Elena Tonra: ‘I think I’ve always felt at home listening to melancholic things’

Not every music we come across has to be something that helps us wind down a bit. Because from time to time listeners come across music that is more personal and something they can resonate with even if contains tints of beautiful sadness. Thankfully, Elena Tonra exists in this realm of music with works that are still underrated among mainstream audiences.

For those who don’t know, Elena is the fronter of Daughter, an indie-folk trio formed in 2010, which began as her solo project. I turned into a musical group after Swiss guitarist Igor Haefeli along with the French drummer Remi Aguilella joined her band.

Elena Tonra at ICMP Songwriters Circle ( Source: YouTube )

Most of us are probably aware of the beautiful musical creation of Elena, but there are things some fans are still unaware of her. So, this article will shed light upon more interesting facts about Tonra and her band.

Musical Influence From Parents & Meaning Behind Naming Band Daughter

Tonra was born on January 15, 1990, in North London. The singer was exposed to traditional Irish music early on in her life which she inherited from her Irish–Italian parentage. With how listening to music is crucial in developing songwriting skills, the American singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley’s album Grace that her dad brought her quickly caught her attention.

The kind of raw musicality combined with Jeff’s voice and his abstract lyricism that the record had was missing from the kind of music she was listening to, which was mainstream bands like Spice Girls.

The childhood picture of Elena Tonra was featured in Daughter’s EP titled ‘ His Young Heart ( Source: Instagram )

The record Grace also showcased Buckley’s serious technical virtuosity and multiple influences ranging from jazz, punk, heavy metal to Pakistani Qawali in different tracks. It changed her musical taste upside down. Now, let’s focus on how her parents helped develop her musical taste. 

In early teen, I think I had a pretty embarrassing music taste. When I was 10, I had a pretty listened to whatever came on radio, mostly manufactured groups such as Spice Girls. But listening to Jeff Buckley shifted my understanding of music.

Tonra’s parents, who met each other in London, shared a great musical taste. Her father listened to Neil Young and Dylan whereas her mother was really into David Bowie and English songwriters. So, Tonra picked up a lot from the kind of music her parents were playing in the house. 

The singer’s mother is of Italian descent and her father is Irish who moved to London at a fairly young age.

Talking about the meaning of her band’s name, Daughter is what came first to the indie singer’s mind while thinking of a name for the band, which she feels has something to do with the comforting feeling of her childhood and it does vibe with the music she’s making.

Tonra’s Fascination With Sadness In Lyricism

Elena Tonra is especially fascinated with the lyricism in a song, even if the song has a minimal musical structure. What the songwriter looks for in lyrics is the expression of melancholia that comes from all her early years of listening to songs specializing in bold lyrics.

I think I’m searching for songs about sadness. I think I’ve always felt at home listening to melancholic things. I think it’s some comfort I find in listening to songs written in a lonely or sad state.

This sort of sad and mellow approach to songwriting was very much prevalent in Daughter’s debut full-length album If You Leave, which they released in 2013. Shallows, the last track on the album starts with loneliness and existential knack reverbed guitar melody with Tonra’s vocals quickly blending in with the longing vibe of the song.

The song doesn’t immediately ascend in the chorus, which perfectly fits the lyrics- “If you leave when I go, find me In the shallows.” The chorus comes in stronger the second time with added percussions and echoing vocals. 

A beautiful and moving performance of the track Shallows by Daughter ( Source: YouTube )

Moreover, the leader of Daughter allows herself to be vulnerable in her creative pursuit. Expressing the emotions freely in a song comes at the price of becoming more emotionally exposed. However, this doesn’t hold her back at all.

On the contrary, that’s when she manages to bring the best out of her in writing. In her latest album recorded under Ex: Re, she unmasked the emotions she felt from a breakup and allowed them to squeeze out into her songs. 

Tonra’s Relationship & Band Formation With Igor

Besides the limitations of what the lead of Daughter could do musically as one person, Tonra’s association with Igor sprouted from her need to feel reassured from being accompanied by other musicians on stage. They would soon find themselves playing as a duo for quite a while until the band was complete.

Elena released songs under her own name in platform like MySpace prior to forming Daughter ( Source: YouTube )

Even after being romantically involved with the singer, Igor wanted the songwriter not to mix up the relationship with her professional life as it would get in the way of her writing process, which generally involves very personal feelings about her failed relationships and the dark side of love. 

Elena and Igor dated a few years ( Source: Instagram )

The lyrics to their song titled Still captures the theme of two broken-hearted lovers who are drifting apart with time but can’t let go of each other due to the fear of being lonely even when the love has lost all its spark. 

However, it wasn’t confirmed that Elena was talking about her relationship with Igor since most of her songs are usually bleak and honest. After she broke up before with Igor, she felt the need to release Ex:Re separate from Daughter because it would be awkward to delve deep into the repercussions of a failed relationship with her former boyfriend.

Speaking of her present relationship status, Elena hasn’t married yet and it’s apparent from her track ‘Doing The Right Thing’ about her thoughts on getting married. After all, the lyrics reads ‘ And there’re making children, and there\re making love, with their own excuses, we’re built for reproduction.‘.

Elena’s Income Sources, Net Worth

Elena is reaping the profit of her work from revenue streams with more than 3 million monthly listeners for the band Daughter on Spotify. On the other hand, her second band Ex: Re has more than 140 thousand monthly listeners on the same platform. Aside from streaming, her other sources of income include touring and selling merchandise from Ex: Re’s official website which contains LPs, CDs, and handbags.

Above all, Daughter provided soundtrack and tracks for the successful indie game Life Is Strange: Before The Storm. Their track ‘Burn It Down’ was prominently featured in the game and a separate album was released based on songs featured in the game.

Elena and Igor talk about the music-making process for Life Is Strange ( Source: YouTube )

Likewise, Tonra also generates an impressive amount from licensing her music to tv shows and movies. In case you didn’t know, the track ‘Youth’ was used in the Tour De France commercial without realsing that the song was actually more of a ballad.

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Sandesh K.C
A musician in the making specializing in songwriting and musical composition. Recent Engineering graduate and music writer trying best to keep the spark for my passion alive.
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