Gordon Pogoda reflects on his Czech entry

by Russell Davies 107 views

Gordon Pogoda is the co-writer of the 2008 Czech Republic Eurovision entry Have Some Fun” and hopes to participate once more in 2009 with a song he has co-written with Lauris Reiniks (Latvia 2003) which has qualified for the Latvian national final. Gordon has achieved worldwide success in the music industry. His songs have appearing on smash hit movies including Little Miss Sunshine and Josie and the Pussycats; and several TV shows including Sex and the City, Hannah Montana, ER, CSI Miami, Will and Grace, The Twilight Zone and King Of The Hill. He has also written hits for the
2008 Russian national finalist Sergey Lazarev and Greek Popstars group Hi-5. In this exclusive interview with esctoday.com, Gordon talks about his 2008 Eurovision Song Contest entry for the Czech Republic, the latest news on the Latvian 2009 national final and how an American becomes involved in the Eurovision Song Contest. (The above picture shows Gordon Pogoda (right) with Lauris Reiniks, co-writer of Latvian entry).

As a finalist in the Latvian national final what is the latest news from Latvia? Have Latvian Television directly confirmed the cancellation of the national final to you?

No one has confirmed it with me, but it's probably not happening. I had heard that Latvia still has to pay the Eurovision fee, even if it doesn't participate in Eurovision – which led people to believe that maybe Latvia would go, but my Latvian contact, Guntars Racs, says it doesn't look like it will participate in Eurovision this year. This is due to the worldwide financial crisis we are in. Of course, by the time this interview goes to press, there may already be a final decision made.

Can you say a few words about your song in the pre-selection? Was it especially composed with Eurovision in mind?

It's a song called I Wish I Could Pretend, a pretty ballad, which I wrote with Latvian TV & music star Lauris Reiniks. And yes, it was written especially for Eurovision. The singer is Kristina Zaharova, who also is the singer of another song that made the top 21 finals in Latvia.

Lauris Reiniks is well known to Eurovision fans as being a member of F.L.Y. which represented Latvia with the song Hello From Mars in 2003. How did the two of you start your collaboration?

Guntars Racs, of Microphone Records in Latvia, hooked us up. I knew Guntars because he picked two songs of mine for the DJ Ella album. But this wasn't the first song Lauris and I wrote together. We first collaborated a few months ago — I wrote an English lyric to a Latvian-language song he had just written. And actually, Lauris already had some of the English words. The Latvian-language version was released very shortly after I worked on the English version, and it went to #1 in Latvia, apparently for many weeks.

If the Latvian final is cancelled, would you consider submitting I Wish I Could Pretend to another country for Eurovision?

Yes. But I don't think there are many countries left that haven't reached their deadline for submissions.

Can you tell me about your background in the music industry?

I live in Los Angeles, I write music and lyrics, I usually co-write, I always write on the piano, I've had two songs in an Academy-Award winning film, Little Miss Sunshine and over 50 songs in TV shows and other films – shows like Sex & the City, CSI Miami, ER, Hannah Montana and Will & Grace. I also wrote the second biggest hit of the year in Russia a couple years ago for Russian superstar Sergey Lazarev. I've also had platinum records with the Greek Popstars group, the Australian Popstars group and the Finnish band Tiktak.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in the music industry?

I used to say it was a tie between having the #2 song of the year in Russia (Just Because You Walk Away) and having two songs in an Oscar-winning film (If Cupid Had a Heart and Dancing in the Driver's Seat). But during the past year, I'd have to expand it to a 3-way tie, because I had a song in the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 (Have Some Fun), representing the Czech Republic. It's hard to know which song has been heard by more people – the #2 song of the year in Russia, or a song in Eurovision. And then, having a song in Little Miss Sunshine — most people I know have seen this film, so a lot of people have heard my music from that as well. I'd say those are my 3 biggest accomplishments.

When was the first time that you either became aware or watched the Eurovision Song Contest?

Well, the first time I became aware of it was sometime in the '70s. It's not televised in America so not too many Americans know of the show, but there was some point when an ABBA song was played on American radio, perhaps on American Top 40, where it was announced that ABBA became successful after their win at Eurovision. In terms of the first time I watched the show, again as I pointed out,it has never aired on American TV, which makes it hard to watch here, but the first time I got to watch a Eurovision show was in 1999 at the house of my friend Fred Bronson, who's a huge Eurovision fan and goes to Eurovision almost every year, and writes about it for Billboard Magazine. He had a videotape of the 1999 show, shortly after it aired, and whole bunch of us watched it, and we even did our ownrankings of the songs, as if we were judges, because we didn't know who won or what the order of the winners were, at that point. I remember I voted the #1 song as Take Me To Your Heaven by Charlotte Nilsson, and as I recall, that song won – so I felt I was a pretty good judge!

How does a successful American composer, lyricist, and producer based in Los Angeles get to co-write a song for the Czech Republic?

Unlike my Latvian entry, my Czech song Have Some Fun was not written with Eurovision in mind. My co-writer Stano Simor and I wrote it with the intent on submitting it to an Icelandic girl group who was looking for material for their album. Although that cut didn't happen, shortly thereafter Tereza Kerndlova wanted to record the song for her album, on Universal Records. Then, Universal wanted her to be a participant in Eurovision, and ultimately, that song Have Some Fun was the song selected from the album to be the song she would enter, and it made the finals. At this time, the song was climbing the national Czech charts, where it became a top 5 hit, and then when the top 10 finalists performed on the finals show, Have Some Fun received the most text votes and became the Czech entry for ESC 2008.

