Having first been noticed while performing at the Sugar Bar in New York, Kristine Elezaj has grown considerably both personally and professionally over the last couple of years, with such growth being displayed most evidently through her music. The video for her new track “Over & Over” has already amassed hundreds of thousands of views, and she chatted to ThisIsTheLatest about artistic inspiration, her dreams of playing MSG and her excitement about the future.
TITL: For those who have yet to discover you and your music, who is Kristine Elazaj in a few words?
Kristine Elezaj: I’m a passionate and curious person who has never stopped dreaming. I never stopped wanting to soak in everything life has to show me and put it into my art.
TITL: Which artists have you been most inspired by throughout your life and how do those inspirations filter through to the music you make?
KE: When you love music, you are inspired by every artist in some way. Growing up and with my dance background, Janet Jackson was always one of my idols. I love to be able to create music but also have the ability to bring it to life through dance. Through movement, I’m able to add another layer to the story, and that is very inspiring to me.
TITL: You first started out at the Sugar Bar in NYC, where you were discovered by hit song-writing duo Ashford and Simpson as you performed Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” Looking back on that time from where you are now, did you ever imagine a single performance like that could change your life so drastically?
KE: At the time, I didn’t know when I started that performance that night that Nick and Valerie were actually in the audience. Not knowing that they were there helped my performance because my stage fright might have kicked in. I would have felt the weight of the performance even more. Looking back on it and just some other things that have happened, it’s really important to live in the present moment and to realize how precious each moment is. You never know what’s around the corner for you. It was a small intimate venue, performing that evening, started one of the greatest ripple effects of my life and I’m forever grateful.
TITL: You then came to more public attention in 2016 when you placed within the top 20 of Macy’s iHeart Radio Rising Star contest. How much of a boost in confidence, and also in your audience/fan base, did your involvement in that contest give you?
KE: The Macy’s iHeart contest was a huge boost in confidence for me! I was coming out of a place where my career had tested my soul. It was reassuring to know that I was still on the right path and have people appreciate the art I was making. It wasn’t about winning; just being noticed was a win enough. I had another chance to be on a platform to do what I love and hopefully inspire others a little. Even more special, it inspired me all over again!
TITL: You’ve been referred to by Billboard as a cross between Britney and Rihanna. Would you say that’s a fair comment, or would you like to be seen more as an artist in your own right?
KE: Of course you want to be seen as an artist in your own right. I have my own life experiences and point of views that I want to give to the world, and I didn’t take that article in a bad light. They are two of the most successful female artists and I saw it as a compliment to be thought of as being able to be at the same level.
TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing?
KE: It might sound simple but for me, just really living my life, and trying to be as much in the moment is the biggest inspiration for writing. Even if I’m going through a hard time, it’s a blessing to be able to try to witness all of my emotions and feel them completely. I’ve loved that my sessions have become a safe place for me and my team. All of them start out as just conversations with a core group that I trust. It has been the best environment for creating music because it’s pure raw emotion.
TITL: The video for your new single “Over and Over” has already had close to half million views since its release. What do you think it is about the visuals in particular that have drawn people in to watch it?
KE: I’m so excited about this video; it’s been the first one in my career to be growing in the way that it has. I think it has a lot to do with the energy and space that I’m in. I have such a great relationship with my team, I’m able to just be myself and create authentically. I have a team that supports my visions and that’s so inspiring for me! I believe my fans can sense that with my music this time around. I’m not trying to create a character, I’m just being myself, showing people what I think is beautiful. In the pop culture world, especially today, I think that is hugely important and is what’s making the difference for me.
TITL: The director of the video, Jose Omar Hernandez, is perhaps best known for his work with Justin Bieber on the likes of “Purpose”, so how did the two of you come together? How did you find collaborating with him to shoot the clip?
KE: I’ve known Jose for years, actually back to the start of my career. Jose wasn’t even directing then. He’s an incredible dancer and has worked with all of the top artists. He’s been a part of many live stage and music video performances. I later found out that he had a passion for directing and was shooting things on the side. Jose’s background and knowledge of dance plays a major role in how he shoots and edits his videos. His style of shooting inspired me to want to work with him. We first collaborated on my song, “Echo” and creatively fed off of each other. From then on, I knew I wanted to grow with him when it came down to all my visual content. Since then, we’ve done four videos together. Every time it gives me the same feeling I had when I was a little girl just having fun with the arts. I’m so grateful for him as a collaborator and more importantly as a dear friend.
TITL: Do you have any upcoming performances you can tell me about and are there any plans for you to head across the water to Europe?
KE: There are not hard dates set right now for performances but that is definitely on the agenda for the near future! My focus has been to engage more with my fans outside of the states. Some of my most loyal fans who have been with me since the beginning are overseas. I’d like to go out there and give back all the love they have shown me over the years. There are some remixes in the works as we speak which I’m really excited about.
TITL: Which one venue, anywhere in the world, would you most like to play and why?
KE: I think every artist dreams of performing at Madison Square Garden. I’m a native New Yorker so that would be incredible. I’m not greedy though. Just being able to perform anywhere someone cares enough to go see you is a blessing, especially considering how hard this business is.
TITL: With the year inching ever nearer to a close, what have been your biggest highlight so far, and what are you still hoping to achieve in the remaining 3 months?
KE: I’ve learned a lot this year. The biggest highlight for me has been how amazing my team is. I just feel that for the first, time I’m in a really good and safe place. I’m watching that result in how my work is being received. I’m excited to see how that energy keeps me growing artistically. In the next three months, I’m looking to have more new music finished and release new singles as well as show dates to share.
TITL: Looking further ahead, what are your artistic and personal goals? What one or two things would you have to achieve for you to look in the mirror and say ‘I’ve made it?’ or do you already feel that way?
KE: The biggest thing for me as an artist is being able to voice my opinion without being scared when it comes to my career. I feel like I have that now. It sounds easy but that is a big hurtle. Now that those doors are open, I’m excited to see where that takes me and how far I can really push myself now. Whatever comes from that space comes and that’s what I’m most excited about because I’m at peace.