Editorials & Opinion

Meet Stig Karlsen, Norway’s Head of Delegation

Eurovision Song Contest is all about the songs, the singers, the show, the outfits, the glitter and the voting. Before we get to the actual contest however, a lot of behind the scenes work happens. escXtra wants to look at some of the things that we don’t really see or perhaps even think about. For instance; what does a Head of Delegation really do?

Head of Delegation

For a start, we have decided to follow the job of a HoD, to see what that might entail. We have been lucky enough to get to stay pretty close to Norway’s Head of Delegation, Stig Karlsen. In this article, we get to know a bit more about him, and why he is the perfect HoD!

Introducing Stig Karlsen

Stig Karlsen took over as HoD for the Norwegian delegation in 2015, after the contest in Vienna. At that point Norway was on a good streak. They’d achieved 4th, 8th and 8th places in the previous three years. Therefore Stig was met with huge expectations; continue the good work, and eventually bring Eurovision back to Norway!
In his first year as HoD, that didn’t really work out as planned. Norway’s Agnete and her “Icebreaker” failed to qualify for the final in Stockholm, after finishing 13th in the semi. The year after went much better; JOWST feat Aleksander Walmann finished in 10th place with “Grab the Moment”. With that result, Norway was back on the right track!

Stig Karlsen talking Eurovision

Stig, speaking enthusiastically about Eurovision

Starting out at NRK

Stig describes himself as having been a loser in school. He wasn’t by any means an A student, and had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. “I hadn’t really found my place in the world.”, he tells us. However, he was very much into music from an early age, and developed an interest in TV and all kinds of media related things.
When he first started working at NRK, he started out as the coffee boy. He would prepare conference rooms, drive around fetching people, do the mail run, that kind of stuff. Being very eager and interested, he would say yes to any job that came up, even the ones he wasn’t at all qualified for. So he would do research to find out what the jobs were really all about. Making the right phone calls, reading the right books, asking all the right questions, he constantly learned new things. Putting the work in, he was able to take on new roles as his knowledge grew. In his own words; “There really isn’t a thing I haven’t done here at NRK over the years, from making coffee to photographing, editing, making music, doing graphics, all aspects of tv making.”

Stig Karlsen, Norway's Head of Delegation

Stig, during our interview at NRK

Listens to “everything and anything”

When asked about what kind of music is closest to his heart, Stig tells us that he grew up with rock, both of the classic and heavier kinds. However, he soon discovered other genres as well, and today he listens to “everything and anything”. He finds joy in quality, regardless of genre, and as long as the music is genuine and believable, it really doesn’t matter what it is. In addition to this he also admits to being quite crazy when it comes to his musical preferences. He tends to go for the music that “the youngsters” listen to, the things that live in the charts. This, he says, is despite the fact that his age really does suggest a different kind of selection.
Stig is a huge fan of live music, and having been to hundreds of concerts, has a hard time picking his favorite. Eventually he does manage to narrow it down to three; Lady Gaga, Karpe Diem and his forever favorites, Kiss. Lady Gaga he just finds unbelievable, an incredible artist. She delivers song after song after song and they are all massively cool pop songs. She always presents amazing shows, and she herself is this great stage persona. Norwegian rap duo Karpe Diem is one of the best acts around these days. They sing in Norwegian, and build bridges between the different cultures that live side by side in Norway. Earlier this year they managed to fill Oslo Spektrum three nights in a row. At their concerts they play all their hits, and everybody knows the songs. Finally, of course, Stig has to include his childhood heroes, Kiss, who have been constant companions throughout his entire life.

Stig with two of his heroes from Kiss in 2005  (Image Eivind Kristensen, rb.no)

Becoming HoD

It was perhaps only natural that Stig would be the one to take over as Head of Delegation when Vivi Stenberg decided to quit after the 2015 contest in Vienna. For many years he has worked specifically with music on TV at NRK; this has been the focus in everything he has done. He has worked on, and in many cases been in charge of, huge productions such as «VG-lista Topp20», «Beat for Beat», «The Hit» and «Lydverket», just to mention a few.
Music as TV entertainment is very much under his skin, and his massive expertise in this area is what has brought him to where he is now. Consequently, what could be more logical than moving on to the MGP/ESC project manager job at NRK? It is after all the world’s largest music event on TV, and music is the main ingredient. Also, after working all kinds of jobs at NRK, he knows what it takes to make a huge project like this come together.
He stopped by the livestream in Kyiv, where he answered a whole lot of questions from our wonderful children!

In the next article we will take a closer look at what the Head of Delegation actually does…

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