Alexander Rybak: “The most difficult for me was the impersonation of Bilan”

In 2009 Alexander Rybak, a Norwegian with Belarusian roots, woke up famous. He didn’t just win Eurovision- his song “Fairytale” had the highest number of votes in the contest’s history. Today, Rybak has come to Moscow in order to participate in the Channel “Russia” show “One to One”.  The musician shared with “TN” how his has life has changed in the last years.

Source:  the Magazine “TV Week” . Author: Maria Adamchuk
Translated by Marina Rolbin

Alexander Rybak:” The most difficult for me was Bilan’s impersonation.”

-Life goes on at full speed! (I hope I’m using this Russian saying correctly?) I’m finally a violinist with a diploma. I received a B.A. in music from the Musical Academy Barratt Due in Oslo. Before this, I didn’t have time for my studies. I was always busy. First I participated in (and won!) the Norwegian version of the show “The big oportunity”, then I received a big theater award for my participation in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”, and then when I was 23, I went to Moscow for Eurovision. So, instead of studying for four years, I studied for eight. But that’s OK, the most important thing is that I’m finally done.

In the years since I participated in Eurovision, I also managed to act in several Scandinavian movies. One of those movies, called “Yohan the Wanderer”, was shown in 30 countries. I also voiced one of the characters in the animated feature “How to Train Your Dragon”. And in part 2, I also wrote a song for the soundtrack.

The difference between Russian and Norwegian show business is immense. If you “make it big” in Russia-you sing from every corner and even if they get tired of you, they are always waiting and inviting you to all the concerts. But the Norwegians, in contrast, are always making sure that everyone gets fame distributed equally. And if you become more famous than others, they will shoot you down: shame on you, you should let someone else be the star. On the one hand, it’s nice. This is a country that has equal opportunities for everyone and all that. But on the other hand, because of this strange equality, Norway doesn’t have a single superstar. You might be surprised, but I’m the first famous musician since Morten Harket in a-ha and this group was formed in 1982!

And the movers and shakers of Norwegian show business didn’t know what to make of me. It was especially obvious when Norway hosted Eurovision. The organizers told me to open the final:  “We created a great number for you – you will fly across the stage!” I was surprised: “But Bilan did the same thing last year when he opened in Moscow! Why don’t I come up with something more original? I can for example perform my new number. I assure you that it will become a hit.

“No! You will either fly or you have 1 ½ minutes to perform your Fairytale and leave.” So the song that I couldn’t perform during Eurovision already has 20 million views online. And that’s our show business.

But I was also able to become a fashion icon among the violinists. It’s funny! When Eurovision was taking place in Norway, I broke my hand. Thank God it was my right hand, the one that holds the bow. For a long time I performed with a special black glove that held my wrist in place. And some violinists decided that this was the fashion. And I still meet some colleagues who perform with black gloves.

After my victory in Moscow, the movers and shakers of Norwegian show business didn’t know what to make of me.  Eurovision Contest (Moscow 2009)


I don’t do anything specifically promotional for myself. I am terrified of all those TV shows where the stars ice skate or learn to cook. I get a ton of these requests to participate in the shows, but I always say no. When they invited me to the show “One to One” I immediately agreed, since this was all very near and dear to me. When I was little, I used to love impersonating different singers in front of the mirror – I danced like Chip ‘n’ Dale and did Michael Jackson’s moon walk. I think these experiments really helped me in this project. Also, I’ve never lived in Russia and I heard many of the songs that we’ve been performing for the first time. For example, when Mark Tishman performed “I’m Ready to Kiss the Sand”, I totally loved it and listened to it several times a day.

It’s most difficult for me to impersonate women. And I was very afraid that they would give me some thin singers, because it’s easy to make an artist fat, but it’s not realistic to make him thinner. But I got lucky. Gloria Gaynor and Lyudmila Ryumina who I impersonated, are fairly full-bodied women. It was difficult, strangely enough, to impersonate Dima Bilan, even though I know him, I’ve seen him many times on stage and we have a similar voice quality. But if I can play the violin and chat with the audience during my concerts, Dima always keeps the rhythm going. And this is very hard physically.

By the way, when I impersonated Dima, this really gave me a reason to think about what I want from life. I’m only 28  and now all this travel, female fans and the image of the cute teenager, this is what I need. But when I’m 40, I don’t want to suddenly realize that I don’t have anything else and I can’t do anything else other than travel the world and give concerts. So I’ve set up my guest room as a studio and became immersed in studying sound recording. I’m not a bad composer and I can write songs not just for myself but for others as well. And I have to prove this now. So far, it hasn’t been a smooth ride. For example, I produced the group “Milki” for the Belarusian Eurovision selection. I wrote a song for them and I was sure that it would be a success. But the Belarusians decided to send another group to the contest. I can say honestly that it was the worst day of my life. But I didn’t let it bring me down and instead, I understood that I needed to keep working. Now when I’m home, I work hard at learning specific computer programs, because without them it’s not possible to write modern music. It’s one thing when I write classical music, for example, and I can figure it out in my head. But a movie soundtrack  or music for computer games is completely different. If I want to be a leader in this direction, I absolutely need to become an expert at all the modern intricacies.

Basically, everything in divided into two main parts in my condo. If I’m working- it’s the sound recording part and if I’m resting- it’s the TV. It took me a long time to decorate my home.  I bought my condo in downtown Oslo practically on the banks of a fjord right after I won Eurovision. And I was sure that in about a year, by the time that Norway would host the song contest, I would organize a housewarming party and watch Eurovision on the new super cool TV. But I had to cancel everything. I’m a well-known perfectionist and I wanted everything to be perfect . I wanted the couch to be the exact same color that I ordered and the TV to be at the exact height that I wanted and not a millimeter lower. So I was in control of everything and walked everywhere with a ruler and asked to redo everything. I have to say that I’m very rarely at home. The year that I won Eurovision, I only had 4 days off, including Christmas and my birthday! How can you redo everything with such a crazy schedule?

Now, I always take two-three days off per month, so I can stay at home by myself or with friends, watch football relax and recover. And even if they offer me the most interesting project and offer a huge amount of money during those days, I always turn it down. But five years ago, I didn’t understand how you can rest instead of work and all I did was work, work, work. But you need a personal life, right? What’s all this for if you don’t have it?

But five years ago, I didn’t understand how you can rest instead of work and all I did was work-work-work. But you need a personal life, right? What’s all this for, if you don’t have it? I’m still far from starting a family. There’s no room in my condo for a wife or children. Photo: Arsen Memetov

I’m still far from starting a family. There’s no room in my condo for a wife or children. Before I get married, I need to stand on my own two feet and prove to everyone that I’m a great composer and ensure that I have a stable salary in this field. You probably ask: how can I schedule my feelings?  What if I find a girl that I fall madly in love with and will decide to get married right away? Yes, this happens probably in fairy tales. And I’m a grown- up and I haven’t believed in these things for a long time.

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