Earlier this week, I had the genuine pleasure of meeting San Marino’s hope for Eurovision success in Rotterdam: Senhit. Even though I spent no more than an hour with the singer and her team, we covered a broad range of topics for an in-depth discussion. This includes her Eurovision experience nine years ago, her evolution of musical style, her thoughts on the 2020 contest, diversity and, of course, her 2020 entry.
Hello Senhit! Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Senhit (spelt with an ‘H’!). I’m from Italy, but I will represent San Marino for the second time at the Eurovision Song Contest, in Rotterdam. And I’m very happy and very glad because when they called me 2011 I have to be honest to you, I underestimated the contest because I didn’t know that it was so big. I enjoyed it though and it was an amazing opportunity. I met so many people and it was very good. A very big dream for me.
You know, the fact that the contest allows people to sing together and the only language is music was, for me, a very beautiful and special opportunity. So after almost 10 years, when they call me again and asked me to do it again Eurovision I was super super happy. And you know why? Because I feel ready. I’m grown and I’m more positive. I have a beautiful song… beautiful songs and an amazing team. I’m much more familiar with the contest now and know what to expect at Eurovision.
You have been rumoured to make a return for a few months now. Does it feel strange to say out loud that you’re back competing for San Marino?
A little bit, but it’s something very exciting because as I told you, I’m ready. It’s a good time for me to represent San Marino again. First of all it’s a way of me saying thank you [to San Marino] because they have been a very, very, very good country to me. Even though I’m Italian, they gave me the opportunity to represent and perform for them in 2011. When they asked me again to do it, I was like, ‘of course’! Eurovision is a big platform to compete and celebrate music between countries. So I will compete with and alongside Italy… but for me it’s a party is a big and huge party.
Obviously in Italy San Remo is hugely popular. But across many countries in Europe, Eurovision has also grown in popularity. Have you always followed the the contest?
Yeah. Especially after 2011, I’ve become a very huge fan of Eurovision. Many times over the years I’ve thought ‘oh, probably I can do it again for Italy. Why not?’. But of course, you have to participate and win San Remo. It’s a huge contest and I think my style is different to the typical San Remo-style song. I’ve evolved. I think my style now is something much more fun and stylish, you know?
That brings me to my next question about your stylistic shift musically. I loved ‘Stand By’. It was a gentle, understated and heartfelt ballad – but with time you have covered not only ballads but pop, electropop and a slightly more edgier soundscape.
You seem pretty comfortable transcending musical styles and/or genres?
I think I’m an eclectic artist. because I love pop music. I love rock, I love ballads. But then I decide that all these styles are me. So for Eurovision 2020 in Rotterdam, I will like to be more me in a fun way, you know? So this is why I decide when San Marino called me I wanted to be very clear I want to do an uptempo song instead of a ballad like ‘Stand By’.
I want to entertain people. Honestly, I believe if I enjoy something, I can convince you to enjoy it too! I want everyone to enjoy the atmosphere of the contest but also my song. Eurovision is a happy contest – so let’s do it!
Why do you think it is important San Marino participates in the contest? It’s the smallest participating country…
And that’s exactly why! It’s a small country, but it’s a really powerful one. We have a beautiful team and they really believe in this contest and these songs. I’m very proud to represent somebody now because yeah, they’re small but come on.
An international team?
Yes, exactly. Very international. I don’t want it to feel snobby or superior, but I really believe San Marino can do well and even win the contest. Yes we are small, but we’re strong and we are ready. I have a good producer and music team behind me. Why not!
Malta has hosted the Junior Contest a couple of times, so why not San Marino?
How long have you known you were going to be San Marino’s representative for Rotterdam 2020?
The rumours that started after the summer, but we only finalised the decision before the end of the year, something like that. And then we started the process of the songs and the team and the show and blah, blah, blah, blah.
Can you give any details about your team?
We have a very good surprise. I don’t know if I can tell you now, but I think so. Luca Tommassini will be our director. I met him when I decided to go back to Italian. I asked him to do my music video with the song ‘Dark Room’. Then we decided to translate the song in English ‘HEART ACHE’ and he directed that video too.
Then, when SMRTV called me, I asked him to collaborate with me. To be my partner in crime for this show. He was very glad because for him is the first time to do Eurovision. It will be lots of fun! He’s a really big name, you know, Luca Tommassini he’s a very famous choreographer.
NB: Luca worked with the likes of Michael Jackson, Geri Halliwell and Eurovision 2007 alum Kenan Doğulu!
Now we’ve talked about the people involved in your performance… what about the people involved in your song… or songs? Which term is the best one to use?
Well, we decided to do a ‘digital battle’ because I couldn’t decide between two beautiful songs.
One is called ‘Obsessed‘. The other one is ‘Freaky‘ and they are both mine and I’m very proud of them. Yeah. I decided to do this digital battle and, and let the fans and the followers to choose the song for Eurovision.
An online digital battle is a really interesting way of selecting an entry!
