Before Stjepan Hauser and Luka Šulić of 2Cellos launched themselves onto our collective radar with their energetic and brilliantly executed version of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” they were already respected and well-known concert cellists in the classical music world. But one video changed their lives forever and now their careers are moving in different and exciting directions.
In interviewing Stjepan and Luka, I found them both to be delightful, well-grounded young men and artists. They are both exceedingly talented musicians and I have no doubt that we will be hearing a lot more from them in the not-too-distant future.
Valmai: Can you tell us how long you have been playing the cello?
Stjepan: Luka started when he was 5 and me, when I was 8. Now he is 23, and I’m 24.
Valmai: Was the cello your first choice of musical instrument?
Stjepan/Luka: Yes, absolutely, we fell in love with it immediately
Valmai: What made you choose this instrument as opposed to the more popular violin?
Stjepan/Luka: Cello sound is so beautiful and warm, its sound so natural, and it is the closest to the human voice and much more pleasant than the violin!
Valmai: You are both still very young, yet you have played with world-renowned orchestras in some of the most prestigious concert halls around the world, giving outstanding performances. Success like this requires dedication and sacrifice. Can you share some of the sacrifices you have had to make?
Stjepan/Luka: We dedicated our entire lives to cello and music. We were practicing all along and didn´t really have a childhood the way other kids had. We didn't go out much during the high school days either. While other friends were having fun in clubs, we were practicing at home very hard.
Valmai: What have been some of your most memorable concert experiences?
Stjepan/Luka: Every concert is a special and different experience and it is hard to point out any.
Valmai: In January of this year, you posted a self-made video on You Tube of your version of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” Can I ask what the inspiration was behind your choice of song?
Stjepan/Luka: We were always huge fans of Michael Jackson, and since we are cello fanatics we wanted to play a song by our biggest hero on the cellos. “Smooth Criminal” is the song that worked out the best from his songs, and we thought it could rock great on the cello!
Valmai: How long have you both been fans of Michael Jackson?
Stjepan/Luka: For the past 3 years.
Valmai: Has Michael Jackson inspired you in other aspects of your musical style and playing as cellists?
Stjepan/Luka: Of course! A lot! His amazing energy, imagination, fantasy and unbelievable unique style and charisma have always been our big inspiration.
Valmai: Was “Smooth Criminal” difficult to play on the cello?
Stjepan/Luka: Extremely! It is, in our opinion, the hardest cello piece ever!
Valmai: To date, your video has received over 5.6 million views and virtually became an overnight success. Did you have any idea it would be this well-received by so many in such a short time?
Stjepan/Luka: We were hoping to receive more attention than usual, but we really didn‘t expect that one week after, Sony, Elton John, Ellen [DeGeneres] and many, many others would contact us! Our life changed overnight.
Valmai: How did it feel to receive a record deal with Sony MASTERWORKS?
Stjepan/Luka: Great! We received deals from many other record companies, but SONY was the best choice!
Valmai: You also received a phone call from Sir Elton John inviting you to tour with him on his European tour this summer. How did you react to this?
Stjepan/Luka: He called on the phone directly, so it was a real surprise and shock! The first time he called, he spoke about his excitement and admiration toward our music. A few hours later, he called again and asked if we would like to tour with him and already mentioned some dates. He was a really, really nice, adorable gentleman.
Valmai: When does the tour begin and what preparations are you making to ready yourselves for it?
Stjepan/Luka: The tour begins in June. We are at the moment finishing our CD. As soon as we finish, we will start preparing for the tour!
Valmai: How does it feel to know you are touring with the legendary Sir Elton John?
Stjepan/Luka: It is an absolutely amazing experience to tour with a living legend, one of the greatest musicians alive. It is an honor and a once-in-a-life-time opportunity.
(Because of the timing of this interview, it was unable to be published for our June 1, issue. The 2Cellos have now been on tour with Sir Elton John for almost six weeks.)
Valmai: On April 25, you appeared on an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. What was that experience like for you and how did it feel playing “Smooth Criminal” before millions of viewers?
Luka: It was a crazy experience. The first time we played, we played with so much adrenaline and energy that Stjepan broke his bow!! The audience went wild! Then he ran off the stage to take a spare bow that he never played on before. Then we did it again, a bit cooler!
Valmai: Within a four-month period starting from the time you first posted your video on You Tube, you have signed a record deal, will tour with one of the greatest artists of our time and appeared on national television with one of the USA’s most famous and popular talk-show hosts. Has rising to stardom in such a short time affected you in any way?
Stjepan/Luka: Not at all! We are the same humble guys from before. We are not spoiled and we want to stay that way!
Valmai: Are you aware that Sony has blocked the original video you posted in January? If so, can you share the reasons for this?
Stjepan/Luka: We are aware. It is because they have to put all the videos they own through the VEVO channel. So now it is on 2CellosVEVO's Channel.
Valmai: Your debut album, available in July, will feature covers of Guns N' Roses, Sting, U2 and Nirvana songs. That is an eclectic genre! Are you fans of all of those artists as well?
Stjepan/Luka: Well, at first we were only MJ fans and that is why we started with “Smooth Criminal.” We were always very into classical music before and didn‘t even know many of the artists and songs that we are recording now. Everything happened and changed so quickly, and we are getting to know more and more music we didn‘t know existed. From bands, we like AC/DC and U2.
Valmai: Will “Smooth Criminal” also be included on your debut album? Have you any plans to record more of Michael Jackson’s music?
Stjepan/Luka: Of course! There is also one more of his songs on the album and in the future we will do more!
Valmai: What comes next for you after the album is released and you have completed your tour with Sir Elton John?
Stjepan/Luka: There is a concert: the iTunes Festival on 25 July in London, and straight after that we go to the USA to do more TV shows and promote our record everywhere. Then our tours begin!
Valmai: Stjepan and Luka, thank you so much for answering my questions. I wish you all the best for your upcoming tour and the release of your debut album, both of which I am sure will be a huge success.
Stjepan/Luka: Thank you very much! All the best!
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