Tamara Kramar is a musician, singer-songwriter studying at our very own University of Sussex. She moved from Bratislava to Brighton to start her degree in Neuroscience, but because of Covid, she spent most of her student time in Slovakia. She is back in Brighton for this year now that teaching is again in person. After discovering her music style by doing open music at the Sussex Live Music Society on campus, she released her first single this summer, ‘So Sweet’.
When did you start playing music?
I was forced to play the piano by my parents when I was seven. I took music theory classes, but I hated it, I hated theory, I hated what I had to play. I had to so I didn’t like it. It wasn’t until I was twelve when I realised that pop songs are often a lot easier than the classical music that I had to play. Suddenly, I could play many pop songs from the radio on the piano, and I was suddenly cool! I thought ‘wow, I kind of like this’. Then I started singing with it. I never took singing lessons, but I just liked the idea of performing. We had a bunch of guitars at home, so I started that, it’s easier to carry around than the piano.
It wasn’t until I moved here two years ago that I started writing my own music and performing at every open mic that I could. That’s where I started to realise ‘wow, I kind of wanna do this’. It sucks for my degree!
How come you had the urge to play music when you came here? Did Brighton have an influence?
It was definitely Brighton and the music scene here. The live music society at the university; they put on an open mic every other week, so I performed at every single open mic. We all did. It didn’t matter if you were good or the best, anybody could play, it was really encouraging. Then I played around town, at different pubs. The community here is really strong; once you get into it, you sort of know everybody.
What did you start writing about?
Whatever I was going through! Storyteller personal stuff based on conversations I had with people, whatever was going on in the day. It was very basic at first, but I liked the idea of making up songs. I never thought I could until I tried.
Performing my own songs at open mics was the most stressful thing in the world. Getting up there and playing something that I actually wrote was a big deal to me, but I loved it!
It really helped hearing the positive feedback, then I would jam afterwards with my friends, in our dorm rooms.
I also love seeing the progress; on my first open mic, I had to ask my friend to play the guitar for me because I couldn’t play very well. Now I can obviously play it myself. Through the open mics, I improved so much! That’s what I loved about it.
Back home in Slovakia this summer, we put together a four-piece band: a drummer, a bassist, a pianist, and me on the guitar and singing. We did so many shows it was so cool! I’m looking to put together a band here as well, and hopefully play somewhere.
How did your band get started?
I post videos on my social media. Last year when I was here in Brighton, I got an invitation to play at a jazz festival in Slovakia based on my videos on the Internet. They asked me if I wanted to play a set with a band. I said ‘yes, but I don’t have a band!’ I just messaged the people that I knew in Slovakia and they helped me to put together a band. I went home thinking I had one gig planned, but based on that show I had other shows, and we played about sixteen gigs over the two months that I was at home!
You made a music video as well, tell me about that.
Yes! Back in Slovakia, I was working on releasing my own music, I worked with a producer there, I also want to start working with some people here. I put out my first single over the summer, and I thought having a video is a good idea, I just asked around and we found some people, we shot a video in two days.
A lot of people saw it which was surprising to me, considering that it wasn’t promoted very well. People liked it! It was an easy summer vibe. The song is called ‘So Sweet’. It’s a nice song you can drive or cook to. The video was the same, it had nice colours, nice pictures, there was no story to it, it was quite simple.
When I wrote the song, it was right when Covid started, I was in isolation by myself. It’s quite a sad song lyrically because it’s about how things used to be so sweet. It was about Covid happening. I was remembering how sweet my life in Brighton was, and it no longer is because Covid happened, and I had to leave. The lemons were the bitterness of that. The yellow is a nice summer colour, but they are bitter.
Do you feel that Covid affected your music?
I will have to find out because I haven’t written much since Covid started. Funny enough, I only got to record my own songs because of Covid. I had to leave Brighton, I went back home, that’s where I met my producer, that’s where I met my band, that’s where I met my musicians, that’s where it all happened. If it wasn’t for Covid, I would still be here doing open mics. It had some positives for me, for sure. That’s what got me through it to be honest, It kept me busy with something.
What are your inspirations in your music?
I seem to get inspired the best by people to whom I can relate to the best. Now it’s people my age really. These new artists from London mostly, there are so many singers there; like Éloïse, Olivia Dean, Bruno Major, Arlo Parks. There are so many up-and-coming artists who I just listen to all the time, they inspire me.
In terms of genre, I love neo soul, jazz and blues. I tend to get inspired by that and incorporate that in my songs in a more pop-y way. I would like my songs to be more alternative, but I also don’t know what genres mean. If pop means popular music, if it means that it can reach many people and many people like it, then yeah that’s what I want!
When I perform alone, I perform with an acoustic guitar – it’s very cosy, intimate and simple. But with the full band, that’s a full sound, neo soul. ‘So Sweet’, the version that came out, is a pop song, but when I sing it alone, it’s a singer-songwriter acoustic song, and with the band it has that soul-y vibe to it.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
I’m excited to live here and write about that. Living in Brighton is quite inspirational. The colours! The houses, the people, the hair. There are so many colours here. It’s so cool! Slovakia is pretty grey, everything looks the same, whereas in Brighton everything is different, and I love that.
Your time in university and all the creative spaces open to you on campus can be a great way to explore your hobbies, and who knows where it will bring you?
Tamara is releasing her second single really soon, be sure to follow her on social media to see her latest release, and to pop over at her next open mic performance!
Where to see Tamara’s work:
Youtube: Tamara Kramar