When you have sold over 15 million albums, charted Top 40 singles for 14 years running, and conquered Europe, South America and Australia, what next? Turkey’s “Greatest Export” has released his highly anticipated English language album debut, “Come Closer.” The album is a poetic fusion of musical styles in which Western and Eastern songs come together in an enchanting duet. “Come Closer” marks the creation of an entirely new musical genre, a universal undertaking which no other artist has managed to push forward with such intensity.
After talking with Tarkan, you realize why he has catapulted to the Olympian heights of musical success. His message is simply love, he speaks it with his heart, and you see it in his eyes. Tarkan is an entertainer who has broken the mold of the pop star and set the standard for a new breed of artist. He is a force that has managed to overcome countless barriers, simply because he sees none. The album “Come Closer” is a testament to the infinite appeal of an artist who is a true original.
It has been a few months since I worked with Tarkan in LA, where he had just completed recording his new album. Now as summer starts to heat up, Tarkan speaks to us from the road while spreading his fire on tour with this latest release, and igniting passion in a whole new set of fans.
AVO: How did you come to the decision to record an English language album? Tarkan: As a musician and as an artist, my aim is always to challenge myself, expand my vision, and learn more about music, life, people, my talents and myself. I believe that every credible artist who’s seeking to improve his or her gifts has to challenge him or herself and ask for more. Otherwise, life would be boring just to be satisfied with what you have. When I met Ahmet Ertegun in Turkey 10 years ago, he told me that I should sing in English and that I have the potential to reach a worldwide audience. That was the moment when I made up my mind to touch the world with my music.
A: And what was the process like?
T: The process of this album was both very productive and full of great experiences, but also very painful from time to time. It took me years to complete this album because I wasn’t ready in many ways. First of all, I didn’t know how to speak English. I had to learn the language first and then I had to be able to sing like English was my native tongue. It was a challenge, and even though I like to challenge myself, I ran away from it many times and decided to keep singing in Turkish only, but I couldn’t do it. My instincts always forced me to follow my dreams, and so I did. Even though it took me a long time, I completed this album finally and I’m proud of it.
A: Where do new musical influences in this new album stem from?
T: Hip hop has a big impact on people, and it has been a big influence on my music in the past few years. The simplicity and the sensuality of the rhythms, the catchy melodies and the way different cultural and musical elements come together are undeniably intriguing. I’m very open to any kind of music. World music has always influenced me. But I love any kind of good music, from Classical to Oriental, from Latin to African-American music. My music is the natural outcome of all the influences I’ve mentioned above. The challenge was to combine East and West in such a way that it wouldn’t throw people off but make them find something with which to connect to me. During our song writing sessions, I always thought that for me the key to reach a worldwide audience is this right musical synthesis. I believe that my music is unique because it unifies the world. I believe that we are all “one” and that music shouldn’t have any boundaries.
A: Tell us about your tour.
T: Expect the unexpected. I decided to change my direction with the new tour. It‘s all about connecting with my fans and the world through the universal language, music. I’m in a new place in my life and don’t just want to be the guy that’s known for shaking his hips on stage. People have come to expect that with me, yet I have so much more to offer. To me it’s all in the music. I have restructured my band with musicians who have a better understanding of international music and are open to new sounds and musical experimentation. The venues I’m performing in are more intimate, so that I can better connect to my fans. The show is pure, undistilled and a genuine reflection of who I am.
A: So you’re back to the basics?
T: Well, sometimes being famous can become an act, a routine. I am aiming to be less of the image and more of the real me. I’ve come to a point where I’ve decided to be spontaneous and true to myself. No regrets. When I am on stage and I feel like speaking, I’ll speak. And if I feel like sweating, I’ll sweat. It’s unrehearsed, unscripted and it’s for them [the fans].
A: How was the opening night of your tour?
T: The first show was in Cyprus and it was an amazing night. It was about music, movement, and love. A peaceful expression of unity on the island.
A: How is it that you can bring so many different cultures together under one roof? Is it your eyes, your song, or your message?
T: It’s love. It's the purity with which I offer it. Music captures hearts, opens them, and helps us all come closer.
A: What can we expect in the way of new singles?
T: “Bounce,” the first single, was to reacquaint myself to my fans. It had familiar sounds of the darbuka and was a tasts of more to come. I chose “Start the Fire” as the second single, and it’s one of my favorites. Classic Western grooves and rock are infused with underlying notes of the Orient. It has an entirely new feel.
A: And what is your favorite track off the album?
T: Currently, it’s “Just Like That.” (Starts singing.)
A: When I first heard your album in the studio I loved the song “In Your Eyes.”
T: And what is your favorite now?
A: Number 10.
T: Number 10? ”Don’t Leave Me Alone” (Starts singing again.)
A: The last time I saw you, you were in a different state of mind. You seem like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.
T: I did what I had to do and in making this album, I made my dream a reality. It’s not about record sales and it’s not about awards, it’s about my music. I’m now free!
A: Finally, what message do you wish to leave your listeners with?
T: I believe that there is something which makes my songs quite unique. My music is a combination of different worlds, which is why I chose the title for the album “Come Closer.” I believe in a common and shared experience among humanity. Although we are far apart, somewhere deep inside we are all on the same frequency, on which our vibrations harmonize as one. As stated in reggae music, I feel that we are all connected. Music should be infinite and free, encourage us to recognize our similarities and celebrate our differences, eventually helping us all to “come closer.”