Posts Tagged ‘Óskar Páll Sveinsson’

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!


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The rehearsals and press conferences have finally kicked off, and unlike yesterday’s “meet and greet,” today was the real deal.

First thing in the morning, the Russian Eurovision hosts picked me up at home. The other assigned group of hosts went directly to the hotel to get the rest of the delegation – the majority of them, in fact, as I’m the only one from our group who is not staying in the hotel. I felt a little awkward about this initially. But being able to spend that extra bit of time with family and friends is simply too irresistible!

Before everyone had arrived by bus from Cosmos, Igor, Vlad (the ESC team in Moscow) and I cruised around the area, ending up at my secret haven. Dare I admit it? My favorite snack spot in Moscow is – McDonald’s! Please don’t laugh, the Russians take McDonald’s very seriously – and quite frankly, the food is very good (for what it is, of course) – the fries are delectable and so is the coffee, surprisingly enough. Even Oskar (Pall Sveinsson, one of our co-writers) took a picture of one of the local McDonald’s outdoor patios, when the delegation arrived last night. He posted the picture on his Facebook profile, so, with Oskar’s permission, here’s a glimpse at my secret getaway behind the scenes…

Afterwards, Igor (Icelandic host) and Vlad (Belgian host) accompanied me to meet the head of EBU accreditation about my pass. Apparently I’d been registered as a United States delegate, and my status was way too confusing for everyone, so we sorted that out before it became too packed outside of the accreditation center – within minutes, the line outside the EBU office was overwhelming! It just shows you how much everyone in Moscow (and beyond, I think) is excited about the upcoming competition.

Icelandic rehearsal #1 started a little after 10:30 AM, following the Israeli and Bulgarian sets. I was so impressed with Israel’s entry – I had always liked the idea behind the concept of their song, but the presentation itself was equally classy. And the vocalists, particularly Noa, sounded really good on stage!

When it was our turn to take over the center stage, Yohanna literally blew everyone away – one take after another, the performance just got stronger and stronger by the minute. And it really sounded amazing in the room.

Wait, did I say “the room?”

The place is huge, but at the same time, the stage is rather “compact,” and not too overwhelming. Our initial fears about performing a ballad without intense dance routines, special high-tech effects and volcanic eruptions had all been in vain, fortunately enough!

Following a staggeringly beautiful performance at the rehearsal (and I’m not exaggerating – you can see it for yourselves on YouTube, it was truly gorgeous – Yohanna looked and sounded very confident, which is always great, and the backstage crowd responded extremely well to the tune, so we were all very, very proud! Oskar took loads of pictures, but unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to get any copies yet) we were then escorted to what’s called a “viewing room,” where we watched the entire playback. We swapped comments, ideas and suggestions, then made a few last minute corrections of a strictly technical nature.

To be honest, since I am the only non-Icelandic speaker in our delegation at the moment (Christopher Neil, our co-writer and my executive producer, and Peter Knight, my publisher, are arriving from London on Thursday afternoon, so I’m counting the days – it’s so odd being alone!) it was slightly awkward and difficult trying to understand what was going on during the general debate following the playback. Everyone on our team, of course, spoke Icelandic and I had trouble trying to figure it out for myself… ha ha, not fun! Then my phone rang, all of a sudden, so I left the room for a few minutes. By the time I had wrapped up the call, however, our team was leaving the room. They joined me in the corridor. “It would have been good if you were there,” one of the RUV TV crew members noted. I admitted it was a bit confusing for me, since I didn’t understand a word of what was being said! These things though, and in the end I found it very amusing.

After the playback session, we all headed over to a press conference hosted by ESC Russia, for the local and foreign media. It was moderated by one of the most famous Russian TV hosts, Dimitry Shepelev. He was quite impressed with our group, saying with a laugh “your team is definitely bigger than most delegations this year!”

It all went really well! Yohanna gracefully answered all the questions the journalists had, though some of them were a bit unexpected. One regarded the gay parade that will coincide with the ESC finals, and then there was an awkward set of questions about the original performer of “Is It True?” for whom the song was initially written (prior to submitting it to the ESC Committee in Iceland).

