Showing posts with label 10 Questions For. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 10 Questions For. Show all posts

Thursday, August 26, 2021

10 Questions For: Natalie Shay


Sounds European! lands in the United Kingdom for another exclusive interview. She mixes indie, pop and rock in a captivating way. And her singles made her one of the most exciting rising talents of its music scene. These are our 10 questions for Natalie Shay:

Sounds European!: We would like to start our interviews talking about your music backgrounds. What are your first memories with music? What artists did you enjoy listening to when you were growing up? And do you feel they have influenced, in any aspect, the artist you are today?

Natalie Shay: I began playing guitar when I was five years old and being very into musical theatre. Around age ten I was so inspired by Taylor Swift at her concert and after that I began writing songs. The beginning was pretty wholesome, I would play local gigs and church halls, until at age 13 I started playing my first proper gigs. I suppose initially Taylor was a huge influence, she got me writing on the guitar! Her career continues to inspire me, I think she's a huge icon and has inspired a whole generation of female singer and songwriters.

SE!: You have a background in classical music. And you also spent time at the prestigious BRIT School. What have you learnt through these experiences? And how do you apply your learnings to your career?

NS: Yes! I am trained primarily in classical guitar! However, I have never done anything professional in classical music. I suppose the main thing here, though, is how comfortable I am with a guitar, although I don't fingerpick for my original music, I suppose the finger strength and technique experience comes through. BRIT taught me a lot, a lot about the industry but mostly about different artists and people – and I guess the biggest thing it did was broaden my horizons and ultimately gave me the confidence to do music as a full time career after I graduated.

SE!: Speaking about your music, we can tell influences from several genres. If you had to define your own sound, how would you describe it? What elements do you like working with for your music? What would you like the public to feel when listening to your songs?

NS: I suppose it has pop elements, country elements and indie elements, this heavily relates back to my favourite artists and inspirations growing up. I guess I would describe it as "guitar breakup pop" but I do feel like influence wise it's quite fluid, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I love working with authentic synths and guitars, I have a lot of '80s influence in production, I guess I just like the sound of it! I hope audiences enjoy the production, but most of all, I hope some can find relatability in my lyrics.

SE!: You have written lyrics for some of your songs, but you've also sung lyrics from other composers. As a lyricist, how is the process of songwriting for you? What inspires you to write? And what catches your attention to sing the words of others?

NS: I've written lyrics for all of my songs except a feature track I did with EDM artist Kryder, which was a cover of the dance classic "Rapture". All other lyrics are my own, I'm pretty protective about my lyrics, I have written them in collaboration with others before and the main thing here is for the other writer(s) to totally understand what I'm writing about, so there's a lot of talking involved before we get writing! I'd say most if not all of my songs are about myself, from personal experience, or from the experience of people very close to me. I am especially inspired by emotion, I think if you can capture a feeling in a song or lyrics that's really precious.

SE!: Last year you released an EP, "Naked". Walk us through the release. How were you involved in its production? Was it any different to releasing singles (and if so, how/why)? The release had a warm welcome from both the critics and the general public. How was it to have your debut EP be so well received?

NS: It was amazing to have the EP so well received! I released it at the start of the pandemic so the plan had to change slightly, so it was very reassuring to still have gained success from it! I was very involved with all aspects of it, I worked with every collaborator for every section of creating the EP, from the artwork to videos to production. I did actually somewhat release each track in its own spotlight, so it's quite similar to releasing a single in that sense, but just a lot more singles in a much shorter space of time than I'd ever done before. Every track on the EP was pre written as a single, but then I chose the best fitting tracks to put together to form the EP.

"I am especially inspired by emotion, I think if you can capture a feeling in a song or lyrics that's really precious"

SE!: You have just released "Medicine boy". How would you describe it, both lyrically and musically? What is the core message of the song?

NS: "Medicine boy" plays on the theme of comparing a fresh dysfunctional relationship with a boy, to a drug. The lyrics are written so that if I told you the whole song was about an addictive relationship, it would make sense. But if I also told you the whole song was about recreational drug use, every line would still make sense.
I wanted to capture the essence of a bittersweet relationship – the way you know it's bad for you, you know you can do better, but it's not bad enough to make you want to leave, and the "highs" of the romance are too good to walk away from.
I really wanted to write about the way a relationship that "isn't good" isn't always "totally bad". Writing from personal experience, I like to document stages of my life and emotions I've felt through songwriting and lyrics. I was really struggling to find a way to express the thoughts and feelings I felt in this chapter of my life, however I really feel we encapsulated the entire story in this song.

SE!: Your live performances have been described as "explosive". What elements do you focus on when planning live shows? How is the experience of performing live for you? What could we expect from a show of yours?

NS: I love playing live more than any other element of my career! I love playing music face to face to an audience and hoping to connect with them! I guess I play lots of different shows, I have the big shows where I play full band with the big tracks to get people dancing, but I also have an acoustic set up where I play the more "emotional" songs for listening in quiet rooms with a seated audience. I love both kinds of show, I take pride in my setlists.
I hope my setlists can tell a story and mood wise take the audience on a journey. I've been performing live regularly for nine years, I love every show.

SE!: What are your professional projects for the near future? What can your fans expect from you?

NS: Maybe another EP... Next single out on September 2nd!

SE!: If you could choose anyone, who would be some British and international artists you would like to collaborate with?

NS: Taylor Swift (obvs), and also Gary Lightbody, he is the lead singer of Snow Patrol, I think he's awesome!

SE!: We would like to finish this interview with a song of yours. What is your favorite song by Natalie Shay, and why?

NS: "People like me"! I've always been super proud of this one, it really captures my 20 year old mood at the time and I think it's funky! :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

10 Questions For: Victoria Georgieva


We have been watching her talent blossom and grow since 2016, making her one of the best artists from Bulgaria. It's a pleasure to listen to her music – always touching and profound. And now, we are enjoying even greater pleasure, as we have the opportunity to talk to her about her work. These are our 10 questions for Victoria Georgieva:

Sounds European!: We like to start our interviews talking a bit about the artists' music backgrounds. What are your first memories with music? What artists did you enjoy listening to when you were growing up? And do you feel they have influenced, in any aspect, the artist you are today?

