Australians on the whole might not know the name Elen Levon. Due mainly to a lack of commercial radio support (despite her tracks being more than perfect for commercial radio play), the 20 year old dance/pop singer songwriter has spent most of her career seeing her singles languish in the lower half of the ARIA top 100s.
Had those same singles had Rihanna’s name attached to them, however, they’d all have been top ten smash hits with multi-platinum accreditations under their belt and among the most played songs on Australian radio.
But the lack of support in her homeland doesn’t seem to have troubled Elen too much; she’s hot-footed it over to Italy where the locals have taken her to heart, she’s performed in front of massive audiences and two of her singles have gone gold.
The latest to do so is ‘Cool Enough’, a collaboration with Italian DJ Spada. And now that the single’s been released in Australia, we decided to pop on the phone to Ms Levon to get the lowdown on it.
But we begin by congratulating her on her international success and asking her why it is she thinks the Italians have taken her to heart.
“It’s such a random thing to have happened,” Elen tells us. “I didn’t expect that when I walked into another country that people would know who I was. It was really bizarre and surreal and crazy, but really really cool.
“I remember I was shooting the video for ‘Cool Enough’ in Berlin, but even there, about 20 Italian fans ran up to me in the middle of shooting saying, ‘my god it’s you!’. So even in another country, the Italians are recognizing me, so it’s really cool.”
As a young girl barely into her teens, Elen cut her teeth as part of the short-lived TV/pop group Panjo 5. They filmed a TV series for Nickelodeon and popped out the singles ‘Move’ and ‘Stay Closer’. Though the project didn’t last long, Elen admits that it was a massive learning curve. It also whet her appetite for a career in the music business.
But, she feels that her biggest break was yet to come.
“I think I would say that my biggest break has probably been being able to go over to Italy and release songs there and perform there in front of those humungous crowds where I nearly crapped myself every time I went on stage.
“A break for me is being able to perform in front of huge crowds, because that’s where my dream started. So that’s a break for me and that’s probably what it was in Italy.”
Italy, in particular, has been incredibly kind to Elen. She broke through in the country via her fab 2012 single ‘Dancing To The Same Song’ (clip above) and followed that up with the smash single ‘Wild Child’. Collaborations with Spada and, more recently, Will Sparks have followed, the latter finally gifting her a platinum selling single at home.
But as mentioned in the opener, it’s at home where support for the star has been sadly lacking. Radio networks, in particular have all but snubbed the singer’s on-trend dance/pop tracks and have forced Elen to instead chase success overseas.
“I think that’s why so many artists have to leave Australia, because unfortunately Australians just don’t really get that kind of music unless other people do,” she reveals. “That’s why Kylie MInogue had to go to London and now everyone’s going to America and once they become successful there, Australia decides to own it.
“Like Iggy Azalea, for example. Now they’re all saying, ‘oh yeah, she’s Australian… she’s ours’. No no no… she’s not yours. She was never yours because you never supported her first. Just support what’s good and listen to the music you love, regardless of where they’re from. If you love it, just love it.
“I don’t even consider myself an Australian artist, because I was actually born in Ukraine and I just live here and have an Australian passport and I might have a little bit of an Australian accent. I don’t consider myself Australian. So I love Australia, but… you know.
One organisation that has been incredibly supportive, however, is the team at Ministry Of Sound, the label that signed her when she was just 16 years old. They’ve stuck to what they perceive to be a good thing and their patience is starting to pay off.
The latest fruit of their creative partnership is the new single ‘Cool Enough’, a collaboration with Italian producer Spada. Already a gold-selling single in Italy, Elen tell us how the track came about.
“I’m signed to the same record label as Spada in Italy,” she explains. “So we met, we all went out for dinner together with my record label and he said he had this cool tune that he’d love me to write for.
“I got really really sick in Italy and I just wasn’t down to write songs. I tried, but it just wasn’t coming out of me because I felt so crap. But then I took it back to Australia and remembered that I had to write it. So I sat on my bed and it connected with me at this one particular moment in time.
“So I wrote it in my bed, sent it off and they ended up just falling in love with it. Then I ended up flying back and went and did the video in Berlin. Now it’s a single and I really like it.”
But the singer admits that some of the song’s lyrics may have her fans taking her a little too literally.
“The song’s called ‘Cool Enough’, and the first few lyrics are, ‘Roll up, take a puff, never ever get enough’,” Elen explains. “I want people to know that the song is actually a metaphor and it’s more of a joke than anything.
“It’s about a generation of 20 year olds that I see doing drugs and always constantly trying to be cool enough, smoking a cigarette, doing this and that, always just constantly trying to look cool, be cool. There’s a seemingly never ending hunt for it.
“I just wanted to make fun of it and just ask – as the lyrics say – ‘baby are we cool enough?’ because we’re always trying to be cool enough. I want people to know that it’s definitely a metaphor, it’s not me being serious. I know I’m cool enough,” she laughs.
The single was released in Australia just over a week ago and there are hopes that ‘Cool Enough’ will follow the Will Sparks collaboration (‘Ah Yeah So What’) into being a chart-bound, platinum sales smash here.
“It’s annoying everyone. It’s been a year since I said there was an album coming,” she tells us. “But I really want to make sure that it’s perfect before I release it. That’s the most important thing.
“I don’t just want to release an album for the sake of releasing an album. You can release singles as much as you want, but it’s really important to me to release a really good album and it has to be perfect and I have to work with the best producers. It has to be the best.”
As to who those producers might be, she remains coy.
“Well… At this stage there are a couple,” she hints. “I’m always in the works with a lot of producers in the States and I’m actually working online a lot too. I’m not going to drop names yet because I don’t want to jinx things.
“It seems the more I say about an album, the more people get worked up into thinking, ‘it’s coming, it’s coming’. But it’s still in the works. I have 15 songs at the moment, but I want another ten more and then I’m going to be satisfied,” Elen reveals, confirming that a move to the US in the near future isn’t out of the question.
“That’s where it’s going to work and hopefully we’ll get some really cool collaborations going too. I’d love to work with Cody Simpson soon. He’s really improved. He’s got a really cool thing going on now and I think that would be fun.”
And as for one last little bit of advice for our radio programmers?
“I just think people have to be very open-minded to the fact there are a lot of artists out there and the more supportive we can all be, the better. If you like the music, support it. Go out and buy it.”
You heard the woman.
‘Cool Enough’ is released on Friday February 27.
In the meantime, check out Elen’s previous releases like ‘Dancing To The Same Song’, ‘Like A Girl In Love’ and ‘Wild Child’. They’re really good.