Here, There, Everywhere
Singer/songwriter Panagiotis Koufogiannis B.M. ’12 says that his “life changed completely” after he won the Greek version of The X Factor in July 2017. Koufogiannis, who hails from Cyprus, was no stranger to the big TV stage when he began his journey on the popular show. In 2015, his song “Without Your Love” was a contender in the Eurovision Song Contest, which gave him a taste of how televised music works. He was also already familiar with a significant degree of success. His song “Financial Crisis,” a sardonic pop jab at crass commercialism, had previously reached number one on the iTunes charts in Cyprus. In the catchy chorus to the song, Koufogiannis laments, “I got no money, no job, no girlfriend.”
“Things are a bit better now,” he says with a broad smile, relaxed in his new home base of Athens, Greece. That’s partly because Koufogiannis, who came to Berklee on a Fulbright scholarship and took a double major in songwriting and voice performance, received a record deal with Feelgood Records after he won The X Factor.
Many of Koufogiannis’s songs are lighthearted, in keeping with the vibe of his label’s name, but he also writes melancholic rock ballads such as “Klepsidra” (“Hourglass”), dealing with a longing feeling of homesickness. (Koufogiannis wrote the song as an international student at Berklee, after not seeing his home for several years.)
Now, says Koufogiannis, “We’re in the process where I write a bunch of songs and then we have meetings to try to decide which one is best for the first single. It’s a very exciting process.” Koufogiannis performed one of his own songs, “My Apocalypse,” on The X Factor, which was no small feat in a format dominated by hit songs that are already well known to most viewers.
“A lot of people go on these shows wanting to do their own thing, but it’s not about what you want to do, but how much you’re willing to fight for it,” Koufogiannis says. Initially denied his request to perform his own song, Koufogiannis didn’t back down. “I recorded my song and I sent it in anyway, but I never said ‘It’s my song,’” he recalls. “The producer called me and said, ‘That’s a very nice song. I don’t know it—but I like it.’ So then I said, ‘That’s my song that I was telling you about.’ That was a little hit or miss, but it worked because he listened to it and liked it. So afterwards, he was like, ‘Hmmm, alright, let’s do it.’”
For Koufogiannis, the most satisfying thing wasn’t winning the competition, but the joy of reaching so many people with his original song. “It’s the biggest life and music experience for me—along with my Berklee experience,” he says. “It’s something I will never forget. ... People listened to my music.”
On the show, Koufogiannis was coached by Greek pop star Giorgos Mazonakis, with whom he has since performed before capacity crowds in Greece. While Mazonakis has helped Koufogiannis gain greater familiarity with the Greek music industry, it’s a Berklee professor that Koufogiannis cites as his major musical influence.
“There was a time when I was really musically lost,” Koufogiannis says. “I was all over the place. [Associate professor] Charlie Sorrento made me better as a singer and musician, of course, but he also gave me a fantastic [attitude] towards life. For me? Charlie Sorrento—he’s the man.”
Koufogiannis previously worked as a music teacher and vocal coach while building up his catalogue of songs. These days, he says, “I write a lot and perform a lot. I’m just trying to see where this could go.” When he’s not writing or performing onstage, Koufogiannis is also connecting with his rapidly growing fan base on social media, using Facebook Live to take song requests from some of the many fans he won over during his impressive run on The X Factor.
“I think about music 24/7, so I want to be able to make a living at it,” Koufogiannis says. He certainly displays the drive needed to succeed. “It’s that thing that makes you not care if it’s 4:00 A.M., 5:00 A.M., or 10:00 A.M. in the morning and you haven’t slept, because you’re doing something that sounds and feels good,” Koufogiannis says. “If I didn’t have [such] passion for music, I wouldn’t have the drive to do this, but I’m a very dedicated person. I just want to become better every day.”
To hear music by Koufogiannis, visit youtube.com/PanAndMusic, or follow him at facebook.com/PanAndMusic or at instagram.com/panagiotis_koufogiannis.