Omar Naber, the singer and songwriter who represented his native country Slovenia at the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev, Ukraine with his self- written rock- ballad Stop, has joined the Eurovision race again this year. Being one of the direct finalists for the EMA (Slovenia's national final) festival 2009, to be held on February 1st in Ljubljana, he will be singing a very personal song called I still carry on. Find out more about Omar, his views on Eurovision- related issues and his upcoming EMA participation in the following exclusive interview with esctoday.com editor Florian Grillhofer.
After representing Slovenia at the Eurovision Song Contest 2005 in Kiev, with your self- written rock- ballad Stop, you were one of the invited songwriters to compete at EMA again in 2009. Were you happy about the invitation by the Slovenian broadcaster and accepted it immediately? What are the main reasons that made you return to the competition and how eager are you to give Eurovision a second try?
Omar: Yes, I was happy about the invitation and I accepted it immediately. Although I don’t think I would have gone to EMA if they hadn’t invited me. I had some reasons about accepting this invitation; the song I’ll be representing at the EMA festival will be the first single from my forthcoming album, which will be released- if everything goes well- in March 2009 and EMA is a perfect opportunity to present this first single. The second reason is that I couldn’t reject this invitation because the Slovenian national broadcaster RTV SLO have helped me as much as they could- all along through the past four years of my music career. It would be inappropriate for me to reject that kind of invitation. In fact, it’s an honour to be invited.
Would you consider yourself as a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest? Have you been following it in recent years? Are there any songs you are particularly fond of?
Omar: I never really was a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest, but I watch it every year, because I’m a musician. I have been into music all my life and I always really wanted to hear ‘the best songs’ of Europe, what is Europe capable of on a music scene. To watch Eurovision is actually a duty and an obligation for every musician in Europe, it’s the biggest music festival in Europe ever. I’m not really particularly fond of any songs, especially not for the last 15 years, because the quality of the performers and songs is obviously falling, but I have a very strong intuition and feeling that the quality will start rising again very soon.
Tell us a bit about your general experience at Eurovision 2005. Are there any pleasant memories you can recall? Did you make any friends among the artists from other countries?
Omar: I met a lot of people there, received a lot of records, albums of artists from other countries and gave tons of interviews every day. I have very pleasant memories from Kiev. But when you come back to your country, it seems that in fact nothing ever really happened, it seems that everyone has forgotten about you and the show. I got the feeling that Eurovision is in fact a totally insignificant festival for the real world of European music. Maybe only I have that kind of feeling, I don’t know, but that’s the only negative experience, which in fact is really not too bad, it’s just a feeling!
Your performance of Stop came across very genuine as it was focused mainly on your vocals and the song itself, which included a dramatic climax before it ended like it began, in a quiet and touching way. Looking back now, would you have done anything different on stage? Which expectations did you have in 2005 before going to Kiev? Were you disappointed after not advancing to the final or was your main intention to have a great performance and enjoy yourself?
Omar: I never expected anything, I knew I could never make it to the final, because Eurovision has been a political festival for the past 15 years and we all know it, it’s not a secret, and Slovenia is way too small to get the votes for the final. I really would have to be something freaking special to get there, like Alenka Gotar for example in 2007. But the winner almost never has the best song and the best song almost never wins. I think the most important point for me was to please the Slovenian people who sent me to Kiev, I wouldn’t want them to be disappointed with my performance. If I could change anything back then, I would sing Stop even a little bit better and I would be a little more prepared. I didn’t take it as seriously as I would take it now, I guess I was too young. But now I know that everything happens for a reason.
Your 2009 song is called I still carry on. Can you already give us some information about it? Will it be sung entirely in English? Will it be in your usual style? Which kind of sentiments does it convey? Is there some special story behind it, does it have a certain message you would like to stress? Did you write it especially for Eurovision?
Omar: It’s a very special song, the lyrics are very personal. And as you listen to the text, you might think it’s about a girl, but it’s not. It’s about my friends, who were jealous of my sudden success. They found so many of my mistakes after winning the EMA in 2005, but they knew about these mistakes before. Everybody makes mistakes, even the Pope. These mistakes were the lame reasons to reject me from their company. The song was originally written in English, and may I say in 15 minutes by the seaside in the moment of weakness, so I will sing it in English, I think it’ s best.
What would it mean to you to represent Slovenia in Eurovision for the second time?
Omar: It would absolutely be the biggest honour and responsibility in my life for me so far. Who can represent his country in the Eurovision Song Contest two times? Not everybody! I’m not expecting to win, like I said before, it’s just a perfect way to represent my first single from my third, forthcoming album. And if I win, I promise to throw a big party, a celebration in fact.
The winner of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest will be decided by half jury and half televoting, aiming to decrease the amount of biased votes in order to make the results less predictable again. Each country will appoint a jury with five experts from music business. How do you feel about this approach? Do you think that a “professional jury” will favour certain musical genres? Do you think it is fair for such a small amount of people to have such a big say in the outcome of Eurovision?
Omar: I’m sure that these people who will be called ‘the jury’, will be very precisely chosen folks, who really know much about the music. I think that they will cut the tradition of Eurovision being a political festival at the first sight.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your professional pursuits. Besides your solo career, you also have your own band called Kareem. In 2005, you won the first edition of the Slovenian Idol show Bitka talentov. But originally, you studied to become a dental technician and then decided to devote your life to music. What made you change your mind? Do you consider music as your real calling? And in which respects has your life changed since competing at Bitka talentov, EMA and Eurovision?
Omar: My life changed just the way I wanted it to change. Now I can devote every day of my life to music knowing that I’m not wasting my lifetime and also make a living out of it. I cherish that, not every musician in Slovenia can do that. What made me change my mind to devote my life to music instead to my profession? It wasn’t me who chose music, music has chosen me.
Who or what gives you the inspiration to write music?
Omar: Who? Artists like Queen, Genesis, Creed, Greenday, Nirvana, The Beatles, Abba, Michael Jackson, George Michael, etc. And if we’re not talking about the artists, I can say that every day the new inspiration comes spontaneously from everywhere. Every person, every breath of wind, every tree, every raindrop and every sea hore can be inspiration if you know how to turn them into it.
What message would you like to give our readers at esctoday.com?
Omar: I will be very pleased and honoured if I’m chosen again to be the representative for Slovenia, although I’m not expecting to win. I know that not many of you can do anything about it, but somehow I want all of you to hear my EMA 2009 song. I will send it to you right after the EMA competition, so you would be able to decide if my song would make it in Europe.
Esctoday.com would like to thank Omar for being so kind as to do this interview with us and wish him the best of luck for EMA 2009!