Victoria Georgieva: My first music experience was when I was 12 years old. I started singing lessons in my home town of Varna and the reason for that was Hannah Montana. I really loved that TV show and I wanted to be like the character of Miley Cyrus and live her double life.

SE!: You took part in the 2015 edition of The X Factor in Bulgaria. What made you decide to participate in the show? How was your experience in it? What did you learn from your participation, that you carry with you for the rest of your career?

VG: My participation in The X Factor was a really important moment for me – it allowed me to gain fans in Bulgaria that still support me to this day. I learned a lot and, through the journey, I met important people that forever changed my life. One of them is my manager Genoveva Christova from Ligna Studios, who supports me a lot and made my Eurovision participation possible.

SE!: You were chosen to represent your country in Eurovision in 2020. How did you find out about the invitation? What was your reaction to it? And how did you face the cancellation of the contest, especially knowing that your entry, "Tears getting sober", was considered one of the favorites for the trophy?

VG: Only few artists have had the opportunity to be part of Eurovision for more than two years. It's crazy to think I was announced as the Bulgarian artist for Eurovision back in November 2019 and I was able to perform on the stage in May 2021. I was really happy when I learned I would represent Bulgaria and also a little bit scared of what lied in front. I knew there was a lot of work but I didn't know that there would be so many sleepless nights. I wouldn't be able to have done all this without the support of my team. For me, it was really hard to find the song to follow up "Tears getting sober", which was the first track I could fully express myself as an artist with.

SE!: What can you tell us about the period between the cancellation of the 2020 edition of Eurovision and the confirmation that you were returning in 2021? How did you feel, and what did you have in mind during that time?

VG: The cancellation of Eurovision allowed me to finalize my first EP, "A little dramatic", and release it just before Eurovision. The release included five songs that I wrote with my team between the summer of 2018 and the summer of 2020 – "Imaginary friend", "Growing up is getting old", "Dive into unknown", "Phantom pain" and "The funeral song". Finalizing all the tracks wasn't easy because we needed to work online because of the travel restrictions. For me, this was a challenge at first, but I guess this will be the new normal for songwriters and producers around the world.

SE!: After you were confirmed for Eurovision 2021, there was a new challenge, a new step for you: selecting your new entry. How was this selection process?

VG: Selecting the song for Eurovision 2021 was also a hard task. We decided that one of the songs from my album would represent Bulgaria in Rotterdam, and we asked music experts and the Eurovision fans for feedback for all five songs. In the end we decided to go with "Growing up is getting old" – a song that holds a special place in my heart and represents me as an artist in the best way possible.

"I am happy that I have the freedom to express myself artistically and to share the stories I care about with the world" (Picture: Lora Musheva)

SE!: When we listen to your songs, they sound very deep and relatable. We feel that you take special care of the melodies and instrumentation, and that your lyrics carry strong and sincere emotions. What can you tell us about your songwriting process? What topics do you like to talk about in your lyrics? And where do you draw inspiration to write from?

VG: My goal with my music is always to write songs with meaningful stories. Tracks that people can relate to – and songs like "Tears getting sober" and "Growing up is getting old" really impacted a lot of people, who wrote to me that they could relate with them so much. The topics in my debut EP are quite dark and obviously dramatic, but in the end I always want to bring a little light and positivity to the songs. I am writing new material with my amazing team of songwriters and I am excited to share the music with the world.

SE!: You have been receiving a lot of attention and praise in recent years, not only in your country, but also internationally. And your career is just beginning! When you think about the long-term future, what are your professional aspirations? What do you still dream to achieve with your music?

VG: I have always dreamed to be the artist I am right now. I know there are still things that are in development. I started writing music just two years ago. I am happy that I have the freedom to express myself artistically and to share the stories I care about with the world. Releasing music is a dream come true for me and the release of "A little dramatic" was something I dreamed of for a long time.

SE!: Returning from the long term to the short term. Now that the Eurovision frenzy is over, what are your professional projects for the near future? What can your fans expect from you?

VG: I am working on my next single. I can't tell you much, but I am quite excited to share new music with the world.

SE!: If you could choose anyone, who would be some Bulgarian and international artists you would like to collaborate with?

VG: The artist I would choose is definitely Moses Sumney – I love his style, voice and the emotion he puts in his music and performances.

SE!: We would like to finish this interview with a song of yours. What is your favorite song by Victoria Georgieva, and why?

VG: I really can't choose one! So let's finish with "A little dramatic" and let's dive into the dramatic world of the EP. :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

10 Questions For: Arde Bogotá


They are one of the most promising bands in the Spanish rock scene. Their previous singles wowed us with their mind-blowing power and moving beats. And, just last week, they released their much awaited debut album (which you can listen here). We had the pleasure to talk music with a band who lives and breathes it 24/7. These are our 10 questions for Arde Bogotá:

Sounds European!: Let's begin the interview talking about the origins of the band. How did you meet? When was the band formed? Where does the name, Arde Bogotá, come from, and what does it mean?

Arde Bogotá: Pepe (bass), Dani (guitar) and Jota (drums) met playing in different bands from the Cartagena local scene when we were teenagers. By the end of 2017, we decided to get together to make music, but we missed a voice. It was then when, in one of the old nights, Antonio (voice) and Dani met talking about the status of rock in the country. One said he sang and composed; the other, that he had musicians. A WhatsApp talk in the early hours with a primitive version of "Antiaéreo" convinced us to give it a try, and it was a success. After testing many names, one of the band members traveled to Colombia and, while still feeling the jet lag, he was invited to a party in a very crazy Bogotá night. After telling us about the adventure, someone said "¡Arde Bogotá!" ["Bogotá's on fire!"], and we thought it was powerful and fun.

