There are millions of choices presented to us every day, but the hardest thing is to stick to your own way. I don’t play the Fame Money Game. When I was packing my suitcase to live Russia in June 2006 I was offered to sign with one of the top executives in Russian music business. I didn’t do it, and I don’t look back. Signing that contract meant giving away my creative freedom and ability to produce and write my own songs, express myself and grow as musician and instead possibly performing one hit for some time, lipsyncing it through the speakers of countless concert halls in Russia for some funny money (not more than I was earning already by doing shows independently) and after a few months or a year being replaced by another “fresh face”, in order to stay relevant than you would have to find a “sponsor” to pay for TV and radio rotation, otherwise your career is thrown out the window. If you step on the commercial road in Russia, you loose street credit and there is almost no way back after being rinsed out by the System.
My mother turned down loads of deals while I was a child, because she didn’t want me to enter the Fame Money Game. Later I understood why, and I know she was right. The TV show “Star Factory” (Russian version of “X-Factor”) was holding auditions right in a concert hall at my uni, where I was studying (Russian Academy of Music), the queue was massive, people traveled from all around the country to be auditioned. I was 17 at the time and I didn’t even go there, because I felt it was not my way anyway. First of all, it was not about singing and your skills, neither you would be allowed to have any creative control, you become a slave basically. Second, mixed race people were rarely seen on TV, there was only one dark skinned TV presenter at the time, and for anyone of darker complexion becoming a pop star meant allowing to take a piss out of the skin color and no way you could embrase anything to do with your ethnic background. I am not going to be finger pointing, but this is what was happening to a couple of mixed race singers who were indeed promoted and shown on TV. I was not ready to pose like a clown. I wanted to explore sound engineering and learn to play piano. Next year I did audition, but for something totally different – master class with American vocal coach Seth Riggs, which was held at my uni too. This time it really had a meaning to me, because if you are chosen you would get a free master class from him, learn great things about speech level singing and otherwise people were paying $100 for a ticket just to watch this whole thing. Again there was a queue of Russians from all over the country, who traveled to try and get there and the auditions were held for two days in a row from the early morning till late. I was chosen for the master class eventually, which was held at our concert hall. I learned a lot that day, it was a blessing.
The learning experience and the meaning is very important, like sign posts on this one big road of life. I have been making music all my life and doing it professionally (meaning getting paid) since 2004. I was offered to be part of girl bands and other pop projects, but I chose to start with a reggae scene for the love of reggae music and opportunity to perform my own lyrics and tell the messages I wanted as opposed to commercial stuff I was offered, sing live instead of being forced to lipsync. I do music for the love of music, because I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT MUSIC. Russian music business is an extremely closed circle, controlling everything, Russian underground scene is broad and wild, but nice.
I always wanted to learn about different aspects and sides of music creation, all the ways the musical sound exists in the world. Even when I feel the most anxious I read music tech magazines and it calms me down somehow.
If I needed to base my career off of scandals in the media, I could have done it long time ago and ride it until the wheels fall off. I could have taken many stories to UK and Russian tabloids, but I am not here for that at all. Folks are ready to jump on negative stuff too fast, while positive things have to fight there way to gain attention. There are no reality TV shows coming either, because it is not relevant to what I do. I record music, I produce for other artists, I engineer in the studio and mix tracks, do live shows and a bit of acting – this is my job. I am more interested in how to set up an LFO on a saw tooth in my favourite synth for a bass line or adjust a threshold on a compressor in Logic with the right ratio, attack and release for a kick drum than making a career out of gossip and scandals. I choose my own way over getting famous by any means. I don’t need to try to be famous, because there is a way that I reject, the way that has ALWAYS been there open, literally brought to me on the plate, but I rejected it. I believe that fame and money should be earned by hard work and contribution to culture, then it has a meaning and becomes part of the experience. I am not against making good money at all, if you are involved in great art and are fortunate enough to be appreciated and recognized during your life time for that – that is a true blessing. There are many great people in the history though, who were not accepted by their own generation because they were ahead of their time. Success is really measured by relation between opportunites, work and effort, the length of the road to success and what price had to be paid for it (not the soul though, which is priceless). Freedom is about going for opportunities that agree with what you feel as opposed to slavery of being forced to promote certain things in order to get money and fame. In other words, for an artist there is a different way of being themselves and going for opportunities that agree with that as opposed to trying to fit in and hustling for anything just to stay in the spotlight. I have lost opportunities that don’t agree with my way, but I have gained a lot of knowledge and experience that became part of my journey and growth.
This is the vision I had to put into my songs “No Illusions” and “Fame Money Game”. I am free.