2,400 years ago the philosopher Socrates claimed: “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world (kosmopolitês).” In 1937 Ernest Hemingway wrote in his novel To Have and Have Not: “In every port in the world, at least two Estonians can be found.” Fast forward to AD 2012 and new webzine EstonianWorld is born – to explore the impact, developments and movements of new generation of Estonians, and to exchange views and ideas. In order to do it more dynamically, we are now introducing a new feature – Global Estonians. We talk to diverse people in different cities, countries, continents. The Estonians we are talking to, are not necessarily famous or hugely successful yet – rather, it’s a place to exchange experiences and information – something which we can all hopefully relate to in some ways or another. Our first “Global Estonian” is Liis Hirvoja, London-based singer-songwriter.
Liis, where are you based and how long have you been there?
I am based in London. I`ve been living here for two years now.
What made you to choose London?
My lifelong dream has been becoming a professional musician. In order to do so I figured that I need an equivalent education. My ambition has never let me settle for less than everything, so I decided to go where the modern music history is made – either the United States or the United Kingdom. In the end I realised that I don`t want to go too far from Estonia and luckily got offered a place at London Centre of Contemporary Music.
What is it like to live in London and what challenges have you had?
It definitely is a challenge. At times overwhelming, but always exciting. It`s funny how in a city so big, in the most crowded places, you can feel the loneliest ever. That has been difficult for me. I’m very attached to my home, family and friends. I have to keep myself real busy in order to forget how much I miss them. Finding a home and a job is as hard as anywhere, I guess. But I am sure that it’s all worth it in the end. It feels right there. My heart will always belong to Estonia, but England is where I have to be, at least for now.
I wish I could already say that I make my living by making music. Unfortunately, that`s not the case. YET! I’m singing in an experimental pop band called POCA and we are gradually making progress – in spring we achieved a place in semi-finals of unsigned band competition called Live & Unsigned 2012 Regional Finals. Otherwise I`ve done all the typical jobs for a young person who`s just starting out. I`ve been a waitress, a barista, an au pair. At the moment, I give some piano lessons for children and work in an interior shop at the weekends. To be fair, I`ve enjoyed most of my jobs. The working experience in these fields is usually useful and educating for many ways.
What motivates you in life?
Music and people. I am motivated by the thought of where I could be one day, if I work hard and keep on doing what I love the most with passion and dedication. And I am motivated by people whose creativity is closest to me and whom I haven`t necessarily met yet. It`s wonderful to think who you might end up meeting with and what are the influences over the years. I`m motivated by life itself. It just keeps on surprising me and I want to see more!
Have you had any setbacks?
Yes, of course. Anyone who claims not to have had any, either lies or not really living in a real life. I think you have to have setbacks to find out who you are, to grow towards what you want to be. I have had setback related to people, related to money, releated to personal unconfidence. In the end, we wouldn`t have it any other way.
What’s your recipe for success?
Hard work, passion and timing.
Absolutely! I go home as often as I can. Until now, I`ve managed to do it four times a year for at least two weeks at a time. I started loving Estonia even more after I left. They say that a little absence makes a heart grow fonder, right. You could even say that distance does. But I definitely plan to involve Estonia in my musical pathway as well. I will try my best to make everyone back home proud.
Is there anything special you miss about Estonia?
The obvious answer – black bread. And I miss meeting familiar faces randomly on the street every day.
Your future plans?
Music, music, music!
You can find information on POCA`s music: