Our guest Milena Lainović, after a successful musical career in Montenegro, continued her string of success in London, where she lives and works. She arrived in Montenegro this week to record a video for a song ,,I won’t give up”, from her current album ,,Everyday”. It was this video, the album, the music and life in London we talked about at ,,Sky bar” in Hilton hotel here in Podgorica.
Audience in Montenegro remembers Lainović for her performances with Montenegrin musicians. She also worked as a music editor at Radio Montenegro and today one can still hear a jingle in which she sings ,,Radio Montenegro. Sedmica, večernji program Radija.” She was seven years old when she won the first prize at children’s festival ,,Naša radost”. She plays guitar and piano.
Audience in London recognizes her by the song ,,Everyday” and others from the same album. She wrote the lyrics and music for all eight songs and it was produced by Nikola Kovacevic. She is preparing the new album which will contain more Montenegrin motifs than the previous one.
She will be performing live with a band at famous club ,,Spice of life” in Soho, London on November 9th.
How is the filming of the video for the song ,,I won’t give up” coming along?
– Fantastic.We had already been filming for two days on our beautiful Montenegrin seaside. Dejan Senić and his ,,Bubulj productions” are responsible for directing and producing it. I would not like to disclose much about it, but I can say this – In one part of the song I will be dressed in Montenegrin national costume.
I had the idea to record a video for this song for a long time, because it is the only one on the album with an ethno sound and 7/8 rhythm, so the whole picture and sound are connected. It will be very interesting to the Western market. They do not make such videos in England, with drones, our beautiful mountains and the sea.
Was it hard for you to pick the crew and locations for this video?
– Zonjo from ,,The Books of Knjige” was my connection to them. I first got in touch with Zonjo. He suggested Dejan Senić, whom I had an immediate connection with on energetic level as well. We spoke on the phone, we exchanged e-mails and we had the same ideas about the video. He also contributed with his ideas to which I was thrilled and said: ,,That is it, do not change something that is good.” We have two more days of filming. We go to the north of Montenegro on Monday and Wednesday. That is where I will be dressed differently.
What is the symbolism of the national Montenegrin costume in the video?
– It is more there because of the rhythm and the sound. It sounds like the song has some weight and it has not. The lyrics are very positive. Its very name ,,I won’t give up” sounds Montenegrin, it shows our temper of never giving up.
This song was received well by the British audience. They like it a lot. Even after the gig they come up to me and say: ,,It sounds like Sting.” We are used to this type of rhythm, but to them it is interesting.
The new songs I am working on are more done in that style. The sound will be European, Western, but why should it not have Montenegrin primes. It is who I am and it is coming out of me now.
What are the things you would never give up?
– Chocololate (laughs). Sun – it is very important to me. When I come to Podgorica, I am a true lizard, lying in the sun. Music, in all forms, I like to hear good music on film, at concert and in the club.
This song is featured on your new album ,,Everyday”. We hear remixes that were done by Nick Van Gelder and Vladimir Maraš. How did the collaboration with them come about?
– Nick Van Gelder is a good friend of mine. When he heard the song ,,Everyday”, he said it first: ,,I must do a remix.” He does not do remixes for anybody, he has his own name, he is a former Jamiroquai drummer and part of ,,Akimbo” and ,,Brand New Heavies”. So he insisted on it, he played all the instruments and he did a production for that remix called ,,Everyday by Nick Van Gelder Remix”. Vladimir Maraš is a great friend of mine, we have known each other for a long time. He did a completely different remix of the same song, with primes of our folklore and our sound. Both versions are different, but there is still my voice that carries them throughout. I am very pleased how they turned out to be. Remixes were out in December, two months after the album was published. I wanted all of it to be fresh, one should not wait long for remixes. They were played in a few clubs in England. You do not have Spotify here, but you can hear them on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Deezer, all musical platforms.
Album is called ,,Everyday”. What is your everyday life in London like?
