Alexander Rybak: “I am a product”
Original article in Swedish on poplight.se
Translated by TessaLa, revised by Anni Jowett
Journalist: Alexander Borodin. Photo: Niclas Brorsson
Alexander Rybak, is the man on everyone’s lips right now. The (betting) odds have pointed to his advantage ever since it became clear that he would be Norway’s representative in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. “Gylleneskors” (Golden shoes) Bjorn Nordlund, Alexander Borodin and Irina Karelina met up with him when he was on a short promotional stop in Stockholm before leaving for Moscow. It became a different kind of interview where Rybak told with his own words about what has happened so far, what goes on, and what he thinks about Eurovision.
We met with Alexander Rybak at the record company Lionheart’s office in Stockholm and made an interview despite a tight schedule, since immediately afterwards Rybak would continue his promotional tour. His tight schedule showed that he had arrived in Stockholm the day before and was at the radio station at seven o’clock in the morning for the first interview which was followed rapidly by other media, non-stop until it was time to move on. “Gylleneskor” got some time with the Norwegian “child prodigy”.
What was it like to take part in the Norwegian selection, you turned out quite fast to be the big favourite?
There are many reasons to take part in the Melodi Grand Prix (Norwegian ESC selection), one part of it is of course to be known and to release an album. But it would also be disrespectful to participate in the Melodi Grand Prix if you do not have a plan to move on to Eurovision. Why I participated with this song is that I think this is what Norway needs in Eurovision this year.
I think that many people think a bit wrong when they participate only to make promotion for their new album. I didn’t want to do it like that.
What can you say about your entry “Fairytale”?
I wrote a song that I felt that the audience would feel was very Norwegian, but I wasn’t sure if it would work or not. The idea was to make something very special. The idea for “Fairytale” came very suddenly last summer when I was on “loffen” (wandering) and played my “fiddle” around in the local districts of Norway in exchange for accommodation and food. While walking around with the violin in this beautiful nature, I found myself!
Then suddenly one beautiful day I started playing a song and I thought “what a funny melody.” Where have I heard it before? But after a while it struck me that I have not heard it before. So I started with this idea, and after that I decided to take it further on to the Melodi Grand Prix.
What happened after you decided to participate with this song in Melodi Grand Prix?
I developed the idea and made it more danceable, a little more Norwegian and well, maybe it looks a little bit cynical, but even made the sound a little bit Eastern European. But it is important to me that it is always true, for it was after all a story I wanted to tell. I believe that a major reason for the audience to like the song was that I did not have to work with too many others.
I see that when an entry is written by five people, the text of three people and dance act put together by several more, then one finds himself only standing there as a ‘product’.
You mean it does not come from the artist himself ?
Yes, but I certainly realise that even I am a product. But it is me who created this product.
But what about before the Melodi Grand Prix. You didn’t go into the contest as a complete stranger or what?
No I didn’t, and now everyone says that I am such a talent and that I know how to naturally approach my fans and the media. What most people do not know is that I already did all the standard mistakes many years ago.
But you are aware that you are a huge favourite in the Eurovision Song Contest now?
Yes, but I try not to think about it.
We have our own list on “Gylleneskor”, where you been popular all the time.
Oh great, say hi and thank you from me.
We have also heard you have a role in a film right now.
Yes and I’m glad it’s a small role. I have a hope that there is a good actor in me, so that if a Norwegian, Swedish or Danish director in the future will make a movie, I hope they want me in. But right now I am aware that I am a wretched actor. Therefore, I have a small role so I do not sabotage the movie if I’m lousy.
What kind of role are you doing now?
It’s a small role as a gypsy and I play with among others, Morten Haarket from A-Ha.
But you’ve done more things?
Yes, previously I have also done “Fiddler on the Roof” in Oslo which was a huge success and I got a theatre award for that role. And then I felt actually a bit like an actor. And you have to be a bit of an actor in the Eurovision too, because I’ll have to pretend as if I have never responded to this kind of question before!
Eurovision is not only about music but also about the show, what plans do you have for your show?
