Bulgarian-born singer-songwriter and current St. Petersburg resident Geri X has been able to gain popularity both locally and internationally with her music.
Now she is embarking on a month-long tour, kicking off a show tonight at 8 at The Local 662.
The Oracle stepped out of the office to talk with Geri X about her musical beginnings in Europe and career prospects.
“When I was in middle school, kids would make fun of me because they would say that (Bulgaria) wasn’t even a real country,” she said. “I was born and raised there, and mostly lived between Pleven, Bulgaria, where I was born, and Versailles, France.”
Geri moved to the St. Petersburg area in 2000, but began following her musical aspirations long before by learning classical piano. While her beginnings in piano are now a far cry from the type of Rilo Kiley-meets-Radiohead music she’s known for, she said she believes it was a significant step.
“It was the natural order of things – first it was ballet, then it was karate, then piano,” Geri said. “I was entered into music school, and my sister was an artist, so it’s all just hands-on activities that kids in Europe like to do.”
Geri said the sort of creative lifestyle spurred by living in Europe was a great influence on how she lives her life.
“There, (being creative) is very much a trait, as opposed to here making money is a trait or climbing the ladder is a trait,” she said. “In Europe, it’s definitely what you can do as far as talents, and that is highly regarded.”
Both in life and her work, Geri said she thinks that, had her life started in America, she would have a very different worldview.
“I think that if I had grown up here from the very beginning, I would have grown up tougher,” she said. “Because my music is about my life, I think I would have come out with a much thicker callus from it and not as much of a dreamer as I am.”
Geri’s hardworking ways, touring both across the U.S. and internationally, have paid off with acclaim for the artist growing outside of the St. Petersburg area. This includes praise from Creative Loafing, The L.A. Post and even a surprise accolade from Rolling Stone Magazine Europe, where she was called “Best of Indie 2011.”
“That was hilarious to me because I got the email, and it was inquiring about an interview,” Geri said. “So I read it and I read the company as Rolling Rock, like the beer. I’ve worked with Pabst Blue Ribbon before and Sierra Nevada, so I was like, ‘Whatever, another beer company, that’s fine.’ I forwarded it to my mom, and she emailed me back basically screaming, ‘Yeah, I told you that you’d be in Rolling Stone.’ I said, ‘Mom, it’s Rolling Rock, the beer,’ and she just said ‘Read it again.'”
Geri said she attributes the success to her massive Internet following, spending the past six years distributing her music mostly online, including the social media music site Reverb Nation.
“I just found out yesterday that I am No. 1 in Tampa Bay on Reverb Nation, which is completely asinine to me because I don’t even know how to log into the stupid thing,” she said.
Yet Geri said she takes the beginnings of what could be a promising career in music in stride, with a dose of humility.
“I don’t think I am much of a musician. I am not much of a singer – I am a storyteller,” she said. “That’s just my opinion. I am good talking about what’s in my head, and I write very easily.”
Yet even with an upcoming tour and a career that could potentially take her away from St. Petersburg, she seems proud to call the town her home.
“I’ve lived everywhere, literally all over the country, and even Europe,” Geri said. “There’s so much music in Tampa and even Sarasota, and there’s so much talent here and camaraderie, which isn’t common for any place that I’ve been.”
Geri said she now feels a little apprehensive taking to the road after a six-month period that she feels has really changed her living situation.
“It’s a little bittersweet to leave this time around,” Geri said. “But I can’t just sit here because it doesn’t help my career, and all of this work over six years would be for nothing.”
Geri said she understands the cost of not touring and spreading her name nationally, and that she’s much more than just a St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay staple.
“I am not a weekend warrior – I don’t have a day job, I don’t lay wires,” she said. “I am excited though because I know once I am out there I’ll make new friends, and new fans, but right now I am sort of biding my time.”
Geri X’s full-length record “Work is the Wolf” is due out May 5.