Picture the scene: Eurovision: You Decide has just finished and SuRie has been announced as the UK’s entry to Eurovision 2018.
I rush to the press room of the Brighton Dome and take my seat. Inside, I say hello to ESC Insight’s Lisa-Jayne Lewis and apologise for my sweaty, dishevelled appearence. My fellow ESCXTRA team members, Tom and Timothy join us and we await the arrival of the winner. It’s in this moment that I realise who else is around me. Leaning against a nearby pillar is Edward af Sillén, the scriptwriter for Eurovision: You Decide and writer/director of previous Eurovision Song Contests and Melodiefestivalen shows. At the back of the room is none other than Executive Supervisor of ESC, Jon Ola Sand. Despite the gravitas of the evening, the feeling is all very chilled out. The press room starts to fill up and eventually we are presented with SuRie.
The BBC’s Scott Mills will interview SuRie, and after all the introductions, we get started.
Scott: Why do you think your song stood out tonight?
SuRie: I think it’s the mix. Hopefully the connection. The storytelling at the start, and then building with that beat. With that little pop party we all need. It’s got that universal appeal…I hope.
It’s clear that Scott and SuRie have a good rapport. There is something about the UK entrant that is instantly likeable. Scott asks SuRie about the other contestants from that evening.
SuRie: That’s the only other emotion I’m dealing with – the slight guilt that I won. I know that this was a competition but it never felt like that in the dressing room, backstage, everyone has been so positive, so professional, loving and wonderful.
Scott asks the question that I had lined up to ask: Will your previous experience at the Song Contest give you an advantage?
SuRie: I suppose so but I found the experience of Vienna and Kyiv very different – the place, the cultural setup. They were both wonderful but different. And I think Lisbon again is going to be quite different and I think that’s exciting. I know some elements to expect but I was a backing vocalist so it’s definitely going to be different now all eyes are on muggins here.
When asked if she’s prepared for the bigger audience…
SuRie: Yeah, it feels right. Honestly, being on that stage, performing in any capacity whether it’s a small, initmate gig, or on a scale that I can’t fathom, it really feels like what I should be doing with my life. So I’m incredibly excited. I like to share a joke but at the same time there’s this inner calm that goes, “I know I can do this.”
Open questions from the floor
Someone asks about SuRie’s dog and whether we’ll see her in Lisbon (For those of you interested, we won’t unfortunately!). Then someone else asks SuRie what is her favourite Eurovision song?
SuRie: It maybe controversial to some but I actually really loved Guy Sebastian (“Tonight Again”) and the first year Australia got involved. It was such an uplifting track. It was a warm up song for us with Loic as it was just before us. Aside from that, I just thought Guy was amazing. I thought that whole persona, that whole execution of it on stage, I just loved it!
I look around the room again and see that most people were quite impressed that SuRie answered that question so thoroughly.
Scott: Obviously success in Eurovision is not just about the singing, it’s the staging too. Because it’s so huge it’s very important to look at camera, to get that emotion across to 200 million people. Are you going to take onboard what the panel said tonight?
SuRie: Yeah absolutely. I really respected their comments actually and I thought they were beautifully put. So I think we’ll have discussions with the creative team and get planning for that bigger stage.
Scott: Will the ‘bum cape’ stay?
SuRie: Oh God I’m very attached to this bum cape, literally and emotionally!
This gets a big laugh in the room. SuRie is really showing us her personality. The questioning continues…
Scott: I guess you’ve travelled a bit with what you do?
SuRie: I get around, yeah.
Scott: Who have you worked with in the past?
SuRie: So I was at the songwriting camps all of last year. I went to 11 different countries in 11 months. I worked on lots of different tracks. I was with Greta Salóme in Copenhagen. We were writing across the UK and Denmark. I was in Switzerland and had a great time writing some of the Swiss options. Yeah, all over the place but not Portugal!
Scott: You’ve done backing for some famous people before.
SuRie: Well there was this one gig where I did some backing vocals for Chris Martin. It was the Hammersmith Apollo, it was a Christmas gig, and I was singing backing vocals. There was fake snow and I choked on it!