SE!: We imagine each of you brings different musical influences. What artists did you listen to when you were young? And who inspire you nowadays as a band?

AB: We come from genres such as hip-hop, Spanish and Anglo-Saxon indie, arena rock or even singer-songwriter music. We still listen to those bands we love, such as Héroes del Silencio, Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Second, Viva Suecia, Carlos Cano, Camarón, Metallica, and others. When composing the album, we were sure that we wanted to tell a story in a rock key, which is what we can do best. However, we allowed ourselves to experiment and be flexible, listening to artists like Kanye West, Dua Lipa, Miley Cyrus, and others, from whom we got beats and melodic lines more related to hip-hop and mainstream music, which allowed us to experiment a lot.

SE!: You have a very characteristic sound, but we would like you to explain it yourselves. If you had to, how would you describe your music genre?

AB: Arde Bogotá plays rock. No disguises, no surnames. We intend to give it a fresh touch without letting power and dancing aside. We play rock for people who forgot they liked rock.

SE!: You are releasing your first album, "La noche". How was the recording process? What would you like your fans to feel when listening to it? What differences did you notice compared to recording your EP?

AB: The process of creating "La noche" was very choral. Someone brought an idea, and we developed from it. There was a point when we saw we could establish a connection with stories that can happen and have happened to us in nights like before. To such a point that we decided to tell a story and work on a concept, which made the composing process more interesting.
Pre-production was just like with the EP. We were many hours together with our producer, Lalo GV, who knows us and is a friend of ours. We recorded with him at the Neo MusicBox studio in Aranda de Duero. During the two weeks we were recording, we finished composing some songs under the pressure of recording them immediately, but we work quite well under pressure. The EP was all artisanal, but so is the LP. We don't know another way of working.

SE!: We feel the lyrics of your songs are very relatable. What inspires you to write? What topics do you like talking about in your songs?

AB: We like using direct and unyielding language, but that doesn't mean our songs would lack meaning. We believe it's a way of conveying a message that works well and is ear-catching. We eventually talk about topics that we all went through as a generation. We talk about love, future, uncertainty, all kinds of relationships, sex, what makes us angry.

"We play rock for people who forgot they liked rock" (Picture: Peter Walters)

SE!: The scene of Spanish rock is quite competitive, but it seems to be in a down slope compared to other genres. Do you agree with this? What's your experience with making rock music nowadays?

AB: Rock went through the same phase as jazz when the latter was replaced by rock. There are also urban genres that grew, developed and evolved pretty well, and set on the market. We believe this made rock gain a different meaning somehow. And let's not kid ourselves: everybody likes rock, and releasing anger and energy at some point. Making rock music is what we like, and what we enjoy the most on stage. It's easy to bring it to the public because it transmits a lot, and the audience feels it that way. It's something that must be lived live, and you can't beat that experience.

SE!: How is your experience when playing live? What can we expect in a show of yours?

AB: An Arde Bogotá show is rage, passion, dancing, sweat and a lot of energy. We compose and rehearse as if we're playing live, and that is passed down to our songs. In our concerts, we can tell the same stories we offer in "La noche", but in a more striking way. Missing a live show is not an option.

SE!: If you could choose anyone, who would be some Spanish and international artists you would like to collaborate with?

AB: Miley Cyrus, Sen Senra, Dani Fernández, Maren, Rayden, Second, Mark Ronson, and anybody who makes us get out of our comfort zone.

SE!: What are your projects for the near future? What can your fans expect from you for the remainder of 2021?

AB: We're releasing the album we wanted to do, a full album that tells a story in the rhythm of pure rock. We'll defend it and get it on the road with all our energy, wherever we're allowed to, in a series of concerts that will go on through the year.

SE!: We would like to finish this interview with a song of yours. What is your favorite song by Arde Bogotá, and why?

AB: We all have our favorite songs, and some of them are not singles. But the song that started it all, and with which we made a deal with the devil, was "Antiaéreo". Some things just can't be explained.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

10 Questions For: Off Bloom


They are one of our favorite artists from Scandinavia. Their music has been a frequent presence in our playlists – to the point that it's no surprise we've listed them in our Top 50 of the best songs of Europe in 2017. So it was a huge honor to be able to talk to them about their work. These are our 10 questions for Mette Mortensen, of Off Bloom:

Sounds European!: We always start our interviews by getting to know a bit about the artists' music background. What were you guys doing before Off Bloom? What artists did you two listen to while you were growing up? Are they an inspiration to the music you produce nowadays?

Mette Mortensen (Off Bloom): I was actually working as an actress in a performance theatre before we started making music together. Mads was in a producer duo called Killer Collective with Alex, our former third member. They made experimental electronic instrumental music very inspired by Hudson Mohawke, krautrock and Cashmere Cat.
I listened a lot to Britney, The Beatles, Tracy Chapman, Kelly Rowland and classic Danish folk music. Mads grew up listening to all the music his big brother thought was the coolest, like Nick Cave, Talking Heads, The Beatles, Bowie, The Strokes etc.. All of it has definitely impacted how we write and how we sound today.

SE!: How did you meet? And what's the story behind the name, Off Bloom?

MM: Mads and I met at a theatre school in Denmark called Rødkilde. We started making music together a little while after, when Mads asked me to join a live performance with Killer Collective, where we did a cover of Brandy's "Afrodisiac", and then we started writing together after that. I had never recorded anything before or ever written a song really, so it was all new to me, but it felt like the most fun natural thing to do!
The story behind the name is that we wanted to think of our music as off the bloom – not chasing anything, just making the music we want to make. And besides that, it was also inspired by the Nirvana song called "In bloom", which is now the name of our album.

SE!: If we analyze your songs, we can hear a very unique blend of sounds. How would you describe your musical genre, and why? What is the process for composing music for you?