In all honesty, I am really happy to be here as a songwriter, and I’ve gladly left my “artistic ego” behind in New York. At the end of the day, Yohanna is the star at Eurovision and not vice versa. But the press will always be the press, and they’ll never ask nice questions, right? I felt more like the original performer of “Is It True?” than the actual co-writer of the song, so, to say the least, it was just a little confusing.

Following the conference, the press (including RIA-Novosti, the main Russian media agency, Komsomolets, Pravda and Argumenti & Fakti) further complicated things by writing one article after another, all with a variation of “The Icelandic Singer Performs a Russian Song” as the headline. Well, has anyone forgotten that the much more established and super successful co-writers here are Oskar Pall and Christopher Neil? But of course a story is what counts for the media, so they’re just doing their job, I suppose. It is amusing, though.

After the conference, Yohanna and her manager Maria headed back to the hotel for additional rehearsal time. Meanwhile, Oskar, Alma, his fiancée, and I spent some time with the RUV TV team at Olympiisky. Then we were finally driven back to our homes in a lovely, oversized Eurovision bus!

I took a quick breather and grabbed a snack before heading over to my final appointment for the day. Our Icelandic friends relaxed for the remainder of the evening, getting some much deserved down time.

Georgian TV channel IMEDI and their Moscow correspondents interviewed me for the 8 o’clock news show. We walked around downtown Moscow with the IMEDI camera crew and their journalist, Tamar, and chatted about all things Eurovision. We spoke about the song, how it ended up in the contest, and my life between Moscow, Tbilisi and New York. I also shared my personal thoughts about taking over the recently disqualified Georgian entry as one of their compatriots. This made me smile because, although I am a proud Georgian-born native, I’m also an official Russian citizen (and as the press noted today, the only official Russian in the entire ESC competition this year, ironically) and a United States resident as well.

I wonder who’s rooting for us most actively? After all, this is an Icelandic song and I’m just one of the co-writers. I’m the youngest of them all, actually, as Chris Neil and Oskar Pall are both incredibly successful hitmen, and showbiz veterans in their own right (Christopher Neil even more so – he produced Celine Dion’s very first English-language hit, “Where Does My Heart Beat Now,” and he’s also the man behind the Mike & the Mechanics song “Over My Shoulder.” Love that one!) so if anything, I am truly, truly humbled to be on their team! But I think the most successful people are also the most confident, hence the least insecure and arrogant ones. So, it’s a real pleasure – not just an honor – to be surrounded by these two absolute greats!

I really enjoyed writing these endless paragraphs! Sharing today’s excitement and drama, never mind the absolute exhaustion at the end of it, is amazing – and thanks to BTR, I can make each and every one of you a part of my journey. It’s going to be a mad Eurovision ride over the next couple of weeks! But before I completely burn out (it’s already 3 AM in Moscow!) I’ll wish you all a great day or a wonderful evening wherever you are – depending on your time zone – and I can’t wait to see how tomorrow will unfold for all of us… including you, my special all access VIP guests!

A cup of lemon tea, a quick flip through my iPod library (newly updated!) and I am going to call it a night – tomorrow’s a brand new day!

P.S. For a special little something which we were unable to share on the personal blogs here due to EBU copyright rules, have a look at it right here on the BTR Tinatin homepage 🙂

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What an exciting day! Finally, the endless anticipation is over and our delegation has arrived in Moscow safe and sound!

The first few hours prior to their arrival, I spent a rather relaxing afternoon with my parents, walking around the new fancy shopping mall across the street from our apartment. (I was so tempted to stay with everyone else at the Cosmos Hotel, our official Icelandic residence, but after all, nothing compares to home sweet home!) We did all the silly-nothing’s I had so missed over the past several years of my grown-up life in New York.

But soon it was time to head off to the airport, and this time not as the arriving guest, but instead as the welcoming host! Along with the Moscow ESC team (that picked me up at home) we drove to Sheremetyevo 2 to meet our delegation at the gate.

Escorted by the airport police and Eurovision crew to the waiting area, I counted minutes as I sipped my double shot espresso and impatiently flipped through our itinerary for the weeks ahead – hectic, to say the least!

As soon as everyone landed and made their way to the arrival’s lounge, I caught a glimpse of Oskar Pall Sveinsson, my co-writer and dear friend, whom I hadn’t seen in absolute ages. Of all the places to reunite in the world for a special occasion, what a joy that it is here in my hometown of Moscow!

Quick snaps by the RUV TV crew and an individual introduction to each and every one of the members of our delegation made me feel incredibly happy. It was great to have finally met the team behind our upcoming grand performance! And to see the girl behind that angelic voice, Yohanna, was so great! We were incessantly posing for the photographers, and at the same time trying to catch up for the first time in person. I can’t believe the event kicks off for real tomorrow morning at 10 AM! We have rehearsal, and then our first press conference is at 1p.m.

As the ESC bus escorted our group to the assigned residence, I was asked to act as a tour guide. With a wireless mic in one hand hand and a front seat on the bus, I talked about the in’s and out’s of life in Moscow. From using roaming phones vs. local mobile SIM cards, or the history behind the surrounding buildings on our way from the airport, no matter what we talked about, it was all so much fun! I really felt that I knew a bit more about Moscow than I actually do. At least I haven’t forgotten too much about my adopted home town over the last few years!!

We eventually parted ways at the hotel, and said ciao for the night. But it will all resume first thing tomorrow morning, as we head over to the Olympiisky Stadium for our first rehearsal and the official registration. So please make sure you drop by tomorrow evening for a full, first-hand report about our ESC Icelandic adventures in Moscow. Remember, you read it here first!

Well, it’s time to say goodnight and have my last cup of tea for the eve before I take it easy and call it a day. For now, however, it’s songwriting time… A new co-write with Dimitri Stassos, the author of the Spanish ESC entry of 2009, Soraya’s “La Noche Es Para Mi”… so we’re not just busy competing between teams here – we are, in fact, making music and having fun… yes, even with competing countries! After all, that’s what it is all about – having a fabulous time while we’re enjoying the moment. The rest will unfold as the days go by!

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eurovision-moscowAnd the official ESC’s Icelandic Delegation blog is up and running….

With great support from the official sources!! 🙂

ESC Official Icelandic Blog

ESCToday Press Release


Eurovision.tv Press Release

What’s next? A Russian lyric – quite literally!

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banner1Desperately trying to juggle a million things at once with more surprises on the way… but in the meantime, here’s the latest from Eurovision 2009 and our Icelandic entry — if it’s true, it’s bound to appear right here for your eyes only!

First things first – the new weekly poll from ESC Today:

Please note: These charts are in no way supposed to predict the outcome of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, they are just supposed to show which songs have the most fans among the readers.

Charts for 2nd March 2009

The results are based on the votes cast until 20:00 CET.

Pl. Country Song Score Last week Change Poll

1 Spain La noche es para mí 121.9 NEW here
2 Norway Fairytale 121.4 118.9 (1st) down here
3 Turkey Düm tek tek 89.1 94.6 (3rd) = here
4 Iceland Is it true? 86.2 86.5 (5th) up here
5 Finland Lose control 81.6 90.8 (4th) down here
6 Switzerland The highest heights 72.3 85.5 (6th) = here
7 United Kingdom It’s my time 72.2 96.2 (2nd) down here
8 Bosnia & Herzegovina Bistra voda 62.0 NEW here
9 Portugal Todas as ruas do amor 52.7 NEW here
10 Denmark Believe again 50.9 53.5 (7th) down here
11 France Et s’il fallait le faire 40.8 41.0 (8th) down here
12 Montenegro Just get out of my life 32.5 31.4 (12th) = here
13 Greece This is our night 31.3 35.4 (10th) down here
14 Hungary Dance with me 28.3 35.2 (11th) down here
15 Albania Në merr në ëndërr 26.5 29.5 (13th) down here
16 Poland I don’t wanna leave 24.3 4.8 (18th) up here
17 Slovenia Love symphony 24.1 38.6 (9th) down here
18 Andorra La teva decisió 22.2 21.1 (15th) down here
19 Malta What if we 22.1 22.4 (14th) down here
20 Germany Miss kiss kiss bang 20.4 13.6 (17th) down here
21 Moldova Hora din Moldova 14.3 15.9 (16th) down here
22 Lithuania Love 8.6 1.5 (19th) down here
23 Ireland Et cetera -3.1 -3.4 (20th) down here
24 Croatia Lijepa Tena -4.7 NEW here
25 Romania The Balkan girls -6.3 -11.4 (21st) down here
26 Georgia We don’t wanna put in -18.6 -42.4 (23rd) down here
27 Netherlands Shine -19.1 -14.5 (22nd) down here
28 Bulgaria Illusion -79.5 -88.9 (24th) down here
29 Cyprus Firefly -94.2 -101.1 (25th) down here
30 FYR Macedonia Nešto što kje ostane -107.8 -105.0 (26th) down here
31 Armenia No par -140.1 -132.9 (27th) down here
32 Latvia Probka -154.5 NEW here
33 Belarus Eyes that never lie -169.0 -179.9 (28th) down here

