Elena Ramona’s new single Neon Lights juxtaposes an upbeat electro tempo with a serious subject matter: her long-running and at times debilitating battle with anxiety.
The Anglo-Greek singer-songwriter penned the song, a rousing battle cry urging those with mental health issues to step out from the shadows, after returning to the music industry following a self-imposed year-long hiatus.
“I struggled with anxiety for years,” says Ramona. “It wasn’t that I had a problem performing on stage, the issue was I couldn’t believe in myself. I was constantly battling thoughts of ‘I’m not good enough’ and ‘why would anyone want to listen to me?’. It was holding me back.”
The career break galvanised Ramona’s resolve. “I reached a point where I realised I did want to make music, and I wanted to write about something positive.”
The results of her renewed songwriting efforts, including Neon Lights, feature on Foreverlution, a new EP out on September 21.
“With this EP I’ve moved away from ballads and towards pop,” she says. “I like the fact that with pop there are fewer rules.”
Ramona enjoyed an idyllic childhood on the Aegean island of Skiathos (her mum is English, her dad is Greek) before attending boarding school in Wiltshire, where her interest in music and musical theatre flourished. She later studied at the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford (where she now also works).
The response to Neon Lights has been positive; it’s featured on BBC Introducing and ITV and has been backed by the mental health charity Sane.
“When I started in the industry mental health really was a taboo subject but I think things are changing for the better. One problem is the public has this perception that performers are extroverts. I think most singers are quite introverted, it’s just we feel this overwhelming need to be creative and express ourselves.”
“The message I want to get out there is it’s okay to not be okay all the time.”
Elena Ramona’s tips for dealing with anxiety
- Find something that you love to do – outside of singing – and do it. “It’s important to focus on your singing, but you need to take regular breaks too. I really love exercising and make sure I go to the gym regularly. It clears my head.”
- Get your work out there. “As the saying goes: just do it. There’s no other way forward. If you want to grow as an artist then you need to be releasing music. Not everything will work, not everything will be a success, but you’ll learn and get better.”
- Accept there will be critics. “Not everyone will love everything you do, and that’s okay. It can be hard because as creators we wear our hearts on our sleeves. But I’ve reached a point where if I’m happy with a song, then that’s enough for me. You have to go for it. Be bold.”
- Consider counselling. “I’m quite stubborn and fought the idea for a long time but I reached a point where I was so scared I wouldn’t get the right jobs or the right opportunities that I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was hard to talk about my feelings at first – lots of tear were shed – but it was really helpful.”
MAIN IMAGE: Photograph by Andy Boschier. Makeup by Viktoria Webster.