MM: We make alternative pop music, I think. I don't really think too much about genre. We are defined by our love for pop music and great songwriting, but have always also been drawn to weirdness and darkness.
When we write, we try to stay true to the moment and what's happening right there. We try to express whatever emotions we are having, and then we don't know if the end result will be a singer/songwriter folk song or a heavy beat. We try to stay open. But it can be really hard not trying to control the process or judge it. It's a life long lesson to just let yourself be and stay open.

SE!: You've had a thrilling kick-off for your career. Your single "Falcon eye" was very well received both by the critics and the public (and it also made it to our Top 50 of 2017). The song also made it to the soundtrack of Fifa 18, reaching an international audience. This earned you an European Border Breakers Awards. How did you guys learn that the track would be included in such a popular video game? And how do you feel knowing your music is reaching people from all around the world?

MM: Yes, we have had some amazing experiences already – receiving the EBBA award and playing at the awards was definitely one of them! "Falcon eye" being included in Fifa was the coolest – we literally just got an e-mail from our manager with a lot of exclamation points that told us that "Falcon eye" would be included. It was really amazing seeing people from around the world sharing their love for the song. It has also made a difference when we have played international shows, but it was not like that single thing changed everything – it was a combination of a lot of stuff happening at the same time.

SE!: Let's come to the present. You have just released your debut album, "In bloom". Drive us a bit through the release. How was the process of recording and producing the album? And what can we expect from its songs, both in terms of music, but also in terms of the message of the album, as a whole?

MM: The album is a collection of songs spanning from the beginning of the band up until now. The finishing process took its toll, but we're so happy and proud of the result. The album reflects the entirety of our history, and is, as such, very eclectic and sprawling, both representing the ups and downs of the five years Off Bloom has existed. The album has a lot of themes, but a common thread is being human in a world that seems to be losing the nuances, complexities and varieties of real human life and emotions due to the omnipresence of black-and-white social media.

"We are defined by our love for pop music and great songwriting, but have always also been drawn to weirdness and darkness"
(Picture: Anders Witt, Universal Music Denmark)

SE!: How do you guys live the experience of performing your music on stage? What can your public expect from your shows?

MM: I love performing more than anything else – I feel it's the most true form of communicating and expressing our music. Our shows are highly energetic and we love interacting with the audience.

SE!: We know you've had some wonderful people working with you on your album, such as Max Martin, CJ Baran and George Reid. What can you tell us about the experience of collaborating with them? What lessons did you learn that you are taking to your career?

MM: We love to learn and improve all the time, so it's a huge privilege to have worked with such accomplished and talented people.

SE!: If you could choose anyone, who would be some Danish and international artists you would still like to collaborate with?

MM: International: Benny Blanco, The Weeknd, Sia, Kevin Parker, Paul McCartney, FINNEAS and Billie Eilish. Danish: Kasper Eistrup from Kashmir.

SE!: What are your professional projects for the near future? What can your fans expect from you in 2021?

MM: We – as all musicians at this time – hope that it soon will become possible to perform live again and play our album on the road. Otherwise, we are collaborating with a lot of exciting people and producing and writing songs for various artists.

SE!: We would like to finish this interview with a song of yours. What is your favorite song by Off Bloom, and why?

MM: My favourite song on the album is "Passion". It was one of the first songs we wrote, and the sound and lyrics are so much who we were and still are. Stupid, flawed, but passionate.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

10 Questions For: H.E.R.O.


Few artists have been on our lists of best songs of the year more than once. This band not only achieved this feat, but went even further: they have already been there three times (in 2015, 2017 and 2020). It's clear how much we admire their music – and, therefore, it's possible to imagine the enormous joy we felt at being able to interview them! These are our 10 questions for Christoffer Stjerne, of H.E.R.O.:

Sounds European!: Let's start our interview talking about the band's origins. How did you guys meet? How was the band formed? And what's the meaning of the band's name, H.E.R.O.?

Christoffer Stjerne (H.E.R.O.): First of all, thank you for taking the time to interview us! :)
H.E.R.O. started out by Søren and me being friends and one day talking about forming a band. We were both in a situation where our old bands and projects kind of faded out, so it finally made sense to start up something new together.
We brought in Andi on the drums, because we thought he was nothing less but the best drummer we have ever heard. So it took a bit of persuasion, but we are glad that he joined us – almost 10 years ago now. :)
And for the band name... no special meaning. We just had a song called "Superpowers", so it made sense that we should be called H.E.R.O..

SE!: What artists did you enjoy listening to when you were going up? Do you feel they have influenced, in any aspect, your current work as a band?

CS: I think we all grew up listening to quite different artists. Søren is definitely more old-school than Andi and me. He listens to a lot of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, Bowie and stuff – while Andi is a heavy metal guy. I myself grew up in the grunge era, so I was deep into Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and such.
I definitely think that all our influences have been a big part of creating that special H.E.R.O. sound.

SE!: When we think about genre, yours is even a bit "obvious" to determine: rock. But we can't really say it is a usual rock. You guys have a unique energy, and a melody that usually reminds us of pop and other genres besides rock itself. How would you define your own music, in genre and style? And how does your process of finding the right sound for your songs work?

CS: Well... that's a thing that many have asked us before. We don't really care about genres – we usually just make music the way we like it.
That being said, I'm a person that has pop written all over my Spotify. Which means that I don't listen to rock or metal that often anymore. So when it comes to our sound, we try to combine a heavy bottom with modern and contemporary melodies and lyrics.

SE!: Still talking about your process of music making, but now going beyond sonority. How is your songwriting process? What themes do you like to deal with in your lyrics? What messages do you seek to convey? And what else do you take into consideration during your creative process?

CS: Our writing process is pretty easy, I think. I don't believe in divine inspiration and such – I believe in hard work, and writing every day.
That's how I do it with H.E.R.O. and when I write and produce for other artists.

SE!: In 2020, you released your second album, "Bad blood". It is great, and it has one of our favorite songs of yours, "Avalanche" (which we selected as one of the best European songs of 2020). It is an album with different styles, melodies, moods. What can you tell us about it, and its songs?

