Interview: Ola Szmidt

Interview: Ola SzmidtPolish-born and York-based Ola Szmidt is one of our favourite emerging artists. We first stumbled upon Szmidt just over a year ago and haven’t stopped following her musical moves ever since.

Her music combines vocal and instrumental improvisations with live looping techniques and self-produced electronics that melds jazz, ambient practices and contemporary classical with Scandinavian and Eastern Folk traditions.

If you haven’t done so already you should definitely check out her very atmospheric and stunning debut EP1.

With the announcement of her second EP, we had the chance to catch up with Szmidt for a little chat about music, influences and future plans. Read our interview and get to know her better and make sure to stream two tracks from the upcoming release below.


How did you get into music?

I would like to rephrase your question 🙂 Music got me and became my best friend, saved me in my childhood from loneliness and sadness. I spent a lot of time than in the hospitals. I was born with really high astigmatism and had to be operated for one eye twice, also I had a serious burn accident so up to 7 years old my life was hospital treatments, opticians and plastic surgeries.

My ears fell in love with all sorts of noises and my eyes could see with my heart. As 7 years old, I was left alone many evenings with an access to radio and vinyl player. I listened to children’s stories, all possible vinyl records lying around and all possible radio stations and I watched many movies, which music of became my inner inspiration.

When I was 9 my granny sent to for an audition to national school of music. There were a couple of exams. I wanted to play the piano but they said that my hands were too small and it’s a bit late to start that instrument, so they recommended flute. I joined the choir, orchestra and my entire childhood became full of MUSIC. Nothing else mattered. This was my party, including winter times when kids were going on cool holidays I spent hours since 6 am per day practising flute and piano were there, but I was more interested in improvisation, writing my own melodies.

I did write my own songs when I was 18 years old, but nobody was taking this seriously.

When I moved to Uk in 2003 I did not speak in English. In fact, I suppose to come just for a holiday to see my grandfather. I ended up staying. ( Cutting the long story short… after around 4532 rooms I cleaned and different jobs in bars, cafes and offices I decided to study music technology. I wanted to become a sound engineer. I was very much into electro-acoustic music and sound and image installations. I wrote my first song when my daughter Amelie was born. I have not stopped since. That was in 2009 🙂


How would you describe your sound?

The soundtrack to falling asleep, a soundtrack to a movie not written yet, eerie, unpredictable and wild.


Which artists influenced you the most?

So many! Biggest influences are Flora Purim, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ryoji Ikeda, Chick Corea, Steve Reich, CAN, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley, Cocteau Twins and ECM Record label releases on the top of it different seasons, weather, fog, rain and sun!


You’re a PRS/The Steve Reid InNovation Award winner, and mentored by Four Tet. Tell us more about that and how that came together.

I applied for funding as I needed financial support to organise a mini-tour with workshops for kids. The news about receiving an award was a lovely surprise. I had a meeting with all the trustees of The Steve Reid Foundation and this is when I have met Kieran Hebden (Four Tet), who decided to help me to put my debut Ep out. In his busy schedule, he kindly found a time and compiled and mastered my debut record and promoted my music on bbcradio1, bbcradio6 and Spotify. We are keeping in touch and I feel honoured that Kieran opened the doors for me and mentored me. Gilles Peterson and Mari Kimura kindly supported my music releases on BBC Radio 6/ Worldwide FM radio and Emily Moxon (Brownswood Recordings Manager) guided me through marketing side of the releases. It all helped me to build my confidence as a self-releasing artist with no label, manager or an agent. Ep1 was released on my birthday on 1.12.2017 and nothing is the same since. It is an incredible feeling to see my own black moon with the music I wrote. Thank you to Kieran and everyone who believed in me!


This will be your second EP, what have you learned since recording your first EP. Has your approach to music changed since EP1?

Ep2 was created in a time, where I learned to nurture solitude as a tool for the most truthful musical expression. I did not need a confirmation of others if picking up a flute and creating wordless at times compositions is the right direction to take as a composer. It was 100% my inner being in 6 pieces of music at that time of my life. I trust myself completely and I follow my creative impulses fearlessly and I enjoy the road less travelled. I feel free and no pressure.


What does your production set up consist of and can we see it?

2 loopers: RC-300 and RC-505. To record my music I use MacBook Pro, Focusrite Scarlett and Neumann TLM 102 microphone. I will be extending my set up to Ableton live + controller using flute and bass more and more in my practice.


What do you enjoy most seeing in the audience while you are on stage?

I like when they smile and hugging themselves or hugging each other when listening and I love when they bounce. I saw people crying whilst listening to my music live. Sometimes I dream of the gig where I will be able to hire the space and fill the room with beds and people will be able to lie down on beds and listen to me and if they will fall asleep, that’d be lovely too.


What’s your favourite live music venue in York?
Crescent Community Centre, The Basement and Sir Jack Lion Concert Hall at the University of York.


What’s the last song you had stuck in your head?

Ryuichi Sakamoto – Main Theme from “Little Buddha” Soundtrack.


What’s coming up for you in 2019?

I am currently in the process of upgrading my flute, developing two live performances at The University of York towards MA Research Project, in which I am composing material towards debut album.

Ep2 will be out on the 25th of January 2019. You can pre-order 12”, cd and digital here.

The release will be followed by The Live Launch at Screen 3 of Everyman Cinema York on 28th of January.
Tickets are limited, so if you want to be there, book it early here.

This is followed by Leicester concert. There will be a video to accompany one of the songs from Ep2 filmed by a young polish director Anastazja Gonera. Stay tuned.

In addition, I am organising a tour and applying to summer festivals and collaborating with a wonderful drummer/ percussionist: Martell James.  We have secured a great rehearsing space and hoping to record new material soon.


Any parting words for our readers?

Support independent artists 🙂





EP 2 is released on January 25th – pre-order a copy from Bandcamp.


CF Smith

Write for Music Is My Sanctuary & Stereofox.

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