It took Azniv Korkejian three years of craft, care and a lofty diligence to record her debut album. In that time, Korkejian, who plays under the stage name Bedouine, pieced together a road map of her soul, a sparkling shimmer of nostalgia and self-reflection that leads us to where she is now, nestled in the eclectic neighborhood of Echo Park where the cafés are full of creatives and the music scene has a different vibe every night.
“I think it might be contradictory with the record, with it being more about wandering or this sense of detachment, but I think that might be a collection of things when I was younger,” Korkejian says of her work, noting these days she feels more like a hermit than the nomad her album and stage name paint her to be.
Despite a love for quiet incubation, Korkejian has had a lot of new attention. Her debut work has been critically acclaimed by many, and it has garnered the attention of music icons (Roger Waters just to name one), her local peers and countless Angelinos.
When speaking to Korkejian about her music, she hardly seems fazed by it all. She was soft-spoken, humble and proud of her work. Each answer was slowly delivered, and follow up questions were met with more thinking – a laugh here and there was shared to let me know she was still thinking.
Her album has the same feeling. Moments of her life are revealed over time, building up after each verse. Her adolescence, past loves and temporary detachment make its way through an album that distills the soft spoken nature of 60s folk mixed with the lyrical prowess of classic country.
It’s a striking combination of sound for someone with such a diverse background. Born in Aleppo, Syria, Korkejian moved to Saudi Arabia where she lived in an American compound with her family. The gated area provided Korkejian the safety to explore and a sense of security in her surroundings. That changed, she noted, when her family won a green card lottery and immigrated to the United States.
“I think when I … moved to the states I was very confused about living somewhere that didn’t have boundaries,” Korkejian said. “Where I lived before, it was very insular. It was daunting leaving for that reason.”
In the states, Korkejian felt lost in her borderless surroundings. She developed a sense of detachment and a propensity to explore.
“I was curious. Since I didn’t feel very anchored at home when we moved at a really developing age, I felt that I could go anywhere,” Korkejian said. “It started to feel, well … kind of addicting … to go to a new place on my own, to see who I’d meet and see what kind of social circles I’d end up in. It became kind of exciting. It’s something I can’t really fathom anymore because that seems exhausting to me now.”
Memories of the city she was born in stuck with her though. In the song, “Summer Cold,” Korkejian laments over the loss of the city she once knew. It’s not a political statement or a narrative, she said, rather a means to express her confusion and frustration. It is a distillation of her raw emotions that confront her good memories of the city.
“What I miss and remember most about Aleppo now is just being close to my family because all my cousins were there,” Korkejian said. “We’d all stay at my grandma’s house, and in our culture the grandma is kind of like the nucleus of the family, and so all of our aunts, all of our cousins, they would take turns dropping in.”
Korkejian uses those memories in “Summer Cold,” ending the song with sounds of people walking in streets, distant chatter and other sounds she remembers hearing outside her grandma’s house.
Now, Korkejian has built her home in Los Angeles. She feels more grounded again, and acknowledges the almost accidental transition from sound editor to singer/songwriter.
“I think I never found music as a realistic goal. It’s certainly not what I moved to Los Angeles to do,” Korkejian said. “But after I had been here for [a while] and started meeting professional musicians, or people who were playing music for other people as a profession – they were still doing their personal projects even if it hadn’t taken off yet. That was kind of inspiring to me because I thought, it doesn’t have to be a realistic goal or a sustainable profession. It could just be a hobby of mine. That really took the pressure off of it, and it didn’t matter if it was logistically sound. I think seeing that inspired me. Even if these people were unemployed – not out of their own will – they’d still be chipping away at their project and taking that time seriously. I found that very humbling.”
Writing was always a hobby, as was playing music. In college she’d sit in with the local house band to sing classic country hits.
“I lived in Savannah Georgia where I went to school, and there was this really good scene for outlaw country,” Korkejian explained. “I think those experiences kind of found its way into my writing whether I realized it or not at the time.”
Her hobby quickly turned into a long and winding journey. In Los Angeles, a connection with producer Gus Seyffert (Beck, Norah Jones and Roger Waters) paved the way for her album that would make its way into the public’s psyche earlier this year.
The initial draw to Seyffert stemmed from a desire to record a few songs in tape. Her decision to work on an album with him helped hone the perfect sound for her collection of work.
“I knew going into it that he would be very knowledgeable and be very specific about the tones of the songs,” Korkejian said. “I think that’s one thing very specific to what he brought – the tones of this record. I think most importantly he left a lot of space in the record and let the songs speak for themselves. He didn’t use a heavy hand when producing which has everything to do with why the record sounds the way it does.”
Recording her record was drawn out over three years. There were no expectations, no time constraints or pressure from record labels.
“The recording process was probably really different for me than for others,” Korkejian said. “The hardest part was trying not to be too precious about it. I think especially when you have a lot of time, you tend to get attached to a song. It’s hard to let go of the wheel a little bit with their production, because they can start to take it somewhere and you’re like, ‘whoa, whoa whoa, that’s not what I was thinking.’ So, the challenging part is to just be open-minded. The easiest part is just showing up. It’s exciting. Most people look forward to it, and it’s often just a good time. With anything, I think about it like, just showing up is everything.”
After showing up consistently for three years, Korkejian now has time to enjoy positive praise as she gets ready for an upcoming solo tour. She is still finding her place as a Los Angeles musician, but she feels confident about what she’s put out so far.
“I felt like I was on to something or something worth exploring when I was,” Korkejian said. “And I was so happy with the product when we were done … I didn’t want to be too affected with the press whether it was good or bad. Thankfully it’s all been really good. It feels like I don’t know, reaffirming or something, like we did the right thing by putting it out.”
Korkejian will be touring under her stage name, Bedouine, this month, with two stops in Southern California, one in Los Angeles on Sept. 28 and one in Pioneertown on Sept. 29 For ticket information, or more news about her music, visit her website.