Niamh Kavanagh: “There is no loss of face if I sing well”

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Niamh Kavanagh is back in the Eurovision race, after having won the competition in 1993 with 'In your eyes.' Find out more about her entry this year, entitled 'It's for you,' as well as her participation in general, her outlook on the Eurovision Song Contest and the importance of the fans in the interview she has kindly given to esctoday.com, below.

Congratulations on winning the national final, thus having the honour of representing Ireland at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo. How are you feeling now that you have the certainty of being back in the competition?

I am totally delighted at being back in the competition. What an honour to be back representing Ireland for the second time, with a song that I love.

How and with whom did you celebrate your victory?

I spent the evening with everyone who was at the competition and then went to Magowans pub in Dublin to celebrate with some of the fans who watched the show from there. Then I went home with my husband and we had a celebratory cup of tea and some toast and talked about what would happen next!

What was going through your mind before the announcement of the results? The reactions for you where euphoric and the audience made it more than clear that they wanted you to win. Did all those positive signs convince you to believe in victory? How much does this support mean to you?

I was quite relaxed before the votes were announced, I was confident I had sung well and so I could be proud whatever the outcome. When the results started to come in I was a little shocked at how resounding the response was. Delighted, but a little shocked. It has meant the world to me that people supported me and the song so well.

Ireland had its' golden period at the Eurovison Song Contest in the 1990s, having won no less than four times back then, including your own victory in 1993. After that, things changed drastically. Afterfinishing lastin 2007, Ireland sent what probably was the most exorbitant gimmick entry to ever compete at the Eurovision Song Contest, Dustin the Turkey, a puppet. The act failed miserably in the semi final and it became evident that such an act was not the way to go. What is your honest opinion about Dustin's bid for Eurovision? Do you think it damaged Ireland's reputation to a certain extent? Should a puppet even be allowed to enter in the first place?

Looking at Dustin’s entry in 2008, it had to be said that it would probably not work outside the Dublin area. Dustin is a fantastically funny puppet, but he is typically Dublin, Irish. People probably didn’t realise just how that might transfer abroad. There have always been novelty acts in the Eurovision, it’s perhaps shocking for people in Europe because Ireland has always steered away from that side of the contest. I don’t think it hurt Ireland's reputation. Every year you have to start anew anyway. No country can claim to be flawless in its entries! But I will say this, it made people in Ireland discover that they really did care about what they sent to Eurovision and that is a good thing.

In your view, after having tried various concepts that didn't pan out, is it best to reclaim Ireland's past method of success: a decent ballad and a superb vocalist with a performance focussing solely on the music, or as Niall Mooney, one of your songwriters, accurately put it: "If it's not broken, don't fix it."

Well to begin with, the contest has changed hugely over the last 10 years, in particular the removal of the orchestra has changed the style of songs that compete. It has to be said that it is still essential to match the song with the performer. I don’t think to remain in the past is the answer for anything, but I do believe that if you have the combination right of singer and song then you are in a good place to start. We have a strong tradition in Ireland of quality vocals and songs that speak to the heart. I think it’s wise to display this in the Eurovision, but I think we could just as easily win with an uptempo song IF it was a good song with a good performer.

With two semi finals being held these days, it already is quite an achievement to advance to the final. Taking into account the fact that juries, who usually tend to be in favour of conventional ballads, will have a stake of 50% in the outcome of this year's Eurovision Song Contest, how far do you think you can go with your song? What will we be your main priority, as far as the result is concerned? Getting Ireland into the final again, or aiming for a top five placing?

My first priority is always to the performance, so my focus is to present the song as best I can. That I hope will lead us to the final, I can’t control everyone out there and what they will like or not like but I feel we have a strong song that has instant appeal, and although there are many other ballads in the semi-final we are in, I feel reasonably confident that we will have as good a chance as any. Ideally the aim is to make the final and do well in it, no country going will be wanting less. If you are asking me do I want to win, well the answer will be YES, but I won’t die if we don’t, all I can say is if I sing well on the night, semi-final or final, then that is all that I can do, after that is up to the voters, there is no loss of face if I sing well.

