An early brush with fame—performing alongside noted opera company Opera Delaware when she was just 9 years old—led IVA to New York, where she bounced from Juilliard to the Manhattan School of Music to Princeton University before receiving a Fulbright scholarship to study Scandinavian classical music in Stockholm. As a 12th-generation Swedish-American, IVA was inspired to meld her classical training with her love of pop music, and released two albums of what she calls operatic pop. “When I first moved to Sweden, I didn’t know anybody, so no one had any preconceived expectations of me—and my creativity exploded,” she says.
Now 37, IVA—born Emily Tepe—is back in the United States with a solidified sound, a clear direction, and a new album, Leap. Her first U.S. release was funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $12,000. “It’s a great feeling,” she says of the achievement, “because it all came together organically. I feel fulfilled and satisfied with the whole experience.”
Working with producer Tim Sonnefeld, IVA mixes her classically trained vocals with folk-rock on Leap. “It represents a leap of faith, a leap into an important change in life and taking a chance on something you love. It also represents a change in my sound,” she says. “My first two albums used a lot of sounds that could only be made in the studio. I’m now moving toward a more acoustic sound.”
IVA hasn’t fully left her training—or Sweden—behind. She continues to perform classical repertoire both in the U.S. and overseas, and she was recently named the Swedish-American of the Year in her ancestral home. “I love Sweden,” she says. “It’s where I started thinking, ‘What do I want? What’s important?’ And music just started coming out.”