Meet the ESCXTRA Team! Part 41 – TOM R

My first Eurovision memory? Bonnie Tyler...

As our team continues to grow, it means there are more of us that you can get to know! Therefore, we will continue to bring back our “Meet the ESCXTRA Team” feature each time we have someone new for you to meet. What is our personal Eurovision story? Why did we want to be a part of this website? What are our favourite Eurovision songs of all-time? Also, how can you get in touch with us on social media? Read on to find out!

Hey there! My name is Tom and I’m the youngest member of the ESCXTRA team, and I wrote my first article for the website a year ago so I thought it would be a fitting time to write my “Meet me” article! Being the youngest member of the team does mean that I can wind up the rest of the team about the fact that I still wasn’t even born when the semi-finals were introduced to the contest. But it also means I discovered Eurovision in its modern stage. Big LEDs, huge hits and lots of wind machines – but more about my discovery of the contest later. I’m currently studying for my GCSEs in 2021 and after that I hope to go on to pursue a career in journalism or something to do with dance. Why dance? Well, I’ve been dancing for nearly 8 years now, competing nationally – and yes, I have to drop in the fact that I’m a two-time British formation finalist. Now, it’s your time to find more out about me and my Eurovision journey. If you’d like to follow my craziness, you can find my Eurovision accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

Your first Eurovision memory?

Rewind to 2013, a few weeks before the contest was taking place in Malmö. I can remember an advert popping up on TV for “Eurovision”. I’d never really heard of it before but I knew Bonnie Tyler was representing us and being a proud Welsh, I had to watch it. I didn’t watch much of the show because I was still young so I still had to go to bed early – I was only 9 at the time. But from that moment onwards, I had entered into a world of European pop madness!

The morning after the final, I checked the results and found out that Bonnie had only placed 19th. I was gutted and didn’t understand why she didn’t do well. My mother told me, “It’s political. We’ll never win the contest again.” Of course, I was still young at this point so I did believe that the UK would never win again. But that didn’t matter. I had discovered Eurovision.

To this day, my mother is still adamant that the UK will never again due to politics. The real reason the UK won’t win again is slightly different though… it’s because we never send a quality song anymore!

Your Eurovision journey?

Since I discovered Eurovision in 2013, I think I’ve become a little bit more obsessed year on year. I was still young in 2013 and 2014, I can’t really remember much about when I watched the contest or who my favourites were at the time. It’s a different story when it comes to 2015 though – what an amazing contest that was. It was when I turned from casual fan to averagely-obsessed fan.

I discovered the UK’s entry a few weeks before the contest. It was Electro Velvet’s “Still In Love With You”. As soon as I heard the song, I immediately downloaded it to my iPod. I loved it – the song was infectious and it had a really good beat! Looking back, I do wonder why I loved it, as it has to go down as one of the UK’s worst ever entries… nevertheless, I loved it at the time. The night of the final came – yes, I hadn’t yet discovered Eurovision semi-finals at this point – and I was gripped. There was so many amazing performances – Estonia, Norway, Italy, Australia, Cyprus… but one stood out above the rest for me and that was Israel’s ‘Golden Boy’, Nadav Guedj. The first ever song I voted for in Eurovision. It still is to this day, one of my favourite entries of 2015.

2016 was another Eurovision milestone for me. I watched the semi-finals for the first time. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to watch the final live on the Saturday night as I was going to be away at a dance competition so I seemed to find a way to fix my cure and stumbled across the two semi-finals. For some reason, a stand-out song to me from those semi-finals was Kaliopi’s “Dona”, representing the then-named F.Y.R. Macedonia. I think it was the uniqueness of the song that made it so memorable to me.

2017 is where things got a little crazy for me though and when I became a true Eurovision super-fan. Saturday 13th May 2017. I was bored and I was getting extremely excited for the grand final that night. I’d already watched the semi-finals and I had my fingers crossed for Wales’ very own Lucie Jones (if I hadn’t already mentioned, I’m a very proud Welsh!). My boredom led me to research the contest that day and I was in utter shock. I didn’t realise there was a massive pre-season that began in December. Nor did I realise there was a junior version of the contest. And I didn’t realise it had been going for so long – since 1956! From this moment on I was hooked as a hard-core fan and I’ve never looked back.

Lucie didn’t do as well as I’d hope she’d do on the night but the moment when Australia give us 12 points I think I will remember forever. I jumped up off the bed, where I was watching the contest and let out a slight (okay, huge) shriek! I was over-the-moon.

2018 was a weird Eurovision year for me. I followed the pre-season a lot but I was so busy on the week of Eurovision, I watched none of the shows live, in their entirety. I did catch the second half of the second semi-final and the performances of the finalists, but it’s really not a year I’d like to repeat in terms of Eurovision… I like to be able to relax and enjoy the contest, instead of only being able to catch bits here and there. As you can tell, I’m leaving a song for every year in my Eurovision journey, so I’ll leave a national final entry that will always remain one of my favourites. Absolutely robbed if you ask me.

2019: my first Eurovision year with ESCXTRA. The pre-season was full of amazing songs but so many got knocked out to mediocre songs which failed to qualify in Tel Aviv. However, saying that, the final was amazingly strong. There was so many 10/10 entries, it was really hard to choose my winner. So, for the first time, I actually voted the maximum 20 times in the final! And I don’t regret my phone bill being slightly higher this May, sometimes you need to support your favourites, and that’s what I did! I’ll save my winner until later in this article, so for now, I’ll show you my “ideal winner” of the contest – my winner if all the right songs won the national finals in my opinion… what a tune!