Undoubtedly, the competition has become a brand-new one with whole other dimensions since your victory in 1993, with nearly twice as many countries competing and a lot more factors to be considered. However, in most cases, the performance on stage still is the crucial factor deciding over success or failure. Do you already have a concrete vision in mind on how you want your performance to look at the big Eurovision stage, or is it still too early to think about that?

The team and I have been working very hard to make sure that the staging is as beautiful as we can make it for the song. This song has strength and won’t need fireworks or anything else to make it stand out, but beautiful lighting and an intense joyful performance with careful attention to detail will make it stand out. We all have a very definite feeling of how it should look, and it is well on it’s way. The look must take in everything from costume to lighting to the small movement and placement of people on stage. I am confident it will be as it should be.

You revealed to us that you are planning on releasing other versions of It's for you in case you should win the national final. Now that you have won, can you already tell us more about that? Some people suggest increasing the influence of the flute in your song to give it an even bigger Irish identity. Is the current version of your song already the one you will sing in Oslo?

Sometimes songs are organic and with each performance something new unfolds. I understand that people are rooting for this song and have many suggestions as to how it would sound better. There are also those who can’t stop playing it because they love it so much. I also understand that there are people who it will not appeal to no matter what we do. So here is my stand on this, we will always do what is best for the song, so far we have tried many different formats of the song and this one works the best so far. Something may suggest itself during a performance, but realistically if the song makes you feel half of what it makes me feel then the job is done I say.

In which ways will you be promoting your entry It's for you? Will there be a promo tour? Do you perhaps plan on releasing a new album too?

'It’s for you' is selling well on i-tunes and the CD single itself will be available from May 14th in Ireland on Universal records. I will be visiting different countries to promote the single and then as much radio and press as you can. It is unusual for an artist to promote to the entirety of Europe at the same time, you usually do it a territory at a time so we will do our best until Eurovision and after please God. There is a plan to do more tracks for a forthcoming album and that will hopefully be well on it’s way by the end of May.

To conclude this interview, would you like to send a message to the readers of esctoday.com?

I would like to say thank you to all who support us and the wonderful messages people send on facebook. I am thoroughly enjoying my journey with 'It’s for you' and I hope that I will get to see as many of you as possible in Oslo, don’t forget to say hi when you see me! I will be the one with the red hair………….

Additionally to the written interview, esctoday.com had the opportunity to have a quick chat with Niamh during her stay in Sarajevo, where she had been promoting her song It’s for you at the BH Eurosong show:

Is this your first visit to Bosnia?

Well, it is my first visit to Bosnia. I’ve been to Croatia, which is close. Obviously, in 1993, it was their first time there, so when they asked if I could come here, I was quite keen to come because I felt it was kind of an omen.

This is also your first promotional visit since you’ve been selected. How many more countries are you planning on visiting and what do you think you will gain out of it?

Yeah, it’s my first country. I don’t know how many I’m going to do because I think the time is a problem and then there are a lot of things that need to be done. Obviously, for me, the big thing is to be in touch with the fans, which we are on Facebook and I do just love Facebook. I love when people come and have a chat, that’s great. And then, really, after that… to be honest with you, most people vote on what they see on the semi final anyway. So, realistically, I go to promote because I want to go and see the countries or the people who are involved in it and it’s very nice to meet some of the delegates beforehand. Because that’s the big thing, you know. Obviously, we all know it’s a big community when we get together, so having a prior knowledge of a few of the delegates is really nice. But you know, I’m 17 years out of it, it’s bound to have changed a little bit since then.

You mentioned Facebook – Do you think the internet could be an important platform in promoting your entry?