One of the many opinion blogs about the upcoming semifinals and the grand finale in Moscow, here’s an excerpt from 12Points.tv:

Edwin’s 12points IV

Edwin, our 12points blogger, is very busy these days, watching all national finals, semi finals and other eurovision related tv shows, as they are programmed, allmost dayly, the last few weeks. Today we learn what he thinks about the latest selected songs. You can of course listen to all the songs on 12points too, as they are listed under this blog.

writen by Edwin Peeters [26.02.2009]

13 more songs and again I give my opinion. Some ballads, some controversial songs, some songs with traditional influences, some rock songs and this year’s winner (I’m quite sure!) are chosen.

Armenia – Jan Jan – Inga & Anush
It reminds me in some way of Ofra Haza songs. It is a pop tune with traditional influences. The two sisters have a good energy together. The song is original and doesn’t get boring. This could take Armenia into the final once more and might be the next succes in Armenian Eurovision history. Or is it too traditional for the audience?

Iceland – Is It True? – Jóhanna Guðrún Jónsdóttir A beautiful blonde on stage in a white dress. She will get lots of votes because of her looks. A good ballad. It misses out on not having a bridge, but she will make it to the final in Moscow.

Lithuania – Pasiklydes Zmogus – Sasha Son
Another ballad, but not in a traditional Eurovision way. It is more of a pop song. This song is very original, just like the singer. A good perfomer who carries the song. I’m not quite sure about the electric guitar solo (hope it will be ditched before Eurovision), but, hey, it can’t be perfect. Don’t know if the average Eurovison watching European will vote for this song. If they like quality they will. But I think Sasha will barely make it to the final. I’m keeping my finger crossed that he will.

Poland – I Don’t Wanna Leave – Lidia Kopania
And again, a ballad. The beginning of the song sounds mysterious, but the chorus doesn’t. The singer is gonna get some votes with her looks, but I would like to see her in a classy dress in stead of the short one she wore at the national final… or she should borrow Edyta Górniak’s (ESC 1994) dress, also short, but more stylish. She is gonna make it to the final in Moscow. After that is difficult to predict wich ballad will do best.

Moldova – Hora Din Moldova – Nelly Ciobanu
Another song with a Balkan influence, like the Romanian song. Although this contribution from Moldova (the Romanian neighbours) sounds more traditional and authentic than the more poppy Romanian one. I also have to think about gipsy music. To me it sounds good, but gipsy music generally doesn’t do well at Eurovision. This will struggle to get into the final, I fear, although it makes me feel really happy: hey hey!

Georgia – We Don’t Wanna Put In – Stefane & 3G
Oh no, a disco tune, with a rap in the middle. This is one of the controversial songs. Not because of the music, but because of the lyrics. ‘We Don’t Wanna Put In’… get it?: PUTIN! The difficult relationship with the Russians makes this title sound like a political statement. And that is forbidden at Eurovision. So they probably have to change the lyrics or Georgia will have to send their number two from the national final. I don’t know about this. It could go either way.

