My most played song these days is definitely “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” by Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson. I must admit, I do not often go on discovering new songs but this one was recommended by my fans on my Instagram Live sessions. I love Mark Ronson – there is something that he does to a song that captivates you. This song is amazing and I cannot count how many times I played it.
What got you into music?
My dad was a DJ, he used to lull me to sleep to one of his funk DJ sets, so it was inevitable that I would develop a habit of making music. In my hometown in Serbia, a pretty deserted place, there was not much to do, so I stayed home and explored my creative side. There was this moment when I wrote my first song that I felt an outer-worldly energy that really made it clear that this was what I wanted to do in life.
Which life experience so far has influenced your music the most?
It was 2007 and 2008 when I was trying to market my music on a platform called PureVolume. I was 16 then, and there were not a lot of musicians using the benefits of the internet at the time. There I discovered Lady Gaga, who later on became very popular in the music industry. I always had pop music ideas but considered them too shallow until she gave interviews on connecting art and pop music together. It really made me feel more confident about my pop sound and that was the breaking point which made me decide to really go for it and try to do everything myself.
It’s reported that you are the first pop artist from Serbia to be signed by an international major label (Universal) – what do you remember about signing that deal?
When I was a child, lacking a proper printer machine, I used to draw my album covers and glue booklets together. I would draw Universal Music logos which I saw on one of my favourite albums. When I moved to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, I got lucky to be asked to perform at the festival where Universal Music representatives came. They instantly liked my music and performance art that I mixed up for a quick impromptu show. I was very excited to finally have that logo on my releases for real. Being signed for them really developed me as an artist and I cannot wait for new opportunities and collaborations.
From selling out shows in China to being considered for Eurovision 2016 and recognition from Instagram’s prolific @music account, so many cool things have happened for you – what has been a career highlight for you?
I would definitely have to pick the moment when I was in China and more than 1500 people were singing my songs in unison. It means so much to the artist that someone is really listening to what you have to say. It all made sense all of a sudden, after so many years of me being a proper ‘bedroom superstar’. The fans are not yet big in numbers, but I have a connection with them and really want to be their friend as much as possible. Apart from them liking my music, the highlight is also me being there for them and helping them whenever they feel down. It is not all about my art, it’s also about the people who listen. Honestly, I am grateful for all the beautiful things that happened, and am looking forward to experiencing more.
You recently shared on Instagram that you are moving to London and will be studying at Point Blank Music School – what inspired that decision?
At the beginning of this year I had many plans, even a China tour was signed, but it was a difficult year, to be honest. Somewhere in the middle of giving up, an opportunity to be a music student sprung up. I have an album that I created and my dad was very proud of it. For the fist time in my humble career he thought it was IT and told me that all of the UK artists that I’ve listened to for centuries really shined on my new songs and that I should spend some time there and possibly work on the album in that atmosphere. I cannot wait to sit at the desk of lectures that genuinely interest me for the first time in my life.
What’s the music scene like in your current town, and Serbia in general?
When I decided to finally put out my music in English in the middle of Serbia it was considered as a brave move, but years later a lot of new artists appeared who dwelled into a more Western sound. I am very proud of the change I have witnessed, these kinds of things you read about in History books, but I’ve noticed the subtle yet very significant change that took place throughout my life in Belgrade. A lot of pop music, trap musicians and techno artists came to the surface doing everything on their own making the best of their circumstances.
What were the major differences between working on your recent Neoslavic EP with your previous projects?
The major difference is that the Neoslavic EP was the collection of the singles I released throughout 2016 and 2017, it was a label creation, and my true work is more album based. I constantly write music albums then take out the most prominent songs and make them as singles. The rest get paid dust. Hopefully, in London, I will work on the vision I have had for my first solo album and that I will get to share it with everyone.
How would you describe your musical style?
The first thing that comes to my mind is pop music, and the second are the various ways in which you can expand the limits of pop music and its sound. I firstly did pure pop music, went to dark pop, then my first official releases had a more EDM sound to it, and the album I wrote is more analogue. With pop music, you have the freedom to really express your deepest feelings and fuse different musical pieces together to bring your entire idea to life.
Generally speaking, what is your creative process like?
First life brings me inspiration which then transcends into singing melodies and lyrics, then I sit on my piano and think of the chord progressions, I dabble into very basic music production such as putting bass lines, tempo, and drumline. Then I like to take that to another artist producer to bring it into life together. I strongly dislike doing everything on my own, there is so much that another creative soul can offer from their point of view which can develop your song much more artistically. I am a singer/songwriter first then a producer second, but hopefully, that will change during my studies.