Well, I think it’s an important platform for the fans. I think the fans are very involved. Actually, funny enough, I got a huge response from people who are not actually Eurovision fans, who are just interested in me as a performer and in the song. Quite a huge response about the song, which I’m very pleased with. Yes I think it’s very important. You know, I’ve always enjoyed meeting the fans of Eurovision. Always, always. In the 17 years I was trying to make something that I can do that will bring me in touch with them because of the fun we have when we’re together and the fact they’re so enthusiastic about what we do. And the fact that they know what earrings I wore at any time, I love that. So, for me to be able to throw a few comments now and then and for them to kind of tell me how their day went, I just love all that. You know, I think it’s an essential part of what we do now anyway. I mean, the internet is such a huge thing. Whether it’s going to get you any more votes- I don’t know. Most of the fans already know what I’m like, they’re quite excited about me coming back. So, for me really, the promotion is more to kind of hook up with the other delegates and to see what it is. Mostly, people will decide the night of the semi final or the final what they want to vote for. The fans probably already have decided actually. The other people really wait till they watch the semi final, just like if I was at home, that’s what I’d be doing.

The effect of promotional activities on the actual results can’t really be predicted anyway and it mostly depends on the average viewer at home voting, not on the fans.

For sure. And the other thing is, even at this stage, it’s hard to predict because until it’s on the big stage and people are singing live, you really have no notion who’s going to be this strong. But I feel very strong that we… I’d like to see Ireland in the final this year. I mean, even if it wasn’t me representing, that’s really what I would like to see. But I would say, for me, the most important thing is that I perform well and after that, it’s really up to whether people will respond to the song. I think they will, I think we’ll make the final, I really hope we do.

Let's talk a bit about your song: What is the message you are trying to send across with It's for you? What are the lyrics of your song talking about?

It’s very personal, it’s a very personal love song, but it also works on a larger scale, I suppose. The lyric is very inspirational, it’s about how you can love someone and give them your strength when things are quiet. But you know, it’s not a depressive song, it’s not world peace.

It’s actually quite hopeful.

It is a very hopeful song and I think people do respond to that. I think they like to feel a part of what’s going on and they like to relate to it. And the truth is, when you love someone, you just want to give them your energy when they don’t have theirs, and vice versa. And really, that’s what that song is about. And it can transfer into a larger scheme of things of course, you know into world peace and all that but to be honest with you, it’s not what’s it about for me. What it is about for me is it’s about love and how it can heal you and support you and fill you and how wonderful it is that you can be filled by the giving and the receiving. So that really is what that song is for me.

So, you got to meet some of this year’s other delegates here in Sarajevo. Have you heard their songs, or any of this year’s other songs yet?

Well, no I haven’t heard all of the songs. I wanted to wait really just to hear them all together. Obviously, tonight, I’ve heard the Polish, Serbian and Croatian songs and I like them all. Of course, this is what happens: You go to Eurovision, next thing you want everybody to win.
You’re very involved and you like it. And of course, the Polish guys and I have been having a great time all day because we’re very similar, having a good sense of humour and good fun. So, it’s great because when I go to Oslo now, I’ll already have some friends there. I think there’s probably going to be quite a few friends there actually. You know, and the fans themselves because we met off and on over the years. I’m just very excited to be a part of it again and it’s a very positive experience for me. I mean, there’s no predicting. People often ask me: “Are you afraid of failing because you won before?” But I’m not at all because the only way I can fail is if I sing really badly and I don’t really intend to do that. I would like to think that I won’t now at this point, so… that’s it.

Niamh’s message for esctoday.com:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOfUi5MQknU

Esctoday.com would like to thank Niamh Kavanagh for taking the time to do this interview and wish her the best of luck on her way to Oslo.

Nimah Kavanagh will be performing for Ireland inslot number 12in the 2nd semi finalof the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest, to be held on May 27th, 2010.

Niamh performing It’s for you in the 2010 Irish national final: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YioDwNc0eMg

Niamh performing It’s for you – Official Preview Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OH5XorOdx0w

Niamh performing It's for you inthe BH Eurosong 2010- show in Sarajevo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ky8HdUwi6dM

Niamh performing her winning songIn your eyes in the 1993 Eurovision Song Contest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoNMRoM3a4w

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