Interview with Alexander Rybak
Source: ESCbrazil.com, published 05.05.2016. Text and photos by Ricardo Olissil. Translated by Lulu Barcelo, revision Anni Jowett
Seven years after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Russia, the representative of Norway in 2009, Alexander Rybak , finally came to South America. It was in Argentina that our meeting took place in a hotel in the suburb of Buenos Aires on the day following his concert. We first met his agent in Argentina, Daniel Benko , the Circulo Virtuoso association, who told about Rybak’s schedule in Argentina that not only included the concert in Buenos Aires, but also a workshop for young violinists and a smaller concert outside the city center. After a few minutes delay, Alexander did not know where he had put his shoes, he entered the hotel garden. Because he was tired after the concert, had a slight cold and a little bit of jet lag , Alex chose not to record videos. But we made this gif ♥
And now to the questions:
ESC BRAZIL: First of all, thank you for taking your time for this interview. You look a little tired.
Alexander Rybak: Yes, I’m a little tired, but it is a positive strain. It is good to rest after the concert, but I’m happy for this interview because you came from so far away.
ESCBR: Your concert was amazing, and as we always say in Eurovision, “What a wonderful night and amazing show! 12 points in Brazil “
AR: Thank you! [laughs]
ESCBR: Here is the first question: Messi or Neymar?
AR: Oh! Messi because he is the leader of Barcelona. [Laughs] I like football, and the two players are great.
ESCBR: That question was just a joke, because we have this rivalry with the Argentines.
AR: Yes, yes … oh, but Zidane (France) is more popular. But in fact, Ronaldinho is greater than Pelé. [Laughs]
ESCBR: Okay, but let’s get the facts. Singer, composer, violinist, actor and author … What else can we expect from Alexander Rybak in the future?
AR: Yes, now an author. I intend in the future to launch translations of my book, who knows maybe in Portuguese. Would be great. Now I’m focused on releasing more songs on platforms like Spotify. We are also organising a show this summer celebrating the 10 years anniversary since I won the Kjempesjansen, a talent show on NRK (Norwegian TV), with several other talented artists. I also intend to launch here in some years the music of my book, Trolle and the Magic Fiddle.
ESCBR: What does Argentina mean to you now? You are in a country where you are somewhat unknown. Were you surprised by your audience after yesterday? Would you like to sing in nearby countries?
AR: All the excitement and affection I felt I expected, but it was much bigger than I imagined. When I saw the performance of other artists like Justin Bieber here, I saw what the fans were like, but did not expect it to be so warm … and they were so good in English! [Laughs] And they were all so attentive and participated in all the songs in the concert in the liveliest ones and the classical, understood my jokes … The Latin American public is really the best of all, they reacted well to all the comings and goings in the concert. Fantastic! I hope to sing in Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, and elsewhere soon.
ESCBR: You recorded a version of Abrazame , Julio Iglesias, who competed in the Eurovision in 1970 (with the song Gwendolyne). Was this one of the reasons that made you choose the song?
AR: Wow, I did not know he has participated in Eurovision. I guess I’m not such a fan as I thought I was [laughs]. But he also made many other amazing things for which he is recognised, I believe that many did not know that he has participated in Eurovision like Celine Dion. And ABBA, of course! About Iglesias, I like his music, his language ... in Brazil people don’t speak Spanish, do they?
ESCBR: No, we speak Portuguese [laughs]
AR: Oh, no! I’ll have to learn it all over again! How do you ask the name of a person in Portuguese?
ESCBR: “Qual o seu nome?” ou “Como se chama?”
AR: Oh, a little bit like Spanish.
ESCBR: Let’s talk about the contest. Were you surprised that people overseas were so familiar about the contest?
AR: I would be surprised if this would have happened 15 years ago. I mean, I’m always surprised with this stuff , but now the internet allows anyone to be a bit famous anywhere in the world. I like to interact with my audience, either by messages, twitter, videos … Have you seen the Q & A where I play the piano?
ESCBR: Yes, it was great!
ESCBR: Let’s continue … you helped the Belgian public to choose their entry for the Eurovision this year. Have you heard the other competitors from other countries?
AR: In fact, the Belgian entry is very good! Well … I like and I have followed the steps of the Russian song, also because I am a good friend of the producer Philipp Kirkorov. But the most surprising to me was the English entry … I finally believe the UK has a song that represents the UK. They have fallen quite down in recent years, but I think they have great potential this year. You know … I like when a country sends a song that represents the music made in the country. It’s okay to sing in English, but you should at least bring instruments and rhythms of your country.