CS: Thank you so much for rating "Avalanche" so high on your top 50 – we really appreciate it! It's also a song that is close to my heart.
From a personal point of view, I think that was the song that kicked off the sound and vibe of the whole writing and production process of "Bad blood".
The "Bad blood" record has a big "personal crisis" written all over it. I won't go into details, but we were dealing with some personal problems in the band – and the easiest way to overcome that is to write some songs about it.

"We are not halfway there when it comes to what we want to achieve" (Picture: Nalle Magnusson)

SE!: You have crossed borders, and achieved success in other countries as well. An example of this is Japan, where you reached #1 on the international radio charts for several weeks. How did your relationship with Japan, and with audiences in other countries, begin, and what is it currently like? And how do you feel, reaching people from such different places?

CS: I think we are really blessed with all the stuff that has happened and still is happening in Japan. I think it all started by a coincidence – a powerful Japanese rock DJ picked up our song "Dangerous" and played it on the radio again and again. That really started all the attention from both record labels and fans.
We do have a special bond with Japan, and we always have the best time in the world when we visit.

SE!: Now looking to the future: What do you still want to achieve in your career? What are your biggest professional objectives and dreams?

CS: It's always difficult to talk about dreams and hopes for your career – especially with a year with COVID-19, that made us cancel almost everything we had planned. But I can tell you this... We are not halfway there when it comes to what we want to achieve. We are working hard on new music at the moment, and I'm confident that 2021 will be a great year for us.

SE!: You have worked with some big names of the music industry, such as Slash, for example. What do you seek to bring from experiences with other artists? And if you could choose anyone, who would be some Danish and international artists you would still like to collaborate with?

CS: It's a dream when you're in the presence of legends, and some of your biggest idols. We have done nothing but just being humble and trying to enjoy and learn as much as possible.
As for a Danish artist, there are quite a few pop acts that I would personally like to work with – but if Dizzy Mizz Lizzy or Volbeat called us and wanted to collaborate, we wouldn't turn it down.

SE!: What are your professional projects for the near future? What can your fans expect from you in 2021?

CS: Fans can expect quite a lot! We are finishing up our new single – hopefully to be released soon – and there will be a full length album later this year.
For me, personally, I've done an album with Danish rock band Lucer, that I really want to succeed. And I've done a full album with Pretty Maids guitarist Ken Hammer, which I have high hopes for as well. So, quite a busy year!

SE!: We would like to finish this interview with a song of yours. What is your favorite song by H.E.R.O., and why?

CS: Oh... that's a tough one. Can you play the entire "Bad blood" album? :)
Naaahhh... one of my all-time favorite songs is "I hope this changes everything". I think it captures everything in H.E.R.O.: pop, rock, and metal.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

10 Questions For: James Smith


He was one of the best names in European music in 2020. And he was in our top 50 of the best songs of the year. Interviewing someone whose work we admire so much is always a joy. Especially when the artist is as cool as he is! These are our 10 questions for James Smith:

Sounds European!: We'd like to start the interview by talking about your musical background. What artists did you grow up listening to? And how would you say they have shaped you as an artist, and your work?

James Smith: Well, I was actually a crazy obsessive Elvis and Johnny Cash fan when I was younger. I know, odd. From the age of about seven I would get up and sing their songs wherever I could. I actually had a copy of Elvis' birth certificate on my wall, hahaha. It was something about that era of music that really resonated with me as a kid. It was so rootsy and cool – and the songwriting was amazing. I later got into a lot of Bob Dylan and The Beatles – and more currently Paolo Nutini. Paolo is my guy. Obsessed with his records. I think these lot have probably shaped me as an artist in the way that they approach songwriting. They all seem to write from a real songwriters point of view – everything is super simple, but super effective.

SE!: What are your early memories singing and playing instruments? We've seen you guitar-in-hand in some of your videos, but you play other instruments. Which ones, and how did you learn to play them?

JS: I first started playing guitar when I was about 10. I remember seeing Johnny Cash play on my dad's computer. I bought a guitar from the charity shop and would wear it super high like he did. It was almost impossible to play how high I had it, lol. In recent years I've taken up the piano too. I got into keys from listening to a lot of Stevie [Wonder] and Ray Charles – I got a Wurlitzer at home which is my favourite sound ever! It's the sound from "What I'd say" tune.

SE!: You compose your music and write your lyrics. How would you describe your creative process? What inspires you to compose and write? What similarities and differences can you point between the two?

JS: I always start with the song, I never usually start production until the song is finished. I find it important that a song can be played acoustically and not rely on a track to make it any good! In terms of the actual songwriting, it changes all the time for me. Sometimes I'll start with a melody and sometimes I'll take inspiration from a lyric or phrase. I often write a lot of my lyric ideas while I'm on the tube and more recently, I've been doing voice notes as soon as I wake up. I've found that I dream a lot of melodies and words so this has been super helpful! I'd describe my process as very in-the-moment. Sometimes I'll go a few weeks without writing anything and then I can't stop... it's all a bit random really.

SE!: We feel your music is a cozy haven, but we would like you know how you see it. How would you describe your own musical genre and style? And what would you like to communicate, what would you like your fans to feel when listening to your music?

JS: Thanks so much! I think the stuff I've released so far is definitely cosy vibes but I've been sitting on a whole different catalogue of songs for years! I'd say that my music is very "songwritery"- soul/chord driven. I'm a big fan of all types of music so I try to include as many little snippets of my inspiration as possible into my own music. To be honest, I'd say that I'm writing a lot about my life and how I feel, so maybe my style will change a little as a grow as an artist. My song "Tell me that you love me" was me as an 18 year old. The music I'm making right now is me as a 21 year old. Maybe by 23, I'll change a little and have different experiences – so the sound will change! The thing that will make the songs all intertwine is me and my story.

SE!: One of your first big steps was taking part of the eighth edition of Britain's Got Talent. How did you decide to participate in the show? What would you say it brought to your future career?

