Markus Riva: “‘Lights On’ speaks of inner power and self-confidence” [Interview]

For the second year Latvia is using the new style Dziesma national final to select its entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. With the semi-finals behind us and the finals looming on the horizon, we took the chance to catch up with some of the singers taking part and today we speak to singer, composer and DJ Markus Riva.
escXtra: Hello Markus, thanks for taking some to speak to us today! Firstly we’d like to congratulate you on your qualification final of Dziesma 2014!
Markus Riva: Hi, escXtra! Thank you! It is my pleasure to talk to you and greetings from Riga, Latvia!
X: Firstly, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your career so far?
M: I am Markus Riva, into music since 6, but as Markus Riva for last 8 years with local independent label Deeselecta. I am a singer, songwriter, sound producer, video director, radio & tv host, did some modelling and for the last 3 years also a DJ and spinning in hottest night destinations every weekend. I have released 2 music albums and now working on my third one.
X: Backtracking a little, Where were you and how did you feel when you found out that you were one of the singers who had made it to the Semi-Finals of Dziesma?
M: I was excited and watching the press conference online. But already before that I felt that “Lights On” is going to make it to the short list of 24 songs. And so here we are, days before the big final.
X: You co-wrote your own entry ‘Lights On’ along with Gaitis Lazdāns, can you tell us what was the creative process like in the creation of your song and what was it like working with Gaitis?
M: I worked with Gaitis already on my previous hits (“How it feels to be a man” and “We dance for reason”, recently released in US). He had this demo for “Lights On” and I immediately liked the song and idea so on May 5th I wrote the lyrics when I was visiting Gaitis. It was nice and sunny day of spring – I can clearly remember that. Then we worked a bit on the song in the summer but our final version was made before the deadline of Dziesma, so we decided to shorten it to 3 min and submit for the contest.
X: Could you tell us a little about the message of the song?
M: The message is universal. Everyone can relate to the lyrics. “Lights On” speaks of inner power, self-confidence, and straight back. In the song it is more about love and romance but It could be related to any situation – either you want to start new life, either you want to give up on something. It has this strong, powerful and positive message that could be heard by Europe.
X: Your entry is in English, in a year of Dziesma with the theme ‘Made In Latvia’. What was behind the decision to sing in English and would you consider recording a Latvian version of your entry?
M: Someone asked me after the semi-final why this song is not in Latvian and then I started to think. I could make it in Latvian. But for Eurovision… I am not sure about Latvian language in the big contest. I love our country and our essence but in my opinion, the song could do more in English. Most of the people understand it. And actually I write more songs in English than in Latvian. I am more international thinking person.
X: For many of the participants in Dziesma, Eurovision is not always the overall goal in participation. For you, what does it mean to take part in Dziesma?
M: I have never participated in Dziesma as a soloist before, I did 2 times the final as an author (“Download your dream” for Lily and “Bye Bye” for Sabine Berezina & PeR). It means a lot to me, step out as a soloist and now I really feel ready for that (as I sing in my song) and celebrate. It is a fun show and I want to do my best and we want to go to Copenhagen for sure.
X: What are your feelings on the fact that if you win you will be representing your nation at Eurovision in Copenhagen in May?
M: It would mean a world to me. I really think that “Lights On” could do much better than previous entries. And we have already worked really hard on that. We have support from fashion designer Tom Rebl who is working on our look; we have support from Belgian Sjoerd Kortekaas who shared his ideas and vision for the light show, we have support form Spanish DJ Sak Noel… and it is already international!
X: Are you a Eurovision fan, and if so do you have any favourite Eurovision songs? Perhaps a favourite Latvian entry?
M: I watch Eurovison every year and I loved Margaret Berger “I feed you my love” from last year and “Euphoria” by Loreen and other songs from recent Eurovison. And it is “FLY” from Latvia – I was working on Eurovison in 2003 in Riga. I was teenager at that time but it was a great experience for me. “Hello from Mars” is the song that reminds me of that time and my dear friend is Yana Kay, the female vocalist in this trio.
X: Now some questions to get to know a little better, how did you spend your Christmas and New Year?
M: I was working. Literally. I spent Christmas Eve with my parents and on the Boxing Day I was on the set and shooting video for “Lights On”. I am such a badass workaholic. Same for New Year – I was hosting and DJing at a party in my own restaurant “Darzs”.
X: Where is your favourite place in Latvia and/or where would you recommend someone visiting Latvia go see?
M: Latvia is beautiful in every season. But I would advise summertime for visiting. Seaside is place to go, wild beaches – lonely places. Latvia is not so big so you can see so many great places in few days.
X: What is your favourite food to cook?
M: I am very simple with the foods. I love sports and active lifestyle so I stick with raw and simple things. Chicken, vegetables, fruits. But for the breakfast I love banana with peanut butter and cup of coffee.
X: If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, what would you choose?
M: A fish. I have always dreamt of aquarium in my house.
X: What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
M: I am quite embarrassing all the time (laughing). Don’t know why but I feel really clumsy and it happens too often. Luckily not on the stage.
‘X: Finally, do you have a message for our readers?
M: Start to live this life right now with lights on and celebrate! Life is beautiful and we would not worship the beauty without negative things, but never forget to see the light in everything! Thank you for your support! Be kind!
Markus, along with 11 other acts take part in the final of Dziesma 2014 this Saturday. See his semi-final performance of ‘Lights On’ below! On behalf of all the team at escXtra I would like to thank Markus for speaking with us once again and wish him all the best with Dziesma and whatever may be next!

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