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Bulgarian Cartrader: “A cliche is a very dangerous thing”

Berlin-based rockstar Bulgarian Cartrader talks about life in the city and his debut album Motor Songs.

Out of all the acts at this year’s Eurosonic Festival, there was one particular, well-dressed character that stood-out: Berlin-based rockstar, Bulgarian Cartrader, aka. Daniel Stoyanov. Dressed in a racing car jacket, with a faux fur hat, the Sofia-born artist wooed the festival crowd, dancing and greeting with those in the audience and playing the hits from his debut record Motor Songs.

Far from being an up-and-comer, Stoyanov already had a chart topping hit with the country-meets-indie anthem, Golden Rope, that has already racked up over two million streams on Spotify.

We caught up with the charming and personable rock-star to find out more about Berlin’s best-and-only Bulgarian Cartrader. 

Who are you, and where are you from?

My name is Daniel Stoyanov. My name sounds Eastern European, and to be precise I was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and came to Germany when I was 4. I grew up in Germany, but stayed connected to Bulgaria, kept the language and mingled a lot with friends and family.

I started doing music with a couple of bands, and was involved in different projects over the years and now I decided to do it completely on my own as Bulgarian Cartrader.

There’s also a supermarket in Neukölln that I sometimes go just to hear the language again

When did Bulgarian Cartrader start out?

The idea came to me when I was 5, 6 years old. I started with the production two years ago and now in ’22 was my first live year. The album came out in November last year, and it’s been going really well since then.

You’ve already had a big hit already?

Yes, in my small bubble Golden Rope has been played a lot on the radio, and has been playlisted also. So far it’s had about 2 millions streams. I’m pretty happy.

What do you think the catalyst for the success was?

It’s not a song that runs behind to grab your attention. It just stays there, it’s slick and mellow. I have energetic songs, and sometimes I need those, but I know that when I hit the mellow strings on the guitar, these songs are more powerful. 

How’s the reception been for your music in Germany compared to that in Bulgaria?

I grew up in Germany, but stayed connected to Bulgaria, kept the language

That’s a good question. In Germany it’s gone well. A lot of cool people have liked it. We pushed it, and then a few weeks afterwards people start reacting. For the first half of the year there was no reaction from Bulgaria, and at first I didn’t think about it. But then somehow they got the news, then a few influencers started sharing it, and since then it’s been everyday coming followers, radio interviews, and TV requests.

It’s very cool, and now I’m going top be playing a very cool festival called Sofia Live. I’m very happy to have this connection with Bulgaria and I think it’s going to work out for me. Maybe I’ll start producing there. There’s a lot of cool people there. It’s really nice, as there’s a lot of potential there. The whole Balkan region is going to be an area that becomes very big. If you think about the likes of Dua Lipa, they’re all from there. The talent is there, we just need to improve the infrastructure. 

Do you play much in Berlin?

We played a couple of times. The last concert was back in November for the release, and now we try to play every other month. 

Where does the name come from?

It’s based on my passion for old cars, and the friendship I have for a guy who I can call my brother. I’ve known him since my childhood. He called me up a few years ago telling me he wants to try out as a car-dealer. There’s a big traffic going on between Western and Eastern European countries, buying them, reselling and recycling. So I helped him buy the first four cars, and we were driving around Germany trying to sell them. And I thought, this is such a different world and way of communicating, and I was absolutely fascinated by it. I really wanted to be one. If you look at me, you would never think cartrader, but it’s inside of me. There’s something a bit ugly and harsh about the name, but I love it. I love the reaction. You go out with this name, and people see you and hear the music, and never really expect it.

When you hear Bulgaria, you expect cheap liquor and disco party, and all these cliches – then you hear the music and it’s indie music. So there are surprises happening, and that’s what I want. I know where straight is, so I go the other way.

Are you incorporating any of these cliches into your performance?

The whole Balkan region is going to be an area that becomes very big

A cliche is a very dangerous thing. For any artist, there is a cliche and its connected with the way western europeans thinks about east European and balkan people. The problem is that the artists connect themselves with this cliche, and they know that when they do that, they’re going to get this certain reaction. At some point there is a compromise that you cannot avoid – maybe I do some certain cliches to get a grip, but my long terms is to not do this cliches. If I do it, it’s because it is in my blood, in the way that I sing, it’s my vibe, but I’m not forcing it. I’m just doing the music that I like.

Live, for me, is like a party. It’s a fluid process. There’s a lot of stuff that I like and can do. The difficult part is trying to avoid certain parts… I don’t want my music to be too pretentious. If my concerts were too earnest it would lose the art, and I want to have fun with it and have a laugh with the audience.

Is there a Bulgarian community in Berlin?

I don’t know that many people from Bulgaria in Berlin, but the ones there are involved in a lot of fields. There’s also a supermarket in Neukölln that I sometimes go to shop, just to hear the language again… maybe I’ll put a poster up in there.

Any plans this year?  

We have some festivals lined up in the summer. I started work on the next record, so up until the summer I would love to have most of it done, and then start releasing new music, because at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.