Singer/songwriter Evangelia delivers a spellbinding form of pop music that’s indelibly shaped by her charmed upbringing. Although she grew up in New Jersey, the 27-year-old artist has spent nearly every summer of her life on her grandmother’s farm on the Greek island of Crete, where she became enamored with Greek folk music from an incredibly young age. After getting her start playing clubs in New York City (all while holding down a full-time teaching job back in Jersey), Evangelia landed a record deal with Sony Music International and soon brightened the pop landscape with a boldly original sound built on her endlessly magnetic presence.
Made with her creative partner Jay Stolar (a songwriter/producer known for his work with Aloe Blacc, G-Eazy, and Demi Lovato), Evangelia’s debut single “Páme Páme” offers a powerful introduction to her impassioned brand of pop. With its brilliant flashes of Greek phrasing (its title translates to “Let’s go, let’s go”), the bouncy but smoldering track emerges as a high-energy anthem for living fully in the moment. On her follow-up single “Fotiá,” Evangelia again proved her undeniable ingenuity, working with esteemed German producer Alexis Troy and conjuring up a euphoric dance number fueled by kinetic percussion and heavenly melodies. And in virtually all of her output, Evangelia reveals the irresistible dynamic at the heart of her artistry: a sophisticated instinct for the intricacies of pop, and a nuanced understanding of the potent rhythms and mesmerizing textures of traditional Greek music.
“I was a month old the first time I ever went to Greece, and I’ve basically spent half my life there,” says Evangelia, who now lives in Los Angeles. “Some of my best memories are going to the village festivals, where all these Greek folk musicians would come to perform and play from eight at night till ten the next morning, everybody dancing until the sun comes up. My grandmother used to always say she felt like I was reincarnated, because from the time I was a little kid I had such a strong love for that kind of music. Once I started figuring out how to combine that with my own sound and my own lyrics, everything completely changed for me.”
Despite her deep-seated passion, Evangelia didn’t always intend to pursue a career in music. “My dad’s a Greek immigrant and my mom’s Italian-American, and I grew up with that mentality of having to follow a certain path and create a comfortable life for myself,” she says. “If I wanted to do anything with music, it would have to be a hobby and nothing more.” Naming folk-leaning singer/songwriters like Ingrid Michaelson and soul legends like Etta James among her early inspirations, Evangelia started writing songs and performing at open-mic nights in college, and kept up with her music even after she’d begun work as an elementary school teacher. “When I first started teaching I thought, ‘I’ll just live a double life,’” she says. “I’d teach by day and go into Brooklyn at night, stay up all hours and then do it all again the next day.”
After massive budget cuts left her without a job, Evangelia made the leap into working on her music full-time. “I took it as a sign from the universe, telling me to go for it and see what happens,” she notes. Several months later she crossed paths with Stolar, and the two discovered an intense creative chemistry. As she pushed further into refining her artistic voice, Evangelia had a revelation that would change her whole trajectory. “I started wondering what it would be like if we got a bouzouki and brought it into the studio and made some beats over it,” she says, referring to a type of long-necked lute widely used in traditional Greek music. “I’d grown up surrounded by those kinds of sounds, but at that point my own music didn’t really reflect that at all.” Not long afterward, Evangelia was performing in L.A. when another musician on the bill turned up backstage with a bouzouki in hand. “He walked into the green room and I was like, ‘Wait, why do you have that? Who are you?’” she recalls. “He was American but had lived in Greece for six months, in my exact town. I invited him to come to the studio and the whole idea just clicked. Right away I knew we were onto something.”
The first of Evangelia’s songs to showcase her Greek roots, “Páme Páme” soon earned major attention, paving the way for her signing to Sony in early 2020. In the meantime, she and Stolar continued exploring the possibilities of the bouzouki, which she’d encountered many times in her childhood home. “My dad was president of the Pancretan Association of America, so we always had musicians from Greece coming over to the States and staying at our house,” she explains. “It’s a beautiful instrument and does well with certain scales, so it helps us to come up with these very unique melodies. It’s been so cool to experiment and have Jay play bouzouki on all the tracks—he’s coming at it from a different perspective than someone who plays traditional music, so he’s able to get really creative and use it in a way that makes sense for a pop song.”
In dreaming up her distinct approach to pop, Evangelia has arrived at the ideal backdrop for her beguiling voice and emotionally charged songwriting. Created with Allie Crystal and Larzz Principato (a writer/producer duo whose credits include heavyweights like Dua Lipa and Halsey), Evangelia’s lush and luminous single “Paradise” spotlights her romantic sensibilities, bringing her sweetly lilting vocals to a tender expression of unequivocal love. “The idea behind that song is that no matter where you are in the world, no matter what’s going on, it can be paradise as long as you’re with the person you love,” says Evangelia. “You could be in a shitty apartment or at some party you don’t want to be at, and everything’s okay as long as you’ve got that person to lean into. I feel like we don’t hear about positive relationships very often in pop songs, and it felt really special to tell that kind of story in this one.”
As she moves forward with her music, Evangelia has integrated other elements of Greek culture into her visual output, such as a style of Greek belly dancing known as tsifteteli. In sharing her heritage with the world, she’s found artists like Shakira and Rosalia to be deeply inspiring. “I love how they’ve both been able to bring their roots into their music and make something new out of that,” she says. “It’s a way of saying, ‘This is who I am and this is where I come from,’ and then translating that into pop music so it feels completely effortless.”
For Evangelia, creating her debut body of work has instilled her with an even greater gratitude for those summers spent in the tiny beach town of Palaiochora. “I feel so lucky because of instead of getting sent to camp like a lot of kids, I got sent to Greece,” she says. “I had a lot of responsibilities and a lot of my time was spent doing real work with my grandmother on her farm, cooking with her and learning from her. It wasn’t always just some big party. But when it was a party, it was amazing.” And by passionately celebrating her background in her music, Evangelia hopes to inspire others to embrace their own heritage. “I remember growing up and having my name get butchered all the time, or feeling shy about how the things my family ate were different from everyone else,” she says. “But now I think it’s beautiful to be different. I hope when people hear my music, it inspires them to respect other cultures more and be a little more curious, and I hope it helps them to be completely proud of who they are.”
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