Ultra Music's Patrick Moxey on New Signee Era Istrefi, Rihanna & Sia Parallels: Exclusive
Albanian Kosovar singer-songwriter Era Istrefi is the latest act to catch Patrick Moxey’s attention. The Ultra Music founder and president says he first came across Istrefi’s work on YouTube, where he watched the music video for her new single, "Bonbon."
The record was originally released under Neser, an independent label founded by her manager, Faton Shoshi. "As soon as the YouTube posting started to pop, we were basically enthralled with this new artist," Moxey says. Watch the music video below:
"Bonbon" swiftly went viral on the platform, hauling in over 30 million views. Piloted by a reggae aesthetic akin to Major Lazer, Istrefi’s voice drew frequent comparisons to pop stars Rihanna and Sia.
"I think it’s great that Rihanna and Sia are reference points, but what I think is so unique about the track is its Eastern European feel, almost oriental," Moxey notes. "Her delivery, when going back and forth between English and Albanian, is seamless…it’s really special. You can’t really compare it with anything else."
When reflecting on the song’s organic success, Istrefi says, "I believed that one day the world was going to listen to my music, but didn’t expect "Bonbon" to be that song, especially since the lyrics are in Albanian."
Moxey decided to partner with Wolfgang Boss -- owner of the record label B1 Recordings GmbH, a joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment Germany – on the potential project and fly out to Albania to meet with Shoshi and Istrefi.
"I was very encouraged when speaking with her," says Moxey. "All of her questions had to do with songs, production, choreography, styling, improving her show, where she could record, etc. I realized that her outlook was very much to be a world-class artist and an international artist."
They inked the deal later that day. When asked why she chose Ultra over other labels competing for her, the viral act playfully states, "Law of attraction, I guess."
"Bonbon" has tallied eight million plays on Spotify thus far and is now signed to Ultra Records and B1 Recordings, under exclusive license to RCA Records and Neser Music.
So what’s next for Era Istrefi? The Kosovar pop star keeps it light yet ambitious: "To live my dream."
Moxey adds, "We’ve committed to making an album and that we’re extremely enthusiastic as an artist, much more than just the one song. We have her heading to Los Angeles in April to work with different songwriters."