From Iceland — PREMIERE: Award-Winning Singer-Songwriter Jelena Ćirić Reveals Debut Single "Rome"

Josie Gaitens
Photo by
Juliette Rowland

Reykjavík-based singer-songwriter Jelena Ćirić releases her single ‘Rome’ on August 26, 2022—that’s tomorrow for those of you who haven’t bought a calendar yet (really, still? It’s August, man). But we at Reykjavík Grapevine have been truly hashtag blessed with a sneak peak of her gorgeous new track, as well as the brilliant music video created by another Grapevine fav, Sigurlaug Gísladóttir, aka Mr. Silla.

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“Rome” is released on independent Icelandic label Paradís Sessions, and is the first track from Jelena’s forthcoming EP ‘Shelters two.’ The EP is a follow-up to Jelena’s debut EP, called—you guessed it—‘Shelters one,’ which was awarded Folk Album of the Year at the 2021 Icelandic Music Awards, where she was also nominated as Best Female Vocalist.

“Rome” is an expansive ballad on fleeting relationships—but also the timelessness of the human experience. “I sometimes joke that it’s about Romulus, Remus, and Tinder,” Jelena says of the track. “It asks the question: “What was dating like in Ancient Rome?” Despite how the world has changed, I suspect that our inner lives are very much the same as people’s were thousands of years ago.”

Like much music in 2022, ‘Shelters two’ does seem to be somewhat a product of the Covid-19 pandemic that shook our lives so significantly over the past few years. But beyond that, Jelena sees her upcoming EP as part of a much longer-running dialogue with herself and her art.

“During the pandemic, many people had to ask themselves: who am I without my social circle, without my job, without my art?” Jelena says. “I’ve been asking myself those kinds of questions my whole life.”

Jelena was born in Serbia but raised in Canada. Moving countries often in her early 20s, Jelena turned to music to help her navigate the shifting currents of her identity. She is now based in Iceland, where she is also the conductor of choir/art collective Kliður (previously known as Kórus).

For Jelena, the pandemic caused delays in releasing this latest work, and an unexpected hiatus in live performance. It even led her to question whether she should continue making music. “Making music is a completely illogical pursuit, especially during a pandemic,” she says. “But if you’re a musician at your core it’s the only thing that makes sense: you’re unhappy when you’re not doing it. And despite its challenges, when I manage to connect to others through my songs, that’s the ultimate reward.”

Jelena sees connection as at the core of what ‘Shelters two’ is about. “It’s an attempt to chart the threads connecting me to the women around me, to my ancestors, to my inner self,” she explains “It’s my attempt to sort through the experiences of moving around the world and two years of a pandemic, and understand my life as some sort of a whole.”

So check out the video for “Rome”—we bloody love it. And don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the full EP ‘Shelters two,’ coming very soon.

Check out Jelena Ćirić’s website to keep up-to-date with her latest releases, or follow her on Facebook or Instagram. You can stream “Rome” on Spotify and other platforms from Friday 26th of August. 

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