ESCBR: As Portugal has done in recent years, but unfortunately that has not been recognised by the rest of the European public.
AR: Yeah, like Portugal. By the way, do you, as Brazilians feel Portugal as a part of you, like your best friends in Europe?
ESCBR: Brazil is very different from Portugal, but we do have a good relationship with the country, although many Brazilians prefer to know the other European countries other that Portugal, which is a great country.
AR: I understand.
ESCBR: Well, this question is from our Juarez Neto Reader: What do you think of the Norwegian song this year, “Icebreaker”?
AR: It’s a style very innovative and different from the music I listen to … I think it will be among the top 5, maybe in five years I’ll get more used to it. But that does not take away the fact that I find it a great song. What do you think?
ESCBR: Particularly I hoped for “Feel the Rush” by Freddy Kalas.
AR: Oh, but that song is a mixture of rhythms, it is not a Norwegian sound [laughs].
ESCBR: Yes … but I like the traditional songs as well.
AR: Unfortunately the radio has made artists think only in music that pleases. Before the Eurovision, for example, the Scandinavian radio stations would not play my song. After my victory they played it… but it was something like “Okay, we have to play it …” because they had no choice [laughs].
ESCBR: This year the voting system of the Eurovision has changed, so the current winner can beat your record easily. Will you be sad about it?
AR: Oh yes, they have changed and now a person does not receive only 12 points from a country, but you can get 24 points, right?
ESCBR: In short, yes.
AR: It was very nice over the years to keep the record, you know. In fact, I think the Swedes finally got a way to break my high score after years of trying [laughs]. They tried with Loreen, with Mans … and have not succeeded and now with this new score anyone can do it [laughs] Of course I’m just joking [laughs]
ESCBR: [laughs] But your score was amazing! Almost double the second-place Yohanna!
AR: But you know what makes me more comfortable over all these years? The fact that I have won in a year that the level of music was very high! Of course the latest winning songs deserved, especially last year … though Loreen has competed in a tougher year, Russian grannies could also have been great champions [laughs]
ESCBR: Yes, for many Brazilians, by the way, 2009 was one of the best shows in the last 10 years!
AR: I agree! I enjoyed the Ukrainian entry, “Be My Valentine” , a pity that the live performance was not the best. Yohanna had a good song too, a winner, although we sing in very different styles. It was nice to win with a high score, and in the end Norway also won with a big distance down to number two, and that proved that the Norwegian people had made a good choice! [laughs]
ESCBR: You just released a new single in Russian, you are also participating in Russian TV. How special are the Russians for you?
AR: Not that it is special, but it’s part of my life. In Russia I can sing songs, more sensitive songs, because the Norwegians are not used to a sad and oppressive past, that become accustomed to sad songs, as the Russians. There I have to sing more positive songs.
ESCBR: Particularly since the Russian language also has a good sound.
AR: Yes, very good for music. By the way, do you think that Russia can win this year? [laughs]
ESCBR: [laughs] It’s a good song, a winner. But I hope France win [laughs] But Sergey has great supporters in Brazil as well.
AR: Really? Good to know that.
ESCBR: By the way, you tried to return to Eurovision as a composer in Malta and Belarus. Will you be as a singer? (Question from Dawysson Fernando Rocha)
AR: Oh, yes, that was not a good experience. Because then I felt how the jury vote and influence worked. We were preferred by the public vote, but the jury defeated us. In fact, I’m still disappointed with what happened in Malta and Belarus, because in both countries the singers gave their best in preparation and unfortunately were not recognised as they should. About singing again in Eurovision … I think this is a show for new singers like Franklin, Malta. Not necessarily new in age, but new “unknown to the public.” I envy the persistence Johnny Logan though, who has competed and won Eurovision twice. So … never say never!
ESCBR: Well, finally, can you tell us a bit about the work you do with children?
AR: I have worked with children for a long time. Recently my song “Into a Fantasy” was part of the soundtrack of the film “How to Train Your Dragon 2” from DreamWorks , and I also have my book. Working with children is a mission for me; I really like who I am and have everything I have today, but I always make available a part of my time to help the youngest to achieve the same as me. My life is 50% receiving and 50% joy and giving joy.
ESCBR: Well, thank you again for taking you time to meet us and do this interview. We expect to see you soon in Brazil, perhaps during the Olympics as a guest of the Norwegian or Belarusian delegations.
AR: No, [laughs] if I go to Brazil I want it to be like here in Argentina For my Brazilian fans. A hug to everyone.