iiola: on saving a woman’s life on the train & her new single “sickly sweet”

Formerly known as Shannon Saunders, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter who has co-written singles and toured internationally with the likes of Wilkinson, Sonny Fodera and Mashd N Kutcher,  decided that after successfully recording under her own name for over 10-years it was time for a change and thus iiola was born.  ‘I wanted a name that represented re-birth. With the name of my EP being Chrysalis it felt like the right time to finally bring a new lease of life to myself as an artist. The English meaning of the name is ‘violet coloured dawn’ and the Welsh is ‘worthy goddess’ which I really fell in love with. I added the extra “i” to put my own stamp on it. ‘

iiola has just revealed a visually enchanting new video for her latest single ‘Sickly Sweet’ which is  collaborative project between The ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) and Pulse Filmswho are mentoring film students . The video which has been directed by student Ka Ki has also been selected to be shown at the October Film Festival in London. ‘Sickly Sweet’, (co-produced by Toby Scott and Paul Harris) instantly charted on Spotify’s New Music Friday in the UK alongside 10 other major international territories including USA, Canada and Germany and has quickly notched up six figure streaming numbers, an impressive feat considering it’s only her second release under her new moniker. About the writing process of the tune, iiola said:

“It was my first session with Toby and Paul. I only had 3 hours to write something as I had a family occasion to attend so we just went for it and had it finished there and then that day. It just sort of flew out. I don’t have pictures but I do have some pretty cool voice notes on my phone which I’m tempted to share on my socials to give a real insight into how it came to life in the room.”

‘Sickly Sweet’ is the 2nd single to be revealed from her debut ‘Chrysalis’ EP due for release this month (September 2018). In her own words ‘Sickly Sweet’ is about ‘that horrendous stomach dropping, jealousy you feel when you see somebody you used to date happily moving on with somebody else. It’s a bittersweet, physically sickening feeling. I think a lot of us can relate to that one no matter how amicable the break up is.’

Check out “Sickly Sweet” below:


Check out our exclusive Q&A with iiola below:

1) How did you get here? Did you always know you’d be a musician?

“I always knew I loved singing and playing different instruments since I was really young. I’m always following my intuition and creating music that’s authentic to me, so that’s how I’ve ended up here.”

2) What has been your proudest moment so far in life? Music or otherwise?

“When I saved a woman’s life on a train. She was choking so I did the Heimlich manoeuvre. It was a surreal moment but I was so proud of myself for jumping up and going for it. It’s not something I thought I’d have the confidence to do until I was in that scary situation.”

3) The video is GORGEOUS (directed by Ka Ki I hear). I know you worked The ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) and Pulse Films (who are mentoring film students). How did that happen? 

“Love it. Ka Ki is such a talented lady. I gave her full creative control for this one as it was her vision. How she translated the message she got from the song was really interesting for me to see, as everyone has their own ideas of what they relate it to.”

4) Do you have any tips for any women in the industry? 

“Support fellow female artists/producers/musicians/managers/tour managers etc. Let’s create good female role models for the younger generation to help inspire them to go for these jobs in the future. It’s a lot easier to picture yourself in a job if you see another female embracing and absolutely owning it.”

5) What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

“I have Romany Gypsy roots and can speak Gypsy Jib with my family.”

7) Do you think being a woman in music has affected your career? If so, how?

“I’ve definitely been put in a box and been told “there’s so many female artists around how are you going to cut through” instead of people just focusing on my music. There’s also a lot of pressure on us girls to look a certain way in society and that’s definitely heightened in the creative arts. I’m just trying to stick with what’s authentic to me. It’s far more rewarding.”

iiola’s Girl Gang Music Picks

“Sia is such a badass – her songwriting  is on another level.”

Jessie Reyez 

Sabrina Claudio

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