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Posts Tagged ‘Icelandic Delegation’

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!

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I have so enjoyed spending time catching up with old friends from school! I am back in my hometown, after all, so a little sightseeing is mandatory. I must look like a wide-eyed tourist, or rather an expatriate who’s been away for far too long!

 

That said, following a much-deserved “collective” day off on Day 5, we are now fully back on ESC track, and in full gear!

The highlight of the day was welcoming Christopher Neil (my executive producer and co-writer of “Is It True?”) without an ounce of exaggeration. The man is a true legend, and responsible for some of the biggest worldwide hit records, including Celine Dion, Cher, Rod Stewart, I mean, the list could go on forever!

While our folks were watching some of the rehearsals for semi 2, I drove to the airport with our ESC hosts. I was finally going to meet Chris for the first time in my home town. It was a very special moment for me!

This moment was brief, however. There was a minor mishap, for we soon realized that Chris had misplaced his Eurovision Pass! Since we were due at Olympiisky Stadium by 6 PM for the second Icelandic rehearsal (it was already 5:50 PM by then) our driver, Denis, took matters into his own hands. He must have broke the Guinness World Record. We got from A to B within 15 minutes, and through a manic traffic jam at that!

The set looked really beautiful, and we were all impressed with the sound, especially during the playback in the viewing room. Chris, who has been to more mega-huge gigs in the last few decades than I can even imagine, told me that it’s far more professional-sounding than he had expected. Did you know that one of the top sound engineers from Europe (who happens to be from “our neighboring” country of Sweden) is in charge of the ESC sound this year?

As soon as Yohanna got on stage, she blew everyone away with her performance. Unlike most rehearsals, ours was actually one of the few that felt like the real deal. The crew and some of the press people attending clapped after every soundcheck and every take, which apparently is very unusual.

After the rehearsal and our private playback (where we discussed the performance and made last minute comments about bits and pieces – mostly technical stuff) the organizers escorted us to the press conference room. There was going to be some media madness on the spot!

Although today’s conference was a little shorter than Monday’s extravaganza (probably due to press representatives trying to juggle a million things at once during the pre-ESC prep time) it was really cute to hear Yohanna sing a cappella in Russian, especially for the benefit of the local press!

By the time we had wrapped up at the venue, it suddenly hit us that we hadn’t eaten a thing since God knew when. So, the next stop turned out to be quite predictable, and not too exotic, either – our new favorite Italian restaurant in downtown Moscow!

The best part so far, I have to admit, has been ordering food for our delegation every time we go out. Since I’m the only other Russian speaker, aside from our hosts, do I feel like a true Muscovite when I’m around them?!

Although I’ve promised our musicians that I’ll take them out clubbing tomorrow night, I’m actually very limited in my knowledge of the Moscow nightlife. Aside from the restaurants, I don’t know too much about it, so it will be interesting to see if they’ll like my local Zagat choice!

Tomorrow is another crazy day, or so we’ve been warned. The highlight will certainly be our Icelandic Party, to be hosted by the Icelandic Ambassador, at the Embassy here in Moscow. This is extremely exciting, as there will be a lot of singing, dancing, and probably quite a bit of drinking as well. But, I promise to behave! In all seriousness though, it should be interesting, as I’ve never really been to a purely Icelandic party. That’s quite an intriguing prospect, to say the least!

I daren’t look at the time, in case it has gone past 2 or 3 AM again. So far I’ve been going to bed at or around 5 AM, at the earliest. I’ve been doing a seemingly endless amount of radio promo interviews in Europe every night, and it’s made a regular bedtime somewhat awkward, if not impossible. Of course, it’s been amazing to be able to promote both my UK single, “Thinking of Someone Else”, and the Eurovision song, “Is It True?” at the same time. But it’s also been a little hectic! Plus, I’ve got to draft the synopsis for my book sequel (which I’ve only just submitted to my agent) while I’m in Moscow. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get some time off to party with my new Icelandic friends. Of course, you’ll be the first to know on BTR, so stay tuned!

Oh, and one more thing before I turn my laptop off for the night – a major Russian TV channel, ORT 1, and the main news show, “Vremya,” are endorsing “Is It True?” They are highlighting it as one of the ESC songs with a strong Russian connection, and they are telling our compatriots to keep their eyes and ears on throughout the competition for it. So with ORT’s support, which is a huge deal over here, we shouldn’t do too badly at all! In fact, we are very optimistic, so, fingers crossed!

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Just when it seemed our manic schedule was going to get out of hand, with nary a moment to tour the Russian capital, the Eurovision organizers announced today and tomorrow as the second semifinal rehearsal dates. So, we’re officially off for the time being. Or at least the songwriters and a few of the delegates are, as Yohanna and her coach will still be rehearsing at the hotel over the next couple of days.

While the Icelanders were cruising around Moscow in our ESC bus, sight-seeing all over the city, I decided to sleep in. I ended up relaxing for the most part of the early afternoon.

