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My Crazy Month…

300px-Mad_scientist.svgA crazy month so far… And the summer has only just kicked off!

Negotiating contracts, meeting with lawyers, publishers, agents and new
songwriting partners can be fascinating, exhausting and at times really
exciting, but what about some free time for a bit of fun and entertainment?

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to take the entire day off, let alone a
proper weekend off work, without feeling somewhat guilty deep down (“I
should be working, not hanging out!”) Although having said that, recharging
my batteries is definitely one of my priorities for the next couple of
months or so. That, along with a couple of trips that have been on the cards
for way too long, including London and possibly LA, but not excluding an
imminent return to Moscow for a potential project that is currently in the
works… Something massive but not yet finalized negotiation-wise, so I
daren’t say more!

All in all, a very exciting time but it’s also quite disappointing that I’ve
barely managed to catch up with any of my friends in-between the mad weeks
here and there. I don’t regret it for a second, of course, but sometimes I
genuinely worry that my friends will soon start accusing me of ignorance –
and that would make me feel awful!!! 😦 I wish I could place everything on
hold – or maybe a pause button? – for a day or two and just concentrate on
catching up with each and every one of them!

Oh, and guess what else is happening next weekend? A gig in Central Park!
But more on that later… with pictures and possibly even a youtube video!

In the meantime, of course, the UN Uncovered radio show and the BTR Russkiy
in the Mix show are still very much on air and in production on weekly basis
– it’s a way of switching off once a week, I guess, and thinking about the
bigger picture every now and then!

And the book… The synopsis for the sequel is already done, while the first
book is currently being reviewed and edited by the critics, so I’m excited
and just a little nervous!

Wow, would you believe that “Is It True?” is still in the charts and still
going strong? While “Thinking of Someone Else” is #2 on the iDanceFM charts
and we’ve just completed a pop cross-over radio mix in the UK, which I’ll be
posting shortly on myspace! And by the way, it has just been picked up by
Hit FM and Europe Plus, a couple of leading Russian commercial radio
stations and will probably be added to a few more top stations throughout
Russia in the next couple of weeks or so.

I’ll do my best to keep the blogs coming on regular basis and keep you all
posted at all times… My apologies again for not getting back to everyone
in timely manner but I promise to get better at it – I’m really not as good
as I used to be 😦 But I’ll improve, promise! 🙂

Tinatin, Chris Neil & Oskar Pall at ESCI couldn’t be more excited and thrilled with the results following the Eurovision extravaganza earlier last month… While most of us expected the ESC madness to be over following the grand finale on May 16, shortly thereafter, I realized that the craziness had only just begun as the phone started ringing like never before with 2 min intervals the moment my plane touched down in New York City!

First things first – the European chart report as of this week:

“Is It True?” single (EMI)

Norway: 1
Sweden: 2
Belgium: 23
Denmark: 16
Switzerland: 9
Finland: 6
U.K.: 49

ESC 2009 COMPILATION (Capitol)

U.K.: 14
Sweden: 1
Switzerland: 3
Norway: 6
Denmark: 21
Austria: 13
Spain: 13
Germany: 3

And the sales + chart positions are building up by the week, and so are my responsibilities…! Plus more covers of “Is It True?” in various languages by top artists in Germany, Russia… even South Africa and more! TBC asap!

New and exciting co-write opportunities with some of the best songwriters and production outfits across Europe and the U.S. that I could have only dreamed of last month are now becoming my collaborators in the studio. How do I feel? Too insane to be proud of it and I wouldn’t dare relax at this point either… But the anticipation of the next big chart-topper is so intense!

Tinatin at EuroClub in Moscow There are some incredibly exciting projects (music, books, bands, etc. – you name it! But I’ll say no more…) and collaborations in the pipeline, but I keep reminding myself that there are only 24 hours at my disposal per day. How can I make the most of it? Sleep, oh how I miss that minor form of escape on daily basis.

And just in case you haven’t heard this week’s Russkiy in the Mix, be sure to tune on June 2nd @ noon NY time (or straight afterwards – in the archives on the website) at http://www.breakthruradio.com to hear some of my favorite tunes that I picked up while I was in Moscow last month. Make sure you check out “Moscow Never Sleeps” – undoubtedly my favorite track of the month and a constant reminder of how much fun we had whilst there in-between the crazy meetings, shoots and rehearsals.

