A biog on Emin, sometimes better known as Emin Agalarov, written for his label Saffron.
Emin has that rare ability to turn his dreams into gold.
The vocalist and songwriter progressed from singing in a covers band in New Jersey to become one of Russia’s foremost pop stars. Simultaneously, just a few years after starting a one-man business, he was appointed as a key director in one of Moscow’s most visionary corporations.
Now Emin has set his sights on spreading the success of his music to the UK and around the world. With a background as glittering as his, as well as the creative backing of hit maker Brian Rawling (Enrique Iglesias, Cher, JLS, James Morrison), it seems like the world is his to conquer.
Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, Emin Agalarov’s family relocated to Moscow when he was young. As a teenager, he headed to Switzerland to pursue his education and to “open my mind to the world.” Later he moved again, this time to complete his studies in New Jersey, USA.
Life in the States was, he says, “a great experience as it gave me a sense of independence.”
It was here that Emin’s first musical project, as a singer in a band playing classic rock ‘n’ roll, hit the local open mic nights. “When you’re a teenager in New York, it’s amazing to be able to simply go on stage and to hear your guitar ringing,” he enthuses. “No matter how good or bad you are, people love it!”
Emin experimented with recording his own songs too. He found a collaborator who offered to arrange a song for him for the princely sum of $100. “You can imagine the arrangement you get for a hundred bucks, right?” he laughs. Nonetheless, the experience proved to be a valuable investment as it gave him his first insight into the recording progress.
The dual demands of school and the band would be enough for most teenagers, but Emin had business interests of his own. His first business was an import / export online business that sold Russian items to a global market. Selling over 500 items a week, the business grew to the point where Emin had to take on multiple roles. “If someone phoned up to chase a missing order, I’d tell them that I’d put them through to the distribution department. Really, I’d just put them on hold and transfer them to my cell phone!” he chuckles.
A boutique shoe store on New York’s prestigious Madison Avenue was next and its success prompted an offer to form his own company within Moscow’s Crocus Group where he’d relish the role of Commercial Director. His projects were diverse; the construction of the Crocus City Mall gave Moscow an upmarket shopping centre bigger than London’s Westfields, while his huge fashion portfolio includes Celine, Emanuel Ungaro, Pacini, Uboat and Foci. The company’s launch of Jennifer Lopez’s J-Lo brand saw twenty-five stores open across Russia in just three years.
As immensely successful as he was, something important was absent in his life. “When I came back to Moscow I didn’t have as many friends here as I did in New York,” he recalls. “I was very busy working, would come home late, be alone and I’d play around on the piano. When I didn’t do it, I’d feel really empty.”
And thus sparked a chain of events that would lead Emin to where he is now. “Whatever I was doing in my life, I always dreamed of being a singer. It was always about the music” he explains with evident passion. “I thought that if I don’t do it now, I’d be forty-years-old and would realise that I didn’t even try. I would have betrayed my own personal dream.”
The result was his 2006 debut album ‘Still’. It sold 50,000 copies, a phenomenal quantity given the extreme prevalence of piracy in the local music industry. Three subsequent albums – ‘Incredible’ (2007), ‘Obsession’ (2008) and ‘Devotion’ (2009) – sold similar quantities as Emin starting filling arena-size venues across Russia.
The ambitions that underpinned his business career would influence his next step: “I wanted to move onto something bigger and my friends and management in the UK helped me find that direction.” Emin’s constant desire to fulfill his potential helped to identify the man who could fulfill his ambition: producer Brian Rawling. Together, the duo worked with great songwriters such as the multiple Ivor Novello winner Paul Barry (Enrique’s ‘Hero’) and Wayne Hector (‘Everybody in Love’ and ‘Beat Again’ by JLS).
“These guys don’t waste their time,” states Emin emphatically. “They believe in the music too, just as much I do. It lifts you higher because you feel like a team. You feel like you’ve achieved something together. That’s the real deal.”
Rawling’s sage advice to the singer was simple: “He’d tell me not to be nervous or scared, but just to enjoy the experience.” And what did Emin learn from the process? “You can go in any direction you like, but you have to be comfortable with it, be yourself”.
Importantly, two of the album’s key songs – the title track ‘Wonder’ and the first single ‘Obvious’ – were both written by Emin. “Both of these songs are stories of emotions and feelings for someone you love, someone you miss, someone who’s not around anymore,” he says wistfully. “Every song is a story from my life.”
Based around irresistible melodies and immediate pop choruses, those emotions are reflected throughout the album, most notably on one of the stand-out tracks ‘Any Time You Wonder’ which sublimely combines a tender verse with an uplifting stratospheric hook that recalls the best of Take That’s ballads. The yearning ‘Don’t Go’ swirls evocative strings over a compelling, contemporary beat, while ‘One Last Dance’ and ‘You Don’t Even Know’ raise the tempo to mesmeric effect.
It’s easy to hear an element of Enrique Iglesias or Michael Bublé at certain moments, but Emin’s personality and innate charm rise to the surface. “The album has to reflect who I am right now, both lyrically and musically. I couldn’t be happier with the sound and feel of the album.”
Emin’s combination of raw talent, hard work and his ability to build a team is set to help him fulfil his dream of becoming a global star.
It’s the ethos behind Emin’s special Midas touch. Watch him soar.