Greece – This Is Our Night – Sakis Rouvas
He’s back, how great is that! The three songs that were selected for (or by) him to compete in the national final were not as strong as ‘Shake Shake Shake’, but at least the best (last) song was chosen. It doesn’t sound typically Greek, but it definitely suits Sakis’ oevre. Great dancetune! Of course his energy and appearance will make the song go straight into the final and top 10.

Ireland – Et Cetera – Sinead Mulvey & Black Daisy
Good pop song. It sounds a little bit northern American. Could have been a song from Avril Lavigne. Very commercial and it could do well in Eurovision, even if it doesn’t sound very Irish (I’m used to ballads or traditional songs from Ireland), she will make it to the final in Moscow. At least her name is Irish!

Bulgaria – Ilussion – Krasimir Avramov
Another controversial song. This time it’s about the voting (he got many more votes than number two in the national final and some people didn’t trust it) and the performance (he didn’t do well at the national final). Hearing the studio version of the song it is one of my favourites, but live… well, let’s say he needs to get some singing lessons or a group of superb backing vocals. But still there is the deal with is high notes. I find it weird to watch and listen to a man singing such high notes and then switch to a more manly sound. If the act and performance is alright and his voice is put into the background (just a little bit), then this could be top 10 in the final. But with a poor presentation and a weak performance it will end up at the bottom of its semi final.

Norway – Fairytale – Alexander Rybak
Like I wrote before (Edwin’s 12 points III)… Wow, that guy is hot and sweet! He knows how to play the camera, he is energetic, he can sing, he plays the violin (for real), he wrote this song himself and did I mention his looks? Watch out Moscow, here is the winner of Eurovision 2009! And how great would it be that a guy of Russian descent (or almost… Belarussian actually) would win in Moscow with this song that combines eastern and western European music, dance and looks. I don’t know what to say anymore. Oh yes: the dancers are supporting Alexander wonderfully, as well as the backing vocals! This act is so complete and blew me away and according to the standing ovation of the audience at the national final, there is no competition.

Macedonia – Nesto sto ke ostane – Next Time
A rock song, wich doesn’t impress me at all. I guess this will be the second year in a row that Macedonia doesn’t make it to the final. Popular as they may be in Macedonia, they look like a young version of Bon Jovi, with eighties looks. I don’t like it, I’m very sorry. I miss the Macedonian soul or sound in this song. Not to the final… please!

Switzerland – The Highest Heights – Lovebugs
The best Swiss entry since (Estonian) Vanilla Ninja’s ‘Cool Vibes’ in 2005. When I hear this song I think I’m listening to the radio. It could be a big hit. It’s not a typical Eurovision song, but it is oh so good! Very good! This deserves to be in the top 10 in the final

Hungary – Dance With Me – Ádok Zoli
Interesting entry from Hungary. A handsome guy sings and dances to a pop tune. Light and bright are words that come to mind when I hear this song. A little bit of disco (but better than the Georgians) without a big message. It’s just a feel good song. It could do very well, even into the final’s top 10. And that for a song that was Hungarian’s third choice! There was a controversy concerning the first choice. That song had been performed years ago in a Swedish reality show. Second choice, a Hungarian actress, decided not to perticipate because of her busy schedule (well, why did she enter her entry in the first place?). So I’m glad that this song (the best of the three) was finally chosen to represent Hungary! I’m sure he’s gonna melt some people with his eyes.

And finally we’ve discovered a proper “lyrics, credits + additional info” page.

For those of you interested in the little bits and pieces, check out the Icelandic homepage

And one more thing… how could we possibly spend a week without yet another confusion in one of the Eurovision Forums….?

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logoTinatin Interview – The Georgian Times 03.03.2009

“It is definitely one of my goals to finally return to my roots when the time is right and introduce myself to my audience back home as “one of their own.”

Probably most Georgians would feel proud to hear that over the Atlantic a 24-year-old girl, Tinatin Japaridze, is on her way to reaching the heights of two careers: as a writer and a musician. Heralded by Billboard Magazine as one of the “fresh faces to keep an eye out for in 2008,” she was a finalist in the worldwide John Lennon Song Contest and her song “Wild” was hailed as a 2007 year-end Billboard Top 10 Critics’ Pick.

