International singer Vasil brings Rhythm to Chicago and beyond

Sat. June 10, 2023 8:57 AM by Ross Forman


photo credit // provided

Vasil teams with CiruitMOM Productions for Rhythm music video

At the end of last summer, Vasil Garvanliev filmed the video for his song Rhythm at the famed Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. The “upbeat sexy dance song,” as he describes it, is the third single from his EP “Porcelain Soldier,” following Beautiful and Dangerous Waters, both released with lyric videos.

“It all starts from a single heartbeat that connects us all on the dance floor through rhythm, in whichever way we choose … spiritual, sensual or sexual,” Vasil said. “Rhythm is a song that promises to get at least one part of your body moving and you will sing it halfway through … maybe even teach you how to spell R H Y T H M.

“Very often, when I’m out dancing, you can catch me singing into my phone because that’s where a lot of inspiration strikes. Funny enough, the main theme of the song came to me while I was dancing in Chicago at Metro a few years back, hence the disco/house influence. I had the demo for a few years and when I came back to Chicago to record my EP, I realized that my producer from Eurovision 2020, Kastelo, was now in Miami … we linked up and the next three songs are all a collaboration with him.”

The Rhythm sound is the most pop sounding from Vasil, he admitted – and naturally so. “I grew up as a child pop star in Macedonia, then did choral singing and musicals when we moved to Chicago, then opera professionally for 13 years. I moved back to Macedonia a few years ago after living in Chicago, London, Toronto, and Milan to focus on euro/ethno-pop.

“This I’d say is a perfect blend of all the elements, if you listen carefully in the background. The sound is EDM-inspired, sprinkled with Latin and Balkan flavors.”

Vasil’s video for Rhythm is a continuation of the stage performance at Eurovision 2021 where he turns darkness into light using a mirror shirt reveal. (The performance is blocked on YouTube in the U.S., but he has it on his Instagram: @VasilG). “The journey continues in a very fluid way where I am now light and sharing it with everyone around through the rhythm of the heartbeat expressed through dance,” he said. “The focus of the video is the dancers and Isaiah Silva-Chandley’s choreography which is all about the fluidity and sensuality of what each dancer has to say. I am so proud that my first pop video release of the ‘Porcelain Soldier’ project is in Chicago with such an amazing Chicago representation.”

The video was filmed at a then-empty Aragon Ballroom which, he said, brings an eerie/magical sense, especially as it then was only about a week after a sold-out party CircuitMOM Productions, Inc.

Vasil, 38, who splits time living in South Barrington and Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, said he has two more singles for Porcelain Soldier, his self-discovery project of raising one’s vibrations through vices.

His next song will include talent from Chicago’s LGBTQ scene, once again in collaboration with CircuitMOM.

Vasil will perform on Saturday, June 10, at the Pride Night match for the Chicago Fire FC.

Vasil was selected to represent his country in 2020 at the Eurovision Song Contest, but the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, crushing a childhood dream.

“The moment they canceled it, I knew we were all in trouble and that this (pandemic) would last for some time,” he said. “I was broken, my wish was taken away.”

He was, though, chosen again in 2021, which he tagged as bittersweet.

“I was chosen again, which was a very comforting and validating moment. The cherry on the cake was that a song I wrote, ‘Here I stand’ was the chosen song. So not only was I going … I was also the writer of my song. That was very, very special. That said, at the same time there was a scandal that made things just a little complicated. I was politically set up by someone which led to petitions against me attending, public lynching, cyberbullying, and more.

“(Due to) how special and inspiring my story is as a gay immigrant, I was approached by Attitude Magazine to do a cover story sharing my journey. I was singing a song called ‘Here I stand’ and thought ‘how can I not share every aspect of me singing such a vulnerable power ballad?’ This was the last straw in a land where gay is a disease and not OK. I do not regret anything and am so proud of myself that despite everything I was able to stand on that stage and sing as well as I did, live in front of millions of people.

“Other than that, Eurovision was amazing.”

On Stage With … Vasil

Welcome To Chicago: “I immigrated to the United States in 1997 with my family. I attended junior high school and high school at Downers Grove South, but spent most of my time in the city as a member and soloist of the Chicago Children’s Choir. Those six years here I’d say are the most important and humbling in life. I was a child pop star/icon back home, but here I was an absolute nobody speaking 5-6 words of English about to go through puberty. Fast forward 6 years: My family got deported post 9/11 for reasons I am still confused about.”

More Chicago: “As a boy from Macedonia, this really was the promised land. Through the choir, I got to explore, experience, and perform at the best venues in the city and even the country, including Symphony Hall, Opera House, Millennium Park, House of Blues to Carnegie Hall and more. My chosen family is here.”

Favorites: Hollywood Beach in summer, Sidetrack for a Grey Goose on the rocks from Norbert, burger from Wood, ginger martini from Wangs or Marty’s, and DILF at SoFo.

Welcome To Chicago: He came to the Windy City in September 2021 to record his album and to escape the unsafe situation back home due to having publicly come out as one of the first Balkan men on a cover story of Attitude Magazine. “I believe in love. Little did I know that a swipe right on Tinder that November, would lead me to meeting the man of my dreams who would forever change my life. I had to go to Paris that December because a song that I wrote was chosen to be a representative at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.”

Today: “Here I stand, a married man to my beautiful Jason with two doggies, Esmi and Tina (silver and charcoal labs).

Chicago’s LGBTQ Scene: “It is very special. I found the scene very warm. I have lived in Toronto – a similar city, both with hot boys. Something very special about Chicago is, I have met some amazing people through the years. Quality people.”

Chicago’s Circuit Scene: “I will never forget the first time CircuitMOM, Matthew Harvat, took me to The Metro; that was the beginning of my love for dance/circuit music. Give me house, drums and female vocals, and I am a happy man. I’ve been to almost all the festivals and parties here, and they are amazing. When I lived in both London and Toronto, the boys would talk about the sexy men and parties in Chicago.”

What Is Music For You: “Cliche answer here: everything. It is my life; it is my drug; it is my hope for a better tomorrow. When I was bullied in seventh grade for looking like a little girl and not speaking English, I opened my mouth to sing and it all stopped. When my family was deported, my voice got me the scholarships to study abroad and survive. I have been on my own since I was 17, with a very, very big chosen family. I sing to share my story through my voice to touch, inspire and stir something in everyone who hears me.”

In Association With CircuitMOM Productions:Matthew Harvat is one of the special men I met while visiting and preparing roles in Chicago over 10 years ago. We chatted on one of the apps, decided to meet for a drink during my next visit and instantly realized that our compatible creative sides and common passions led to a very beautiful friendship. Matthew has been a mentor of mine for all these years. He is always one of the first ones to hear a demo, give a suggestion, and now that we are finally in the same city for more than a month … lots of projects will be coming your way. We must stick together and represent!”

Upcoming: A decade-long project coming out this summer, a 17-song release. “Classical, standards, originals, and Balkan music woven into an emotional journey to bridge the classical and pop audience and hopefully start a next chapter for me.” 

Follow Vasil on Instagram

Related: Chicago Fire celebrates unity with LGBTQ community on June 10