In the run-up to Eurovision, escXtra.com decided it was time to put a spotlight on the people behind the songs: the composers and lyricists. In our third interview we spoke to the man who is lucky enough to be the composer of his second Belgian entry: Ashley Hicklin! Read what he had to say below!
escXtra.com: Hey Ashley! First of all, congratulations on having another entry in the Eurovision Song Contest!
Ashley: Thanks very much! It’s very exciting!!!!!
X: You’re a singer-songwriter. So far, you’ve only done the second of those for Eurovision. Would you ever consider singing on that big Eurovision stage?
A: As an artist myself I’ve sung on many small stages and also in big stadiums, so I’ve been pretty lucky… I’ve never performed to 125 million people though, I guess that would be amazing!
X: Talking about your own singing career, you were discovered on BBC Introducing. That’s the format BBC have now used to pick their Eurovision act, Molly Smitten-Downes. Being a ‘product’ of that format yourself, how do you think about it being a selection format for Eurovision?
A: It certainly helped me a lot at the beginning – I was a poor student with no money at the time, and it really helped me to get on my feet in the world of music. The great thing about it being the format for selection of talent is that the local BBC teams REALLY have an input. So each county’s local BBC Radio DJs and TV teams can pick up on local acts that are causing a buzz and help them to get heard on a national and even international level.
X: Back in 2010, you wrote Me And My Guitar for Tom Dice. Up to date, that is the best scoring Flemish entry in the contest. How does that make you feel?
A: Very Proud! Tom did such a great performance, he’s a legend in Belgium these days 🙂 I’m glad I have a part in that success story!
X: You’ve written for a lot of people outside of Eurovision as well. Just looking at some names: Daniele Negroni, Barbara Moleko, Ben Ivory and we could go on for a while. Which of the acts you’ve worked with would you say should go to Eurovision soon?
A: Actually, the funny thing is, about a year ago I started writing songs with a young folk-pop singer. I said to her ‘your style would be perfect for Eurovision’… And guess what? Little Elaiza is now the German Eurovision entry this year!!! So my prediction came true 🙂 You can hear a nice song we did together on her album called ‘Cinderella’.
X: It’s the second time Belgium sends one of your songs to Eurovision. Why did you decide to send a song to Belgium again?
A: Somehow I have a great connection with the people of Belgium and some of my best friends live there. I travel to Brussels maybe ten times a year and have releases in Belgium every few months, so it feels almost like a second home to me.
X: Let’s talk about your 2014 entry. It’s once again for Belgium, after 2010. Axel will sing Mother. Could you tell us something about your own mother?
A: Haha! Yes of course, she is more than a little crazy but I love her very much. She has always supported my music even though it was hard at the beginning for me to survive with music as my only job. I just started a new musical project you can listen to at www.ohbrightsparks.com and she is already the biggest fan on the planet!
X: You’ve written the song together with Rafael Artesero, who also has some Eurovision experience (Spain 2011, Que Me Quiten Lo Bailao). How was it to work with him?
A: To be honest, a little strange! We never actually met!!!!! It was all written via throwing ideas around by email. The modern world huh? I look forward to meeting him in the real world for a cold (albeit) expensive beer in Copenhagen to celebrate our song 🙂
X: Mother absolutely landslided the national final with 57% of the televoting. After that, it became quite the favourite for bookmakers, putting Belgium in the top ten there. Ruslana even said Belgium would send a winner with this song. Did you ever see the pre-Contest success coming?
A: I was actually very fortunate this year to also have another song in the Belgium pre-selection, so I was kinda cheering for both Axel’s “Mother” and Yass’ “Need You Tonight”. In the world of music I am constantly being surprised by the public’s reaction, but in this case I was quietly confident that Axel would really light a spark in everyone’s hearts. Afterall, everyone has a mother right?
X: Finally, I’d like to thank you very much for this interview! Do you have a message for the readers of escXtra.com?
A: See you all in Copenhagen my ESC friends! Let the party begin!!! And may the best song win 🙂
escXtra would like to thank Ashley Hicklin for taking the time to speak to us ahead of the contest in Copenhagen. You can listen to Belgium’s entry, Mother, below!