This week, Amandine Bourgeois has presented to the press her Eurovision entry L’enfer et moi with which she is to represent France in Sweden on 18 May. During a press conference, the young singer accepted to answer all questions with absolutely no taboos. She talked about her initial doubts about the contest, the choice of her song, her chances to win, Anggun’s performance in Baku, the importance to sing in French and even her thoughts regarding her competitors such as Bonnie Tyler and Cascada. Here is a minute of this interview session.
Have you ever watched the Eurovision Song Contest before?
No! (She bursts into laughter) Never actually. Well, I won’t say that I don’t know what it is about though. Because I do know about it. It is as if I would say that I don’t know Johnny Hallyday (French national rock star), everybody (in France) knows about him. Whether you listen or not to his music, you know about him and his music. It is just the same with the Eurovision Song Contest.
Why are you taking part then?
I grew up in a very boho family, former 1960’s hippies wearing headscarves, long hair, kind of intellectual, etc. My mother only listens to France Inter (French national news radio), my father is into France Culture (French national culture radio) and for my step-father, it is all about jazz music. I have totally missed the whole Eurovision thing until now, but as everybody else I know about it. Till recently it evoked to me something like the Miss France beauty pageant! (Laughs).
What was your first reaction when you found out you had been selected to represent France?
I said something like: Hell no! What is that?. And my manager told me: Calm down. I think you are just ignorant and you don’t know anything about the concept, the game, you don’t know what it is about. Make some research and let’s talk about it. So, I called some girlfriends of mine, and we had a Eurovision night. We watched all videos from 1957 till now. And Gosh we really laughed a lot! That was great. We enjoyed it a lot either mocking some entries or being literally amazed by some others. And only then I realized what it was about. It is freaking great! It is so great that such things exist! It is like soccer, it gathers the people. So I had missed everything about it till know. And I am a singer and it is a prestigious song contest, gathering all European countries, I would be a fool not to want to take part. I think more than 65 million viewers watch it every year. It is huge. When you are an artist or a singer, it is a dream come true to be watched by so many people.
Do you think it will have an impact on your career afterwards?
When you are an artist, the more exposure you have, the better it is for your career, honestly. Just imagine, if a Russian bloke sees me and later on wants me to perform for some private parties. I could carry on working in the music business and I could live from it. This is not the only point about it but still…
Now that you finally found out what the Eurovision Song Contest is, don’t you think it is even more kitsch or outdated than the idea you had about it?
No, it is even less kitsch than what I thought! Do you know what I saw? I saw a heavy metal band from Finland (Lordi) winning the whole thing in 2006! A real group with masks and everything! Amazing! Sébastien Tellier himself also represented France and I loved it! He made the whole thing look so cool. That was great. There was also France Gall, and Céline Dion as well… A lot of artists, who are still big today, with amazing careers, took part in the Eurovision Song Contest.
You said you were surprised to be selected for the Eurovision Song Contest. Do you understand it also surprised the public? There were some harsh criticisms because nobody was expecting you to do the job.
Yes. But I don’t feel like I am not fit for the job. It is the selection committee that decided to go for my song. And I reacted as you all did, I was really surprised. At the beginning I said to myself ‘it is just so weird they selected a song like mine’ because I thought going to Eurovision supposed you had a particular music style, but in the end, when you look at it there is no proper style for Eurovision. I will mention again that Finnish metal rock band. Who could have imagined that it could win? Nobody! It was not meant for Eurovision and it went all over the place!
So what is your approach, are you going there to win?
Honestly it would be hypocritical to say that I take part but that I don’t want to win. Of course I want to win! Then, I am also a philosopher. To me, what matters the most is the way to success rather than the victory itself.
Do you believe in the chances of your song L’enfer et moi?
I don’t know. All that I know is that this is my song. I can live it, I can feel it, I really enjoy singing it, it’s sincere, and it’s a genuine and sincere approach. I am not cheating, artistically, with this song. Then I cannot convince everybody unfortunately…
Did you change part of the song or will it be as it is now?
Actually the song was already finalized when it was submitted. I had planned to include it to my 3rd album..
We learned that you also signed a new contract with the record label Warner. Did you sign for the song only or for the album?
For the album too. It will be released either by the end of this year or early next year.
Is it because you are entering the Eurovision Song Contest that you had the opportunity to sign with Warner for a new album?
I don’t know, but I guess so. It may have helped I think. But it is only my opinion, I really don’t know. The contest will give me an exceptional exposure, a huge visibility, as it did to me when I took part and won Nouvelle Star (French version of Pop Idol) in 2008, I don’t know if you are aware about it (laughs). It is somehow the same concept, a song contest.
How are you feeling right now, only a month before the big day?
I am feeling so happy to be living this freaking adventure. It is a very big thing and I think that I still do not realize how big it is. I might seem a bit cheeky but actually I just don’t realize on what I have embarked. However I must admit that I am not sleeping that well now, I guess I have started feeling nervous about it. I will try to turn that stress into a positive energy to give the best that I can.
How are you getting ready for it? Are you rehearsing your song a lot?
No, I try not to be too much focused on it. I need to stay close to the people I love, my relatives, my friends; I need to go out, to see concerts. If I remain alone at home and I think about it, I feel bad. I need to live my life. I am not telling myself that this experience is that serious; I need to enjoy it too. If I enjoy it then people will feel it.
Are you aware about all the political voting affecting the contest?