JS: My mum signed me up for it when I was 14! It was a big learning curve from a young age. I learned a lot about the industry and how I could squeeze my way in. It definitely gave me a lot of confidence to start doing my own thing! Very grateful to the show for showing me that!

"Seeing the success of some of the music early on makes me know that I can do even better because I've got better music on its way"

SE!: You have several big hits in your pocket ("T-shirts" and "Tell me that you love me" amassing more than 85 million streams, combined, on Spotify). And your songs are also very well appreciated by the critics. How does it feel to have your work so well received by both fans and the critics? What goes through your mind before putting out new music?

JS: It feels amazing! I never expected people to latch on to the music so quickly actually! The streams and numbers are really crazy. And the streaming platforms have really supported me along the way. I can't actually fathom that many people. But what I would say is that it drives me to want more. Seeing the success of some of the music early on makes me know that I can do even better because I've got better music on its way. I'm so excited to get into an album and release some new music.

SE!: You've taken your music all around the world, touring in Europe, America and Australia. How was the experience of singing in such settings? How do you plan your concerts, and what can your fans expect from them?

JS: Playing abroad has been the best experience ever. Fans whose first language isn't English knowing every word to my songs... beautiful! I'm so grateful to them. I love travelling and I love new experiences so I'm looking forward to COVID being over so we can get back on tour and play some new tunes.

SE!: It's hard to plan ahead in these turbulent times, but what can your fans expect from you during 2021? What are your next steps in your career?

JS: EP 3 and the start of my debut album!!!!!!! Hopefully some live shows too. Then 2022 we're coming for the Grammys baby.

SE!: If you could choose anyone, who would be some British and international artists you would like to collaborate with?

JS: I would love to do a Mark Ronson collab. Or Jacob Collier. Those guys are great producers. Michael Kiwanuka is a big fave! I'm also a big fan of Phoebe Bridgers at the moment. I think we'd write some great songs together.

SE!: We would like to finish this interview with a song of yours. What is your favorite song by James Smith, and why?

JS: My favourite song of mine is probably "Rely on me". It was one of the first songs that I really connected to emotionally and one of the first I took complete control on. It's me all over. Very proud of this song! Hope ya like it xxx

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

10 Questions For: Wild Youth


They are one of the best bands in the vibrant Irish rock scene. And they gave us the honor of closing 2020 with a very special interview. These are our 10 questions for Wild Youth:

Sounds European!: Let's begin this interview with a bit about your background. How did you guys meet? When did you decide to get together as a band? And what's behind the name, Wild Youth?

Wild Youth: Around 2016.
Wild Youth came from reading a book on a plane and seeing the two words together in a paragraph and they just jumped out at me. I put them together and it felt right.

SE!: Your career started off with a bang: your debut single, "All or nothing", reached #1 in the Irish Spotify rankings (and was also our song of the week, back in September 2017). How was it, for you, to see such an instantaneous success?

WY: Well thank you for that. It was crazy. We never really expected a song written in the middle of the night to do crazy things like this for us.

SE!: Still speaking about success, your single "Can't move on" was the most aired song in Irish radios in 2018. What would you say is the key to your success? How do you deal with success, and seeing so many people enjoying your work? And what would you still dream to achieve with your music?

WY: Hard work, and being honest with our music. We're always grateful for anybody who listens to our music or comes to our shows. Without them we have nothing. We dream to tour and play cities all over the world.

SE!: Your music is, for us, very varied regarding its genre. How would you define your own music style? What genres does it comprise? What do you want your audience to feel when listening to your songs?

WY: To feel connected lyrically but also to feel relief and escape from how scary the world is.

SE!: Let's talk a bit about the lyrics of your songs. For us, they stand out due to their easy relatability. How is the songwriting process for you? What do you have in mind when composing lyrics? Where do you look for influences when composing?

WY: It always has to come from an honest place, and from personal experience. The more honest you are the more relatable it is.

"We're always grateful for anybody who listens to our music or comes to our shows. Without them we have nothing"
(Picture: Nicholas O'Donnell)

SE!: Now focusing on "Through the phone", your latest single. You've commented it deals with the separation we've felt throughout this year. What can you tell us about the song, both lyrically and musically? And how has the COVID-19 situation affected your work?

WY: It's about being separated from somebody you love and promising to love them in any way that you can everyday until you can see them again.

SE!: Your live performances are very well acclaimed. What do you guys feel when you are on stage? What can you say about your concerts? And how are you planning (or how do you imagine) your upcoming live shows to be, within this new sanitary situation?

WY: Oh thank you. We love performing. It's our happy place. Where we feel we are ourselves. Expect a lot of colour.

SE!: You've released two singles during 2020. Can we expect a longer work (EP or even an album) on the way? What can you tell us about your plans for the near future? What can your fans expect from you and your music in 2021?

WY: Ye we've got lots of music coming. More singles, an EP. Maybe an album. Who knows!

SE!: We know you have already worked with several other acts, both from Ireland and abroad. What can you tell us about those experiences? And, looking into the future, if you could choose anyone, who would be some Irish and international artists you would like to collaborate with?

WY: It's been amazing to be exposed to artists we really respect so that in turn they can lend advice. We love collaborating, collaboration is such a special feeling creatively when it's right. We would love to work with Tyler, The Creator, Tame Impala, Billie Eilish.

SE!: We would like to finish this interview with a song of yours. What is your favorite song by Wild Youth, and why?

WY: Right now it's "Through the phone" or "Next to you" or "Can't move on". There that's three. :)

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

10 Questions For: Alessandro Casillo


He is one of the best talents of his generation. And we should add: not only in Italy, but in Europe as a whole. We have been watching him grow up, and his music go through several transformations. Every one of them has been a pleasure to our ears – as it was a pleasure to get to interview him! These are our 10 questions for Alessandro Casillo:

Sounds European!: We feel that an interesting way to get to know a singer is to learn about his early relationship with music. What artists did you enjoy listening to when you were younger? Do you feel that any aspect of their work has influenced you as an artist, at any point of your career?