– It is mostly connected with music, whether it is that I am going to listen to some friends or someone bigger, whom I do not know personally yet or whether I have my own gigs. Fortunately, there are a lot of my own. It is hard, but regarding I live in London and perform at very popular places, it is the biggest reward for a musician. Not everything is about money, the most important thing is that you are content in your soul and that, for me, is my biggest reward. I am still promoting the album, because these things take time to ripe. It was published last year, but only now it is taking up the form, only now when I start playing it live with a band, only now people are recognizing the songs from it. I should know best. When we start playing ,,Everyday”, you can already hear people applauding at the beginning, which is fantastic, because that song is starting to get recognizable. The song ,,Everyday” was actually an instrumental at the beginning. It was not planned to be a song at all. When I started recording the album, my producer Nikola Nick Kovacevic said: ,,Milena, this is actually a very good song. Why don’t you write the lyrics and sing it?” That gave me an incredible idea and I think it turned up good in the end. The other part of the song is a 3-part harmony and that seems interesting to me.
Could you draw a parallel between being a musician in Montenegro and being a musician in the United Kingdom?
– It is hard. I do not own a production house or a manager. It is the same everywhere. The times have changed a lot. Once, in 60s, 70s, 80s, there was a whole team taking care of the artist. We do a lot of thing now on our own. However, thanks to social media, we can promote our work. I am managing all these musical platforms I mentioned above, I can upload my new album by myself. So, it is good. I also learn that way. The times are moving fast, so do information. To put something on Instagram for 59 seconds is a good promotion. Of course I would have loved to have a production house. Perhaps with the new album I made a good ground for the next that will actually be an EP. We shall see. I did have a few offers, but I was not pleased with them, to record my albums over again, because that would not be it. My album is my album because of the sound, my emotion and my ideas. Not that I am the best, but I knew what I want from the beginning. You should not give up – that is my advice to the musicians in Montenegro and in the West. Just go forward, someone will hear it, something will happen. Now, on what scale you wish to be popular on, is up to you. I would like my song to be played on MTV, but I am OK if that does not happen. I was fortunate to play in many nice places in London and to say: ,,Checked. I have done this in my life as well.”
How did you reach the decision to leave for London in the first place?
– I love Podgorica very much. However, I have always felt I needed to see more. As much as I have been singing here from an early age and had been a part of children’s TV shows, been fortunate to work on Radio Montenegro with a great team, I loved talking and singing in English and I had been saying that since 90s, I had felt the moment and I said to my Father: ,,Dad, I have to go and if I need to come back, it is easiest thing to return.” So, with support of my parents, I went away. They helped me, I enrolled into school, I studied there a little, attended a few jazz courses for singing and music and I saw it was good for me that I left. I do not regret leaving it. Quite the opposite. I like coming back here. It seems, the more often I come, the more I love it and the more Montenegrin I am in that sense. I was influenced by Montenegro, it is more reflected on my musical expression now. I am grateful for that, because I sound different in the UK. It is who I am, a girl from here, from Podgorica. I promise to come back more often.
You are performing solo and in a band. Can we expect to hear you live in Montenegro as well?
– It would be fantastic that some of big or small organizers call me to perform here. It does not have to be this year because its end is nearing, but I would like to come next year. You can find me on all social media, there is my website milenalainovic.com, my e-mail is there.
Who are the members of the band?
– At this moment, we have Victor Akrofi on keyboards. He also accompanies me when there are only two of us on stage, a friend of mine whom I met in the gospel church where I learned to sing gospel. Then there is Kuba Miazga. He is on drums when Nick Van Gelder is not playing. Alex Kundig, regular bass player. I do not play keyboards there, I like to be upfront for entertainment. The band is fantastic, I could not have asked for a better one. We are all of different nationality, Polish, Canadian, Montenegrin and British. It is a nice mix because we bring our vibe to it, the one with which we all grew up.
Photo: Private archive