"It meant so much to me and my country": In conversation with Ukrainian singer Mika Newton on her Grammys 2022 performance

Mika Newton performs Free alongside John Legend at the 64th annual Grammy Awards (Image via Grammys/ Getty Images)
Mika Newton performs Free alongside John Legend at the 64th annual Grammy Awards (Image via Grammys/ Getty Images)

The 64th edition of the recently concluded Grammy Awards wasn't lacking in the talent department, with an eclectic range of artists from various genres making a stunning case for their innate musical prowess.

However, if one performance exceeded others in terms of pure reach and resonance, it was the soul-stirring rendition of John Legend's new song Free, which issued a clarion call for peace and freedom in war-torn Ukraine.

Masterfully orchestrated by a trifecta of Ukrainian artists at the helm, namely, singer Mika Newton, musician Siuzzana Iglidan and poet Lyuba Yakimchuk, Legend's heartfelt composition built upon President Volodymyr Zelensky's impassioned plea issued minutes prior, to evoke universal empathy in rousing fashion.

In a recent exclusive conversation, SK Pop caught up with Mika Newton on her moving Grammys tribute, her humble beginnings as an artist and more.

Here are excerpts from the same.


Mika Newton on her Grammys tribute to Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky's message, and more

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Q) Hi Mika! Congratulations on your mesmerizing performance alongside John Legend at the recent Grammy Awards.

Can you tell us what the entire experience of performing on music's premiere night was like?

Mika: Thank you so much. It was such an honor to perform at the Grammys with one of my favorite singers of all time, John Legend.

It meant so much to me and my country that this performance was dedicated to Ukraine. My country needs this support right now.


Q) To be able to stand up there alongside fellow natives and deliver a powerful message through the medium of music amid trying times for your homeland is certainly monumental.

What did this particular performance mean to you?

Mika: With my performance, I wanted to let the world know that the situation in Ukraine is getting worse and we need help.

I don’t want people around the world to get used to the information about the war in Ukraine.

It’s getting worse…. We need help. The world needs to stand up.


Q) One of the greatest highlights of the night came in the form of a powerful and stirring message from President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Could you share your thoughts on the significance of his message?

Mika: They made it a surprise for all of us.

I wanted to cry right before my performance because I saw pictures from Bucha and it broke my heart. Then I saw the speech and I just felt so much pain for my people.

I have met Volodymyr Zelensky a couple of times and I’m so proud of him and what he is doing for our country.


Q) Could you tell our readers about how your stage name, Mika Newton, came into being?

Mika: Mika Newton has been my stage name ever since I was 17 years old.

Newton is more like a new tone - a new sound and Mika was influenced by Mick Jagger.


Q) Any personal excerpts/ anecdotes from your childhood that helped instill your love for music as a profession?

Mika: My entire childhood, I was just performing everywhere I could since I was 5 years old. I’m from a very small town in Burshtyn, Ukraine. We don’t talk a lot about the stage, arts, performing or fame.

I just did what I liked the most without expecting any results. I loved creating my own shows and performing for my mom. Eventually, my entire family would invite their friends as I began to crave a larger audience.


Q) Tell us about your musical educational background during your formative years and what motivated you to move to the United States to pursue your musical dream?

Mika: I went to music school when I was 6 years old and graduated when I was 15. Since the age of 9 I participated in more than 30 singing competitions around the country, and I won the majority of them.

At that point, my parents decided that I had to keep going. So I moved to Kyiv to study singing and acting at the Circus and Verity college. Then I signed my first contract and started building my career, and released an album that became really successful.

In 2011 I represented Ukraine at Eurovision, and after that performance, I was invited to record an album in Los Angeles.

After living in LA, I realized that I wanted to keep growing as an artist, so I dedicated a lot of time to studying English and acting. My greatest motivation in life is to keep learning and trying to be a better person and artist.


Q) Having been a Eurovision finalist back in 2011, when you look back today, how instrumental has the competition been in contributing towards where you are today?

With the upcoming 66th edition set to take place, do you have any message you would like to share with all participants?

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Mika: Eurovision was one of the best experiences of my life, and it taught me a lot.

I want everyone to try to enjoy the moment, be present and just show their talent. No need to prove anything to anyone! I wish everyone a lot of luck!


Q) How would you best describe your distinctive genre of music as?

Mika: I’m a pop artist with elements of rock music, but I’m changing it all in my new album.


Q) Briefly guide us through your creative songwriting and composing process? Any upcoming projects which you are currently working on?

Mika: I’m working on my new album right now. I started writing songs last year and my dream was to bring together my Ukrainian soul and my experience in America. I only write when I have something to say to my audience.

I’ve been through a lot in the last two years and I want to share my emotions and hopefully help others through my music and help them through tough times.


Q) Any 3 global artists whom you consider as influences upon your work and admire?

Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion and Steven Tyler (Images via Shutterstock/ Samir Hussein, Redferns/ Getty Images)
Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion and Steven Tyler (Images via Shutterstock/ Samir Hussein, Redferns/ Getty Images)

Mika: Celine Dion has been my number one influence since I was a kid. I always wanted to sing as effortlessly as her, especially the high notes, so I would try to cover her songs as my vocal exercises.

Aretha Franklin would have to be next, as she is so beautiful and soulful and carries such power in her voice.

I was introduced to Steven Tyler later on, and he is truly a one-of-a-kind artist. There is no range or voice like his.


Q) In your opinion, how significant is the role of music and art as a medium in dealing with a humanitarian crisis such as the present one in Ukraine?

Mika: I think it's very significant and important. We all have to speak up through words, art, music and bring awareness to what is going on in our country every day.

The medium of language has the ability to be expressed powerfully through music. We must always speak out against injustices, crises and war.


Q) What advice would you like to personally offer fellow Ukrainians, artists, fans and all those who are actively contributing towards mitigating the effects of the ongoing crisis?

Mika: I just want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the hard work and time that they have invested in helping out.

It’s vital that we unite globally, and if I can help in any way, please reach out to me.

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Edited by R. Elahi
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