The phone rang a couple of times about various interviews and organization issues. It’s embarassing, but I was so exhausted (and totally jet lagged) that I honestly couldn’t recall half of what I was saying in my sleepy state of mind, after I finally woke up! Hopefully, it’s all still very much intact.

dsc_0601 After spending a few hours with my photographer, and another few minutes on the phone with friends in New York (yes, I’m getting just a little homesick, honestly, just a little!) our Russian hosts picked me up around 7 PM. We headed over to the Il Patio restaurant downtown, where I joined the rest of our delegation for a proper catch-up and lovely Italian dinner. Although the pizza was slightly on the cold side, my mozzarella and prosciutto salad was simply delectable!

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Sitting right between Alma, one of the soloists in the famous Icelandic pop group Nylon (she is also Oskar Pall, my co-writer’s fiancée) and Elin, our fabulous make-up artist, we laughed so hard over dinner. Our table was split into 2’s and 3’s, and it was quite crowded, even for the restaurant staff. It took them forever to serve us!

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For this very reason, we arrived late to the opening of the Euro-Club in Moscow’s historic Manezh on Red Square. But it actually turned out to be the best part of the night, as what happened afterwards was so much fun! Some of the biggest Russian pop stars, including Mumiy Troll and N’Evergreen (both of whom I’ve recently interviewed and whose songs I’ve played on my Russkiy in the Mix show) performed a set each and really made it a special night for the VIP attendees. And it was just nice to hear some great Russian pop tunes, for there really aren’t THAT many!

yasmin-tinatin-yohanna-fridrikTomorrow is going to be a rather quiet day for most of us, as we prepare for our big rehearsal on Thursday, followed by the international media conference. Just before our rehearsal kicks off, I’ll be heading off to the airport together with our hosts to meet our co-writer and my producer, Christopher Neil. I really cannot wait to show him around my home town, or one of my two home towns, anyway! In case you’re thinking I’m off to get some sleep, I’m afraid I have to tell you you’re wrong. Although it’s already 3:30 AM here in Moscow, I’ve got a phone interview coming up with a UK radio station in a few hours, so there will be no sleep for me tonight. I’m Sleepless in Moscow!

Before I say goodnight, however, some quick insider info. An impressive majority of our ladies were very disappointed that Sakis Rouvas, this year’s Greek entrant at ESC, did not appear at tonight’s EuroClub show. Is it just me, or is he just too flawless not to be a model, instead of being a singer? I honestly don’t get it, but more on that later, right here on BTR!

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p10000201It has just gone past midnight Moscow time and I can hardly believe it’s only 4 p.m. back home in New York –has it really been over 24 hours since I checked in at JFK Airport’s Terminal 1?

Fortunately, I wasn’t flying alone across the ocean – my newfound best friend will be accompanying me during the next few weeks… His name is Dominic and he is the cutest puppy I’ve ever seen (at least among other plush toys at JFK International Airport!)

As we were getting ready to take off, the only other aircraft I could see on the horizon from my window was… an IcelandAir plane landing at that precise moment right next to us! An amazing coincidence or a sign in itself? But a sign of what exactly? Perhaps we’ll know more as the next several days unfold in the pre-Eurovision madness!

I was greeted at the gate upon arrival at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport by the Eurovision crew with ESC 2009 logos, t-shirts, cards and even an Icelandic flag accompanied by the friendliest smiles on their faces – not your ordinary combination in Russia, trust me – and we immediately started taking snaps at the official ESC 2009 pavilion and beyond… Even Dominic was treated with an extra bit of affection by the crew and ended up headlining quite a few shots himself!p1000030
After spending quite a bit of time chatting about our Icelandic entry (ironically, I was the first to arrive from the delegation and I’m not even Icelandic, although I do feel quite proud of my peculiar pseudo-Scandinavianness at the moment!) we realized that as crazy it’s going to sound, I am the only official Russian citizen of all the entrants in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, including the Russian representative who is, in fact, Ukrainian! Although I was, of course, born in Georgia, the Russian passport speaks for itself after spending my childhood and teenage years in Moscow since the tender age of 8 onwards… no wonder the Russian press picked up on this information from day one!

I have only been here for just over 8 hours but I so wish I could go for a walk around Moscow – it’s truly beautiful in the evening, my favorite part of the day in the Russian capital… the Red Square is staggeringly gorgeous at night! But unfortunately it’s already 12:30 a.m. and I am about to faint after being up for over 24 hours. Tomorrow’s only a few short hours away, and apparently it’s going to be warm and sunny all of Sunday – how exciting to be here sans the muddy brown-ish snow and miserably cold weather!

What’s in store for me tomorrow? Together with the local ESC team, I’ll be meeting the entire Icelandic delegation, including my old friend and co-author of “Is It True” Oskar Pall Sveinsson and the angel-voiced Yohanna, our wonderful performer, at the same Sheremetyevo Airport Terminal 2. I cannot wait to tell you all about but until then, I hope you all have a fabulous day and/or night in New York, London, Moscow and wherever else our loyal readers and the ESC Iceland 2009 fans are following my Eurovision ride with BTR live from the Russian capital… Stay tuned for more – we’ve only just begun!

A quick bite of my favorite Russkiy homemade blinis (I know, I know, but it’s still 4:30p.m. in New York, no?) and I’m off to sleep before an exciting Sunday afternoon only a few hours away….!

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