Updated: May 31, 2021
Yesterday, on a brand New Music Friday, one of the brightest rising stars of the Deutschpop music scene just dropped her first single of 2021. Following the success of "Wasted", Esther Graf’s latest release “Geldautomat” is sure to kick off a glorious year in the 2-year-old musician’s career. We were lucky enough to score an in-depth interview with the Austrian-born Esther Graf a while back, discussing her musical inspiration, goals, feminism, and why she might just be the female figurehead in a revolution of the mainstream. While you listen to “Geldautomat” and contemplate the status of your own bank account, find out more about your favorite new pop star in this interview!
What is music to you?
Music really is my entire life. I always listened to a lot of music and made a lot of music – now I am lucky enough to be able to call making music my job. I think I am a very content person, first and foremost because I get to do what I love the most for a living.
Why is music your passion?
I can’t really say why music is my passion. I was just born and loved it – I guess you could say I’m made for that!
When did you realize that you wanted to dedicate your life to music?
I actually decided this pretty early on, that I wanted to dedicate my life to music. Of course, when you’re little you don’t think much about your later profession. But when I started writing songs at the age of thirteen, I already realized that having a solo career in music was going to my dream. I didn’t know if it was going to be possible, and I went on to finish my high school education first but as soon as I realized I had a chance at making music my job, I immediately went for it.
Where do you find musical inspiration? Are there any musical role models that inspire and perhaps influence you?
I believe that many different things can inspire one to write new songs, for instance, personal experiences and whatever music you’re listening to at the time. One thing that inspires me a lot at the moment is the collaborative phase I’m in, working with many other artists from a variety of genres. It’s really interesting to get a glimpse at different types of music than what I like personally, and it has taught me a lot in regard to songwriting.
How do you feel your role as a singer is different from that of male colleagues?
I have to admit I did not think about whether my situation is different from that of other musicians for the longest time. My music primarily exists between the worlds of pop and hip hop, and the hip hop scene remains rather male-dominated to this day. I do feel like the times are changing and there’s a whole movement of more women appearing on the scene, which I find super cool. I think this is closely related to sudden visibility and representation of women, like Juju, then Loredana, Shirin David… which opened the eyes to many people. Now, little girls who want to become musicians finally found better role models to identify with, and more music labels are becoming aware of the fact that women do sell, and they should be signed.
What has been your experience in the music industry so far - have you ever been
treated differently because of your gender?
I have to say that I am incredibly lucky with my team. We have a good balance between men and women in my team, and it was set up in a way that allows me to be surrounded by both men and women who understand me and see things like I do. Despite that, I think that I have also experienced some things that really weren’t cool, like any other female artist. I had one experience with a producer who tried to talk me down and told me that I couldn’t be or talk the way I wanted to and be as confident as I am. It was a horrible experience for me. But as I am blessed with my wonderful team, they backed me up and decided to stop working with him. I think being consequent in this regard is incredibly important, no matter how influential they might be for your career – and I am really glad that I have been able to cut out those types of people until now.
Tell us about your radio show with Emily Roberts on Radio Fritz!
Yes, I have a radio show with Emily Roberts on Radio Fritz. There, we are allowed to host a two-hour-long show once a month. This came when the radio station noticed that Emily and I were kind of on the same vibe and had a lot of comedic moments between ourselves. Every Sunday, Radio Fritz grants a two-hour-long block in their programming to two artists, and they were excited to get a couple more ladies on board! We’re currently still the only female artists hosting a show. For us, it is extremely important that without being pushy, we mostly feature music by female artists. We want listeners to get used to listening to two women back to back, despite this being an official no-no in radio shows. In our own show, we can do whatever we want. We are open to all genres and aim to give any artist the chance to be featured. Therefore, we plan each of our shows according to a certain theme. So far, we’ve done three shows that went amazingly, and now, we’re looking forward to our next show!
Do you think that we will see a time where there is equality in music?
I think I am currently observing a positive change within the music industry. There are more and more women making music, more solo artists, more musicians in bands, and female radio hosts. There seem to be more people pointing out the issue of inequality, and this visibility motivates more people to contribute to the fight against it. I also think that today, labels or TV shows about music have a harder time getting away with male-only content, especially because people are running out of excuses for their behavior. There’s a song by a friend of mine, Antje Schomaker, about this topic exactly that I want to recommend to you. It is about the fact that we want to operate on eye level with men, that we want to be treated equally – not about us wanting to have more. We don’t even want revenge for anything that happened in history, we just want equal treatment. On this song, she collaborated with 124 other female artists, just to weaken the claim that there aren’t that many female artists to be featured. I think that is a really amazing initiative, and I believe more stuff like this is going to happen soon!
What are the biggest challenges in your everyday life?
I think one of the biggest challenges I face on a daily, or one of my omnipresent fears, is running out of creativity or reaching my limits in a job that relies so heavily on creation. There is constant pressure to top oneself, and it often happens that external influences make you stay within your creative comfort zone and make a compromise. I’m sometimes afraid of getting stuck in my own head and not realizing concepts of mine, or not creating work that is good enough. I wish the music industry were a bit more open to extravagant new sounds going beyond the mainstream and less homogenous work. I think that would really help many artists to take a leap of faith sometimes and rise to their full potential.
What does equality mean to you?
I think for me, feminism is just equality. Sometimes, people get this weird idea and get super triggered by the topic but at the end of the day, feminism is just equal treatment. We just want to be eye to eye with whoever we are talking to. I don’t want to be superior but I won’t accept oppression either. We still have a lot of work to do but I am hopeful that we’re getting there through working together, pointing out issues, and becoming more visible.
As an artist, do you see yourself as responsible for standing up for equality?
I definitely think that all artists have a responsibility to stand up for equality. In my opinion, women do this anyway, every single day. We constantly have to prove ourselves and fight for our equal treatment. What I really would hope for is that my male colleagues recognize issues of inequality and intervene whenever they notice a situation in which they are being treated as superior. I hope for them to speak up and get involved instead of feeling attacked or trying to look away.
What, if anything, would you change about how the music industry is run today?
I think there is a lot of positive change happening at the moment, especially in regard to female empowerment and awareness of it. What I’d really wish for is that besides this topic, people had more opportunities to take risks musically and dare something more unconventional. For instance, I love the French music industry because the pop scene is so experimental and artsy and very critical of society. What I’m hoping for is that the mainstream does not have to be softened and uncreative anymore in Germany and Austria, too. Instead, I’d like bigger and more important topics in the mainstream scene, and more crazy and extravagant sounds –maybe I’ll get a chance to be part of making this change.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists who want to get into the business?
My tip for aspiring female artists is: just do it. We tend to underestimate the opportunities of social media. You don’t have to know the biggest bosses of big labels anymore to set foot in the scene. We have formats like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube… anyone can create their own content from within their own home and connect to people through it. For me, the biggest challenge was feeling fully confident about my work and showing it to people. I wish other artists the courage to just go out there and reach out to people. I think anyone can be seen if they wish to be, and you can try and reach out to anyone in the business. And if you really, really want it, you’ll get the attention right back.