Why is Eurovision special to you?

This is a complicated question to answer… I discovered Eurovision before I even turned 10. I was still young, and it could have been something that passed for me. Like so many of my other interests. But every year, I discover something new about the contest and get attached to it in a different way. And as I get older, I know I’ll get attached to the contest in so many more ways. I hope to travel the continent watching national finals, pre-parties, semi-finals, even the big grand final. I love discovering new things about countries, and I feel like Eurovision is one of the best ways to do it.

As I’ve said, I’m also a big lover of dance and I love watching all the stage shows put on by countries when they’re selecting their songs for Eurovision. It always fascinates me how even the smallest of Eurovision countries like San Marino and Iceland can still put on amazing selections and send fantastic songs to the contest. Between March and May, “the preparation months” I suppose, I love to see how each country is working on their acts and how they will stage the performance at the contest. It’s one of the major things I look for in May – is the staging good, does the choreography fit the song? And that’s another reason Eurovision is so special to me. I can see my passion on a big stage, being watched by hundreds of millions across the world.

Finally, Eurovision is the one thing that can often just bring my family together for three nights a year to sit down and watch a show, have a laugh and make memories together. My family are quite a busy family – whether it’s me at school or dance, my parents out working, we don’t always get to spend lots of quality family time together but for three nights a year in May, everything stops and we sit, laugh and listen together. I don’t make Eurovision a big event. We have a “small party” for our family of three. A night in with pizzas, pyjamas, scorecards and four hours of musical appreciation.

What attracted you to ESCXTRA?

In 2017, when I became a “hard-core fan” of the contest, I set up a Eurovision Instagram page and I found out how big the Eurovision ‘fandom’ actually is and how many fans of the contest there is across the world. Since then, I’ve always wanted to write for a Eurovision website and ESCXTRA is actually my third site I’ve wrote for.

I started writing for the website which is now called ESCTakeover and then I went on to write for a smaller site called Worldvision News, where I was Deputy Editor-in-Chief. We ran throughout the 2018 pre-season but unfortunately the Editor-in-Chief decided to leave just before the 2018 contest. He decided to make me Editor-in-Chief but I simply couldn’t run the site alone so I decided to leave and apply for ESCXTRA.

I didn’t know how my application would go down with me being so young but I was successful and I’m now a very proud member of such an amazing team! Now, I’ve been writing for the website for a year. A year ago today, I actually published my first article about Lee Ryan joining BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. Since joining, I’ve wrote a multitude of articles covering the 2018 junior contest in Minsk and the 2019 contest in Tel Aviv. Now, I’m already writing articles in preparation for Gliwice-Silesia 2019 and Amsterdam/Rotterdam 2020 and I’m so excited for all the opportunities I will no doubt have in the future with ESCXTRA.

And finally; your top 5 Eurovision songs of all-time?

Well, you’ve already seen some Eurovision songs that have meant something to me throughout my Eurovision journey and I’m such an indecisive type, I can’t choose my top 5 entries that easily. So instead I’m going to show you 5 more songs that mean something to me in my Eurovision journey, so far!

Luca Hänni – She Got Me (Switzerland 2019)

As I mentioned earlier in my article, it was so hard to decide to my winner for the 2019 contest. It was a tight race between Switzerland, Sweden, France, Cyprus, Norway and Moldova, but in the end, it was Switzerland that I decided was the best (if you couldn’t tell from the feature image of this article!). Amazing song, and deserving to be in the ‘songs that define my Eurovision journey’!

ABBA – Waterloo (Sweden 1974)

Definitely has to be one my list of songs in my Eurovision journey. This is the first Eurovision song I ever listened to. Way before I ever discovered Eurovision. And look at what success they went on to have after the contest!

Bobbysocks! – La det swinge (Norway 1985)

If I have anyone to blame for my love of Eurovision, it’s my mum. Before I was born, she would watch Eurovision every year. And this is one of her favourite winners of all-time!

Manw – Perta (Wales Junior 2018)

Not strictly a Eurovision song. A Junior Eurovision song this time. But to see Wales, as a country on its own, represented in a Eurovision contest was just amazing! Da iawn Manw! Cymru am Byth! Wales forever, long live Wales!

Shiri Maimon – Hasheket Shenish’ar (Israel 2005)

My favourite is always changing but this was my number one for the ESC250 vote last year, and I think it will remain my one of my favourites for a long time. A beautiful song, sung perfectly. Couldn’t ask for any more! Spectacular!

And that’s it, that’s me! I hope you enjoyed just a short bit about my life, my Eurovision journey and why I joined and why I love ESCXTRA! Make sure to carry on reading all the articles on ESCXTRA, and much love to every single reader!

Stay tuned for the next part in our Meet the ESCXTRA team series! Remember, you can share your Eurovision stories with us in the comments section below or via the comments sections on our social media channels @ESCXTRA. We would love to hear them!

Tom Ryan

After joining the team in 2018, I've been lucky enough to cover five Eurovision seasons for ESCXTRA; each season always offers something new and exciting to look forward to! Outside of the Eurovision world, I am a prospective English Literature student, starting university later this year.
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