Following an incredible World Cup closing ceremony performance alongside Will Smith and Nicky Jam, Era Istrefi has had a pretty explosive summer.
Reggae-tinged anthems such as ‘Prisoner’ and ‘Oh God’ showcase the Albanian natives trademark sultry vocals, interlaid against a stuttering dancehall beat and seamless production.
Generating millions of streams and over half a billion views on YouTube, Era has captivated audiences with her alluring voice, which seamlessly alternates back and forth between her native language, Albanian, and English. Her most successful single to date, ‘Bonbon’ was a viral hit and catapulted her to international fame. We caught up with her to discuss her overwhelming year and her plans for the rest of 2018.
With more memorable music on the horizon, the world is watching as Era steps into the spotlight.
From the look of your social media, it’s been a whirlwind few weeks – whereabouts in the world are you writing this interview from?
Haha yes indeed! Im in my hometown Prishtina right now. I came to visit my family and see some friends. I might go on vacation after as I feel like I deserve it after the last few months of being on the road.
We must ask about the World Cup performance earlier this year – on a scale of 1-10 how nervous were you before the show?
I’d say 1, because I was feeling very confident as we practiced the show beforehand. Practice is always good for cooling the nerves. Also Will and Nicky were super lovely and funny which made everything so much easier.
It was a huge milestone in your career. Did Will Smith or Nicky Jam give you any advice beforehand? Or did you give them any?
Will Smith told me to never stop smiling and I appreciated that. I have a smile tattooed on my hand, I think its a great advice, its deeper than just a smile, its basically to never stop working on my happiness, because it looks great on me, and on everybody else honestly!!
Were there any pre-show rituals?
Vocal warm-ups and dancing warm-ups with the guys, just to get energised and to be mindful. Enjoying the excitement and the little positive nerves – thats the moment when you feel the most alive and about to break free from a challenge.
Tell us about the whole lead-up to the show – how insane was the atmosphere within the arena?
It was epic! I’ve never seen that many people in my life gathered together in one place!! It was super loud and energetic! Something completely different from past experiences. I’d suggest everyone to go to watch a football game in the stadium at least once in their lifetime. After the show my team and I went to a beautiful dinner on the highest rooftop in Russia, had great food, we chatted and then we ended up in the club dancing the night away.
You’re fairly used to collaborating with other artists – who would you love to work with on an Era Istrefi single if you had the choice?
I would work with Lil Uzi or Cardi B. I’m so into hip-hop and there are so many great artists I’d love work with as I love to collaborate.
If you could have written any other song by another artist, which one would you claim as your own and why?
Thats my song Prisoner! Its written by Emily Warren and when I first heard it I was like ok, this is lit! This is something I would write! So I just recorded it and it felt like a song of mine.
We love ‘Prisoner’ – the video is such a vibe. What made you release that song as a single?
I think it shows my vocal potential quite well and it has a reggae vibe, which I love!
The video looks incredible – what was the idea behind shooting it in Jamaica?
I was the happiest to shoot this video in Jamaica as I really felt like it would complete the vibe, the reggae sound, and the feeling of the track. The visual came out perfectly and I wouldn’t have wanted to shoot it anywhere else.
2018 is proving to be the year of Era Istrefi – what else is coming up over the next 6 months for you?
I love the saying: “grind now, shine later” – everyone gets their own “shine time” when they work hard. The next six months I’ll be in the UK, working on my album and prepping for the tour. Thats gonna be so exciting!!
How do you choose to relax when you’re not working?
By sleeping as long as I want. I love recharging. Eating good foods, spending time with family and friends, yoga, meditation, and doing really fun stuff.
What’s your favourite social media channel and why?
Instagram, because its the simplest. I love simple technology and I’m passionate about pictures.
We were first introduced to you via ‘Bon Bon’, which is still doing incredibly well. You must be super proud of that track, right?
I really am! I never expected it to do so well and I keep trying to analyse why, and I find the answers on the way. Nothing replaces authenticity. Its a hard thing to keep in a world trying to “correct” everything about you.