Our partner Songfestival.be has had an exclusive interview with Gerrit Kerremans. The leader of the selection committee that chooses the entry for the song festival every two years. In a previous article you could already read some things about the interview, but today Songfestival.be has put the full version online.
Get to know: Gerrit Kerremans
Gerrit has been a music coordinator for Flemish broadcaster VRT for years. Since 2010 he has also been the head of the selection committee that chooses the entry for the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Flanders. In the first year that Gerrit was active as committee leader, he appointed Tom Dice to represent Belgium in Oslo. He and his Artist & Repertoire-team then completed a very good process, with a happy ending! VRT got their best result so far. A win in the first semi final and a beautiful sixth place in the final. They finally thought they had found the ideal selection process, but unfortunately things went wrong again in 2012.
When Axel Hirsoux failed to qualify for the final in 2014, Gerrit Kerremans expanded his team with professionals from outside VRT. Previously, the team only consisted of people from within VRT. One of the people that Gerrit added to his team is Christoff Cocquyt. He is the manager of Selah Sue, Gabriel Rios, Novastar and Milo Meskens. According to Gerrit, Christoff is one of the best experts in the team. The credibility of the selection process also went to a higher level with him.
Dutch victory gives Belgium motivation
Both The Netherlands and Belgium have experienced a very dark period in the 2000’s. When The Netherlands finally reached the final after 11 years of waiting in 2013, they had a very successful period. Between 2013 and 2019, the Netherlands only missed the final once. While famous names often don’t work in Eurovision, The Netherlands managed to get two top 10 places in succession with big names like Anouk and Ilse DeLange (The Common Linnets). These successes triggered Gerrit to strive for better Eurovision results. After a few years, AVROTROS dropped the famous names for a moment and opted for a young artist from The Voice of Holland, and he won the whole thing! Gerrit looks up enormously to the recent successes of the Netherlands and therefore wants to do his utmost not to fail. Certainly not now that the festival is taking place in Rotterdam.
How does Belgium select the perfect Eurovision entry?
Keep an eye on platforms and TV shows.
Gerrit attends the final of The Voice of Flanders every year. Our radio station Studio Brussel organizes the music competition ‘De Nieuwe Lichting’ every year, while MNM in turn organizes Rising Star. These are all suitable music platforms to see young artists improving their music skills and to get inspiration for a Eurovision entry.
The so called ‘longlist’
Together with the Artist and Repertoire team, Gerrit draws up an ultimate wish list of artists whom they see as suitable candidates. They are then contacted one by one. That list goes from very famous artists to very unknown ones. We collect a lot of information about all our preferred artists. That way we can weigh the positive with the negative points. Do they sing well live? Can they control their nerves?
In a previous topic related article we already gave some details about this interview. The so-called long list was raised. This is also the case that VRT is currently in contact with the number one on their wish list.
Prepare for declines
Many young artists that we ask for participation still look at the Song Contest with a certain aversion. They think it’s rather a circus. Gerrit finds this very unfortunate and is therefore very happy with the victory of Duncan Laurence this year. In this way young people also see that the Song Contest can also be taken seriously and it’s not only about the so called ‘joke entries’. We have been trying for years to send Stromae, but unfortunately he declines every year.
An example of a young emerging artist that Gerrit is thinking of is Angèle. Since Angèle comes from the French-speaking part of Belgium, Gerrit hopes that RTBF will ask her to participate in Eurovision. He adds that it may be too early for Angèle to participate. She is currently well on the way to conquering Europe. Participating in the song festival could give a negative effect on her career if her score were to disappoint.
Natalia and Billie show interest for Eurovision adventure
For years, Natalia has been publicly showing its interest in a Eurovision participation. In 2004 she participated in the national pre-selection. There she became second just after Xandee. Now Natalia still has that interest, although she no longer wants to participate in a national final. In 2018 VRT had discussions with Natalia’s manager about a possible song festival participation. There have also been discussions with Billie Bertein, another well-known Flemish artist with a lot of potential for Eurovision. In the end the choice fell on a less well-known singer, Sennek.
Gerrit explains that this is not about someone who is just a good singer, there are many more factors involved. Appearance and personality are very important. You should also not forget that such a Eurovision adventure brings a lot of stress. It is very important that an artist can control those nerves.
Learn from mistakes and improve in 2020
After the successful period between 2015 and 2017, it unfortunately went less well with Belgium again. The songs were there, but two years in a row they couldn’t sell their entry well enough on stage. This resulted in two non-qualifications. In 2020, Gerrit and his A&R team will take a different approach. The guidance must really be top. New people are being added to the team, there will be many more rehearsals. Improvement compared to 2018 must be clearly visible in 2020.
Who do you want to see waving the black-yellow-red flag of Belgium in Rotterdam? Let us know in the comments below!