ENTERTAINMENT

Bleona Qereti, Albanian Superstar, On Hunting Down Timbaland For Her First English Song 'Pass Out' (INTERVIEW)

11/03/2013 16:56 GMT | Updated 15/03/2013 16:03 GMT

"Sorry I'm late," says Bleona as she hurriedly walks over to my table at London's Cafe Royal hotel, followed by a small entourage including her cameraman and manager.

The Albanian signer, full name Bleona Qereti, has been out on the damp streets of London filming footage for the pilot of her reality show, which she's currently pitching over in LA - her home for the past few years.

The dark-haired 33-year-old, dubbed the 'Madonna of Albania' by the NY Daily News, has been on the front of magazine covers since the age of five in her homeland, with eight albums already under her glamorous belt.

bleona

Now she's trying to crack America and the UK with her first English language song, 'Pass Out'.

From our first encounter I can hear she's already picked up the US accent, but who has the biggest selling artist in Southeastern Europe enlisted to help with such a feat?

Well she's aimed high - knocking on the studio doorstep of Justin Timberlake's favourite collaborator, Timbland, and not budging until they signed a deal...

"I was on tour in 2007 in Germany and I heard Timbaland's 'The Why I Are' song and after the tour reached New York I thought 'oh my God' this is the where I want to live."

One year later she was performing for Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida, and asked the business magnate if he could introduce her to Timbaland. Trump hadn't heard of the producer.

Bleona continues: "Then I went to the Grammys in 2009 and met Timbaland's crew, that was my journey."

However, the singer - who is used to getting what she wants in her home country - was surprised by Timbaland's initial response to her.

"We were in the studio and Tim said, 'I don't think your name is Justin Timberlake, that's all I have to say to you.'

"I was in tears. I was like, 'listen I have the guts to come and talk to you myself, fine.' And I just left.

"My next concert was in Milan and after a week or so I wake up and my phone is ringing and it says 'Timbaland' and I'm freaking out and he's, like 'where are you? I told you to go make me a song to see how you sound.'

"I came back and we did eight songs, I waited another six months and I didn't move from the studio and he was like, 'this isn't even your session, why are you here?' Then finally we cut a deal for three songs."

bleona

Bleona admits the transition from superstar in one part of the world to just another unknown singer in another part has been tricky.

"Usually I'm a person that doesn't take no for an answer. Being from Albania and being a singer for so long - since five-years-old - has given me an amazing experience... but then you go to another country and they are like, 'you're not from here', they are like, 'you have an accent.'

"As much as I want to be funny about the situation it hasn't been easy... in my country I have a red carpet everywhere I go. In LA, I would call for a restaurant and they would say 'can you spell your name please.'

"I was never outside the media attention in my country, but when I got to LA I was relieved I could go out without makeup, but after I week I was like 'come on these people have to know who I am.'"

However, the confident star who seems to relish the attention fame brings - after all, it is all she has known for almost 30 years - knew there was one way to give her new team a taste of where she came from...

"I went to promote 'Pass Out' in Albania and the rest of Europe, Italy, Greece, Estonia and had 70,000 to 100,000 people per show and I took Timbaland's crew with me and one of his rappers DJ Brisco. They had no idea how famous I really was in my country.

"The minute they saw they called Tim and said 'yo, this girl is crazy.' It was good for me that after three years I had the chance to give them the different perspective of who I was and am in my country - I'm not really the girl to wait for six months in the studio."

bleona

It's not very often non-British European stars make it globally, but as she flicks through her pictures on her phone I can see she's already making friends in high places. She goes for lunch with Al Pacino and hung out with Ben Affleck after the Oscars.

Could she make it in the UK? Take a listen to 'Pass Out', an upbeat party track which could easily be sung by J Lo or Madonna, below and let us know.

‘Pass Out’, available now on iTunes.