What are your favorite sounds to incorporate into your music?
Right now, I am obsessed with colouring my pop music sound with 60s and 70s rock sounds. I am heavily inspired throughout my performances by David Bowie and Queen, but I would like to think of what would Bob Dylan sound like if he were a pop artist. That is what I am currently trying to find out throughout my creative process on the album.
What emotions do you hope your music conveys to the listener?
I feel like the body of work I have written is going to give to the listener a massive hug the listener needs in today’s time. People are getting more and more alienated by social media and their own life goals, that they fail to get or notice real emotion, compassion and genuine love. I would like to have the listener feel like I am truly their friend and that I am there for them at the end of listening to my songs and that they are not alone.
What is the toughest part of creating new music?
The toughest part is definitely finding the right producers to fully understand and bring out the best from your ideas, at least, that’s what my experience in Serbia has been so far. Hopefully, in London, I will meet people who I will be collaborating with. I feel like I’ve become more mature in my perspective, and following the ideas musically in the best way possible is really hard here in Serbia.
How important to you is it that the values you communicate through interviews and across your socials are reflected in your lyrics?
The thing about me is that I have accepted my eccentric ways and am really not trying to be more or less humble in interviews. I try to speak to everybody in the same way I speak to my friends. My lyrics are my own and they do not differ from any aspect of my life, they might be even more truthful than me on social media. On social media, with the advice I am given, I try to be relatable to what people are mostly related to, whereas in my lyrics I speak about my deep personal thoughts and am only lucky if another person feels the same way and understands it.
Do you think there are any big challenges musicians are facing in today’s industry?
The biggest challenge is figuring out who is the real artist and who does music in order to gain more followers or work on their ‘brand’. The internet has made it easy for everybody to be a musician, but I think record labels and the audience should really focus on the artistry and the emotion going on behind and what the artist has to say. I could be easily beaten by a cute guy that girls dig based on their looks and social media numbers, but I hope people realise that all of those things are unimportant.
Have you noticed any double standards when it comes to gender in the music industry?
It goes both ways – I have witnessed guys being more respected than women, but at the same time I have witnessed producers/industry agents being more willing to work with women because they can make a better ‘package’ out of them. All in all, I do not really focus on the negative sides of the music business and try my best to think about what good sides of it can benefit the creative process.
Have you ever felt pressured to fit a certain ‘mould’ as an artist?
Of course, people from the West probably cannot even fathom the state of the music industry in Serbia. First, with me, I had the language barrier; Secondly, the music big on our market is not like anything that I am making. People told me to ‘convert’ so many times, but I never gave up – and truth be told, never had good ideas for folk music. The second thing I felt was the need for me to be more masculine and I never really wanted to act like anyone other than myself. My moves and stage presence stem from Queen and David Bowie and it is something that alienates me from the rest of the pop cultural boy artists, and it is something sacred that I would never want to change.
Which aspect of the music industry excites you the most?
I believe that an artist never succeeds on their own, so meeting the right team that really believes in you and can inspire you in a way can be very exciting. I’m still on the lookout for those people and I cannot wait to share my music experience with them. Also, finding a proper label is beneficial to the artist, so I will be on the lookout for that as well. New deals and opportunities that help develop your music and artistry are the most exciting parts.
Do you think anything is ‘missing’ from today’s music industry?
Even though I can understand hip hop music, I am not thrilled that most of the Top 40 music sounds the same. I miss simpler times where you can have the likes of Britney Spears and Foo Fighters fighting for the number one spot at the same time. Diversity is necessary for today’s music state. Also, writing algorithmic music is taking out the emotion away from the music, so I cannot really connect to it properly.
Was there ever a moment where you felt like giving up on music and doing something else?
I could never imagine myself doing anything else than music, but there have been times where I wanted to quit it and do nothing. I haven’t been greeted with open arms when I started out, and it does something to you that you carry that insecurity for a long time and it takes a while to get rid of it. Apart from music, I am interested in trying to make the world a better place either through charity, mental health problems, ecology or work with helping animals. If it happens that I have a voice in the future, I will definitely use it for a good purpose.
What do you stand for as an artist?
I would really love to communicate with the listeners as much as I can and to be first and foremost a friend to everyone I communicate with through my music. That circle of emotion and energy is crucial to keep the art alive. I really think the message you convey should come from you and it should be genuine and heartfelt.
What can we expect from you within the next year?
Studying music and working on my album while I am staying in London is going to be my main focus next year. I feel so blessed to be given this opportunity and I plan to make the most of it. You should be seeing me in bars, venues and clubs around London pretty soon and I cannot wait to start that part of my journey.