Krisztina Szeder-Szabó, the Hungarian singer-songwriter, has become a recognized and beloved musician thanks to her peculiarly vivacious singing voice and style. Songs like Reggeli dal, Lazsa dal and Szél have brought her the first major successes and since then she has not stopped working, improving and moving forward.
Szeder and I met on a Saturday afternoon in the heart of Budapest where I had the chance to ask her a couple of questions.
When did you decide to become a singer? Was there someone to inspire you?
It all started when I went to high school in Óbuda. There was a band and its leader was András Petruska. My friends and I really liked the idea that they were making music and he dropped that he was thinking about having vocalists in the band. We got really excited. We even called him and sang through the phone in order to convince him to choose us – finally he did so. He was the one who told me that I had the talent to sing and basically sent me to his guitar instructor who taught me to sing and play the guitar properly.
The style of Muse is pretty different from yours. Did you listen to anything else that influenced your style?
Actually, it was during the high school years that I became a huge Muse fan. Their music had a great effect on me since it made me realize that I could do become a musician and that I could also impress others. Besides, I really liked their lifestyle and I wanted to become someone like them. There were a number of things that influenced my younger self. I used to listen to rock music and, as you will see, the new album will be somewhat like that; however, it won’t be anything like Muse.
You were in charge of your first album’s financial issues and you were the one who looked for other band members. How hard was/is it today to become a recognized musician in Hungary? Is it worth the effort?
Evidently, it is not easy but if someone is talented and apt enough then it can be done. Nothing is easy in life, but nothing is impossible.
Your music videos are pretty unusual and creative. Did you play any part in the process of creation? Where did the ideas come from?
Regarding the music videos made for Reggeli dal and Szél, there were many discussions but the prime mover was not me. When making Reggeli dal, we had a bit of brainstorming and I had some ideas in connection with the mood and the atmosphere. I had a say in choosing the colours and we actually used half of my bedroom, so the stuff you can see in the video were not only accessories but also my things like my wardrobe. Also, my family and friends took part in the process. I called them asking if they wanted to participate in it. My grandpa, my parents, my brother are all in it, so it turned out to be quite personal. The production of Szél was preceded by a long creative process and it was the director who came up with the story. Originally, it was meant to have a different ending, a gloomier one, but it was changed because I couldn’t stand not having a happy ending.
You have a couple of French songs. Where does the love of French language come from?
In my opinion, if someone likes French culture, then he/she is really into it – every single segments of it. I am exactly like that. In high school, I decided to switch from German to French and all of a sudden I was preparing for the OKTV with my French teacher who did not only taught me the grammar, but also introduced their culture to me and inspired me. I fell in love with it and I ended up doing French studies at university.
Either professionally or in your opinion, what was your career’s most influential event?
From the perspective of my career, it was the Reggeli dal that mattered a lot. First it was played by Petőfi Rádió and then we had the music video. If you are asking me, I would say that it is the fact that from literally nothing I managed to make an album that became something successful. I had a lot of work in that. That was the biggest improvement. Evidently, a lot of stuff is improving but that was the biggest breakthrough, you know, when I had been talking about having a band for years and, all of a sudden, it becomes real.
Your grandpa plays an important role in your life. What is your relationship like? Does he have any effect on you?
It is pretty funny because I have an effect on him. I have to point it out that my grandpa, together with my family, did not want me to become a singer. Since I am one, my father has started playing the jazz piano and my grandpa has started singing. He would probably not admit that it was due to me, but I think it is, in fact, my effect on him. From this point of view, I was a musician before my grandpa.
Everybody has rational and irrational fears. Do you have any, for example, regarding a performance? Have you ever got into any uncomfortable situations?
Of course I have! Whenever I have to perform a new song, mostly in the beginning, I am always nervous because I do not want to mess it up. Certainly, it happens from time to time. When I sing French songs and I know that there are French people among the audience, then I often feel restless. I was extremely nervous when I performed as Boggie’s vocalist at the Eurovision Song Contest in front of 220 million people. I could not stop thinking of falling over in my high heels but since it did not happen, there was no point in being afraid of it anymore. I have been touring for a long time now, pretty actively, but I still need to learn how to switch off that part of my mind that makes me anxious. In the beginning, I frequently thought that oh my gosh, everybody is bored, they hate my music, they are suffering down there and, of course, if you look at the audience with such thoughts in your head, you will see faces that basically reflect these negative thoughts – even if in reality they have nothing like that in mind. It used to happen, mostly in smaller clubs, when I was literally giving the background music that people did not even applaud. This strengthened my negativity and I started to think about whether it was worth the effort at all. Fortunately, I have already got over these things and I realized that my own attitude matters the most when it comes to playing on stage.
You are touring together with Kátya Tompos. Would you share your experiences?
We have just had the first concert and that was also an event that made me really anxious. Moreover, I was really sick and I could not do the rehearsals as I wanted to. Naturally, having the band behind me gives it all a sort of secure atmosphere because I know that if I mess something up they will get my back. It was an incredibly positive experience, mostly because I was literally fighting for staying alive but as I went on stage the adrenalin took effect and cured me. It all worked really well. The audience was wonderful, they paid attention to what I was doing yet they weren’t too rigid.
You have been working on your new studio album (Táncolj velem élet!) recently. How is it going? You mentioned that there are going to be changes in sounding. What else can we expect?
Yes, the sounding will not be acoustic, but rather electric. The producer is Marci Fenyvesi, he and I are playing the guitar. There will be much more effects and it will be sort of tougher. Of course, the softness and ease that characterizes me will be there too.
Will there be any French songs on the new album?
This French style and the tougher one have kind of split, and also because of the festival season, we rather concentrate on the festival-like Hungarian songs. Fortunately, many songs were born so we have many to select and choose from. Our plan is to release a French special edition kind of thing at the end of the year.
What about writing songs? Do you do it yourself or do you have someone to help you out?
It is usually me who writes the lyrics and I do the instrumentation together with the band. I used to get help from Luca Lukácsházi but now the songs have become more spontaneous and intuitive, they come from somewhere deeper so I am doing it all alone.
You have worked together with a number of other artists such as Ivan and the Parazol. Do you have anyone in mind with who you still haven’t worked but would like to?
Hm. I have talked to Márk Zentai because I really like his voice. I talked to him about cooperating. I would like to sing a duet with him. Apart from him, I do not have anyone else in mind, it will come naturally.
Regarding your future plans, I assume the number one project is the new album but, apart from that, you are focusing on the tour with Kátya and the upcoming festival season. Is there anything else?
We still have to make a music video to one of the new songs. We would like to make more than one, but before the summer we have to make at least that one. The song we hope to be a summer hit will be released next week, that is a single, and probably we will make the music video for this particular song.
What about the debut concert?
It will be on the 9th of June in Akvárium Klub. (Click here for more detals)
by Noémi Pikó