This Lesbian Rock ‘n Roller Brings ‘Heaven To Hell’

Alen Kajtezovic

It all comes back to that little girl, belting out Cher in front of the mirror in the home of her Armenian family.

I’m pretty sure there’s an unspoken rule against interviewing a rock ‘n roller when you have a bad case of laryngitis. But Ayline Artin takes things in stride when I greet her with a scratchy voice, my questions barely audible and punctuated by occasional fits of non-stop coughing. 

“[You] have a Stevie Nicks thing going on,” she joked. Luckily we were on Zoom, so I wasn’t contagious to her. 

I spoke with Artin, a singer/songwriter from Los Angeles, on the cusp of the release of her second studio album, “Heaven in Hell,” which dropped on November 18. She’s already released the title single along with its video, which has been scooping up awards and accolades from independent music and film festivals since its release this summer. A second single, “Golden Wings,” followed in October. 

She beams with pride when she talks about the final product. “It’s an amazing album,” she tells GO. “I can’t wait for the world to hear it.” 

A former special education teacher who lives in Redondo Beach, California, with her wife and three daughters, Artin didn’t initially consider a career in music. Although she’d always had a passion for song  – she grew up imitating Cher with a great deal of composure and confidence as a child – she only began writing music and performing after the birth of her first daughter. 

“I wanted to teach my kids to pursue what they love,” she tells GO. “I thought, ‘How am I going to do that if I’m not doing it?’” 

In the past year, as two of her daughters started college, Artin made the momentous decision to resign from teaching, with over 20 years experience, and pursue music full-time. 

“It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” Artin recalls. And while she sometimes finds herself wondering if she made the right decision, she ultimately knows that “anytime you’re following your passion and your heart, it’s got to be the right thing.” 

Still, things got off to somewhat of a rocky start with her first album, “Chapters,” the product of her then-creative team which, she recalls, didn’t fully represent her sound as a musician. The album – which alternates between bluesy jazz and country on its upbeat tracks – while good, she says, just isn’t her.

By contrast, her second album “is truly who I am,” she says. She credits her production team, which includes producer and hit-making jazz musician Nils Jiptner and former KC and the Sunshine Band percussionist Oliver C. Brown, who’s also performed with numerous musical powerhouses from The Beach Boys to Fleetwood Mac. 

Artin’s sound is a mix of big, classic rock meets soul with a bit of minor-key Armenian flavor, compliments of her family’s heritage. “Armenians just love sad music,” she jokes, although her songs aren’t exactly sad per se. She also harkens back to her classical music training, a regular feature in her childhood, with piano ballads like “Take Back the Night.”

But the full force of her rock-n-soul vibe, and of her voice, come across in “Heaven in Hell,” and evoke the arena-rocking power of Patti Smith, Pat Benatar and Heart – but with her own flare. “A lot of different people have told me that [my music’s] definitely got a unique sound,” Artin says. “I don’t think there’s a sound like it out there.”

The subject of her songs is both very universal, and also specific. “I would say about 95% of my songs – maybe 90% of my songs – are all about my wife, and love,” she tells GO. “A lot of it is about my relationship and the love that I have for my wife, for my life, and for my music. That’s definitely the theme of the album, is love.”

The title track, “Heaven in Hell” – which, like many of her songs, she wrote while visiting her in-laws’ in Lake Tahoe – was inspired by her wife, and her time performing gigs around Los Angeles. The “you” addressed in the song is her wife, but the narrative takes a twist into the hypothetical what if?, exploring notions of forbidden temptation, and the inability to act on these.

“It kind of just took this turn on, you know, ‘What if you weren’t my wife?’” Artin recalls. If you’re wondering, her wife wasn’t offended by this question. “She actually kind of helped me write the lyrics to the song!” 

Her wife, also a teacher, is supportive of her new career (the pair just celebrated their 27th anniversary). They have what Artin calls “a beautiful balance.” While Artin is “more of the dreamer,” her wife is “the realist and the practical one,” adding, “She helps me to see things and I help her to also see things that can happen if you just visualize and imagine enough.”  

The couple’s three daughters are supportive of their mom’s career change, too, although, in more typical late-teens’ fashion, are more subtle about it. “They are encouraging, and they say, ‘Mommy, you got this, you got it.’ But they don’t talk about it much, to be honest,” she says. “I’m their mom, I’m not the rock star.” 

The kids are, however, her support in the times when she’s most emotional, or has doubts about whether or not she made the right choice by pursuing her passion, her music. It’s in those moments, she says, “I know that I’ve raised incredible human beings.” 

How does Artin deal with those moments of doubt, which all artists and creatives inevitably have? She writes in her journal, she tells me. But she also has a more musically-inclined habit. “I practice everyday in front of the mirror,” she says, imagining what she’d look like performing at the Hollywood Bowl or delivering a Grammy speech. “I do things like that to keep my vibration high.”  

Doubts aside, Artin doesn’t want to play things safe. It all comes back to that little girl, belting out Cher in front of the mirror in the home of her Armenian family with a confidence and poise of one who hasn’t yet been taught to doubt herself. 

“We all come in with nothing. We don’t know what fear is. And then this thing happens, where people start telling us how to think, what to say, what not to say, how to behave, and then fear slowly creeps in and we’ve suppressed that little girl inside of us,” Artin says.

It’s this girl she now wants to reclaim with her music – and for all of us to reclaim in our own lives, too. 

“Heaven in Hell” is available on iTunes, Apple Music, and other music platforms which you can access through the artist’s Instagram, website, and Linktr. You can also hear “Heaven in Hell” performed live at the album release show at The Venice West in Venice, California, on Dec. 11, 2022.  Tickets available here.  

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