Scott: We say this every year but there is a lot of pressure at Eurovision. The Grand Final is in front of a stadium of thousands, the TV show is, outside of sport, the biggest audience you can get in the world – about 200 million people watching it now. All eyes are on you. How’s that going to be different from being in the background and almost hidden away?
SuRie: There’s pressure, there’s responsibility that comes with that, of course. But I can handle that, I thrive on that.
Scott: Yeah, you seem to quite like the adrenaline?
SuRie: As performers we’re all just self-obsessed show-off’s, aren’t we?
This gets another big laugh in the room. Despite only just having come off stage, SuRie is very relaxed.
We then hear about how “Storm” is written and composed by Nicole Blair, Gil Lewis and Sean Hargreaves. The composers are part of the Tileyard community, a creative hub based in Kings Cross, London. SuRie is asked about how the song found its way to her.
SuRie: The song was played to me as an option. It was from a songwriting camp that I hadn’t been on, so I had heard lots of the others but they weren’t quite right for me. I was working in the competition as a songwriter but just thought it probably wasn’t my year as a vocalist. Then at the very last minute, at the end of last year, “Storm” popped up and I thought, yeah I’ll have that!
Scott: How did you know it was the right one? Is it just a feeling that you get?
SuRie: Learning material is always difficult if you haven’t written it. It’s my job and I love to do that but I write my own songs so naturally the words and the thoughts aren’t from me. With “Storm” I knew it straight away. I listened to it a couple of times and I knew it, I learned it, and it was already in me. And that was a very good sign.
The Eurovision community
SuRie also had something to say about the Eurovision community.
SuRie: Well they’re the best people in the world, I really mean that. I guiltily admit that before going to Eurovision with Loïc Nottet in 2015, Eurovision wasn’t hugely on my radar. I wasn’t avoiding it but it just wasn’t in my plan, and my mind was blown when I went to Vienna. The people around the show and the community that surrounds it are the best people in the world. Just celebrating all the positive things in life. We’re talking about diversity, equality, and a love for music. Even if it’s different styles of music, different tastes, that’s the beauty of it – all these different opinions. Ultimately, we’re all there just to have an absolutely wonderful time. There is so much love, it’s just incredible.
Scott: It’s like you said, before Vienna you didn’t get it, but then you go there and you get it!
SuRie: And I feel guilty for missing it for all of those years. If only you could bottle up some of that love, some of that goodness, and spread that around.
Lisa-Jayne Lewis then asked SuRie what it was like in that dramatic moment before the winner announcement.
SuRie: I’ve never been in that position before. You watch TV shows, you see those moments, and they do drag it out. When you’re in that moment, I thought it would feel like an eternity, but actually, there was almost like a white noise. I don’t know what my face was doing but actually I was incredibly calm – probably the most calm I’ve been in my life. So, maybe I should be in those tense moments more often!
Scott: Did you think they were going to call your name?
SuRie: I did. And am I allowed to say that? (There is a resounding ‘yes’ from the press room).
Scott: At what point did you think you were going to win? Was it before tonight? Was it when you performed and you saw the reaction?
SuRie: I’m not sure actually. That’s a tricky one. The response to the song was amazing. I don’t think I then felt that it was ‘in the bag’ because the whole show was incredible.
The big question
Scott: You’ve got a ticket to Lisbon. Are you going to win? Are you going to get the UK on the left-hand side of the scoreboard? That’s what we want, SuRie!
SuRie: Why not, Scott? Why not? Anything is possible…it’s Eurovision! “Storm” is a great song. It’s got all the ingredients – that universal appeal without being too quirky. So, we’ll see.
It’s here where Scott Mills ends the press conference by congratulating SuRie on her win and wishing her the best of luck in Lisbon. As everyone starts to leave, I take one final look at the Eurovision trophy that has been sitting in the corner of the room all evening, and wonder…will anyone notice if I just steal it and give it to SuRie right now?!
Tell us what you think. Can SuRie win Eurovision? Should I have stolen the trophy and held it ransom? Should SuRie keep the ‘bum cape’?