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"Seeing Welsh flags in the crowd made me very proud"

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James McLaren James McLaren | 08:00 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2012

In 2004 James Fox became the last Welsh person to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest. He came 16th, so not an unmitigated disaster, but neither was it a stellar success. I talked to him about his time on the competition.

James Fox

James Fox

Looking back to 2004, what were your thoughts about Eurovision as a whole? Do you think it has a place for acts really trying to make a career?

"I remember being quite reticent about taking part in the selection show at the time, but not only was there the chance of representing your country on a massive scale in front of a European audience of hundreds of millions but there was also the offer of a Sony recording contract for the winner of the selection show, so that definitely tipped the balance for me.

"Eurovision was something I had watched growing up and always had this strange feeling that I would be involved in it someday. The competition is a strange concept anyway: I mean, how do you judge which song is 'better' than another? It comes down to taste, obviously, countries voting for each other and who provides the most shocking or original idea for the three minute 'mini musical theatre stage show' that it has now become.

"I think with the amount of exposure you get from the contest, that unless you have a total nightmare on the night like Gemini did the year before I did the contest, then I think it has a place for acts trying to make it, even if it does put them in a certain category within the music industry after they have competed."

What would say was the effect of your appearance on your career?

"After competing in 2004 I can honestly say that the most successful and profitable times of my career so far were in the years that followed immediately after Eurovision. It opened lots of doors and allowed me to go and star on Broadway and release my own records.

Did you have a sense of pride in representing 'the land of song' at such a high level?

"Of course! I did countless television and radio interviews and found myself constantly correcting the interviewer when they said I was representing England. I am a very proud Welshman and would reply: 'I'm a Welshman representing the UK'. If I had won that year then the following year's contest would have been held in Cardiff.

"That was a massive incentive and seeing all the Welsh flags in the crowd on such a huge event calmed my nerves and made me very proud."

Looking at Eurovision now, do you think it has the same appeal for acts and audiences as it maybe did in the 70s?

"Maybe not. Like I hinted at before, it definitely doesn't provide longevity in a music career but then these days that is something very hard to come by anyway. Record companies used to give signed acts three albums to get it right, now you are lucky if you get two singles!

"Back in the 70s the bigger acts of the day seemed to take part because they thought they could win it; nowadays it seems that for number of reasons the acts just do it for the exposure and winning is maybe not on their mind."

What were the memories you took away from the contest? Any oddness? I can't think of a single event that brings together such a collection of disparate people.

"I remember getting off the plane at Istanbul to the biggest collection of TV cameras and media that I had ever seen. Europe takes the contest so seriously and the memory I will always have is the crazy media circus that surrounded me and the other competitors that week.

"It was a lot of fun but totally chaotic, with bizarre press conferences and meeting so many people that were Eurovision fanatics. It really is something I will never forget!

"Walking on the big stage in front of 20,000 in the arena and all those millions around Europe on television I can remember everything being very silent, an almost out of body experience in terms of calmness, and also not fully being able to deal with or comprehend the size of the job in hand and the pressure that came with it.

"Time seemed to stand still and you just work on autopilot. Then when the song ends you snap out of it and wake up in the hall full of people. I have never experienced anything like that before or since. Also, I have never seen so many people crammed in a make-up/costume department prior to a gig. It seemed that a song was merely a vehicle to display the ability to stilt walk whist wearing a horror mask (yes, that really did happen). There really is nothing like watching Bosnians singing and dancing wearing swimming costumes during a 'serious' press conference!"

Lastly, what advice would you have for UK Eurovision entrants now?

"Search their family history and see if they have any relatives in other European countries, try to represent one of those countries and have a chance of being voted for! But on a serious note, if the UK is their only chance, then just enjoy yourself and try and make inroads into the many other more profitable music markets in Europe as a result of the mass exposure that they will get.

"Despite this country not taking the contest seriously, try and remember that you are still representing your country in the field that you have chosen and to take as much pride in that as you can."

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