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Interview: Molly Smitten-Downes, UK's Eurovision entry 2014

2nd May 2014

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We hope you’re ready, because the passive aggressive political singing fest that is Eurovision is only a week away. To celebrate (or to help you prepare yourselves) here’s an interview with this year’s UK hopeful, Leicestershire lass Molly Smitten-Downes.

How are you feeling about the whole Eurovision experience?

It really has been so positive – I’ve had an amazing reaction from all my friends and family. I thought they would be more cynical, at least some people, but everyone has been great. Everyone I met on the road has been so enthusiastic too, so friendly. It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind for the past few weeks really. I’ve gone from obscurity to this crazy schedule – filming, press tours, video shoots – and all of it in no time at all. Very busy, but a lot of fun.

Are you nervous about the size of the audience you’ll be performing to?

Oh, hands down it is the biggest audience I’ll ever have performed in front of – I don’t think it really gets much bigger as a platform, performing to so many people across a whole continent. The biggest audience I’ve ever performed to would probably be a festival size – about 25,000 people – so with regard to the arena, I’ve done bigger, but with regard to the 180 million watching at home… it’s almost impossible to get my head round that!

I wouldn’t say I was nervous just yet – mostly excited. I’m sure the nerves will kick in when I get to Copenhagen, just before I perform, as they always do.

How did you come to be involved in Eurovision?

It all came about because of the BBC Introducing scheme really, I had submitted my music on there last year. Guy Freeman [BBC Eurovision producer] sent me an email saying that the Introducing team had suggested me as a possible contender to represent the UK in the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, which was obviously very flattering.

Children Of The Universe was written with the competition in mind, but because at the time we were only on the shortlist and I hadn’t yet been selected as the UK representative, we also wanted to make sure it was a song that we would be proud of in the long run and that I would still perform it even if it wasn’t selected. Obviously though I was thrilled that they liked it and chose me to be the singer for the UK.

What is your favourite Eurovision song?

Definitely Euphoria by Loreen – it’s just a wicked tune, really good production, great melody, her voice is amazing. Then her performance on the night was world class, I don’t think anyone could deny that. Also – it was a massive crossover chart success, it achieved that credibility with people who wouldn’t necessarily get involved with Eurovision in the past.

Do you feel pressure following established artists which were chosen over the past few years – Blue, Engelbert, Bonnie?

I don’t feel pressure as myself, as a singer, in that sense… but I suppose there is a positive sort of pressure as the first of a new kind of artist being chosen to represent the UK. This contest can be such a great platform for a new artist, it would be great if it came to be seen as a positive opportunity in the future. There is pressure, but nothing that isn’t healthy.

There is stigma around Eurovision, it would be foolish not to realise that, but there are great acts that come through the contest – like Loreen – and at heart it’s a songwriters competition, so you’re always going to get some genuinely great music in the mix. That’s what I’m doing it for – I’d like to have a career as a songwriter and where else am I going to get an opportunity for 180 million people to hear my work? How do you top that?!

How involved are you in the discussions about the staging on the night itself?

Quite involved actually. The Danish broadcasters have created a stage which sounds fantastic, and I’ve been giving some ideas to the BBC team, which they’re passing over to the producers in Copenhagen. They’re letting me have quite a bit of input – I see it having quite simple staging, simple and dramatic if that makes sense. It’ll suit the song.

The UK hasn’t won since 1997 – can you bring the trophy home?

It’s so hard to predict anything where Eurovision is concerned! This is all new to me, but I’d like to think that if the competition is based on the song, and if the people of Europe think my song is the best, then yes – I definitely think we can do well.

The Eurovision Song Contest 2014 Grand Final will be on BBC One and BBC One HD on Saturday 10th May, from 8pm.  

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