Hello Kristian and welcome to our Sir K interview. You are about to turn 18 and your music career is already something many people would dream to have. How does it make you feel?
K: I just don’t feel that way. I think I’m just getting started and there is a lot to come!
Although Europe got to know you better thanks to the last Eurovision Song Contest, you started your career way before, in Russia. When you were only 6 years old, you entered the creative children studio Neposedy, which previously hosted also the future t.A.T.u. members Julia Volkova and Lena Katina. How was that experience and what was the group about?
K: The experience was priceless. The discipline, the basics of music theory, vocal and dance lessons, acting classes etc. This is where I learned the ropes.
Being so young, what was the role of your family in your career at the time?
K: Well, first of all, my family and I work together at the moment. My brother is my manager/music producer. We write music together, tour together and so on. My mum, dad and aunt are helping us a lot too, so it’s like a family thing. And, of course, they are just being the best family ever, so I’m a lucky guy!
In 2011 you started to pursue your solo career and in 2014 you starred in the first season of the talent show The Voice Kids, Russia. What can you tell us about that experience?
K: Back then I was really different from who I am today. And “The Voice” changed my life completely! I started to get my first paid gigs, and it was so strange to me. I was given so many new opportunities because of the show.
How was it to be on a massive TV production at the age of 14?
K: So, as you might know, Channel 1 is the biggest TV-channel in Russia, and I knew that, but I wasn’t scared or anything, maybe because of my young age. I think I didn’t even care about anything, I was just having fun. BUT, the thing that I’ve learned from the show is that, even on TV, you don’t get second chances, and also, not everything is fake, I mean planned and staged beforehand, like most people think.
Your coach on The Voice was Dima Bilan. How was it to work along with such a relevant star?
K: I think that he is the best artist in Russia. He’s been through a lot of good and bad things and that’s why he is who he is. Talented, intelligent, an incredible singer and performer, and also a great actor. It was my honour to work with him.
Are you still in touch with Dima?
K: Yeah, in a way. We are not chatting or talking a lot, but whenever I achieve something, I let him know. If he is free, he will always tell me what he thinks about this and that. The thing that I like the most about him is that he is always honest and approachable.
How did you feel after being eliminated from The Voice?
K: I won’t lie, failing after trying your best hurts: it is frustrating and gut- wrenching… But everything has worked out pretty well for me in the end. After the show, I dedicated myself to hard work, and hard work always pays off, no matter what.
What made you decide to go to Bulgaria and compete for The X Factor?
K: It was a strange and interesting idea. My dad really wanted me to be famous in Bulgaria and I always wanted to go to “The X Factor”. On our summer vacation, we were in Bulgaria at our summer house. Then we saw a commercial about the show and my dad decided to sign me up for it . To be honest, I didn’t want to do that, because I thought that I wasn’t ready. At first, I was shocked, I got mad at my dad, but then I thought: “Okay, why not? If I lose, it’s ok, because I am not an amateur anymore”. So, the main thing was my fear of failure. It was a long-long way from the audition to the finals and it was something I really had to go through before moving on to all the adventures that were planned for me somewhere from above, you know.
Not only you were chosen to be part of the show even though you were too young, but you nearly won it, coming second at the final. What can you tell us about that period?
K: It was hard. Not only physically, but mentally hard. During that time, I was in my first serious relationship. And because of us being young and me not being in Russia, it didn’t work out. I am not afraid to say I really loved her, and I felt awful during that time. And not only that. Every week someone was going home. Our big family was growing thin and for me it wasn’t even a competition anymore. Yes, I wanted to win, like everyone did, but there was nothing worse than seeing my friends, the other contestants, cry. I will never forget that. But these challenges make us better, I suppose… Stronger.
What changed after The X Factor?
K: People from Bulgaria started to recognise me on the streets and I had a fresh start with my work there. Thus, I have opened a new market, in a way.
In 2016 you released your first singles as a solo artist, after signing a contract with Virginia Records (the largest Bulgarian music label) and your collaboration with the Bulgarian rap duo Pavel and Venci Venc’ was number 1 in the Bulgarian charts for 15 weeks in a row. How was that particular moment of your life?
K: Oh, wow. I had already forgotten that it was at Number 1 for so long. It was like a dream come true. Pavel and Venci are really nice and talented people, so it was my pleasure to work with them. We actually won “The Best Song Of The Year” award later on in Bulgaria!
In 2017 you represented Bulgaria at the Eurovision Song Contest. How were you chosen for that important role?
K: That all happened really fast and unexpectedly. Boris Milanov, along with his co-writers, wrote the song and specifically had me in mind. The rest is history.
Your song, Beautiful Mess, was one of our favourites and by far one of the most international. Who chose the song?
K: Thank you! I can’t say I had to choose among the songs, I just listened to Beautiful Mess and decided to give it a try. I mean, it was the moment when we decided to take part in Eurovision. There’s just something magical about this song, you know. When I listen to it, I feel like everything has its meaning.
Also the video was truly brilliant, inspired by Woodkid’s imaginary, and gathered something like 6 million views. How was it to shoot a video with many visual effects?
K: Actually, we didn’t use that much CG, it was all real – the animals, the boat, the paint explosion. I won’t lie, for me the best part was the horse! It was so beautiful it didn’t even look real.
Once again you came second, which is an enormous result for such a big competition and it was the best result ever had by Bulgaria. So, the same question of before, but probably on a different level: What changed after Eurovision?
K: Everything, actually. I found my audience from so many different countries: Germany, Norway, USA, Greece, Spain, Poland, Netherlands, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, etc. How cool is that? Now I know that my music means something to people. A lot of my fans are still telling me their stories about the way my performance and my song helped them overcome some kind of crisis in their lives. That is incredible!
2017 was a year full of big achievements for you, but 2018 started in the best way, since you won the Public Choice Award on the prestigious EBBA (European Border Breakers Awards). What does it feel like to be the first Bulgarian artist to get that prize?
K: I feel blessed, really. I’m so happy that Bulgaria finally got what it deserves! I hope that from now on, the Bulgarian music industry will grow even more every year and gain the attention of many countries. Also, I can’t stress enough how much my team helps, they did a lot for me to get this award.
There’s something very mature in your voice and it’s pretty impressive. What’s your relationship with voice studies?
K: In my opinion, if you want to be professional singer, you always have to sing. Even people like Celine Dion do vocal lessons every day, so that’s really important. A lot of people think that it’s easy, you just go on stage and sing some songs, have fun and that’s it. Well, it’s nothing like that. It really takes a lot of time to master your vocals. I’m not even 50% happy with my vocals now, because I know that I can do so much more. So, I’ll keep working on them!
Talk to us about your last single The One (I Need You). What’s the song about?
K: The song is about being in love with somebody and doing something crazy for those you love. It was written by my brother, Daniel Kostov and another member of our team, Maria Erke. They have tried to make the song fun and relatable for my audience. I am proud of the result: the song is really radio-friendly.
From both video and music it seems like you are trying something with a fresher vibe. Are you looking for a summer hit?
K: It’s not about that. I just want to make people happy with my music. Dramatic songs are sure my forte, yet I stray away from being two- dimensional. There are enough one-trick-ponies in the market, I think.
On 9th March a new single will come out, in collaboration with another Eurovision sensation (who we also interviewed a few issues ago), JOWST. The song will be called Burning Bridges: What can we expect from it?
K: Well… it’s a SMASH! Future Pop and I are quite fond of each other. The beat was ready before I joined in and my voice was the only missing piece in the puzzle.
What other artists would you like to collaborate with?
K: Oh, I have a long list of them, actually! I think Julia Michaels is my ultimate favourite. I just love her songwriting skills, you can always tell what song is written or co-written by her. And I would love to work with people like Zedd or Martin Garrix too. Or maybe Lauv, I think our voices and vibes are really similar.
We know you are currently working on your first EP, which will come out in May. Any revelations you can share with us about it?
K: Not yet, I’m sorry. It’s not that easy to talk about something that you are working so hard on. I mean, whatever I might tell you wouldn’t give you the vibe of my new music. I just want to be sure that I do my best working on it, cause it’s a part of me.
Will you do any concerts around Europe?
K: For sure, I would love to! Really excited for tours, festivals and gigs! The music industry is a complicated business and it does not forgive half- heartedness. Everything needs to be perfect and then some.
What other goals do you have in your career? TV, Cinema?
K: I don’t know, to be honest. I think photography, maybe? Or I could write a book about my life one day. I don’t want to sound cocky, but I think that my story can actually help a lot of young people. Because of my Instagram, a lot of people think that I’m living a perfect life and have a great time 24/7, but it’s not like that. No one is completely happy, it’s just impossible. And I’m going through a lot now. My health, for example, both mental and physical, is one of the concerning issues, but I am working on it at the moment. So, maybe one day I will feel that I am ready to tell my story in hope to help other people trying to enter the music industry. I believe in sharing experiences, so that other people avoid your mistakes, it’s the essence of humanity; our superpower.