Missing it already!
Tinatin at TV studio
Time to say goodnight yet again… But in the meantime, one little secret – a sequel of my debut novel (which is being edited as we speak by my agents and editors in London and NY!) that I’m currently developing… So many exciting stories and adventures that I had forgotten about… Ohhh, the beauty of writing a novel based on a true story! Daren’t say any more – hush my mouth! 🙂

Picture_3It’s not only true, but it’s also over (the madness, the excitement, the 24 hour schedule with no time to sleep, et cetera). But what a fantastic ride it’s been, and what a great payoff in the end! I couldn’t be more ecstatic about the results…

Iceland came in second, with 218 points, including ‘Douze Points’ from three countries: Norway, Malta and Ireland. Ironically, one of the co-writers of our song – the legend, that is – happens to be an Irish-born Brit, Christopher Neil. I have to admit, getting 12 points from Chris Neil’s native Ireland was rather special for us. I sat next to him during the televoting and clutched his hand tightly with excitement throughout.

After all, it wasn’t just about Iceland anymore, was it? It was about a great singer singing a song that Graham Norton, the BBC commentator (and a huge UK TV personality) referred to as “a real song” in a song contest. 

Countless TV interviews, shoots and meetings back to back – how does one leave such an artistic haven in the very heat of the moment? Truth be told, I should really be staying here for another week or so, but who could have predicted the outcome? The pre-ESC live primetime TV show, which broadcasted both nationwide and internationally, targeted  millions of Russian-speaking viewers that certainly helped. And singing the song in Russian, in front of my colleagues in Moscow, well, it was simply unforgettable!

What’s next, I wonder? Apart from a flight to New York first thing in the morning, as well as tons of work waiting for me on the other side of the world, it’s probably wisest to strike the iron while it’s hot, and not relax for a second. Otherwise, how often does one compete and, moreover, beat songs written by Andrew Lloyd Webber,  Diane Warren and Ronan Keating? I’m so proud of our achievement, and of course so thrilled with Yohanna’s final performance on the last night (and all the nights prior to the grand finale – she’s been amazing throughout!) As a young songwriter, I’m humbled, but I’m also over the moon to be on the same songwriting team with real pros such as Christopher Neil and Oskar Pall Sveinsson!

It really has been a thrill and a great adventure taking my friends, readers and listeners along on a special Eurovision ride to Moscow, but everything has to come to an end at some point. But, rest assured that when the next big opportunity comes along (and there are a few ideas in the works, more on that later!) you’ll be the first to hop on the train and come along with me. There will be new stories, new characters and more unpredictable adventures. Indeed, there is a lot to look forward to!

In the meantime, thank you all so much, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing this very special moment with me from Day 1. Don’t forget – Chapter 2 is just around the corner!

Eurovision writersI couldn’t be happier or more proud! Making it to the finals has most definitely been the highlight of my trip so far. Isn’t that why we are here, after all? 

Rumor had it, just before the semi-final gala kicked off, that Iceland would either be the first to go through, or it would simply miss out by a couple of votes. The polls across the Olympiisky Stadium walls, however, had been very promising during the week. We were placed at the very top of the list, as the most likely contender for the finalist spot.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t confident… in fact, overly confident, particularly after hearing Yohanna’s semi-final performance in the Green Room – we were so proud!

But suddenly it all turned into a real Eurovision nightmare, as the finalists were announced one by one, each flag pulled out individually from the electronic envelopes. There were 10 of them in total. 1, 2, 3, 4, it wasn’t getting any easier, although what helped was the constant reminder that the results were being disclosed in random order. But still, were we going to make it? By #9 we knew it was going to be either Belarus or Iceland – or maybe neither, as Eurovision has always been famous for being completely unpredictable!

When the very last envelope was pulled out of the batch, I looked away from the screen and closed my eyes and ears. It was getting a little too intense! Would I be able to face another flag, other than our Icelandic one, when I opened my eyes? 

The singersI honestly cannot recall seeing our flag on the screen and neither can I remember hearing “Iceland” or “Is It True?” as we sat holding hands in our cozy Green Room. Yet, I do remember our screams and tears once it had finally hit home – we had made it to the finals, 10 out of 18 semi final entries! I wish I could describe how it felt without sounding too cliché,  but I can’t help it – it really was THAT amazing!!!

What’s next for our team in the coming days? Well, a couple of top notch TV shows and exclusive interviews, which have already kicked off following our big night. And it’s going to get even bigger and all the more exciting (and perhaps even more nerve-wracking) on May 16th – the Grand Finale! Dare I make any predictions? Let’s wait and see. I’m just enjoying the moment, anticipating the unknown and making the most of this fantastic experience. Had I known it was so good, I would have made my first Eurovision attempt quite a few years ago. But I suppose it’s better to do it later than never at all!