Alessandro Casillo: Since I was a child, I was into music. I used to listen to every kind of music, but Michael Jackson was (and is) my favorite singer. Everyday, I listen to Michael, so everyday Michael is in my mind.

SE!: We talked about your first memories with music, as a listener. Now, we want to talk about your first memories with music as a singer. When and how did you start singing? Who were the first persons to recognize your talent? And what was the moment when you realized that singing was becoming more than a hobby, but your profession, your future?

AC: When I was a child, often I used to sing and play at the piano in my house, so I could consider my parents as my talent scout. :)
When I was 13, fortunately I got the opportunity to participate on a famous talent music show. From that, I understood it could be an important occasion that would change my life.

SE!: One of the first achievements of your professional career was winning the Giovani category of Festival di Sanremo in 2012. You were starting your career, at a very early age [15], and you were already writing your name in the history of an event which is an institution of the international music scene. How was that, for you? How did you feel?

AC: I didn't expect to win Sanremo so young. It was an unbelievable and unforgettable experience. From that moment, I thought that music was not only a passion, but could be a full time work!!

SE!: You have a very special relationship with your fans. You've had huge autograph sessions throughout Italy. You've had very successful tours. You had a unique bonding experience on #ALECAMP. Even in your latest video, "After", we can see references to your fans and your connection with them. What can you tell us about this relationship? What role do you believe your fans have in your career?

AC: My fans are everything! Without them, I would be nothing. I listen to their advice and try to put it to my songs. We are a big family. A singer without a fan is not the same singer.

SE!: We absolutely love your music! You are one of the few artists to have appeared twice in our lists of best European songs of the year – "L'amore secondo Sara" in 2014 and "Ancora qui" in 2018. And it's interesting to notice: these two songs are very different from each other! It's clear to us that we watched you grow up (as a person and as an artist) along with your music. When you make this comparison yourself, between your first songs and your current ones, what would you say has changed, and what has remained the same, musically?

AC: I started working with music at a very young age and, while I was growing up, my music was growing up the same. I like changes, I like to show my versatility because for me music is growing continuously.

"I like changes, I like to show my versatility because for me music is growing continuously" (Fashion stylist: Tommaso Rosati)

SE!: In this sense of evolving, of growing up along with your music, we can say that you are now living a new stage of your career. You've just signed with Krishna Music Group – "After" is your second exclusive release with them. How is this new moment being, for you? How does it feel to start working with a group that believes in your current music, your current self?

AC: Yes, I've just signed with them, and I feel very well, because I feel that they trust in me and in my music. I was waiting for people like them for a long time.

SE!: As you are giving your first steps in this new music group, we can only wonder. What are your professional projects for the near future? What can your fans expect from you?

AC: I'm writing every day a new song for the new album, I'm working very hard and I hope that everyone who will listen to my new stuff will like it!!

SE!: If we look even further in time, what do you still want to achieve in your career? What are your biggest professional dreams?

AC: My dream is to do this job for all my life time. I dedicate all my life to music and so I hope it could be like this forever.

SE!: If you could choose anyone, who would be some Italian and international artists you would like to collaborate with?

AC: I have already got the lucky opportunity to work with amazing artists, like the Backstreet Boys, James Blunt and Pino Daniele. I got a very open mind so I would enjoy every kind of collaborations, but if I have to choose one, probably I would chase Lauv. I love him!

SE!: We would like to finish this interview with a song of yours. What is your favorite song by Alessandro Casillo, and why?

AC: My favorite song is my next one, because I want to improve as best as possible.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

10 Questions For: Nico


She has a solid, well-established career in Romania. Also, she has one of the most talented voices in the country. And now, Sounds European! had the honor of interviewing her, and getting to know more about her career, and the wonderful person she is. It was a true delight to talk to her! These are our 10 questions for Nico:

Sounds European!: We like to start our interviews getting to know a bit about the artists' music backgrounds. What are your first memories with music? What artists did you enjoy listening when you were growing up? Do you feel they have, in any sense, helped shape the artist you are today?

Nico: I started singing at an early age. As a child, I remember I used to sing all day long for my friends on the streets of the neighborhood I grew up in. Later on, I attended the courses of a singing school called "Popular Arts School" in my hometown.
Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, Etta James were definitely my big influences in music. But when it comes to an artist I focused on, an artist who I truly admired and I totally took as a role model, this is clearly Whitney Houston. I've always felt she had the most complex voice I've ever listened to, and I can truly say that she was my inspiration.

SE!: We've talked about your background, now let's talk about your career. What were your first steps as a professional singer? How did you feel when you started seeing people listening to your music? And at what moment have you realized "That's it: I am an artist, and this is my future"?

N: I took my first steps for achieving my dream of becoming a professional singer by singing at the local theatre in my home town, where I'm still performing. From that point, I started developing my career besides the theatre activity, by providing vocals for hip-hop songs released by different Romanian artists and also by competing on reputable festivals in Romania.
My debut was in 2002, with the release of "Cine e cu noi", a major hit single in Romania by hip-hop group B.U.G. Mafia. I sang the chorus and the success of the song took me by storm, with many other collaborations to follow, as well as with the release of my first studio album coming the next year. I was overwhelmed by the affection I received from the audience and the press.

SE!: When we look at the career you have built, we can notice you have been through several music competitions. That made you travel with your music to several different countries. Why did you choose to go the competition path? And how does it feel to be able to showcase your work to such different audiences?

N: I participated in singing competitions from an early age. I think, for singers from my generation, such competitions were the The X Factor or The Voice of that time. They represented a big chance for a new artist to be discovered.
Since I am a very competitive person, I continued to participate and let my voice be heard. I won some international music festivals in Bulgaria, Kazakhstan and Turkey.
For me, attending international festivals was also a real opportunity to get to know various cultures. For example, my song "Un ideal", from my 2007 album "Cast away", is a remake of a traditional song from Kazakhstan's culture. Similarly, my 2018 single "Oare cine?" has some soft oriental influences.

