one's true desires. Keys, upright bass and drums and percussion accompany the voice throughout the record, while tenor sax, cello and guitars appear as guests and spice up the tune," said Lyonne in her description of the new album.

"I write about being introspective (in my songwriting), to help people connect with themselves when they listen, I am an introvert, and you can pick that up in the lyrics," she revealed. "They are kind of bluesy songs with a hint of hope, songs about loss and lost love, realising that something's not there anymore."

Lyonne also points out that as she hears her music from when she began professionally in 2014 compared to now, it's become more grounded in the last record.

"Late Night has 12 tracks performed by my Danish jazz sidemen and myself. The songs have an intimate feel, and we explore what Late Night means to me, the time for introspective moments to surface."

Every artist cites musical influences as a substantial part of their creative muse, which is why Lyonne makes sure she credits those responsible for helping her formulate the sound we hear today, and in the years before. "I have to say Sting is one of my biggest influences. After discovering his music with his album Ten Summoner's Tales, my musical world was kind of shaken, and I started to listen to his songs on an intense level as if dissecting harmonies, rhythms and lyrics," said Lyonne.

"I've also been influenced by particular records from certain artists, like Coldplay's Parachutes or Sheryl Crow's Tuesday Night Music Club that I've listened to on repeat so many times!" said Lyonne. "And on a different side of the spectrum, I love Gershwin's music, the voices of Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin, Annie many! I think listening to all of these amazing artists created a cocktail that blends well together."

Pic courtesy of Evann Contartese

Obstacles and new directions

With COVID-19 regulations making it much more difficult for musicians around the world to perform concerts and promote themselves, Lyonne also faced the same issues with the release of her second album but hopes that the future will bear better tidings.

"I should have been in Buenos Aires recording a cello sound for the album, I was unable to because of COVID-19, and that was tough on many different levels," said Lyonne. "It's tough to plan anything because we don't know what will happen. I'm hoping we'll be able to play some gigs in the Winter Jazz Festival in February."

"The idea is to start playing gigs and playing tours in South America, Europe and Asia. I'm also organising concerts for other artists, called Acoustic Nights here in Copenhagen," said Lyonne. "We are following all the regulations, but we can only host 40 people inside."

Coming from a city of around 3 million, Lyonne had some worries about how the Copenhagen music scene would compare to the lively Latin American culture embedded in Buenos Aires.

"Buenos Aires has such a live culture with so many things happening at the same time, a lot of music, a lot of art, and dance. I had that in my mind when I wondered what Copenhagen would be like. It's a small city compared to Buenos Aires, but I was pleasantly surprised that there are so many creatives. It's really incredible, and there are lots of concerts," said Lyonne.

Lyonne's family has made the trip to visit her in Copenhagen, getting to know her Danish life. Homesickness definitely strikes the mind of every international once in a while. Still, Lyonne insists that in a city that has such a diverse cultural melting pot like Copenhagen, it's not difficult to find a slice of home. Empanadas and alfajores, both traditional snacks in her home country, are also available to her palate when in Copenhagen.

The singer offers up her own advice to internationals looking to settle in Denmark, saying there's a place for everyone in Copenhagen and beyond.

Speaking of food, Lyonne and her family would prefer to dine in another part of the world, instead of Danish and Argentinian cuisine; "We eat a lot of Asian food, we like the spices, and I think both Danish and Argentinian cuisine doesn't really have that," said Lyonne.

The singer offers up her own advice to internationals looking to settle in Denmark, saying there's a place for everyone in Copenhagen and beyond.

"I think it's good to go out and explore wherever you are! It's a great opportunity to reinvent yourself, go out there and make it happen. You're starting over, it's tough, but also very freeing to have the chance of asking yourself what you want and start connecting with people," said Lyonne.

"I think both the international and Danish community are great here and very open-minded."

For more info about Lyonne and her music, visit her website:

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