Love, loss and the folk sounds of the Mediterranean inspire singer Maria Yiakoulis.

Andrew Taylor.
Sydney Central Courier

It’s not always wise to reveal your occupation at a party: doctors are called upon to diagnose dicky knees; lawyers are asked to opine on neighbourhood disputes. And Maria Yiakoulis says she is often hauled up on stage when partygoers find out she earns a crust from singing as well as marketing. “They expect me to perform at whim,” she says. “Maybe I should start charging.”

Raised in a household that revered the arts, Yiakoulis probably doesn’t need that much prompting to exercise her vocal chords. Classically trained as a violinist and flautist, she opted for singing as a teenager because her voice was a “lot easier to carry. Yo u just take it with you and it gives people a lot of joy”.

Despite her Greek heritage, Yiakoulis isn’t quite what you’d expect from a woman whose culture produced the emotional angst of Maria Callas and the melancholic Nana Mouskouri. And there are no Demis Roussos-style caftans hanging in her wardrobe, she adds.

“I wouldn’t place myself anywhere near them, only because I steered away from that classical path and fell in love with jazz. My voice hasn’t undergone t hat training. It’s not operatic in any way. I’ve gone down an earthier path.”

There’s more to Greek music than the pear-shaped, long-necked bouzouki and its sharp aural tickle, Yiakoulis says. “Greek music is diverse like any ethnic music. There are different streams – indie rock, funk, jazz, opera, folkloric, pop.” What unites these divergent strands, for Yiakoulis at least, is the poetry of the lyrics, often concerned with love and loss.

It’s no surprise that these monumental themes sometimes make Yiakoulis moody as she deconstructs and rebuilds these songs, colouring them with her experiences as a second generation Greek-Australian. Yiakoulis promises to visit both passions when she performs at Café Carnivale with Out of the Blue, whose sound is inspired by the islands of the Dodecanese.

“They are the two things that really affect people – the loss of loved ones and love,” she says. “But you know I can put my funky hat on and turn a ballad into something Jamiroquai-esque or give it an Ella Fitzgerald spin. It depends on what mood I’m in.”