Counting down and waitingAnd now it’s time to face another crazy day filled with intense drama, excitement, madness and a whole load of fun! Who knows what the rest of the week has in store for us? It just keeps getting better…. And tougher, too!

Eurovision LogoAs we are making last minute preparations for the semi final, due to take place tonight at 11 PM Moscow time, the excitement is building up and our overall schedule is getting tighter by the minute!

While most of the delegation parties are beginning to wind down (until the big night on the 16th) most of the participants are spending less time on the dance floor.Everyone is devoting all of their energy to the upcoming semi finals tonight, and on the 14th. As it happens, we are in the first group of semi finalists, hence the madness and major anticipation of the event.

Although the absolute highlight is bound to be the grand finale itself, tonight is quite a big deal, too – it’s pretty much down to a fantastic performance by Yohanna (we are VERY confident!) and of course, one of the primary ingredients – LUCK.

We simply MUST qualify tonight and go through to the finals, but I admit I’m a little nervous – who wouldn’t be? We all are, and if anyone says otherwise – they’re either insane or just lying!

And here’s the line up (I almost wrote the “track listing” – I’m too much of a studio nerd, I guess!)

(Composer/lyricist in brackets)

Montenegro – Andrea Demirović – Just get out of my life (Ralph Siegel/Bernd Meinunger, José Juan Santana Rodriguez)

Czech Republic – Gipsy.cz – Aven romale (Radoslav Banga)

Belgium – Copycat – Copycat (Miam Monster Miam/Jacques Duvall)

Belarus – Petr Elfimov – Eyes that never lie (Petr Elfimov/Valeriy Prokhozhy)

Sweden – Malena Ernman – La voix (Fredrik Kempe/Fredrik Kempe, Malena Ernman)

Armenia – Inga & Anush – Nor par (Mane Akopyan/Avet Barseghyan, Vardan Zadoyan)

Andorra – Susanne Georgi – La teva decisió (Get a life) (Pernilla Georgi, Susanne Georgi, Rune Braager, Lene Dissing, Marcus Winther-John/Josep Vila)

Switzerland – Lovebugs – The highest heights (Adrian Sieber, Thomas Rechberger, Florian Senn)

Turkey – Hadise – Düm tek tek (Sinan Akçil/Hadise, Sinan Akçil, Stefan Fernande)

Israel – Noa & Mira Awad – There must be another way (Noa, Mira Awad, Gil Dor)

Bulgaria – Krassimir Avramov – Illusion (Krassimir Avramov, William Tabanou/Casie Tabanou, Krassimir Avramov, William Tabanou)

Iceland – Yohanna – Is it true? (Tinatin Japaridze, Óskar Páll Sveinsson, Chris Neil)

FYR Macedonia – Next Time – Nešto što kje ostane (Damjan Lazarov, Jovan Jovanov/Elvir Mekić)

Romania – Elena Georghe – The Balkan girls (Daris Mangal, Ovidiu Bistriceanu, Laurenţiu Duţă/Laurenţiu Duţă, Alexandru Pelin)

Finland – Waldo’s People – Lose control (Karima, Ari Erik Veikko Lehtonen/Karima, Annie Kratz-Gutå, Ari Erik Veikko Lehtonen, Waldo)

Portugal – Flor-de-Lis – Todas as ruas do amor (Pedro Marques/Pedro Marques, Paulo Pereira)

Malta – Chiara – What if we? (Marc Paelinck/Gregory Bilsen)

Bosnia & Herzegovina – Regina – Bistra voda (Aleksandar Čović)

And the rules? Oh, that’s the scary part!

18 countries listed above will present one song each, including “Is It True?” representing Iceland. Nine countries will be chosen by televoting to move forward to the grand final this Saturday and the tenth spot will go to the country that placed the highest in the voting of the juries but did not qualify through televoting. Only the qualifiers will be announced during the show, and the complete results will be revealed after the final.

There’s so much more I want to tell you about the last couple of days but it’s now time for me to rush over to a meeting with my publishers (and I have to sort out one of my publishers’ lost baggage – I keep forgetting I’m one of the very few Russian speakers in our delegation… if not the only one! I love it, most of the time) and I do promise to give you all the details following our semi final. It’s all just a few hours away! I’m excited, sleepless and a little nervous – but not really. So stay tuned for the results and don’t forget to Vote for Iceland!

