Sofija Knežević: There is essentially only one purpose in life and that is to create something for the future
Whenever I begin the year with her, it never fails to be less than spectacular. I guess that’s because she herself is exactly that – spectacular.
I still remember that moment in the lobby of our music school Mokranjac when she said to me that she’s of to work on her singing within the Academy in Graz. We were only 16 back then. And although later on I missed hearing early morning bursts of „I keep on fallin’ iiiiiin love… with you“ by Alicia Keys in that same lobby, I’m so proud to know one of the most incredible jazz vocalists of our time. Even more proud that after all of her great successes, she has remained the same. Incredibly humble, lovely and down to earth – a wonderful friend, daughter,sister and now wife of famous fellow musician, Elliot Mason.
After the first interview that I did for Plezir magazine this year with my darling Sofija Knežević, I immediately wanted to make her my guest once again within the framework of The Little French Toast that I’ve been preparing to step out into the daylight for some time now.
For this reason, I’ve gathered my courage and decided to have a slightly more intimate conversation with her this time around.
What do you often tell yourself?
Come on, you can do it!
What do you care about the most?
Love & Music
Do you remember your proudest moment so far? Was there a time when you felt ashamed?
My proudest moments are not necessarily just my own. I am proud of my siblings when they do good in school and life, or when my husband receives the recognition that he deserves, or plays an extraordinary solo. As far as the moments where I am actually proud of myself, well, that happens every time I do well or do something that I’ve never done.
Ah, there were many hilarious moments in my life and career, from wardrobe malfunctions while performing to funny situations with my students and people I work with. Many of them I am even ashamed to mention.
What little pleasures unfailingly bring a smile to your face?
Great food, great music, movies, children, family, books…
„Opinions are dangerous, and no one is immune to them, they shape people whether they wanted it to or not. So be careful about who you’re listening to. „
As I’ve already mentioned, Sofija made history at 16 as the youngest student enrolled at the Jazz Academy in Graz, along with a full scholarship by the University. She has worked and will continue to work with some of the most eminent names of the jazz and music scene, including David Murray, Jason Moran, Sheila Jordan, Jay Clayton, Terence Blanchard, James Moody, Christian McBride and many others.
She travels and performs a lot, while at the same time preparing the publication of two books, one regarding vocal techniques, whereas the other involves her arrangements made within the framework of Balkan folk music.
Since 2011 she has been a permanent resident of New York City, where she lives with her husband Elliot and works as a lecturer within the Music School of New York City.
Sofija never forgets to think of those to whom life has not been so kind and devotes her attention to them through her involvement with charities, as well as performances.
By the opinion of Elle Magazine, she came in first place among 30 most successful people under the age of 30, while third place went to her on the flattering list of the most beautiful women in 2013, which was compiled by Magazine Cosmopolitan.
All this sounds perfect, simple and easily attainable, but the truth is that the road to the stars is not at all amazing and covered with rose petals. With Sofija I talked about those few things that are sure to happen behind the scenes, within our own selves, in terms of small winding paths on which we are pushed, broken and made stronger on the road to success in both our professional and personal lives.
How would you like to stay and what do you wish to become? How would you like people to know you and remember you by?
I would like to have more courage and freedom sometimes and believe in myself more. I also want to try to be even kinder and more thoughtful. Being thoughtful and considerate is great for disciplining one’s mind and soul. People should practice it more often, so it gets becomes part of their muscle memory. I would like to create something substantial in life that I could leave as a legacy and be remembered by. It is going to sound like a terrible cliche, but, I’d love to change the world and make it a better place however I can. There is essentially only one purpose in life, and that is to create something for the future. For some people it is their kindness that changes the lives of people around them, for some people it is having children, and for us artists it is the creation of intellectual things that hopefully are meaningful enough to change one little part of the future.
How do you overcome your fears? What are (or were) your fears? Do you remember a time when you had to step out of your comfort zone?
Fears are not a real thing, the real thing is life and the fear is just our reaction to what is going on in it. I often make myself step out of my comfort zone, because our minds set silly boundaries of what we should be and feel, and most of the time it is not detrimental only for us, but for the human kind as a whole. If we don’t start the change right now, it is never going to happen. So when you think like that, you kinda want to be good to the human kind, right? You want the women of future to be fearless, empowered and feel beautiful just the way they are. Sometimes I do have a fear of not being good enough, but don’t we all? The thing is what do you do with that.
„Fears are not a real thing, the real thing is life and the fear is just our reaction to what is going on in it. Sometimes I do have a fear of not being good enough, but don’t we all? The thing is what do you do with that. „
What feeling are you never going to forget?
If you had the chance to do everything all over again, would you walk the same path, or would you do something differently? To what extent did you hold the reins when it came to your own life?
I am 99% responsible for every direction and path I have taken in my life, and frankly I am extremely proud of it. At least, I am right now.
If I was to redo it, I would probably do it the same way. Sure, there are minor things that I could’ve done smarter, but then again I am not sure if I’d be here doing what I do with the people I am with if anything was different. So, I am grateful. Definitely not one of the – glass is half empty- people.
How important are people’s opinions when it comes to the way we live our lives and do the things we do?
It is important to recognize who’s opinion is valuable for our own growth. Opinions are dangerous, and no one is immune to them, they shape people whether they wanted it to or not. So be careful about who you’re listening to. My parent’s, sibling’s and my husband’s opinion always matter, not necessarily about everything, but certain parts, they shape me as a person. But there are also many people that I respect professionally, not just in music, who’s opinions I respect.
In which circumstances would you break the law?
To save someone’s life, and to protect my loved ones.
What is more important – to love or to be loved?
Both. “The greatest thing, you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.”
Is it okay to sometimes say that you give up?
I am going to refer to my first answer in this interview. So never! Never give up, you can always push yourself a little more, you can do it!
What would you say to a sad person who believes that he will never become a French toast and will remain just an ordinary prženica?
There is no sweeter thing than a good Prženica, call it whatever you like, to me it will never be degrading to call it its real Serbian name. If anything, it makes it that much more special.
While I’m editing and re-reading this interview, it’s Sunday morning, it’s February and a bit chilly. But trust me, I can feel the warmth of the Sun on my face and I feel nothing less than spectacular.
I leave you now to enjoy one of my favourite songs performed by Sofija.
Long live, darling, hope you sing to us for a very, very long time.