Eurovision 2019 on the BBC
I went on a fairground ride with Jedward - Ireland’s entry in Ireland that year - in Azerbaijan. Can’t quite remember why!Scott Mills
You are a long-time fan of Eurovision, and now host of the BBC Eurovision Calling podcast - and have been interviewing people along the way - do you have any insider gossip you can share?
Ukraine pulled out of the competition which was a bit of a drama. They had a whole selection process on TV to find the winner, X Factor-style, and then the person who won had to sign a contract saying they wouldn’t do concerts in Russia. They said "no thanks I don’t want to sign it". They then went to the person who came second place in the competition who also said "no thanks". No one would sign the contract, meaning they were left with no act to represent them which is weird considering they won three years ago. But the singer from the Netherlands, Duncan, performs completely naked in his music video. He’s currently favourite to win at the moment. There was a concert a few weeks ago in Amsterdam and the mayor was so convinced they’d win that they were like "see you in Amsterdam next year!" This is a country that stereotypically doesn’t do very well.
What are your favourite Eurovision memories?
At Eurovision a lot of stuff happens that wouldn’t happen anywhere else. I went on a fairground ride with Jedward - Ireland’s entry in Ireland that year - in Azerbaijan. Can’t quite remember why! There was a time when I completely missed my TV appearance when I was meant to be interviewing Cascada. I got stuck in a lift. Last year, Cyprus’ entry Eleni was showing me some of her energetic choreography. She whipped her hair in my face and all the papers the next day said that she ‘injured’ me. Rylan and I had a lot of fun last year too. When we arrived in Lisbon, Rylan was wearing stilettos with a pointy heel. If you haven’t been to Lisbon, you should know the streets are all cobbled. I was trying to help him as his heel kept getting stuck. He loved it though and I know he’s looking forward to it this year. He’s set up a Whatsapp group called Divas where we can swap messages of how excited we are. I know he’s desperate to meet former winner Dana International, the previous Israeli winner who is rumoured to be there.
Have you been to Tel Aviv before?
No I’m actually really excited about it! I know it’s on the beach - they call it Ibiza of the Middle East. It sounds fun. I’ve spoken to loads of people before and they say it’s a party!
What do you think of UK representative Michael Rice’s chances this year?
I think we always have to be hopeful. A lot of people have given up hope of ever winning again. I think that’s the wrong attitude. I think you should always support whoever the act is. I actually think it’s quite a strong song. It’s actually written by the person who’s performing for Sweden - John Lundvik. He’s pretty much battling himself for the Eurovision trophy.
What are you most looking forward to on this year in terms of staging/performance as well as the song?
I’m interested to see what Portugal will do. If you watch the song - Telemóveis - it’s a really stern, serious performance. It’s very theatrical and over the top. It’s mostly in Portuguese, you’re like "I wonder what these words are about". It feels like a really serious subject. Turns out the translation is about breaking his mobile phone. That’s what I love about Eurovision. You think the lyrics are deep and meaningful and then you google them.
Do you have any pre-show rituals or superstitions before?
We always get some traditional, local food, so in Ukraine that was pork and cabbage. In Sweden some knackebrod - Swedish crisp bread. In Tel Aviv perhaps hummus? We always get a local delicacy in.
Describe Eurovision in three words?
Camp, Surprising, Huge.
Where will you be for the final?
I’m going to stay in Tel Aviv for the final working on the podcast Eurovision Calling which I don’t always do as the podcast is in its first year and I’ve worked out it’s going to be 26 degrees. I’ve been to the final once in Stockholm and it’s incredible. But the thing I like about the semi-finals more than the final is that you get to see some of the less polished acts that don’t make the final. It’s really fun for me.
How Does Eurovision compare to the kind of TV work you do the rest of the year?
It’s much more frenetic and it’s all live so it’s the most fun I’ve ever had on TV. You’re in this massive arena where you can’t hear what’s going on, even when you’re interviewing. There’s an interval act that performs when we’re trying to interview people. You get to do things you never thought you’d do. Last year I was in a Portuguese soap opera in one of the VTs. I didn’t know that until I got to Lisbon. It’s the most silly television I’ve ever done and that’s why I love it. It’s my dream job. It’s saying what you see and hear. It’s what people do on Twitter and I do on TV.
What are your tips for people having a Eurovision party at home?
Drink responsibly of course but every time you see a man banging a drum, drink. Every time you see people in traditional clothing from their country, drink. Every time you see some dancing going on away from the singer on the same stage, drink. Every time you see an instrument not being played or a flaming piano, drink. If there’s someone in a cube, drink. At least a few of these things will definitely happen at Eurovision.
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