“If music is the soundtrack to life, I write for drama / toxic magic love / stormy breakups, white nights and messy mornings.” NAVI is a songwriter, music artists and owner of her own recording studio – Demisec Records, from Bucharest. She has one debut album – “Songbird” and a second one on the way and she just had her first interview for the September issue of ELLE Magazine. She is also one of my old friends from the time when I was living and studying in Bucharest. For today’s article, we talked about the music industry and how it’s really like to own your own music studio, in an exclusive interview for Iconic Magazine Online.
We know each other for a long time, ever since you were in high school and full of dreams of starting your own music career. And now you have your own Music Production Studio, one album released in your home country, you worked as music/lyric composer for Hotel FM’s Eurovision song – “Change” and you had a few collaborations with Marius Moga, who has worked with Universal Music and Sony BMG and famous artists such as Lumidee and Hilary Duff and he composed for Tony Scott’s “Domino” movie (starring Keira Knightley and Mickey Rourke) and Simon Fellows’ “7 Seconds” (starring Wesley Snipes) . How does it feel?
NAVI: Yeah – and it’s kind of funny and also very endearing to be answering these questions for you, now. Us singing together in parks, taking long walks and talking about Britney Spears and Celine Dion, all of our dreams and that beautiful age when everything seemed not only possible, but within grasp – those are some of my fondest memories.
For me, as you know, it hasn’t been an easy journey – and still isn’t, sometimes. But I decided to push against the current and do what mostly everyone said I couldn’t: become an empowered, somewhat self-sufficient singer-songwriter, write and sing only the songs I write and love. My stubbornness and hard work got me to this point, working with heavy names in the business and getting signed to Romania’s oldest and most respected record label, Electrecord. It feels great. Like I am living my dreams and working even harder for bigger ones. I have this distinct feeling, that the 17-year old NAVI you once knew would be proud of what I’ve accomplished.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
NAVI: Free! In spite of the lyrics to my song “Box”, I generally don’t like putting things in boxes
From the reviews other people have written for my music, though, my songs seem to fall into the genre of pop/indie pop.
Your first music video – “Picture Perfect”- had a large impact due to its dark nature. In the video, you play the role of a victim targeted by a serial-killer. Because you have also included BDSM and Shibari boundage scenes, the video was banned in your country. What determined you to choose such a subject for your video?
NAVI: At that time in my life, I was experimenting quite a lot with BDSM and Shibari, attending events, being tied up by Romania’s most talented riggers. It was, professionally and most of all personally, a delight and a time of exploration. Getting to dive into my own dark side, feeling everything so intensely and living on the edge of pain and pleasure – that translated beautifully into my music.
When I wrote “Picture Perfect” with Marian Nica, we knew it would be special and it needed a music video that would stand out. He, of course, knew about my Shibari passion and we decided to include that (it was some time before the release of the “50 Shades of Grey” movie, so bondage was not yet as “mainstream”). And we added the serial killer story to make it even more interesting, as a short movie.
We were disappointed by the ban because there were literally more hardcore, dark and dubious things shown on the 5 o’clock news in Romania. Also, there is no nudity in the music video, so we didn’t understand what the fuss was all about. Anyhow, we have a performance video for the same song, one that’s suitable for any age or hour.
Tell me more about your work at the Demisec Records and the equipment that you use.
NAVI: Demisec Records is the beautiful, red-velvet studio that I own with my husband, guitarist and producer Andrei Grigore. It’s located in the center of Bucharest and has been open since November 2019. We use Audio-Technica microphones and headphones exclusively (a Japanese brand that I proudly endorse, of the highest quality and purity of sound) and exquisite Genelec 8340A monitors, made in Finland.
We have an extensive collection of guitars (mostly Ibanez and a PRS) and we are very focused on recording real instruments (guitars, bass, violins, cellos… we basically record everything but drums, for which we rent out bigger studio spaces when needed).
I have always wanted to open a studio that’s first of all a creative space, where artists can feel at home, totally relaxed and free, to explore their ideas and make the music their heart wants to make. Quality equipment and our experience can add to that, but inspiration comes first.
What challenges have you experienced in the music business during your career?
NAVI: Being a woman, first of all, and also starting so young. It’s hard to be taken seriously by older male composers and producers when you’re a semi-homeless child with a birdie voice and big ideas. Bonus, I was not proficient on any musical instrument and I relied on my vocals alone for melodies, so they would always talk down to me for that.
Also, being the fat girl with teeth problems didn’t help. But in time, I fixed everything: I earned my confidence as a woman and their confidence as a studio partner; results spoke louder than words and than the volume of my child voice. My melodies made my point of view valid. And, losing weight, fixing my teeth – those were all external issues I fixed in time, also.
Are there any international music artists that you would like to work with?
NAVI: I would work with anyone I have chemistry with, truth be told. I like to say that writing a song with or for someone is often more intimate than sex – so be mindful of who you do it with.
What led to taking the first step in setting up your own music business?
NAVI: I always knew I wanted to have my own studio one day. I have my old friend, Gabriel Baruta, who was renting a studio space in Bucharest and decided to move back to our hometown Oradea, so he asked me if I would take over the lease – and I did. I had helped build this studio, the red velvet isolation panels, chosen the carpets with him and all, so I was basically at home And this is how Demisec Records came to be.
Can you name some of the challenges and responsibilities of creating music for other artists?
NAVI: You need to actually take the time and get to know them – their previous work, but also as humans. To help them open up to you so that the songs you create for them sound like their inner voice. It’s not a process that’s easy to explain, you just flow with it and it’s different every time. It’s definitely more challenging than writing for myself, which comes very instant to me, almost like a second nature.
What is your favorite quote?
NAVI: Impossible is nothing.
What do you do for fun outside studio?
NAVI: I read, I travel a lot (when there isn’t a worldwide pandemic going on ), I hike (this summer I hiked some of the highest mountains in Romania), I do a lot of workouts and watch movies.
Do you have any projects coming up?
NAVI: YES! This autumn I am releasing my new single, the first one in Romanian after many, many years. It’s called “Parallel Universes” and it will also have a music video.
What are some of the brands you have collaborated with?
NAVI: Too many to count, if we’re talking seasonal influencer collabs. But my most beloved – and the ongoing one, since 2010 – is with Audio-Technica, for which I am a proud endorser.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
NAVI: My debut album, “Songbird” (2017) and staying true to myself in my music.
Tell me one thing that you’ve learned from the music industry that has served you well over the years.
NAVI: DON’T STOP.
People tell you NO in auditions? Don’t stop.
Something goes wrong on stage? Don’t stop.
Times are rough and you’re not making enough money? Don’t stop.
People say you should quit? Don’t stop.
Whatever happens? Don’t stop.
Is there anything else you would like to share with your fans and readers?