Tinatin & Chris NeilThe last couple of days have been so intense and “full on” – there is absolutely no escape from the Eurovision madness. Wherever I go in Moscow, it’s unbelievable! 

Constant press conferences, interviews (TV and radio, even across the other side of the world… but more on that later!) rehearsals and parties – I truly am having a blast! But on the same note, as you may already know, I haven’t been getting any sleep – only 3 hours per night at most – since I arrived here over a week ago. Dare I complain? Hell, no! 

Spending quality time with our Icelandic delegation has become so addictive! I honestly can’t imagine not seeing them every day, come this time next week. What a great crowd of fun, creative, and professional people! If teamwork is what this is all about, then I feel extremely fortunate, especially now that we’ve really, really clicked. We have all hit it off in a big way – each and every one of us, collectively and individually. It’s so wonderful to work together with a group of people toward a common goal!

The Greek Party at our local hotspot Euro-Club was great fun last night. Some of the highlight acts of ESC 2009, including the Eurovision heartthrob himself, Sakis Rouvas, performed (mostly) live. Others mimed as well (should I just zip my lip?) and introduced their upcoming entries for the competition. This was a very particular audience, consisting of obvious Eurovision fans from all over the world.  We were no exception! 

Christopher Neil and Maria Bjork Yohanna's ManagerChris Neil, Oskar, Alma and I stood on the balcony overlooking the Euro-Club stage. We watched Yohanna blow everyone away with her performance, yet again. It would be fair to say that she blew us away too! I don’t know why, but the overall impact of the song, and the performance itself, well, both are getting stronger and stronger, instead of turning into a daily routine. This is quite unusual, I think. But then again, I’m getting so excited about the upcoming semi-final (and particularly the big final night) I can barely wait for another 48 hours!

Tonight is the official opening ceremony of the Eurovision Song Contest 2009, and the welcoming party will be held at Moscow’s historic Manezh Hall, in Red Square. Although a lot of the former Eurovision stars were lip-synching all night long, it turned out to be a very entertaining event. We all had a great time just “chilling out,” as they say. The vibe was cool and the finger food was very impressive, too. 

Unlike yesterday’s pre-Eurovision promo program, tonight’s gig featured only one of the entrants this year; Anastasia Prikhodko from Ukraine, who will represent Russia in the finals. Bizarre, isn’t it? Everyone’s representing everyone else, including our “not-so-purely Icelandic delegation!” It’s very exciting, though, since we are all so multi-national. And even though I’m Georgian-born, and not of Russian heritage at all, I am the most Russian of all the Russian representatives this year, being an official citizen of the Russkiy Land. This is all according to the local and national periodicals and news agencies. Is it true? Yes, it is!
ESCDuring the opening ceremony, my producer and co-author of the Icelandic song (our new universal term for “Is It True?”) suddenly pointed out a gentleman standing in the corner by the bar – it was Chuck Taylor, one of the leading music journalists in the United States! Or so I thought, at first…

But soon enough I realized it wasn’t Chuck; it was his secret twin brother! In all honesty, I had sworn it was really him, and then I zoomed in on the poor look-alike. I harassed him with my digital camera for the remainder of the evening, still secretly hoping he’d turn out to be Chuck Taylor’s relative in Russia!

 
Chuck Taylor look-alike on the rightJust before we all decided to call it a night, before yet another manic day (and it really is going to start getting more and more intense, from tomorrow onwards) Chris and I were interviewed over the phone by the UK’s very own Dave Charles, at HFM. It was unusual and even spooky to a certain extent, but great fun – we stood next to Lenin’s Tomb as we chatted away with Dave. We talked about my songs, our Eurovision tune and “la vie” in Moscow. Pure magic!

It’s scary, but just a couple of decades ago, conducting an overseas interview from Soviet Russia with a capitalist world journalist would have been virtually impossible! I do feel incredibly fortunate to have witnessed a tad bit of that era, but I’m even luckier to be alive in a semi-democratic world as a young person. I can say or do whatever I like… well, some of the time! 🙂

As Britney’s new single is playing in the background on Russian MTV (yes, I still watch Russian MTV once every couple of years) and as I’m slowly but surely beginning to realize I haven’t blinked an eye since the madness kicked off, first thing this morning, here’s a quick reminder before I drift off into the night: The official 6-day countdown to the main event has just begun, right here on BTR. So whatever you do, please be sure to keep your eyes on Iceland – you just NEVER know!

