IVA’s ethereal vocals and heartfelt songwriting have carried her across two continents and successfully bridged musical genres—she is that rare crossover artist, a songwriter and bandleader, an art-song interpreter, and an opera singer.
Born Emily Samson Tepe, IVA trained at Princeton University, the Juilliard School, and the Manhattan School of Music before moving to Stockholm, Sweden, on a Fulbright scholarship to study the music of her ancestors. She was poised for a career as a classical singer, winning rave reviews for her concerts abroad, until a chance meeting changed her direction: at the gym she got to chatting with the casting director of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, who invited her to sing on the show. Max Weinberg took notice and IVA returned many times as a singer and actress. She realized her voice suited more modern settings for music.
Soon after, IVA signed with the New York/France-based label Vurse to record her first album of original music, co-written with Manech Ibar. A few years later she wrote her second album, “Ivolution”, with hit songwriting and production team Martin and Andreas Karlegård. The album, release on her own label, was picked up by Universal Sweden, heard on national radio and TV and given four star reviews and a writeup in Billboard magazine – all while IVA while making her debut at the Royal Opera of Stockholm, creating the role of Tamar in Sven-David Sandström’s Batseba.
After returning to the United States, IVA decided to put together her own band of Philadelphia area musicians, and released the EP “Leap” in July 2015, produced by Grammy winner Tim Sonnefeld. “Leap” has been featured on NPR and tastemaker stations around the U.S. IVA has toured the US with her band, while also performing classical repertoire in such eclectic venues as the Barnes Foundation, World Cafe Live, Lincoln Center, the New York Public Theatre and the Aspen Music Festival. In 2015 she maintained her classical recital schedule as well, touring Europe with Julie Nishimura at the piano performing Chopin, Copeland, and Strauss.
In July of 2015, the Vasa Order of America named IVA “Swedish American of the Year” for her contributions to cultural exchange between the two countries, an honor previously bestowed upon actress E-Street Band member Nils Lofgren, actress and singer Ann Margaret, lunar astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist. She is the youngest honoree to date.
In 2019 IVA released her fourth album, “Traitor”, recorded with her band The New Young and produced by Jaron Olevsky (Amos Lee) with arrangements by Trey Pollard (Spacebomb). She was awarded a grant for the project from the Delaware Division of the Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. IVA plans to take the first song from the album, Immense Tenderness, and turn it into a one-act opera about victims of abuse, based partly on her own story of domestic abuse.
IVA has spent the past two years writing songs with Nashville-based artists Kim Richey, Adam Ollendorff, Kyle Ryan, Jeremy Lister, and Charlie Berry. She has been performing these songs at the piano as she prepares for her next album.