Recently I’ve been feeling very nostalgic. It might be that I’m slightly homesick or that I’m having this life reassessing kind of moment… In any event, I thought it would be nice to invite you for a little walk down my memory lane and tell you how I got into music in the first place.

Life of extracurriculars

As long as I remember myself, I’ve always had music around me. I know that a lot of artists say that they grew up with music in their houses and that later inspired them to start writing their own songs but in my case, I was the only source of music in the house! My family didn’t really listen to any music when I was little but despite that, I kept coming up with new melodies and kept humming them all the time. I was always happy to sing a song I’d learnt in the nursery or to read a poem if someone asked me to, so in a way, I was a natural performer. When I was around 6 and it was time to apply to different schools, on top of the general education school to which all kids are required to go by the law, my Mum also took me to a local music school. There I went through a whole auditioning process and was accepted to do a 7-year course where I learnt how to play the piano and sing in a choir as a soprano. I actually ended up spending 9 years at that music school because I enjoyed my time there so much that I wanted to do a post-graduation course too. That extra time helped me improve my playing techniques even further and would have doubled my chances to be accepted to a music university if I ever decided to go down that path.

Apart from my regular and the music school, I took many other extra-curricular activities thanks to my Mum who was incredibly dedicated to developing my potential! I had 2 figure skating sessions a day, occasional horse riding lessons, a few drawing lessons (where I was absolutely horrible) and even took acrobatics for about a year to help me with elastic elements. I was happy doing as many fun and interesting things as possible but it was definitely the music school that was my most favourite place to go to! I was never an incredibly hard-working kid, and when I could slack off, I certainly would, so saying that my time at the music school was probably the happiest time of my childhood really means a lot! I had really good teachers who were equally patient and strict and helped me nurture my talent despite my short attention span and restlessness. I played a lot of piano concerts and performed as a soloist in a well-known choir. Frankly speaking, I was probably a bit of a show-off back then but before you try to boo me, I should say that the ability to casually jump on stage whenever the opportunity presents that I developed during my time at the music school is probably the best skill I have to date!

When all the kids were busy mastering the art of socialising, I was busy mastering different tricks from all the extracurricular activities I was doing. To fit all those things into 24 hours, my parents agreed on a special schedule with my school as homeschooling wasn’t a popular choice when I was growing up. I still had to pass all the relevant tests and regularly submitted all the homework but timeframes sometimes would have to be extended outside normal school hours to allow me to fit all the other activities.

I have nothing but fond memories of my busy schedule even though it does seem a little bit crazy at times: I’d wake up and go to a figure skating session early in the morning, come to school for the rest of the day, leave for a music lesson or two and then head back to the skating rink for another practice. For my classmates, I was probably like a ghost who appeared and disappeared as she pleased and therefore there was nothing surprising in the fact that I wasn’t the most popular girl at school. To put it simply, I was simply never there, and while I was busy doing my thing, they were forming friendships, falling in love for the very first time and learning their ways around the society.

I continued playing music and doing figure skating until the very end of secondary school. And while I was definitely ahead of the game in the aspect of self-development, hanging out with other teenagers didn’t come easy to me. Often I felt uncomfortable being around my own peers which seems almost ironic as I was incredibly confident on stage and could speak 3 languages fluently, yet I was ridiculously awkward in the social setting.

Things started to change when I finally graduated from secondary school, finished music school l and went to university. Around that time, I also made the decision to stop pursuing figure skating seriously and focus more on my education. All of a sudden, I had fewer things to do and more time to be a regular student who was about to start a new degree. There were no more special schedules, no activities outside the university, and in a way, I was finally just like everyone else…


Surprisingly, I knew early on that I wouldn’t be going to a conservatorium or a music university. I wanted to have an education that would help me feel secure in life and would be my Plan B if things didn’t work out with my aspirations of being a singer-songwriter. I could’ve probably done a classical music degree but after years of playing passages, I wanted to explore other options.

After a lot of hesitation and unsureness, I chose to major in international law and energy policy and diplomacy at the University of Moscow State Institute of International Relations or MGIMO for short. Accepting the offer from MGIMO meant that I’d be getting a good law degree from one of the best universities in the county, on top of which I could still continue studying English and French and would even be able to pick up a third foreign language – German. The arrangement to study languages at such a high level on top of a separate degree was very rare and so I jumped at the opportunity!