What a fantastic day! It really does keep getting better as the clock keeps on ticking away – and I am not exaggerating!

I really should be in bed by now, as I’m doing some writing in the studio tomorrow (I have never composed in Moscow – or at least have never co-written here, which is extremely exciting). But I wanted to share some of the latest news with you, and share some of my happiness.

Last night we got an invitation from the Ambassador of Iceland in Russia, to attend an Icelandic ESC party. It was hosted at the Embassy to honor our delegation, with the main focus on this year’s Icelandic entry, performed by Iceland’s very own, Danish-born Yohanna.

Since most of the delegations are hosting Eurovision parties at the Euro-Club, based on the informal protocol, we felt very privileged to attend our very own Eurovision extravaganza in the very heart of Icelandic culture – the diplomatic headquarters of Iceland’s Permanent Representative to the Russian Federation, Ambassador Benedikt Ásgeirsson.

Ambassador Ásgeirsson personally welcomed and greeted our team individually, and then we were all photographed with him. This went on throughout the reception, with photos being taken by various Icelandic, Danish, German, UK and Russian press and media representatives, who were also present at the special event. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use my camera, as it would have been slightly awkward to be walking around with this digital friend, snapping pictures of everyone. However, various international photographers attending the party have promised us the shots as soon as possible, so, fingers crossed!

Fridrik Omar, Hera Bjork Thorhallsdottir and Erna Hronn Olafsdottir, who are supporting our stunning headliner as backing vocalists (but are in fact famous Icelandic and Danish singers themselves) performed several songs together with Yohanna, including “Is It True?” in both English and in Russian. I absolutely loved humming along with the Russian version, which I’m particularly fond of these days. It was adorable watching four accomplished Scandinavian artists singing in (what I can now easily refer to as) my “second native language”!

The press, as well as the Icelandic Ambassador, were equally charmed by the unplugged, yet extremely classy (and honest) performances. Meanwhile us, the three composers, enjoyed every moment of the magical evening. It’s all really beginning to feel like a dream come true. Six years ago, who would have that the song we were writing was going to end up bringing the three of us back together in Moscow – miles away from London, Reykjavik and New York – for the Eurovision Song Contest?

I absolutely can’t wait to post the pictures from this fabulous event on my blog. Then you can all experience – or at least witness – a glimpse of our collective pride, joy and excitement. It all comes from the very realization of the fact that, after all, representing the beautiful country of Iceland, in front of 100-600 million viewers across the world, is not a trivial pursuit.

Although it really has gone way past my regular (but in this case irregular) bedtime, I have to share one more highlight of the day with my new, but hopefully loyal BTR readers and listeners.

Do you remember Tomas N’Evergreen, whose songs I’ve featured numerously on my BTR show, Russkiy in the Mix (including this week’s premiere of his new single, “Popstar”)?

I’ve been a big fan of N’Evergreen’s since I first heard his single “Since You’ve Been Gone”, which was in the Top 5 in Russia for absolute ages, just a few years ago. And now that he’s living in Moscow for the time, releasing his second album throughout Europe in the coming months, there was no way I could pass through Moscow without meeting my favorite English-language artist!

It was wonderful talking to a like-minded, music-oriented artist; one who has managed to keep his feet firmly on the ground. At the same time, he is one of the most successful artists in the vast country of the Russian Federation! We swapped stories, experiences, ideas and tips, as though we’d been friends for a long time. That really doesn’t happen too often nowadays, particularly in the ever-changing and somewhat fickle music business.

Who knows, we may even collaborate on a song together, in the near future. If so, you really will be the first ones to hear about it! But for the time being, stay tuned for the latest N’Evergreen songs that I’m already excited about – the new album is on the way! I only wonder why Tomas isn’t representing his native Denmark this year? With all due respect to this year’s Danish song (written by Ronan Keating), I would have certainly voted for Denmark, if only… Hey, never say never!

Will I be up and running in a matter of 3-4 hours yet again? I’m afraid so, but dare I complain? This is one of the most memorable adventures I’ve experienced so far in life, and being able to take you along for the ride makes it all so much more worthwhile, and undeniably special!

P.S. This beautiful electronic postcard was made by Nathan Waddell at ESCtime – one of the biggest supporters of our Icelandic song in the UK. I was particularly touched by the lovely note at the bottom – isn’t it adorable? I was venting in one of my previous blogs earlier this week about being perceived by the press here at Eurovision as more of an artist (although I’m not singing at the moment!), versus my primary role as a songwriter, so here’s the answer from Nathan!