Years ago in London Tinatin, together with Christopher Neil who is also her Executive Producer and Vocal Producer and Oskar Pall Sveinsson wrote a song called “Is It True?” which has become Iceland’s Eurovision Song Contest Entry for 2009. The song won the national finals by a staggering 44% and will be competing with at the international finals to be held in Russia in May.

Tinatin’s music career began in 1998 when she auditioned with Professor Luigi Alva at La Scala and was offered a place at the Academy. At 14, she began classical vocal lessons with renowned Maestro Gocha Bezhuashvili, who has worked with La Scala, The Metropolitan Opera and Covent Garden. In the summer of 1998, Tinatin was invited to open the 1st Festival of Russian Films in Cannes and was then asked by the Mayor of Nice to close the annual Carnival of Flowers with her version of Jacques Brel’s “Quand On Na Que L’Amour.”

Three years later, she went to London to study journalism—and while there, launched her first promotional tour, organized by Event One, Jeff Chegwin and Yegor Shishkovsky, the latter of whom is a widely popular Russian-born journalist and radio personality. Live performances and TV/radio interviews with Tinatin were featured on BBC, Channel 5 and ITV’s “London Tonight,” where Capital FM’s Neil “Doctor” Fox referred to her as having a “really fantastic and beautiful voice. She’s unbelievable. It’s a voice that you would want people to put money behind.”

Born in Georgia and raised in Moscow, Tinatin has written in Russian for the leading Russian Newspaper in America, in English for the United Nations (where she is the United Nations Radio Correspondent) and in Georgia she has both written and been written about – including a story about her in Cosmopolitan – for which Cambridge Jones, the UK’s top photographer, took portraits.

Tinatin is currently working on two literary projects, fiction and non-fiction. Her songs are top hits on UK Radio stations and in clubs. Catapulting into mainstream success with a current dance/club hit in the UK, “Thinking of Someone Else,” Tinatin is adding final touches to her debut album with a number of the industry’s top producers and scribes.

As her collaborator Sahin has described, Tinatin’s voice is very soft and just floats over the music. The basis for this, he believes, could be the Georgian culture she is coming from.

“One of the highlights of my early days came when I was asked by my all-time heroes, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, to perform ‘A Piece of Sky’ from ‘Yentl’ at the Creative Arts Awards honouring Marilyn, who alongside her husband wrote some of the most touching and beautiful lyrics that I was brought up listening to,” says Tinatin. That performance marked her American debut, where she was presented to Mayor Rudy Giuliani and consummate Broadway composer Cy Coleman by the legendary conductor, arranger and composer Marvin Hamlisch, and accompanied by jazz piano great Mike Renzi.

To find out more about Tinatin we took our chance to ask her several questions as well:

Q: What are your expectations concerning Johanna Gudrun Jonsdottir, as you are the co-writer of her Eurovision song with Oskar Pall Sveinsson and Christopher Neil?

A: My long-time collaborators Oskar Paul Sveinsson, Christopher Neil and I co-wrote Is It True? several years ago in London as one of the few songs recorded for my pending album at the time. As often happens in creative situations, we somehow ended up putting the song aside after its completion. Many songs and years later, I got a call from Oskar asking if I had any objections to his idea of submitting it for this year’s preselection process in Reykjavik.

In an announcement made by RÚV Television, just over 69,000 votes were cast by the public when they chose our song as the nation’s representative out of the 217 entries. It was so unexpected – Chris Neil was away and Oskar was in hospital, so you can only imagine our excitement when the news finally arrived!

As for my expectations of the ESC finals in Moscow, it’s very hard to predict the outcome at this point – had you asked me last year if I was planning to participate in Eurovision 2009, I would have rolled my eyes and said, “I doubt it”, for no reason other than the simple fact that planning anything ahead of time is nearly always a complete waste of energy!

Thanks to Oskar, we discovered the wonderfully gifted and beautiful Johanna, and she did a great job! As a singer, I was inevitably “picky” but couldn’t find a single flaw in Johanna’s performance, which in itself was extremely gratifying. I think she’s got a lot to offer at this year’s competition, so we’re very proud and definitely very much looking forward to it!

