Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed singer songwriter Eugenia Georgieva about her music, what inspires her, and highlights from her singing career.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am a Bulgarian singer, performer, voice over and choir director based in London. I come from Plovdiv, the second major city in Bulgaria, which happens to be the oldest living city in Europe at 6000 years old. It’s a beautiful place with numerous cultural layers – Thracian, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, European, and is home to several ethnic minorities – Armenian, Greek, Jewish, Romani, Turkish.
Having come from such a vibrant and multicultural place I fitted with ease into the multicultural tapestry of London, and am so proud to be a representative of Bulgarian traditional culture here.
When did you first WANT to become a singer?
I am about four, I am watching a famous Bulgarian singer in a sparkly dress on TV and it suddenly dawns on me that this is what I want to do all my life. I remember that moment quite vividly, and the feeling hasn’t left me since. I can safely say that all the important decisions in my life had been made with singing in mind.
When was your first album released?
After releasing a couple of broken beat and dance tracks with two very talented producers I turned my attention to Bulgarian folk music and formed my group, Perunika Trio. Our debut album Introducing Perunika Trio was released in 2008 on World Music Network to critical acclaim. It opened the door to live performances and touring, and put us on the musical map. This was followed by two other albums, both released in 2012, A Bright Star Has Risen (ARC Music) and Bulgarian Warabeuta (Sony Japan).
We also collaborated with Transglobal Undergound on their cross-cultural album UNITE A Gathering of Strangers. One of the greatest Bulgarian folk legends Yanka Rupkina also recorded a song on that album, and I had the absolute honour of stepping in live for her during the UK tour of the album.
My pride and joy is also my other vocal group, YANTRA, a fusion of Bulgarian, Indian and Renaissance English spiritual and secular vocal music, performed live with the addition of multi-tracked vocals to create a choral sound with our three voices. We released our album A Journey Through Timelessness in 2014.
When was your latest album released, and what was it about?
My latest album was released in 2018 on Riverboat Records (Po Drum Mome/A Girl On The Road), and is a selection of some of my most favourite Bulgarian folk songs arranged for voice and traditional instruments. As with most of my other work, it is about love, loyalty, betrayal, yearning for happiness, and a mythical creature – a fire breathing dragon – Zmey, who falls in love with a young maiden.
Do you keep to a theme with your music, or just go where the mood strikes?
I keep an open mind when choosing material for my albums but somehow I almost always end up singing about love and separation. Unrequited love, impossible love, motherly love, dragons in love with maidens, old men tricking young maidens to run away with them instead of their young beloved – there are so many intriguing facets.
What is your favourite song you’ve recorded, and what do you love about it?
It must be “Podzim sam male legnala/In The Autumn Have Taken To My Bed” from my solo album. The song is from the Rhodope Mountains and has that typical glissando that makes the melody literally flood you in waves. It is about a young woman who falls very ill in the autumn and predicts that her end will come in the spring when the forest is leafing green.
Asked by her mother what does she mourn most she says “my firstborn son and my first beloved”, to which the mother replies that she herself will raise the child and the husband will remarry but it is the greatest pity that her daughter will be gone. The mother’s heart always loves her own child most!
When I heard the song for the first time its unspoken tragedy and dignity broke my heart, and it took me a long time to be able to sing it without being very emotional. There’s one place in the arrangement that sounds like a funeral march – goosbumps all over!
Do you find other people’s music inspires you? Who do you listen to most?
My tastes are quite diverse and span from opera to industrial metal via ethno music, jazz and classic rock. But when I need a complete restart I always return to Mozart’s requiem in D Minor.
Do you write your own music, or do you have musicians you work with?
I have written vocals and lyrics in collaboration with several rock and dance musicians, and have written a couple of songs for Perunika Trio. I have worked extensively with the absolutely outstanding Bulgarian musician and composer Stoimen Dobrev – he arranged several songs for the A Bright Star Has Risen album, all arrangements of traditional Japanese songs in Bulgarian harmony style for Bulgarian Warabeuta, and all arrangements for voice, double bass, gadulka (Bulgarian fiddle), tamboura (lute) and kaval (shepherd’s flute) for my solo album. He is also an amazing kaval virtuoso and recorded the kaval parts on the same album. We understand each other so well musically, such joy!
Focusing on your latest project. What were your biggest challenges with it?
My most recent project was a little unusual – I decided to go for a set of songs to be recorded completely solo and unaccompanied. The text has a leading role and most songs are measure free as is often the case in Bulgarian folk, which allows the prosody to flow and be shaped by the emotional state of the singer.
I recorded a set of 12 songs in collaboration with Best Foot Music which were centered on the role of Bulgarian ancient oral storytelling tradition through song. The British Library supported the project, and the recordings will form part of their archive.
Most of the songs are quite short but one of them, an epic story about the legendary hero Krali Marko, was over 21 minutes long and I recorded it in four takes. I do however remember my grandmother doing it in one go (she wasn’t recording it though!).
Do you like performing live, or does it scare you? Where can people watch you?
I love performing live. There’s nothing quite like feeling the audience and them feeling you – a different way of communicating with a collective being. When you make the audience sing with you the feeling is indescribable with all those voices rising as if from the lungs of a giant.
My next concert is very exciting – I will be performing completely solo at the Kings Place as part of the Folk Weekend: A Unity Of Song on 12-13 March 2022, going back to the roots of what folk singing was about: sitting down and sharing a story through voice.
I will also teach a Bulgarian two-part harmony workshop which is open to all abilities.
What’s something you never expected about being a singer? What have you learned that surprised you?
I started performing on stage quite young, at the age of 8, so my outlook has always been accepting about both onstage and backstage reality.
What I discovered later however was just how exhausting mentally and physically touring can be, especially travelling long distances. It is the best way to see the world though, so definitely worth it.
Have you had any experiences that really stand out because of your songs?
Learning that my maternal grandmother kept a photo of me performing with my trio at Llangollen Eisteddfod in full Shoppe folk costume by her bedside until her last breath. The photo was very beautiful, with a wall of flowers behind us. She was and still is my main connection with Bulgarian folk.
Do you have any important events coming up we should know about?
The tickets for the concert and workshop at the Kings Place in March that I mentioned can be booked here:
I will also be appearing at Sidmouth Folk Festival in the summer.
What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone inspired to write songs?
Find your own voice.
Is your music available online, and where can people listen to it?
My music is available on all digital platforms – iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, etc. It is also available directly from me on Bandcamp, and your support will be much appreciated!
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of expressing yourself freely in an artistic way and people coming to you to tell you how moved they were or how it helped them. Music makes me happy beyond words.
Pop all your music, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
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