We will not change that much. The dancers are somewhat closer to me and I’ll stand more in the middle so we are more gathered. However, we have brand new clothes because we were told that the ones we used in Melodi Grand Prix was a mix of Cossack and part of an Iranian folk suit. And we do not want to create any political problems.
The entry is a mix of many different styles, Norwegian and Russian. Did you have any thought about that?
First of all Norwegian, but of course I had plans. But I never thought it would become so international that in Russia they say that this is Russian folk music, that Greece believes that it is Greek, and so on. It’s strange what happened in Greece, because I have made many friends there now who say that it is Greek. We have a record deal with Universal in Greece and they use this for what it is worth, although it first and foremost of course is meant to be Norwegian. But it just shows that all over all the world, we are all humans and there is not that big difference between us when it comes to music and dance.
What happens after Eurovision?
This summer, me and my dance group will be travelling around and will perform at many festivals. And also I’m hoping for “Allsång på Skansen”
You are invited to “Allsång på Skansen” already?
No, but I hope to get an invitation. I would be extremely happy if I received a request about it.
It is strange that you have not already received an invitation, because Sweden’s twelve points we can already now promise will go to Norway this year. You can never promise it really, because you never know with Eurovision, but actually the entire editorial staff are convinced about it.
Who did Sweden give their twelve points to last year?
We gave them to Norway.
Yes, it was us Norwegians who was a bit unkind to you last year.
But do you follow Eurovision every year ?
Yes the international final I have followed the last four years. But not the national finals. And the very idea of participating in the Eurovision actually came up when Guri Schanke took part in Eurovision for Norway. A good artist, but with all due respect, I felt that it was not Norwegian, it was Spanish … Sporskt!
Now when talking about Eurovision everyone says that it is not like before when you had to sing in your own language and view your culture. But there is nothing that says you can’t view your country’s culture and still sing in English. And in Eurovision it’s not like that you have to show your own culture every year, every now and then is enough.
But in that case Sweden is sacred, because Sweden is Eurovision. The typical Swedish music is pop. Therefore, it is great that you are now doing something completely different. And if it was up to me, you would be allowed to do it next year too. But it will be difficult for Sweden to top what Malena did this year. She is really doing everything for the song. In the verses she forgets that she is an opera singer and focuses on the pop style. And then returns to opera in the chorus. Every second is well thought through.
So Sweden is your favourite?
I didn’t say that. But it is the top three. France and Sweden tied for second place and then Ukraine.
You like the Ukraine? I can tell you that she is here in Stockholm right now.
Is that true? Svetlana is here at the office? In which room?
No, she is at Hotel Scandic Malmen, only a block away.
Is that true? Then I want to meet her now, can we go there right away?
Well, you’ve got some interviews left, but we can speak with Lionheart to see if something can be arranged.
You’ve been on tour with Elisabeth Andreassen earlier this year, did you get any tips from her for Eurovision?
Yes, we finished the tour about a month ago, and after that I started working on my CD. What she told me is that I should not change much, and focus on the fact that I have a story to tell.
Do you see yourself as a fiddler or a singer? For in your performance, you combine being a singer, actor and fiddler.
I am first and foremost a fiddler, you can see when I perform the song that I’m not a singer. There are many people in Norway who have a much better voice than I have, but that’s not what I’m trying to convey, it’s my story that I want to tell from the stage.
Have you heard all the entries?
Yes, I have heard them all but can not remember all of them. It may happen when I hear them again, I realised that this was really good.
A representative from Lionheart comes in and stops the interview because Aftonbladet is waiting in the next room. Our interesting meeting with the person who might win Eurovision 2009 is over. We all thought it was a strange moment we got together, but Alexander is a very nice and likeable person who we hope to see again soon!
Lionheart managed to arrange for Alexander Rybak to make a short stop at Hotel Malmen ,on his way to Arlanda ,where Svetlana Loboda was waiting in the foyer. The Ukraine representative was here on the initiative of “Gylleneskor” to take part in the preview party held later that evening.
The meeting with Svetlana Loboda