Last year, Azniv Korkejian quietly released her first collection of original music into the world, and was immediately met with the kind of rapturous praise that feels over-the-top. That is, it feels over the top unless you’ve heard the music. Korkejian writes deceptively simple story-songs that sound at once new and ancient, like all the best folk music, guided most directly by her simple finger-picking and lovely, soothing alto. She evokes the greats with her meditative, solitary sound, and even worked with the legendary Smoky Hormel while writing songs for her debut, which draws an easy comparison to Nick Drake’s sweetly dark stoicism.
Korkejian is an Armenian singer/songwriter who was born in Syria, lived in Saudi Arabia for the first decade of her life, and then traveled with her family to live in America via coveted green card status. Eventually, she adopted the name Bedouine — a feminization of the more familiar bedouin — to encapsulate her nomadic upbringing. After bouncing around further for college, Korkejian finished her degree in Sound Design while studying in Savannah, Georgia, and surmised her options for pursuing work in that field boiled down to New York or Los Angeles. Selecting an internship in LA that led to a full-time job working in that field, it wasn’t until another role allowed her to work as a freelancer from home, and assignments began to dwindle down, that she began to consistently write music on guitar.
Though music and writing had been threads through her early life, putting them together in this way was new for Korkejian, specifically using guitar as the focal point for her songwriting. And something about it just clicked. Collaborating with producer Gus Savert to create some early analog recordings of her work, it was the Virginia-based studio Spacebomb that caught Korkejian’s ear as the perfect home for her new work, and Matthew White and co. agreed immediately upon hearing a taste of her music. Known for their ability to create velvety, orchestral backdrops for intuitive songwriters like Natalie Prass and White himself, Spacebomb expanded their already prestigious reputation by releasing Bedouine last year.
In the ensuing wave of praise that followed the album, Bedouine has been out on the road for an extended tour, including appearances at festivals like Portland’s folk and country-based event, Pickathon. I caught up with her at the event for a conversation about her beginnings in the music industry, her career in Sound Design, and what the next Bedouine project looks like. Read a condensed, edited transcript of our conversation below.
Why don’t we just start with you talking a little bit about when you first felt drawn specifically to music, and what your age was, and sort of the circumstances?
Music around the house when I was younger, was always like Middle Eastern music, Arabic, Armenian, Greek music sometimes. Getting into music that became an influence for my record specifically happened much, much later in life. So, it really was not until relatively recently that I started listening to the great folk singers like Joni Mitchell, or like Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake, and stuff. I felt like that only happened a few years prior to my record release. I mean, I’d always known about them, but really listening to catalogs and discography and records front to back and stuff. So, that came a little later in life.
And was that when you decided to make music of your own or had you already had that inkling?
I always had been making music in one form or another. My mom had me playing the piano when I was really young, but she was so strict that it kind of worked against her. And I was just plotting to quit as soon as I started piano. And then I played other instruments in there, but I just kind of picked up the guitar in college and started finger picking. And that’s when I started writing on the guitar, but prior to that I had written on piano and stuff like that, and always liked singing in different settings.
I know you moved around a lot. Where did you go to college exactly?
Oh, God, where did I not go to college? I kind of used college as an excuse to travel a little bit. I think I considered all the finances of it, so I only kind of went to places that I got grants or scholarships and stuff like that. And it took me like eight years to graduate, but I ended up studying something I really loved, so that was good — sound design. I actually moved to L.A. to be a sound editor, not a musician. I just didn’t think it was realistic. But then I saw people were playing music even if it wasn’t their bread and butter… and I was like, ‘Oh, I could.’ Like, there’s no reason I should lose interest in this. So, I just continued to write, but I had been writing in some respect it felt like, most of my life. I picked up guitar later in life, putting writing and music together in this latest iteration on guitar was when I started playing what would be considered more like folk music.
When you moved to LA to do sound design, were you excited to move there.? Were you drawn there? Or was it just like with that degree, that makes the most sense?
I graduated from Savannah, Georgia, and in my mind, there were two clear options — either New York or LA. I knew that I wasn’t really suited for New York, so that might be the only chance I would get to really dive in there is for an internship. So, I applied to internships in both places, and the one that really stuck was in LA. Like, I could’ve gone to New York for this internship that was once a week, and that was not what I was trying to do. I was trying to do something really immersive. So I went to LL and did this internship that was so immersive and they eventually did hire me.
It was a full-time job, but later I started to do the same exact thing for a different company, but it was freelance, so I was working from home. All of a sudden I had so much flexibility. Like, throughout the day, when I wanted to take a work break, so I’d pick up the guitar, and that’s when I was really starting to write more and more. And then my work started dwindling, which was really, really scary, but then I was starting to write so much. The bulk of the record comes from that time, so it was like a blessing in disguise.