Every country has its one and only pop queen and undoubtedly Ira Losco has got to be Malta’s. Get to know her better in our exclusive interview with her!
Every country has its one and only pop queen and undoubtedly the beautiful Ira Losco has got to be Malta’s.
Apart from having represented the island twice in the Eurovision Song Contest, with one time being only 12 points away from winning the title, Ira has released a string of chart-topping singles and has performed in over 25 different countries around the world alongside major international artists. Did you know she collaborated with Jason Derulo in the 2018 FIFA World Cup anthem too? More recently, she excelled as one of the judges and mentors on the first ever edition of X Factor Malta , having all her Boys’ category reach the semi-finals and Owen Leuellen securing an impressive second place. As many have reflected, she’s a true artist, she’s got it all!
If you’re soon spending your holidays in Malta, we thought you wouldn’t want to miss a chance of getting to know our favourite pop queen. So, sit back, relax and discover what Ms. Losco had to say in her exclusive interview with Air Malta!
As Malta’s biggest pop artist, what is your favourite thing about your country? Do you have any favourite location on the island?
I love my island. It’s small but unique and beautiful. Truthfully I can plan to do lots of things in one day because everywhere is easy to get to in such a short time. I enjoy the countryside and I adore our lovely beaches. I also love our people, our language and the tasty food. I absolutely love the South of the island. The Three Cities, Marsaxlokk and Żurrieq are amongst my favourite locations. I also think Mellieħa and the sister island of Gozo are absolutely beautiful, our capital city Valletta is gorgeous and so is the silent city of Mdina. I have to also admit that I will always have a soft spot for my hometown, Sliema, and its sun-kissed promenade…such a lovely walk overlooking the sea!
When and from where did your passion to become a singer/songwriter/ performer originate?
My mother always says I sang before I could talk. I’ve always loved music. At school I was a bit of a nerd, I wasn’t athletic at all, always preferred sitting at my piano. Music seemed to be my escape. I felt like I didn’t really fit in, during my teenage years, so music helped me find an identity and it gave me refuge.
The first time I got the taste of being on stage, I couldn’t get enough. I guess I then wanted music to be part of my life forever even more so when I started writing my own songs at age 11. I was ecstatic when I joined a band at age 15 and could write lyrics and melodies with my band mates. When I met Howard, my manager, producer and co-songwriter, post my near Eurovision win, he encouraged me to write again, I was hooked!
Who are your musical inspirations/artists you look up to?
There are far too many to mention. I grew up listening to 80s pop and the classics; Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Queen, David Bowie. As a teenager I listened to alternative music; Portishead, Blur, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Björk… that taught me to take the unpredictable route when writing. My exposure to pop enticed me to write songs that people could relate to. I guess I have tried to lift what I liked from all those bands and artists and apply it to my writing and performance.
Briefly describe the process that goes behind writing a new song.
Well not every artist does it the same way. The way I like to write is by bottling up all of my emotions. I am an over thinker which doesn’t work out very well for my personal life, but it’s brilliant for writing! I usually file all my thoughts in my brain and I think of ways to say things. When I feel overwhelmed with all these thoughts, I either sit at my piano or with my guitar and I sing the lyrics I would’ve been “writing” in my head and sing to melodies I make up there and then.
Howard listens to all my raw ideas and then we start the recording process and he produces all the tracks. He has a very clear vision. We are a great team! Sometimes I just sing an acapella top liner melody and record onto my phone. Other times it could be with the piano, guitar or even a Looper I have. I wrote some of my best songs like “Me Luv U Long Time” and “What I’d give” in 5 minutes. I feel that leaves no room for having our brain interfere and instead it’s just a case of pouring our feelings without distractions. Another one of my most popular ones, “Love me or Hate me”, I recorded in my car on the way to the studio. “Hey Now” was written amidst an argument between Howard (my manager) and I. He insisted I needed another hit on my double album “No Sinner No Saint” which already had around 20 tracks at that point. I was being hard-headed and refused to write more and “Hey Now” came about. He was right, I was wrong, and a song liked by many came about!
Which song do you enjoy performing the most?
Right now, “Hey Now” is fun. I did a duet version with the X Factor Malta runner-up who I was mentoring, Owen Leuellen, which everyone seems to have absolutely loved and it has now actually hit the radios!
You’ve performed with many big international names in the music industry. Who were your favourite artists to perform with? How did such experiences make you feel?
It is always a huge responsibility. At first it feels overwhelming, but then I always remind myself that this is what I was born to do. I come alive on stage and I’ve always prepared very well for it. I go on automatic pilot. I obviously want to make the artist I’m collaborating with proud, so I make sure I am a true professional and I leave no stones unturned.
My collaboration with Jason Derulo last year was a fantastic experience. While I was recording he was on tour so his record label sent us the separate tracks and I recorded my bit and we mixed it here. I met him after that and he was absolutely lovely. We had great comments about that collaboration. I also loved performing with Max Gazzé on tour. Claudio Baglioni was so nice to me and accompanied me on his piano for an intimate duet. Music draws artists together, something happens when artists join forces, it’s a wonderful thing!
To be honest, I’ve worked with so many artists and we are all different but there’s always a lot of respect between us. When you’re working with established artists you have to bring your A game and feel like an equal. There’s always that moment of “OMG I hope I can do this!” but one look is enough to make you realize we are all humans after all.
If you could perform with any other artist of your choice, who would you choose and why?
Probably PINK or Lady Gaga. The honesty in their performances is just awesome. They are true artists. They’ve both had their struggles, but they have always found music as their therapy. They’re strong independent women but they pour their heart and soul into their art and I am in awe of that.
How would you describe your experience as a judge on the first edition of X Factor Malta?
It was exciting to discover such a lot of talent which probably wouldn’t have ever come to light because of a variety of reasons. Making music is a joyous experience but it also takes a lot of financial investment and is incredibly time-consuming. The X Factor has given the opportunity to artists who might’ve never had the opportunity to step into a recording studio or onto a stage. It also gave opportunity to artists who had been misled or misguided. I absolutely loved mentoring my category. I got to suggest repertoire I might never have chosen for myself, I had a vision for my three boys and I also loved preparing them for the stage. I am humbled by their trust and respect.
If you had to name your biggest achievement and your toughest challenge in your career so far, what would they be?
My biggest achievement has definitely been longevity. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would still be doing this, releasing albums, videos, being on stage with international artists and one of the most watched programs in my country 17 years on. I’m so lucky to have this profession, but I also work extremely hard.
I think the toughest challenge in this profession is the hurdles that come about being in the public eye. Thankfully I love meeting people, communicating, really being in touch with those who support my music, so as far as that goes, no problems there. Obviously rumours, nastiness, online heckling and the fact that not everyone’s going to like you for whatever reason is hard to take in at times. I’ve been around long enough to take constructive criticism in my stride, take note of it and make changes AND also ignore the destructive criticism. I am also blessed to be surrounded by an incredible support system. My family, friends and my professional team are my backbone.
What are Ira Losco’s upcoming plans?
Definitely more singles to be released accompanied by videos from my latest album released last June. So far, I’ve released “Haunted by love”, “We Are the Soldiers”, “Oh My God”, “One In A Million”, “Hey Now” and “Bad Habits” from my last album “No Sinner No Saint” but it’s a double album so there’s a lot of tracks in there! Probably more collaborations with other artists and who knows maybe season 2 of X Factor Malta? Most definitely, some big live shows coming up this year which I’m looking forward to.
Photos by Kris Micallef, Allen Venables, Gordon Pace, X Factor Malta.