Kosovo-Albanian pop artist Ilira talks debut single 'Whisper My Name' and the awkwardness of growing up as a 'third culture kid'

'Every song of mine is like a page ripped out of my diary. I have so many stories to tell, not just about heartbreak, but about the inevitable struggle of coming of age,' - Ilira.


                            Kosovo-Albanian pop artist Ilira talks debut single 'Whisper My Name' and the awkwardness of growing up as a 'third culture kid'

Fresh off her single 'Whisper My Name', Kosovo-Albanian artist Ilira is all set to grab the spotlight as pop's new prospect. With production that practically fizzes with attitude and a colorful, steamy video to accompany the track, 'Whisper My Name' marks Ilira's first sure-footed bold step in a career that will certainly make heads turn and take notice.

Raised in a small Swiss town by Kosovo-Albanian parents, Ilira struggled to find her place in an environment with clashing cultures. Citing a wide set of musical influences from Nirvana to Rihanna as her first major muses, the young artist developed a rebellious "middle-finger-wagging attitude" at a very young age, shaping her into the artist that she is today.

Ilira began cutting her teeth on the live stage in various talent shows on Albanian and Swiss TV, all the while writing songs to beats she had purchased online and posting clips of these songs to Instagram. Flash forward to a move to Berlin, Sony Music Germany snaps Ilira up and she begins penning catchy pop tracks in LA and London. With more music to follow this year, Ilira is a fast-rising pop star who's no longer in waiting.

In this exclusive interview with Meaww, the multi-ethnic polyglot and pop singer discusses her new single and music video, her eclectic influences while growing up in a culturally estranged environment, the impact of social media platforms like Instagram for young and upcoming artists, upcoming projects, current influences and more. Check out the full interview below:

Congratulations on your debut single ‘Whisper My Name’. What does the song mean to you?

Thank you so much! “Whisper My Name” means a lot to me because it’s my first single. I wrote it after a heavy break up. It’s about the time someone new picked me up from an all-time low and brought me back to the floating feeling of being in love. 

The track also comes with a feisty music video. Who directed the video and what was it like on the sets?

Shooting the video was so much fun! It was directed by Marvin Ströter, and gives a glimpse into what it is like to be in a relationship with me. I’m overly possessive but in a loving and caring way. I love how colorful the video is because it’s a good reflection of my ambivalent personality. It was my first music video, so naturally, I was under a lot of stress on set, but I’m happy how everything turned out, and I’m so glad that people are responding well to it! 

Who produced the single?

Hitimpulse. Such sweet and talented guys! 

You are of Kosovo-Albanian origin and you grew up in a small Swiss town. What role did music play in your childhood?

As a third culture kid, I’ve often felt misplaced with people mocking me for my dreams and aspirations. Music has been my safe haven ever since. It created a space for me where I was able to break free and grow. 

You state Nirvana and Rihanna as your earliest influences. The two artists are as disparate as it gets, at least musically. How did that wide range of influence shape you?

That’s true! I’ve never been the type to call one single genre my home. My parents introduced me to a lot of Middle Eastern music when I was younger. Later on, I’ve naturally gravitated towards American music. I try to incorporate all of those influences into one sound, and make that my signature style. 

 You sing in English. Is that your first language? How many languages do you speak? 

I’ve been singing in English my whole life! I also speak Albanian, German - including Swiss German - and French. 

Who would you say are your current influences? What kind of music have you been listening to lately?

Rihanna is still one of my biggest influences! Lately, I’ve also been listening to a lot to Bebe Rexha, Bobi Andonov, and Matt Maeson. I listen to a lot of different genres, from Indie to Metal, and from Middle Eastern music to American music. 

Fast-rising Kosova-Albanian pop princess Ilira is working on more music for the year after the success of 'Whisper My Name'.
Fast-rising Kosova-Albanian pop princess Ilira is working on more music for the year after the success of 'Whisper My Name'.

Who would you say is your dream collaboration? 

Rihanna! I also feel like we would be best friends, she just doesn’t know it yet! 

Your debut effort is already making some serious vibes. What else can we expect in the near future?

I’ve been working on my material for the past two years in LA, London and Berlin. Every song of mine is like a page ripped out of my diary. I have so many stories to tell, not just about heartbreak, but about the inevitable struggle of coming of age. I’m excited to release those songs, and start touring! I also have a couple of features lined up, so stay tuned! 

Before I forget, Ilira is a rare name, at least in this part of the world. Is it your stage name or also your actual name? What does it mean?

ILIRA is my real name! It’s of Albanian origin and means rebel or warrior. Guess my parents knew that I was gonna be a fighter!

You gained a great following by uploading your music clips to Instagram. How much of an impact do you think the social media platform has in today’s music landscape?

Most importantly, Instagram is a way for me to engage with people. It allows everyone to upload music from their bedroom, and engage with those who like what’s been uploaded. That’s how I started out, too: I uploaded self-recorded video snippets of my singing to Instagram and was ultimately offered a management, publishing and label deal. Little did I know that the videos on Instagram were enough to get the ball rolling. I’m glad that this platform is available for any other struggling musician out there with dreams too big to fit into their bedrooms.