Belgium’s Flemish broadcaster VRT is back to having a big national final after two internal selections in 2010 and 2012. Eurosong 2014 started with thirty artists, but after three weeks, only twelve of them are left. escXtra.com was lucky enough to speak to the man who had the highest score in the first audition: Udo! You can read what he had to say below:
escXtra.com: Hey Udo! First of all, thank you for taking the time to speak to us! How do you feel now, preparing for the semifinals?
Udo: My pleasure. It’s quite interesting to prepare a Eurovision song. First of all it was a long search across different countries, contacting al lot of people I know from co-writes and travels abroad. There was little time, so I didn’t write that much stuff myself. After a selection, I presented a bunch of songs to the experts and the television company. We chose a song with a message, based on a theme I came up with and for which I sent out a briefing to David Furusand, a good friend and publisher in Sweden. The television company wanted me to work on the song to make it fit my voice. So, I agreed with the writers to come in as a co-writer and I focused on a new chorus with long and powerful notes and I changed some of the lyrics to bring the right message, link up with what I wanted, using words non-native speakers accross Europe would understand and feel when hearing the song. After that I took my time to choose the key for the song in order to have the right feeling in the verses, which I thought was more important than the chorus, seen the fact that my range is wide enough to sing in a lot of keys. Finally, it was quite a work to do a kind of make-over in the production, putting in the instruments the team and I wanted (bag pipes, flügelhorn, strings, drums etc…) So, to answer your question, it was quite a ride, yes 🙂
X: Could you tell us something about you and your music?
U: Oh, I’m just a simple guy. I never had the intention to become a professional singer, but after winning a talent show and a television programme where 60 artists sung a Dutch evergreen, you are definetely on a roll. My strongest and weakest point is that I sing and write all kinds of music. That’s why I released a pop/rock, a soul and a Dutch pop album. A few years ago I decided to leave Sony Music and stop making albums. For me, that is too time consuming and too costly. The small market and people stealing instead of buying music takes away my drive. I prefer releasing a single from time to time and occasionaly write for other artists in Belgium and abroad.
X: You’re one of the bigger names in this year’s Eurosong, being the winner of X-Factor Belgium in 2005. Does that put extra pressure on you?
U: No, no pressure at all.
X: During the jury casting, you sang Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi by Céline Dion. Why did you choose to sing that song?
U: The way Céline Dion sings is the way I like to sing too. I’m a power pop guy with a good range, who likes to put emotions in a song. This is what I do; I like it when a song is fragile and emotional in the verses and when it contains long, high and powerful notes in the chorus. So, for me, Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi was the right choice I guess.
X: You scored the highest amount of points of all thirty acts this year with 93 points out of a possible 100. How does that feel?
U: It feels great, but it doesn’t mean anything. As from the semi-finals every candidate starts with a new song, so we are all standing on the same starting line.
X: You’re now preparing for the semifinals. What kind of song can we expect, ballad or uptempo?
U: Mid tempo.
X: You sing in Dutch, English and French, which of these three do you prefer to sing in? Did you decide which language you’ll use for Eurosong?
U: Generally, in music, the language you sing in is not that important. It is all about the vibe, emotions and performance. Understanding the lyrics or a part of them is a plus, but we all know not everyone perfectly understands what artists are singing about. Especially at a ESC, where millions of people watch a show, that is the case. I decided to sing in English and use strong words people accross Europe will understand for sure, in order to strengthen the message I would like to bring them.
X: You’re also a composer, so did you write your song yourself?
U: The song that was chosen, was written by Nadge and Pokka Jr., two young Swedish talents. They wrote to a briefing I had sent to my contact in Sweden, containing an idea that I woke up with. After the experts and the television company chose this as their favourite song, they asked me to re-write lyrics and the chorus, in order to bring an extra to the song and fit it to my voice. So yes, I came in as a third writer on this one.
X: Are you a Eurovision fan?
U: I used to be one when I was younger. Those were the days; watching the shows year after year with my parents, staying up till late. There was no Internet, just the television that opened a window to other countries and the rest of the world. The ESC has evolved a lot and I lost the bond I had. Nevertheless, it still is the most important and biggest song contest in the world, so in one way or another I am still a fan. As a music lover you have to watch it every year.
X: Do you have an all time favourite Eurovision song?
U: I have a favourite Eurovision artist: mister Johnny Logan. He is without a doubt one of the best performers and singers I know. He has the ability to pass on a feeling, to thrill people and to touch your heart. If music would be a religion, Johnny Logan would be a god.
X: Finally, do you have a message for the readers of escXtra.com?
U: Enjoy life, try to follow your heart and be happy, that’s all that matters in life. I hope everyone will enjoy the ESC in Copenhagen and it would be great to see some of you at a concert. You are allways welcome in Belgium!
escXtra.com would like to thank Udo for his time and answers. We would also like to wish him the best of luck in Sunday’s semifinal, where he will perform his song Hero (In Flanders Fields).