Starting at MGIMO was like moving to another planet! Suddenly I wasn’t a bypasser anymore, I was in the midst of everything: the student life, the gossip, the competition who hangs out in the most popular club and the importance of having the most expensive bag… What seemed like an exciting thing at first quickly turned into a poisonous and sickening atmosphere, which turned everything I knew upside down and confused me. I didn’t like it and I felt like I wasn’t fitting in but now, there were no extracurriculars to run to in order to get away from the fakeness, arrogance, gossip and shallow beliefs.

Feeling like you’re not fitting in is tough but it’s especially challenging if you’re a young adult who isn’t yet comfortable in your own skin. I had so many interests outside the regular curriculum, yet for a while, I had no one to share them with. In the world of eighteen year-olds with a collection of Gucci bags, no one cared that you were a Jack-of-all-trades and if you weren’t like them, people didn’t like it.

I felt like I was stuck for 4 years at the university that could give so much to my future, yet was completely poisoning my present. To stop myself from going crazy, I turned to the only solution I knew that would work: I joined every possible student club that was remotely connected to any of my interests. I got involved with Model United Nations conferences and ended up travelling to the USA and the UAE as a delegate and later on as a president of various Models. I became a spokesperson and an activist of the MGIMO Students’ Union where I took on the management of the charity programme that helped raise money for the local orphanage where children with learning disabilities lived. And after 2 years of a break from music, I joint The Live Music Club and returned to the stage collaborating with other students, writing new songs and performing every Saturday.

I have very bittersweet memories of my university years. On the one hand, it wasn’t exactly the best time of my life and I felt rejected for most of it going through lots of social drama, unnecessary stress and bullying. On the other hand, I travelled around the world, gained songwriting confidence, shaped my ambition to be a pop artist and made good friends who cared about the same things that I did. I went through a steep learning curve that definitely toughened me and made me stronger, which was exactly what I needed after living in a little bubble of my own during secondary school.

How my experiences are reflected in my songwriting

All the experiences I’ve ever gone through are definitely reflected in my songwriting, which changes each year but has a few noticeable patterns regardless of its evolvement.

For a long time, my art had been focused on the way I perceived myself and the way others perceived me. Feeling like I was stuck without a chance to do what I wanted to do the most, I wrote a lot about my place in the world and where I wanted to find myself one day. A friend of mine, who I played with at the Live Music Club, once joked that he could probably find the word “struggle” in every song I’d ever written. He wasn’t very far from the truth because the theme of overcoming challenges is probably the most popular topic of mine to which I turn on a regular basis even now.

The very honourable second place in my songwriting has always been reserved for the speculation about my future. Around the end of my second year at the university, I acquired a very dangerous habit of constantly imagining what my future would look like. I was convinced that it was bound to be better and brighter than my present. I started planning my move abroad and kept imagining all the opportunities that would come my way once I’d break free. I was sure I’d be happier and prettier and certainly luckier in just a year or two… Indeed, the years after uni turned out to be much happier, and I managed to achieve quite a few of those “unreachable dreams” that I kept writing about. Even now sometimes I’m still prone to daydreaming and even though it’s clearly working for my songwriting, I recognise that living in the future is a risky mindset to have that can easily turn your buzz into apathy.

My third favourite topic to write about that still strongly features in my songs can simply be described as “me against the world”. As a young adult, I really wanted to prove myself, and writing songs about it helped me cope with the pressure. I wrote numerous motivational lyrics that would urge you to go and conquer the world proving that you were always worth it. However, over the years, all the negativity I felt faded away and the necessity to prove anything to anybody disappeared with it. I still often feel like it’s me against the world but the only person I really need to prove anything to is just me, and perhaps my Mum who has invested so much time and energy in my upbringing.

Throughout my songwriting journey, I’ve been touching upon many other topics but I really like how these 3 have a constant presence in my art. Seeing how my outlook changes from year to year and from experience to experience helps me track the progress I make as a person and as a creator. I always make sure I’m honest in my songs and I think this is why people say they can relate to them. I’m always eager to share my happy memories and feelings but I’m equally never shying away from the feelings of disappointment, bitterness and regret. We’re only human and I think there’s a reason why people say that depicting a perfect life never makes for a good song.