Picture by Shawn Johnson, New York.
When we are young, it's easy to believe that you can become anything you want to in life. But as we get older, we discover that the future often doesn't pan out the way that we expect it to.
Yet sometimes the greatest gifts that life gives us are the ones that we didn't really see as a gift in the first place. This was the case forArty--an internationally performing artist who landed himself onDJ Mag's Top 100 DJs listfor five years straight (a "DJ titan"), despite not wanting to become a musician in the first place.
When he was a child, Arty just wanted to pursue his dreams of being a professional soccer player. But his grandmother wouldn't let him - she insisted that he go to music school to shape the raw musical talent that his family took notice of while he was growing up in Russia.
Of course, a then 8-year-old Arty had no way of knowing that his grandmother's unrelenting guidance would push him develop his talent until he became the DJ Awards Best Newcomer artistin 2012. Now 26, Arty has beenrecognized by his peersas one of the best up and coming DJ's and performs at events all around the world. He is midway through hisGlorious Phase 2Tour and celebrating the release of his debut albumGloriouswhich dropped this month.
When I saw that Arty was going to be in New York, I knew the chance to meet with him would be too good to pass up. I had read about his unorthodox rise to success, and I felt compelled to learn more about Arty's journey to the limelight.
During our conversation, Arty opened up to me about what it was like to be young and not be sure about what he wanted to pursue. This dilemma is common for most teenagers who get pressured to pick a career path well before they attend a college.
But Arty's situation was unique because he didn't always have a choice--his family was adamant that he bypass his aspirations of being a soccer player so that he could study music. "I wasn't really passionate about music for the first couple of years," Arty recalled. "But my parents had noticed I was a great singer with a good ear from music at four or five years old, and so that's what my childhood became, constant training."
"I would play piano for four or five hours a day, without rest. So basically while my friends were doing fun stuff, playing soccer, hanging out, I was sitting in place and playing a musical instrument."
By the time Arty was 15 years old, he had so many interests other than music that it became impossible to pick which one he wanted to do most. In the little time he had that wasn't devoted to music, he began to work on 3-D graphic design and modeling at his home. This, along with his love for video game programming, convinced him to study engineering when he finished music school and left for University.
But before he earned his degree, Arty changed his mind one more time about what he really wanted to do with his life--and it turned out to be the life that his family had wanted for him all along.
"I realized during my second year at University that I truly wanted to focus on music 100%," Arty said. "I finished my studies though. I still got a degree because I have so much respect for my parents, and they wanted me to finish to make sure I was secure with my life and had options for what I wanted to do."
The way Arty described his relationship with his family spoke volumes about why he has consistently trusted their advice, even when it contradicted what thought his heart was telling him to do. He said that he has never considered his musical or non-musical education to be a waste of time, and he would encourage any young person to take advantage of whatever educational opportunities are presented to them.
"Studying is really important because it develops your brain to think more, so you can do a lot more," Arty said.
"Like musical education, it's important. But it's really about your education overall. It's not crucial for musical people to even have a musical education."
While Arty's childhood musical education was extensive, he points out that one of his biggest influences, Swedish musician Axwell, has no formal musical education at all. But Arty is particularly thankful for his classical music upbringing, as this led him to playing the music that has garnered him so much attention in today's EDM scene.
"I hated piano so much at the time, because I had been playing and training it for hours at a time," Arty said. "But that's what pushed me to develop my music into something more modern, so I can't say it was a waste of time."
So what's Arty's bottom line if you are a young person unsure of what path you want to tread in life?
"If you like what you're doing, if you enjoy it, then why not do it," he said. "And even if it's not for you, then in two or three years, you can try something else."
Arty also told me that his debut album is heavily influenced by the emotional ups and downs he experienced during his journey to become the man that he is today. When I asked if he thought his music would uplift other youth who were going through a difficult time, I was surprised by the brutal honesty of his response.
"If you listen to this album and you're going through a hard time, it will bring some new emotions," Arty said. "Maybe you will feel better. Maybe it could make you feel worse."
"But that's the beauty of music--you think you're going to tell a story with a particular track, but people can take it completely differently. And that's because human beings are all different, so they will all interpret music differently."
I asked Arty what he thought of New York City, and he told me he had actually been many times before. "I love the city a lot. Just a great combination of so many factors," Arty said.
"It's the energy. 24-7, like nonstop. This was the first city I visited when I got to the United States... I remember it was the evening time and I was going through Manhattan, all of the lights and energy, the city was full of people; it was so much movement. It was amazing."
While he might love the bustling streets of New York City, Arty told me that he actually finds the cold desolation of his homeland particularly inspirational. While that may seem contradictory, it fits perfectly into place when you hear Arty's take on the story of his debut album.
"As a musician, this album is my personal story not just of being a musician but also being a human being," Arty said. "There was so much work behind it and every track has a personal background."Arty also divulged to me the inspiration behind one of his favorite tracks from his new album.
"Last Kiss is all instrumental piano, and it was during a really dramatic time of my life," he said. "It was a hard time in a relationship, and I made this record in one night."
"It's all really very personal."
It's fitting that the inspiration for the track that pioneered Arty's debut album was spawned from the heartache of a bad breakup. While tough to cope with at the time, it became an unexpected gift from life, guiding him to where he was truly destined to be.
"When making [Last Kiss], I honestly felt better after I finished the track," he said. "I had transferred all of my emotions into that musical form."
When I learned how Arty had turned the pain of a difficult breakup into this beautiful piece of self-expression, it reminded me of a line from my book,Confessions of a War Child: "Creativity and success will always leak through the cracks of broken hearts," it reads.
By using the emotions from his past as fuel for his inspirational fire, the music from Arty'sGloriousalbum embodies this concept in a way that no words ever could.
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