Yeah. Because, as I told you after 2011, I met some beautiful people and I keep contact with the fans and I was very thankful for them. So when they call me for San Marino, I said can we do this digital battle because I’m very confused with which sound to take forward. They are two big uptempo songs you will hear them soon. I can’t wait to see what happens!
Have you kept up with what other countries are doing in preparation for Rotterdam?
I’ve watched a few videos. I saw the UK song, the guy, and I loved the song, a a beautiful voice. And of course I know Diodato from Italy and I’m very happy because he has a powerful, powerful song. A beautiful song with beautiful meaning and um, a song from Finland… Cicciolina? And then who else? Oh, Israel. Yes. This lady, her family is from Ethiopia right?
That’s right! Which leads me to my next question I would love to hear your thoughts on. The slogan for the contest this year is Open Up… but a few years ago it was Celebrate Diversity which was ironic because the three of the hosts of the show were three white men.
This year, it seems the contest is much more diverse and representative of Europe’s multicultural society? Czech Republic, Israel, Malta and of course San Marino among others are being represented by a person of colour. Do you think this is a good thing?
Of course! Absolutely. This is why I love Eurovision because since 2011 it’s grown and grown and you know become much more diverse. I’m very happy. It’s funny, back in 2011 I think I was the only one [person of colour]. Often you see stories that make you feel as if Europe is closing the window to the world, you know what I mean? It’s nice how this contest that can be very important that we sing and celebrate everyone. In that way, I’m giving something to the audience. I’m very happy about it.
It’s nice how this contest that can be very important that we sing and celebrate everyoneSenhit
Well, even in Italy last year there was resistance to Mahmood representing the boot shaped country which was ridiculous…
Exactly, and yes it was!
Not including yourself, do you have a favourite entry or performer from San Marino in the contest?
Valentina did a very good job and even Serhat I think did a great job last year. I don’t have one favourite actually, but I guess probably Valentina.
Language is a huge thing in the contest. However, as the years have gone on, songs are more likely to be in English than a native tongue. Only two entries from San Marino have been in Italian, why do you think that is?
Eurovision is a good opportunity, you know, to show your art and of course English, it’s more accessible. Because Italy sing in Italian, we decide to sing in English. But probably when you will decide my song for Rotterdam we will probably translate the song in Italian too.
As a separate version?
Yeah. As it’s March we’ll probably see what happens because sometimes the translation from English to Italian is not very nice but it depends. We have a very good producer. So wait and see!
Going back to 2011 for a moment, what was your lasting memory? It’s a huge experience, of course, but looking back, what is your resounding memory of ESC 2011?
The people! Oh my God, I enjoyed the people so much and as I told you before, I kind of regret my experience because I didn’t completely enjoy the moment. I was so stressed and everything was so new and I felt so superficial and so silly. But the people, I have a beautiful memories. Partying in the Euroclub or the tour before the show, like the concert in London. It was in Soho actually. Oh my God. I was, I had so much fun. And even though the period in Dusseldorf, because I was there for almost two weeks. Amazing. Beautiful. And, funny thing is that, when I didn’t get to the final, I was very sad. Of course, very sad and very annoyed. But then when it came back in Italy, yeah. The warmth of the fans. It was amazing.
Here in the UK, some people have really negative views of the contest…
No, no, not me! Oh, this is much bigger than I think. It is amazing. Beautiful. I have to tell you that after 2011, when they came back in Italy, I said to myself, I have to do again the contest one day. I have to, but I want to be prepared, I want to be ready. So I was in contact with San Marino to do it again, but I wasn’t ready. So this is why I’m back. I’m ready. I will enjoy everything this time. I will be super focussed. And then, yeah, I have to confess that I will enjoy it, but I will try to win. That’s why not because I deserve it.
Because I feel ready. I’m grown and I’m more positive. I have a beautiful song… beautiful songs and an amazing team.Senhit
You’re not the only returning act this year. We mentioned Destiny from Malta, who won the Junior contest. There’s also two members from Serbian girl group Hurricane who have been involved in the contest.
In fact, a member of the group mentioned in an interview she suffered from PED – Post Eurovision Depression which is why she wanted to come back. A week or so after the contest, with no intense rehearsal or the constant buzz the contest offers now its all over.
Did you experience something similar?
No, I came home and I was super upset I didn’t qualify to the final, but then I said, okay, you don’t need the attitudes. What do you want to do in life? And I had my project. Thank God. I have a sponsor that worked with me for a long time. So this is why we decide to see a different perspective, see a different style of music and see a new producer. This time is the same. I will finish a EP, a mini album that will come out in the end of May.
I will try to sort out a little tour too. Eurovision is a very good opportunity and huge window and this year I heard that it will be even bigger. The Netflix stuff?
Do you have a favourite of the two songs which the public will select from?
But you’re not going to tell me?
Of course not! Well… maybe later!
I want to entertain people. […] Eurovision is a happy contest – so let’s do it!Senhit
Which of Senhit’s two songs do you want to see performed in Rotterdam? Let us know! Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter, @escxtra on Instagram and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates!