The Making of a Star: George Ergemlidze
It’s fair to say that Georgia has seen something of a revitalization of its music scene in recent years. While its traditional folk music will never be forgotten, there are some particularly talented singers and songwriters who could rival those of any western country. Tbilisi-based George Ergemlidze has been climbing his way up the music ladder for years now, and GEORGIA TODAY met with him to find out how he managed it.
Tell us how you first got into music.
Music has been a part of my life since I can remember. I was always playing the piano as a child. I vividly remember watching Queen perform at Live Aid and thinking to myself “wow, I want to be just like him.” I think I was 10 at the time, and that was when my musical taste and style really began to form. When I was 13, I learnt how to arrange and produce music myself on my laptop, and everything went from there.
Before you went solo, you were in a band. How did that come about?
When I was 20, my friend and I created a band. I had a few songs written already, and he really liked them, so we decided to give it a shot. We became quite popular, but I felt we reached a stage creatively where it has hard to move forward together. I think, as a band, music was our hobby, whereas for me personally, it was my life, my passion, which is why I decided to continue as a solo artist.
Was there a defining moment when you realised you had become successful?
Popularity in Georgia can be short-lived. One day, you’re famous, the next, people are like “what’s your name again?” I was in Star Academy at the age of 20, which offered me my first taste of fame. But on that show, they told me I didn’t have enough talent to be successful. Nine years later, I released my song ‘Violet Star’. I remember sending the song to the ‘New Retro Wave’ YouTube channel, at which time they had 300,000 subscribers. The next day, the owner of the channel told me it was amazing and, within two hours of it being released, it got 20,000 hits around the world! Proving Star Academy wrong is among the highlights of my career. I’d imagine that’s a defining moment for any artist, knowing you’ve become popular outside of your home country. So yes, I think that’s probably the moment my career really took off.
What do you think sets you apart from other musicians on the scene in Georgia?
I try to think outside the box. When you live in a country like Georgia, it’s hard to go against the grain and create something different. I don’t believe in limitations. Sometimes music can be rushed, and somewhere along the way, something gets overlooked and the music lacks the key element it needs to make it a hit.
Why do you only sing in English?
There is something of an expectation for Georgian artists to sing in Georgian – but why? There are some Georgian music critics who have openly said that local singers should only sing in Georgian. I don’t want to mention any names, but suffice to say, they know who they are. I personally think that this narrow-mindedness is a tragedy. When you start to dictate to an artist what to do, you take away part of their individuality. English is a universal language that is spoken and understood by millions of people. I want to be able to reach as many people as possible with my music.
So what’s next for George Ergemlidze?
To continue making music! I’m working on some great new songs at the moment that I’m hoping people will love. I also want to become even more experimental with my music, and cater to more tastes.
By Tamzin Whitewood
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