SE!: Among the competitions you have taken part of, there are two we would like to talk about more deeply. The first one is Eurovision. You have participated in Romania's National Final some times and, eventually, you represented your country in Belgrade. What can you tell us about your times in the National Finals? And what about your experience in the festival in 2008?

N: Taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest has always been a big challenge for me!
Prior to the 2008 National Selection for Eurovision, I was a constant contestant, taking part in five National Selections and submitting six songs, out of which three made it to the final.
I took it step by step, finishing on the third and on the second places before winning the chance to represent my country.
I remember one of the songs I was pretty sure it would take us to Eurovision was "Jokero", performed with Akcent. The song was already a hit single in Romania and it also started to gain airplay in several European countries.
But Eurovision is unpredictable and you can't bet on a song! At the end of the day, it's the decision of the audience!
Competing within Eurovision in Belgrade was the most important achievement of my career. Everything out there works by a strict schedule. The stage, the green room – oh my God, the audience, what an audience! In the semifinals, Vlad and I were very happy with our qualification to the grand final, where we opened the competition, performing as the first ones. It wasn't that easy to be the first act, but the audience helped us a lot, by giving us such a warm welcome! Although the song finished in the 20th place, it won the Marcel Bezençon Composer Award, to that date being the only Romanian entry to win such an award.
Outside the competition, ESC is a great opportunity to meet artists from different countries. For example, in Belgrade, I met Sirusho (Armenia's entrant) and we are still in touch.

SE!: The second competition we would like to discuss is Te Cunosc de Undeva [Romania's Your Face Sounds Familiar]. There, we could see a different side of your talents. How was it different, for you, to have to perform "as other people"? How was the whole process of turning into somebody else week after week? And which would you say were the most challenging acts you had to recreate?

N: Te Cunosc de Undeva was another challenge for me. In my live concerts, I use to cover a lot of songs from the international repertoire. But with every performance, I try to own the song, to make it mine somehow. That's why, when you are asked to imitate an artist, it isn't an easy thing to do. At least for me, it wasn't that easy. I received some characters which I think I managed to impersonate pretty well, like Alicia Keys (who I adore), Melanie Fiona, Dua Lipa or Stevie Wonder. Céline Dion and Lara Fabian are unique artists, I think it's impossible to try and copy them, even though I won a gala by singing Lara's "Je suis malade". The most challenging character I had to recreate was definitely AC/DC. I sang "Shoot to thrill"; it was hard, but at the end of the song, I was glad I made it!

"With a euro-pop genre, it's easier to access different mainstream markets. I've chosen a different path, a different genre, a different audience"
(Picture: Miriam Dumitrescu)

SE!: The Romanian music scene is one of the most prolific ones in Europe. What are some advantages and disadvantages of developing a career in such a flourishing environment? How was it, for you, to find your own place in the music market?

N: There are some Romanian artists who made it outside Romania: look at Inna, Alexandra Stan, Akcent, Edward Maya and more. They are very successful in Europe and not only.
Truth is, with a euro-pop genre, it's easier to access different mainstream markets. I've chosen a different path, a different genre, a different audience. I've focused on developing a career in Romania, since my debut occurred when I was already 33 years old.

SE!: For your latest single, "Esti liber", you gathered with other big female artists to deliver powerful feminist lyrics. Tell us more about the project, and about the message you want to pass along with this song.

N: I started a soft pop-rock project last year, by releasing "4 pereti" ("4 walls"). Since it was well received by audience and radio stations, I decided to continue it. "Esti liber" ("You're free") was written during the lockdown. I fell in love with it when I first heard it.
Since the message is a feminist one, I asked some of my colleagues to join me for the music video. Amna, Adda, Nicole Cherry and Misha all have built amazing careers in music and I was truly happy that they accepted to be part of this project.
The song talks about the independent woman that finds courage to go on by herself when she finds the beloved one cheats on her.
It has received positive reviews and I am so thankful to my team for writing it and to my fans for making this song popular.

SE!: Speaking of collaborations, you've teamed up with several other artists throughout your career. What are some of your most remarkable experiences collaborating with other people? And, looking ahead, if you could choose anyone, who would be some Romanian and international artists you would still like to collaborate with?

N: I've always been into collaborations. I feel that it's important to work with other artists. Not only for the fanbase, but also for a permanent development.
Many of my collaborations are with hip-hop/rap artists, and that's because I know that's where I can be myself.
Definitely, the collaboration with B.U.G. Mafia will always be special to me, I had an amazing time back then! So I would be more than happy to work with these guys again.
At an international level, I admire Alicia Keys and Delta Goodrem. I'd love to work with them!

SE!: We can imagine that the COVID-19 situation has changed some of your plans for this year. How were you affected by the pandemics? And what can we and your fans expect from you in the near future?

N: Indeed, the COVID-19 situation has changed a lot of plans for all the people involved in art.
I had to postpone "Suflet pereche", a brand new concert-play, a production of the theatre I'm performing at. It is a brand new production in which I perform all of my popular songs. I hope to bring it to the audience again soon.
My fans can expect new music from me, as always, because I try to release new songs constantly. I'm lucky to have a recording studio at home and my constant team beside me (Laurentiu Matei and Ovidiu Iordache – the composer and the lyricist). Also, I have, in plan, the release of a traditional Romanian music album.

SE!: We would like to finish this interview with a song of yours. What is your favorite song by Nico, and why?

N: That's the hardest question. Honestly. :)
It's hard to choose from all of them.
If I think of my latest releases, I'd go for "Suflet pereche"; that song can calm me down with every rehearsal, with every performance. There's something special about this song and it's also a fan favorite.
But my signature song and my all time favorite is definitely "Nu pot sa mai suport". It means so much to me and I'm more than happy to see that today, more than 17 years from the original release, it has such an authentic and actual sound, being known not only by people in my generation, but also by youth.