Yes, I know about this geopolitical game and I kind of expect it to happen. People from Eastern Europe vote for Eastern European countries, and so on… But today I don’t want to pay attention to that, it is not my role. I am a singer and I am taking part in a song contest. I am going there with the will to do well and win. I am not asking myself political questions.
OK, but sometimes it can explain why some participants do that bad…
I guess I wouldn’t like that.
Well, see what happened to Anggun…
The true question is did you like Anggun’s performance? This is all what matters to me. If you enjoyed it then OK. It is really all what matters to me. I would like to do nice performance. But it is true that I would like to get a nice result too. It would suck big time if I ended last! It would really suck!
So do you reckon you chose the right song?
I did not ask myself if my song would win the Eurovision Song Contest or not. My song, I just love it, I feel it, I want to sing that song because it looks like me. Then, the selection committee in France voted for it, its members are responsible for that choice! Me, I am just an artist and I have my own universe, my own sensitivity. If they believe that I am not made for the contest, they can go ask someone else to do the job!
Do you know who had also submitted an entry to the French selection committee?
I believe there was Philippe Katerine (who wrote the song for Les Vedettes in the French national final in 2007), the Twin Twin and Lily Wood & the Prick. But one should as France Televisions for confirmation.
Have you listened to some of the songs that will compete in Malmö?
Yes! Bonnie Tyler for the UK, how cool is that! Only for her, I am so happy to take part in the contest. I would love to sing a duet with her. There is Cascada as well, I am not really into that kind of music but she is a freaking good singer, big voice. I think this is really exciting. It feels great to be competing with great singers you like, great voices. And there is that singer that I love, Anouk who will represent the Netherlands. She is a singer I used to listen to a lot and from whom I got a lot of inspiration to learn how to sing. If I get the chance to meet her, I think I might go crazy!
You said you will keep it simple on stage, only you and your backing singers…
We have no money, we have no money! (Laughs) Literally there is no budget! But even when I took part in Nouvelle Star, each of my performances was mainly based on my interpretation, in a very sober way. I can’t imagine myself doing a choreography, as in a musical, this is not me. (She thinks). Well I could but… I just can’t see it happen. Moreover with that particular song, I can only imagine a performance with a rock attitude, full of emotion and interpretation, no superficial things. I love the tribal rythms it has, those drums, those Amy Winehouse-styled guitars.
Have you been asked to add a few words in English to seduce as many people as possible?
Actually the song was written in English first. The selection committee said: ‘No, no, no, we want a song in French!’. Then whether I would have sang a bilingual version? No, either I sing it in French or in English. I don’t know, I am no big fan of the bilingual thing. With some other songs it might work. For the Eurovision Song Contest I like the idea of songs to be performed in national languages only. It is supposed to be a contest in which all European countries can show off their culture but in the end they all sing in English… What is interesting is precisely the possibility to represent your country with its culture and its language. Take the Italian language for instance. It is a beautiful language. It is like art, like a painting. If we all sing in English, the contest is losing something in the end. The Eurovision Song Contest is about representing a country, its culture, its art and its language. I also like the English version of my song but Boris Bergman wrote such a hell of a text in French. Well that’s the title of the song actually (enfer means hell). That was a decisive point actually.
Do you read what media is saying about your song? Do you pay attention about the critics?
Well, listen, if there is a bloke out there who reckons the Eurovision Song Contest just sucks, well that is his opinion. Me, I have never said the contest sucked even if I did not really know about it before. I just really did not know about it. If I had believed the contest sucked, I wouldn’t have entered it.
Would you have tried your luck at The Voice should you have not been offered to enter the Eurovision Song Contest?
Impossible. I did Nouvelle Star and I won it. I am not allowed to enter The Voice. But it is all fine! Really, since I have won Nouvelle Star, I am very happy. Ok, ok, I don’t sell millions and millions of copies of my records, I know what you mean. But don’t get me wrong, I am not being arrogant. I am just trying to explain you what my life is since Nouvelle Star. I won, I released my first album which was certified Gold status, my song L’homme de la situation got a lot of airplay on the radio, I sold more than 60 000 copies of it, I believe it is even 80 000 copies. Then I went on tour. Then I worked on a second album, an awesome experience during 3 months in England with part of the musicians of Amy Winehouse. When I came back and released the album, yes, it turned out that it did not sell well but nevertheless I received some amazing offers. I toured with Thomas Dutronc (son of Françoise Hardy, the 1963 Monegasque Eurovision entrant) the Zenith music halls in France including 2 evening at the Olympia in Paris. Johnny Hallyday contacted me to perform during his concerts for his summer tour and for his concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London. I lived a dream! That’s what I call artistic happiness. So OK about the sales… but I still did enjoy much more working on the second album than on the first one. Honestly, my life doesn’t reflect the marketing and commercial aspect of things. We are artists. We have ups and downs. And a commercial success doesn’t mean that it is really what people listen to the most.
What will your third album sound like?
Well I will try to find a compromise so that I can manage to sell a few copies of it! (Laughs). I am saying so but I don’t really want to. I think i just don’t care. I am happy out of very simple things. I only really want to be authentic and give something to the people. I cannot cheat. If I sing something I am not comfortable with, believe me, you will notice it. I must sing something I like, it must touch me so deep inside. I will try to find songs that touch me and that I want to share with you. I really want to give, share and be great on stage.