Q: Currently you are writing an autobiography, will it be available for Georgian readers?

A: This autobiography is definitely something I have long wanted to write, but now more than ever before, it seems like the right moment for me to share my story, which will be published in the UK later this year.

Hopefully, it will resonate with my compatriots, as in many ways this book also represents my journey from Tbilisi, my hometown, to Moscow where I moved at the age of nine, and my final destination – the United States of America, where I’ve been living for the past four and a half years.

Q: When did you obtain Russian citizenship and what was the reason for this?

A: We moved to Moscow in the early 90’s during the upheaval in Georgia when my dad, the architect and painter Givi Japaridze, was offered the opportunity to pursue his professional career in Russia.

It was the beginning of a difficult transition, but it was also a challenge that I chose to embrace, along with many other Georgian émigrés in Moscow at the time. I pursued my studies at the International School of Tomorrow and at the Moscow State University, until I finally moved abroad: first stop – London for several years, and only later – New York.

Q: You’re at #2 on the Dance Radio Top 25 along with Madonna, Donna Summer and Jennifer Hudson with the song “Thinking of Someone Else,” how do you intend to continue catching the attention of your fans?

A: To be honest, that’s a very tricky question! I’ve often been told that a lot of twists and turns that I took in my early career have never really followed a set pattern of a debutante – it all happened ”upside down”.

For example, while most artists become involved in political issues much later, a couple of years ago, the former President of the UN Correspondents’ Association, Ian Williams, suggested that I compose a piece of music based on the United Nations Charter as a one-of-a-kind ”UN song”. Less than a year later, I was standing onstage at the UN Headquarters singing “We the Peoples” at the request of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, honoring Sir Richard Branson. It suddenly dawned on me that yes, sometimes we do have the craziest ideas, and yes, everyone will tell you not to do it, but with a little bit of luck, effort and belief, everything is within our reach – even the most insane and ridiculous fantasies!

I suppose trying to calculate the next move, no matter how predictable, is one of the most difficult tasks for me. And while my heart inevitably lies in contemporary music, I consider classical training and particularly bel canto to be an absolute must for any vocalist in any given genre; and needless to say, Maestro Gocha Bezhuashvili has certainly become one of my most trusted mentors.

Q: Do you plan any tours in the future and would Georgia be one of the countries on the list?

A: It is definitely one of my goals to finally return to my roots when the time is right and introduce myself to my audience back home as “one of their own.” The fact that this has not yet happened was certainly not my decision.

These days, I often get fan mail from young Georgian people asking me why I still haven’t made any effort to appear publicly in Georgia and have somehow managed to remain the country’s “best-kept secret for much too long”… I admit that singing foreign songs and working on an English-language project did not necessarily work in my favour in Tbilisi. Some accused me of unpatriotic tendencies, while others simply didn’t care much for American songs sung by a Georgian girl who was being produced by some of the leading European and American scribes and producers. Why? Because I wasn’t singing in Georgian!

I have to be honest and say that, to a certain extent, I was slightly disappointed by the unexpected reaction of my fellow Georgians. There is absolutely nothing wrong with our compatriots achieving success and recognition in other parts of the world – if anything, doesn’t their popularity abroad promote our own country and its citizens beyond the ramifications of geography and politics?

Eka Bilanishvili
2009.03.03 18:55

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1211150330bzagjlJóhanna Guðrún Jónsdóttir won the Icelandic selection with “Is It True”.

At 18 Jóhanna is a relative newcomer to the Icelandic music scene but in true Icelandic tradition she has recorded some songs for children’s cds as a young teen.

Listen to the song and all other Icelandic contenders at the RÚV Söngvakeppni page

You can also listen to the original demo version by Tinatin at reverbnation and read all about it at Tinatin’s MySpace blog.

There is a little discrepancy though, RÚV only mentions Óskar Páll Sveinsson as the writer of the song, but Tinatin wrote it with Chris Neil and aforementioned Oskar Paul. Sort it out guys.

Tónlist has the album with all selections songs (digital), Eurovision CD out soon on Sena.

Special thanks to Jan @ the Moscow Collection !!


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