Greek Australian multi-platinum recording artist, singer, songwriter and producer Vassy Karagiorgos has just made it onto the Top 10 Billboard Dance/Mixshow Charts, with her dance-floor single Nothing to Lose. Peaking at #1 just three months after its release, the hit has left behind famous artists like fellow Australian Sia Furler, Calvin Harris, Bruno Mars and Ariana Grande.
Born in Darwin, the young recording artist moved to the United States to follow her dream and has already been awarded for Best Featured Vocalist Performance, while her track Bad − a collaboration with music artists and producers David Guetta and Showtek − has achieved seven platinum and gold certifications.
In an exclusive interview with Neos Kosmos, the talented musician and humanitarian talks about her journey from Australia to New York, the charity organisations she is involved with and what it’s like growing up in a traditional Greek Australian family before performing in front of 400,000 people.
Your latest song Nothing to Lose, which you wrote and then co-produced with Tiësto, has officially topped the Billboard Dance Club charts and has reached over six million streams. How do you feel about that?
I feel very humbled as it’s my first standalone single to be #1 on Billboard and #1 on US Dance Radio across America and I am grateful to all the fans who supported the record.
You were born in Darwin. What was it like growing up in a Greek family Down Under?
Darwin was almost like growing up in a Greek village. It’s a small place and the Greek community is also small, so everyone knows each other. While growing up, most Greek families kept a lot of the old-school traditions. When it comes to our own family, I’m now grateful for having a strict Greek dad speaking Greek at home, going to Greek school on Saturdays and to Greek church every Sunday. These are all the things that stay with me now and make me a proud ‘Greek Aussie’.
Where is your Greek family from?
My family is from the mainland just outside of Thessaloniki. My Pontian mum is from Grevena and my dad is from Kozani.
You have collaborated with some amazing artists like David Guetta and Showtek, with whom you created Bad, a seven-time platinum collaboration that garnered you an IDMA award. What was your experience working with those amazing musicians?
It was incredible working with David Guetta. Our record went platinum 13 times and it also went gold in various countries. We didn’t know it was going to be such huge success with the fans, but it went well and won us several awards. It’s actually RIAA Certified in the US, which is equivalent to ARIA in Australia. What I love most, though, is that people know the song everywhere I go. For example, when I recently performed in Barcelona (Spain) in front of 80,000 people I was amazed that the crowd were actually singing the lyrics. They knew the words inside out and it was just an awesome feeling!
Speaking of performances, what would you say has been your most memorable performance to date and why?
My most memorable performance would be last year when I performed with Tiësto at Ultra Festival Miami. It was phenomenal sunset time in front of 200,000 people and it was incredible. I also loved performing at Tomorrowland in Belgium in front of 400,000 people. It literally was insane!
Your songs have been featured in campaigns for Nike, Pepsi and Victoria’s Secret, television shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars and Ugly Betty and your debut single We are Young was the official trailer song for the Disney movie Frozen. Was it different performing for a children’s movie?
I’ve been lucky to have the success that I’ve had with TV and film. It was fun to do that project with Frozen. The movie went really well and it was a great moment having people texting me from so many different times zones to tell me that they are watching the film and love our song.
Which artists have inspired you and − to some degree − have influenced your song choices?
I was initially inspired to pursue singing by Billie Holiday. She was the woman who influenced my path in music. I also fell in love with Crystal Waters, who has now become a dear friend of mine and a mentor.
Are there any particular artists that you would like to record or perform with?
There are many artists I would love to record and perform with. The list is endless. From Pink to Bruno Mars, to U2 and Sting, to Tina Turner and Calvin Harris. Honestly, there are so many talented musicians that I would love to work with.
You are not just a performer. You also have a humanitarian side. What charities are you involved with?
It all started back in Australia when I was only 17 years old and I ran music workshops in detention centres in the Northern Territory. I have done a lot of humanitarian work over the years, becoming an equal rights ambassador for the NOH8 campaign and a spokesperson for environmental organisation Green IT, as well as Carers Australia. I also work with Studio Samuel Foundation helping girls in Ethiopia, supporting and mentoring youth through Playground of Dreams, as well as the Samuel Foundation. For the past couple of years I have also been teaching music workshops as a volunteer at AVIVA, a teenage safe house orphanage in Los Angeles. I love helping people in any way I can and I feel blessed that I get the chance to do it.
What advice would you give to other Australian children who are passionate about music?
I would tell them to believe in themselves, work hard and manifest their ideas. Putting in a lot of work, as well as time, is, if you ask me, the only recipe for success. Nothing happens overnight. I also hope to inspire other Greek Australians, whose parents worked so hard to make it in a different country, to pursue their dreams like I did.
Have you ever performed in Greece?
I performed last year in Greece at the Mad Awards. It was a lot of fun. I also released a song in Greece with Greek DJs called PlayMen.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? What kind of music does Vassy listen to in her own time?
I enjoy gardening and I also like cooking Greek food. I am an outdoors girl, therefore I like walking in parks even if it is freezing cold in New York. I always say you can take the girl out of Darwin but you can’t take Darwin out of the girl. As far as music goes, I listen to various genres from Greek to classical music, to pop to hip hop and indie music. Generally, I like to explore new music all the time.
What are your future plans, on a professional and personal level?
My future plans are to continue to make great songs and hopefully have more hit records. I would also like to be able to come back home to Australia more often. Now that my new record is being serviced to radio back home I hope that I will be able to come back to Australia and do some great things for all the fans there.
Artists have been very political in expressing their opinions of late. How do you view this?
I think everyone has their right to express their opinion and yes, some artists have been very vocal. But if that’s how they feel and they want to be vocal about it, they can. It’s their own right to do so. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. At the same time, other artists feel more reserved when it comes to voicing their political views. Personally, I don’t think there’s any right or wrong in whatever one decides to do. I think that you just have to be authentic and stay true to what you believe and how you want to present yourself in the public. I don’t pass any judgement.