Band: Svet the Violinist
Date: Saturday, Feb. 25, at 8 p.m.
Venue: Alchemy Tavern,7 S. Joachim St., 251-441-7741
Tickets: $10, available at venue and through TicketBiscuit
When he was 3 years old, Svet Radoslavof fell in love with the violin. After moving from his birthplace of Bulgaria to the United States, he found a new musical passion in the form of hip-hop and EDM. Radoslavof’s passions for both led him to begin experimenting with a unique, hybridized sound. After his appearance on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” the world fell in love with Svet the Violinist.
Radoslavof is bringing his exotic sounds to the Azalea City just in time for Mardi Gras. He recently gave Lagniappe an inside look into both his life and his music.
Stephen Centanni: You picked up the violin when you were just 3. How does something like that happen at such an early age?
Svet Radoslavof: (chuckles) That’s a good question! Being 3 years old, you’re not really aware of what’s really good for you at that point. All you know is what attracts you. When my mom took me to my first violin lesson, the violin really, really attracted me in a sense. I just picked it up and started playing. I developed a passion for it and wanted to keep going. The rest is history.
Centanni: What first inspired you to start exploring beyond the classical sounds?
Radoslavof: It was probably when I came to the states. We came over here from Bulgaria when I was 11 years old. That was in 1998. When I heard hip-hop for the first time, it opened my eyes to that direction. I remember practicing classical tunes. One day, I heard some Dr. Dre on the radio. I was like, “Why not try to play to it?” I started playing to it, and it was so cool that I kept going. Eventually, I started producing my own beats at home and going back and forth with the violin and experimenting. I got into doing EDM music and rock ‘n’ roll and alternative stuff. So, I love combining music to make it sound different. I think that’s what got me going with the violin and hip-hop.
Centanni: How much of your accompanying music is self-produced?
Radoslavof: I have a lot of produced music. Basically, when I go into the studio, I like to think of a show. When I do a show, I want to bring out different emotions for the crowd. When I sit down, I want to use different emotions and feelings and tones and progressions and chords. I want to see what fits. I never know what’s going to come out on the other end. I go into it blind. If I make myself feel good in the studio, then I know it’s going to work for the audience.
Centanni: What kind of reaction did you get from your first live performance of this music style?
Radoslavof: It was actually in high school. I had been performing with the violin since I was 5 years old and doing tournaments and concerts and whatnot. In high school, I thought, “Why not try to bring it out at my high school talent show?”
In 11th grade, I went to Brighton High School in Rochester, New York. We had a talent show, and I wanted to play the violin with hip-hop. When I got onstage, I started playing classical tunes. Everybody at my school knew that I was with an orchestra and played the violin. When I started playing, the music cut off about 30 seconds in. I walked offstage and was like, “I can’t do this.” Everybody was like, “What’s going on? Come back!”
All of a sudden, the beat dropped. I just threw on some hip-hop beat and started playing the violin really fast. People just went crazy. That was probably one of the most surreal feelings that I’ve gotten to that point.
Centanni: What kind of reaction have you gotten from classical violinists? Have you had any haters?
Radoslavof: You know what? Going through my journey, I thought that I would’ve had that. Being a classically trained violinist, people can be critical, but it hasn’t happened that much. I do something unique with the violin, and a lot of purists appreciate that. Purists like to stick to their own certain style of classical. What I do is try to combine the violin with different tunes that they don’t expect. That’s what gives people a treat.
I haven’t had that much criticism from too many purists. I love criticism. I think it’s great for building character. I’m always open to it. When I perform for my audience, they seem thrown off by what I do. It’s really, really cool.
Centanni: What would you consider your “big break”?
Radoslavof: I would say it’s “America’s Got Talent.” When I was on the show in 2012, I flew out to St. Louis to audition. It was in the Fox Theatre with 3,000 people. That was the first time that I ever heard a crowd chanting my name. It was, “Svet! Svet! Svet!” Until then, I had to spell my name out to pronounce it right. I couldn’t believe that I had 3,000 people screaming for me in front of the judges.
Once they showed that piece on TV, I started touring. I have been lucky enough to tour through 150 schools across the nation. I’ve been to some of our bases in the Middle East to perform to our troops. It’s been really a cool feeling to have fans wanting your music and asking for your releases.
Centanni: What’s been your favorite performance so far?
Radoslavof: I have so many different performances on different stages. It’s hard to pick a favorite one. It’s one thing to perform for millions of people at home. It’s another thing to perform at a huge arena. I did the Barclays Center for the opening game for the Brooklyn Nets when they moved into the new stadium. I’ve also done stuff for intimate crowds of 10 people. I think those are the more memorable shows. When you perform for a smaller crowd, you get to know your audience. You get to share a story in a way that you couldn’t share if you were in an arena. I like the big stage, but I like the small stages too.
Centanni: What’s your show in Mobile going to be like?
Radoslavof: For my live show, I want my audience to be one with me. I like to perform different covers and recognizable tunes that people might have heard on the radio. I also like to throw it off with originals from my album “String Theory.” I love to perform my originals, so people can see that I’m more than a violinist. I’m a producer and composer.
The violin is one aspect of me. People like to hear the violin with different tunes. Once people hear my originals, they are intrigued and give me more respect in a way. The audience can definitely hear a little bit of everything across the spectrum. I like to surprise my audience too, so I won’t give it all away.