Sertari is a UK-Cypriot singer, songwriter and producer. She started off in the music industry by setting up her own label, and running live music nights on the south coast to promote independent talent as well as her own songs. We caught up with Sertari as she releases EP Bright Star.
To perform my own material is a release - its my ‘yoga’ - an outlet to lose myself, not worry and enjoy every moment.
First up, tell us bit about yourself - what first got you into music?
Hello! Well, I am Sertari - I’m a singer songwriter from Hampshire but I come from a Greek-Cypriot family. I love anything to do with getting up on stage and singing, or writing and creating. I have performed at some great venues around the UK and recently toured Cyprus which was absolutely amazing! I also love a good ol’cup of tea. I have a soppy dog called Louie and a Cat called Leela after the Futurama character.
Were there any particular bands or artists you took inspiration from to form your musical and thematic style?
I always find this question tricky as I have so many influences. I listen to all sorts of music. Just to name a few I take influence from Michael Jackson, Tori Amos, Coldplay and Sia. I also grew up listening to a lot of world music as I come from a Cypriot background so I was exposed to that eastern sound and beats.
How would you describe your style?
Alternative, emotive pop-rock with driving guitars, atmospheric synths and big beats. When I write a song I don’t pigeon hole myself into one sound - I just write what I’m feeling like, some tracks will take on a more rocky vibe while others will have a pop feel.
What drives you to write?
When I write it would normally be because something has happened or I’m feeling some emotion or need to put my point across and sometimes I find it easier to write how I feel in a song. To perform my own material is a release - its my ‘yoga’ - an outlet to lose myself, not worry and enjoy every moment.
You won the Akademia ‘Singer/songwriter’ Award for your Unplugged EP. What did that mean for you? How did it impact you?
Yes that was some time ago now. When I was expecting my first child I decided to do an unplugged EP. It was so amazing to have been recognised for my work but also recognised that I can sing my songs in a different stripped back way and it was nice that people to hear that other side to me.
You recently returned from a tour of Cyprus. How was that? What kind of response did you get?
What an experience. It was amazing. I met so many wonderful people and I am still in contact with some of the people who came to my shows. My favourite show was when we visited the Yurts in Cyprus. It was an outdoor event in the mountains and we started to play as the sun was setting.
Singing about the stars under the stars was a wonderful experience and I felt so relaxed and comfortable in that moment. We had a lovely response from people, they seem to have a love and joy of live music and have found that people abroad are more willing to listen to new music and support.
On your new EP, ‘Bright Star’, you worked with Grammy award winner J- Ivy. What did he bring to your music?
To be able to work with someone like J-Ivy who has not only won a Grammy for his verse he did on Kanye West album College Dropout, he has written books and featured on programs such as Def Poetry Jam on HBO - is just over whelming. J Ivy wrote a verse on my song ‘Flying High’ and graced it with his spoken word artistry which in my opinion brings style to the track and its not like traditional “rap features” you have heard…he brings more of a spiritual vibe.
What are the themes of Bright Star?
Bright Star has many themes running through it! I think a consistent theme that graces each song would be to search for ones self and not be afraid to go for your dreams… this is definitely present in ‘Flying High’: “people try to clip your wings, but this bird will always sing, got a voice so you can use it, got a choice so you can chose it.”
When did you write the songs on the EP?
The EP took some time to write due to taking some time out with the arrival of my daughter. I was sitting on a lot of unreleased material and it was time that I made an EP. The most recent track on the EP I believe is the titled track ‘Bright Star’!
Can you tell us a little more about each track?
As the EP took a long time to put together, between the time I started writing this EP to the time of released there where a lot of events happening in my life. I had my first child, I moved house, I was also working in several function acts and working a day job. There was a lot to deal with and the way I dealt with the demands was to write songs and perform. It was a way of me releasing my emotions no matter what the subject was.
What I have noticed is I build a story or idea and use that as a metaphor of how I am feeling. In ‘Bright Star’ I talk about being lost in a city and guided by a star to help me though – you could interpret that as being lost in yourself and but there is a way out of your darkest days. I am also a bit of a universe geek so I do like to talk about stars and planets.
‘Save Me’ takes on a similar theme in talking about how everything in the universe had to be perfect to our existence, and that we are ultimately all the same: “you and me we’re all made from the same, a sprinkle of the heavens [star dust] and a dash of rain [water]” However, there is a deeper meaning that we are not looking after what we have.
‘Hero’ is different as it was written when I use to work as a waitress and would talk to the elderly, they would share their stories about their lives and some who had been in the war. There where moments you could see in their eyes of them reliving moments. I believe ‘Hero’ has many meanings and can also be from the prospective of finding your inner hero.
‘Flying High’ - I must have been feeling very determined in mind set on this one! The main theme here is I don’t care if I get beat up or knocked down I will keep going and you cant hold me down!
What are your hopes for the EP?
I would love the EP to reach new fans and more listeners. I see this EP as the beginning of something better to come. After taking some time out due to my personal life to me the EP is my come back and I’m not stopping yet!
How will we hear your music develop throughout 2018?
I have already started writing my next EP already have seven songs in the making and its sounding very exciting. It still retains elements from the Bright Star EP sound, but it’s going to definitely take on a different vibe and I cant wait to take it to the studio. I think I will be moving from the heavy pop sound and moving more to alternative sound!
When and where can we expect to see you live next?
Well, I have reached the final of the Soundwaves Music competition and will be battling it out at the O2 Academy Islington on the 18th March. I will also be performing at the Lowde Festival July 7th and super excited as just found out Beverly Knight will be on as headline act. I will also be on the main stage at the Virgin Kite surfing festival on Saturday, June 23rd in Hayling Island.
I do have a number of other date and the diary is filling up so please do head over to sertari.com to keep up to date with show dates as more keep getting added.
If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be?
Oh wow, that’s hard! Coldplay and 21 Pilots would be amazing! I would also love to rock out and sing with Nightwish as that would be Epic! I’m sure there are about 100 more.
Finally, if you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, when would it be and what would you say?
I would probably go back to when I was in college so that would make me 17/18 years old …I would give my self some industry advice to write & make demos and network and learn marketing skills. I would tell my self not to self doubt and to train my thinking to more of a positive way, as I believe in this day and age we are so use to saying “I can’t” that people struggle saying “I can.”
I notice this more as a vocal coach; I teach so many singers that find it so easy to put themselves down that when I ask them what they think is good about them selves they struggle to say anything. Yes I would defiantly tell my younger self to learn and practice positive thinking!
Watch the video for ‘Hero’ on YouTube below. For news and tour dates, like the Setari Facebook page.