Behind the soft-spoken, gentle voice of Bulgarian-Russian superstar Kristian Kostov lies a big heart and an even bigger sense of ambition. "Xiao K" or "Little K," as he is known to his growing base of Chinese fans, recently sat down for a lengthy interview with Billboard Radio China at Changsha in which he talked about his second-place finish at Eurovision in 2017 and a profound appreciation for China, all while displaying a maturity level that goes beyond his tender age.
Kostov recounts his early entry into the music world, when he began to play piano at age 3. His mother saw making sure that all of her children were well-rounded individuals with various skillsets as a necessity, so that they would have a choice of where their path in life would lead.
Music became a way to "run away" for Xiao K. His shy demeanor kept him from confiding in his family regarding issues he faced, and like many artists, his craft became his outlet. Varying stints with different music groups throughout his formative years helped in his realization that he wanted to forge ahead with a career in music.
Kostov's first big international breakthrough came at 17, when he was selected to perform at Eurovision in 2017, making him the youngest performer to ever represent Bulgaria. His young age resulted in some detractors who thought that someone a little older might have been a more suitable representative, and having the hopes of an entire nation rest on his shoulders was a far cry from anything he had previously experienced.
Up until that point, he was beholden to nobody's expectations but his own, and he felt an intense sense of pressure to do one better than the 2016 fourth-place finish by fellow Bulgarian Poli Genova. Summoning courage rarely seen at his age, Kostov delivered, giving Bulgaria the best showing ever in the international contest.
Undoubtedly, the lessons he learned from his Eurovision experience set him up perfectly for his latest adventure, the seventh season of the massive Chinese singing competition Singer (formally I Am a Singer). He was voted off in last Friday's (Feb. 15) episode.
An avid viewer of the show, Kostov's initial reaction was to turn down the invitation to compete, explaining, "I wasn't sure if I should do another [singing competition]. It's really hard to compare people and say who is the best. I don't like contests." However, a desire to honor his Asian heritage (his mother is from Kazakhstan) tipped the scales in favor of competing, and he is glad he made the decision to participate.
"I love Kazakhstan, and I'm happy to be Asian," he shared. "I kind of feel like I'm home here [in China] too. I just want to make sure that I will find my audience, I'll find my people here. I don't want to be just another foreigner who comes to China to get what I want and leave," he explained.
Xiao K said he wants to show respect to both the people and the country of China, and one way to show appreciation of his Chinese fans is by learning and performing a song entirely in Chinese. It's been a tough task, but he hopes that fans will realize the work and the effort that went into learning the track and take it as a small token of the respect and appreciation he feels for an audience that has so warmly welcomed him into their homes. Watch his debut Chinese song in the video above.
He wished everyone a happy Chinese New Year and passes along wishes of happiness and health, all while reminding fans of the importance of loving yourself first.