Alexander Rybak – Interview in the German magazine “Centaur” (2009)

The success route of Alexander the Great

Translated by Anglesina Est English revision by Anni Jowett

Yes, the name conqueror suits him right! With his song “Fairytale”, which he introduced in May at the ESC, the whole of Europe was captured within 3 minutes. Such a clear victory hasn’t been taken by any other artist before!

Centaur: You arrived today from Minsk in Belarus to Berlin to rehearse for a TV show. You were born in Minsk, but you live near to Oslo since you were 4. Did you recognise your place of birth at all?

Alexander Rybak: I remember the park, the lake and the town. I still like it, today I think, it is even more beautiful. My family was not wealthy, rather poor. We lived in just a little apartment.

C: Do you still feel at home in Minsk?

A.R.: A little, and I also speak Russian. But today I feel at home everywhere around Europe .

C: How did it happen, that you came from there to Norway?

A.R.: My dad is a classical violinist and that time back then he received an engagement from an orchestra in Norway. A wealthy Norwegian family supported him in the beginning  overseas because he was very talented. My mother worked this time as a journalist at the television station in Minsk. Two years later my dad brought us both over.

C: You already started to practise piano and violin at the age 5 . Was it your own idea?

A.R.: No, not really. My parents wanted to find out if I was talented, and when they found out that I was indeed, they made me practise, every day, 2-3 hours. It was quite cruel although I have to admit, they pushed me with understanding and love.

C: In the leaflet of your new CD “Fairytales” you thank your parents for pushing you so early and persistent in the training of classical music. You also write there, that at times you were very angry about it. If you look back today – do you believe, your parents had any right to do so?

A.R.: I don’t regret it. For me it was a normal childhood. If I had parents who jumped around in the park in kangaroo costumes, I would have considered that normal as well. Kids can’t compare parents. Every family has its own style and that was ours.

C: Did you have any time to play with other children, to make friends with your age?

A.R.: Yes, I did. But when I was aged 9-10 I found out  that other children never had to practise that much, I was quite furious. Then my parents attempted to buy me with ice cream or gifts. At that time I rather would have become a football player. My dad, however, wanted to make a famous violinist out of me, maybe because he himself hadn’t achieved that. He was very disappointed when he realised that I hadn’t the intention to practise my whole life long.

C: When did you make it clear to him?
A.R.: When I was 14 and my violin teacher told me to play a certain vibrato in this way and no other way, I insisted doing it in my way. I stopped obeying the authorities. My mother was really in shock. When I was 15, I refused to practise any longer. I simply didn’t want to anymore.

C: With that you were a violinist lost to the classical profession?

A.R.: Serious music? This kind of genre thinking is not necessary for me. When I have a story to tell, it is already serious and it isn’t marginal, if I use a serious or entertainment music to do it. A violinist can operate with his violin much more than just playing Mozart. It would be sad to limit oneself just to the serious material. I am quite proud of myself that during the study of classical music I managed not to cut myself out of today’s reality. At 17 I wrote my first pop songs.

C: Do your parents support you today in what you are doing?

A.R.: Of course! They are handling my success very professionally. When I am on tour, they don’t write me long letters, but just now I received this SMS from my mother; Good luck! My parents listen to me and take my plans seriously. I gladly allow myself to take advice from them and other people, but inwardly I know very well what I want. 

C: Do you like it, when you are considered as a child prodigy?

A.R.: Well, I am not a child any longer.

C: At the age of 23 you had this enormous success with winning the Norwegian Melody Grand Prix and a few weeks later as a winner of ESC. You achieved almost 16% of all the votes. No one before has won with a gap like that . Is it a pure joy you feel about it, or does this early, almost worldwide success also feel like a burden?

A.R.: Laughing. It is exactly the amount of fame I wished for. I enjoy the ravishment of my fans and I feel very privileged. For example, when I go to the McDonalds, I get an ice-cream for free. But I don’t feel forced to continue doing it like that. In couple of years I wish to live a more quiet life, not any longer on the stage, rather more to compose. Some artists, who have had success very early, tend to continue for decades on the same track, as good as they can. But that would ruin my conception of myself, if I would try to remain forever this cute joyful guy I am today. One has to quit while being really on the top. To compose, on the other hand, one can do as long as one lives.

C: What would you like to compose?
A.R.: For ESC with my “Fairytale” for a duration of 3 minutes, I tried to write a song preferably as simple and clear as possible. I was inspired through Grand Prix winner of the 70’s with those simple melodies. In the long term I would like to write some film score, to tell the story with the music and to go  deeper.

C: You already had success as a violinist, as a singer, as an actor and as a composer. Is it possible to be equally good in each of those areas?

A.R.: At the moment I want to try out everything. To get really good, one has to concentrate 100% on what one is doing at the moment.

C: What are your short-term plans for the future?

A.R.: What I really would like to do soon, is to sing jazz. My biggest luck is the success I had and for that I am really thankful. Very few can afford  to go to a record company and say;  now let’s make a jazz disc. The fact, that I can afford it, makes me glad.


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