How did it feel to win the Czech national final with Have Some Fun?

It was a great feeling. I wish I could have been in the room when it happened. It's very rare for a U.S. songwriter to have a song in Eurovision, because most countries require the writers to be natives of their country. So it was just a stroke of luck that I ended up with a song in Eurovision.

What was the most positive thing about your participation in this year's Eurovision Song Contest in Belgrade?

Meeting so many people from so many countries. It was my first trip ever to Europe! I ended up later writing a song with a writer of the Danish entry, and then I submitted it to an A&R guy I had met at Eurovision, who was A&R for the German entrant, and I placed the song within an hour of the demo being finished. That's the quickest I've ever gotten a cut, and I wouldn't have known my co-writer or the A&R guy if it wasn't for meeting them at Eurovision!

Any negatives?

Not really, except that at the very last after-party at one of the clubs, it was so crowded I got pushed by a bodyguard, and my knee went right into a table and it hurt badly for the next week.

What was the general feeling among the Czech Republic delegation at the end of the Eurovision Song Contest?

Well, of course everyone was sad that Tereza didn't win. And unfortunately, during the night of the second semi-final, the musical tracks did not play in the earpieces of Tereza or any of her background singers, so to sing live without tracks in your ear, it made it very difficult to perform the song, and so the performance wasn't the best. Oddly, the earpieces worked fine during all five rehearsals, so we all wondered why none of them worked during Tereza's performance, and as far as I know, they were not turned off during any of the other performances that night. So it was very odd. But on live TV, there are no do-overs, and the singers just had to deal with the situation and try to do their best.

Did you appreciate your two weeks in Belgrade? What were the highlights?

My co-writer Stano and I were only there for one week – we were told to just be there for one week, but having been there and knowing what I now know, I wish I had gone for the first week as well. Yes, I really appreciated the experience. As I mentioned, it was my first time in Europe, and as of right now, Belgrade is the only city in Europe I have ever seen. The highlight for me was the semi-final where my song was performed. Knowing that my song was heard by over 100 million people was quite a thrill. (I've also heard the figure as 200 million and 300 million.) Another highlight for me was when I was picked up at the Belgrade airport when I first arrived. My co-writer Stano and I had a police escort, we were treated like celebrities or VIPs, and with this police escort, we were very quickly rushed across town and we arrived at a boat restaurant where Tereza was about to perform our song live! It was quite a nice treatment, and for it to be my very first Eurovision experience and Belgrade experience, it was quite a high. So my trip started with the VIP treatment and ended with a bodyguard inadvertently injuring my knee!

What was your own favourite entry in this contest?

All Night Long by Simon Mathew. In fact, I mentioned earlier that I wrote with a Danish writer whose song was in Eurovision. It was one of the writers of All Night Long, Jacob Launjberg, a very nice guy. Nis Bogvad (another writer on that song) and I had spoken and emailed about collaborating, but as of yet, we have not done that. Another favorite song was Maria's Hold On Be Strong. The music on both these songs is very strong. Oh, and … not to sound too egotistical, but I liked my own song, too! 🙂

What projects are you currently working on?

Last week, I got hooked up with a producer of one of the biggest artists in the world, an artist that broke very big in 2008 – I was given some tracks of this producer – to write melodies and lyrics for. So I'm very excited about that. I've also got a cut coming out on Universal/US, as well as cuts for EMI/Finland and EMI/Sweden. Plus, another Russian cut coming out in a month or so. A German cut. A Latvian cut. And possibly another Finnish cut or two. I'm also writing with a US rock duo. And I recently learned that my song that was used in "Hannah Montana" has now been used THREE times in the show, both in Season 1 and Season 2!

Do you have any other thoughts to share about Eurovision?

Well, what's funny is … for so many years I've had so many Eurovision CDs in my collection — CDs of Eurovision winners, CDs of the Eurovision Song Contest itself, even many CDs of the Sweden, Denmark and Norway finals —Melodifestivalen and Melodi Grand Prix, which are really great. Plus, I've written with other writers connected to Eurovision. So for a guy from America, where Eurovision isn't even broadcast, it sure has made quite an impact on my music collection and I genuinely love a lot of the music that comes out of Eurovision.

Thank you for taking time to talk to esctoday and very best for the future.

To hear Gordon's music, check out his MySpace page at:

www.myspace.com/gordonpogodasongwriter

Footnote:
Los Angeles songwriter Gordon Pogoda has had worldwide success in several mediums. In film, his credits include two songs featured in the Academy Award winning motion picture "Little Miss Sunshine", the top 5 film "Josie and the Pussycats", a Disney film starring Lindsay Lohan, and several others. In television, Gordon's songs have been featured in over 45 shows such as "Sex and the City", "Hannah
Montana", "ER", "CSI Miami", "Will and Grace", "The Twilight Zone", "King Of The Hill", "Everwood", and the Disney shows "Kim Possible" and "Suite Life of Zack & Cody". On CD, his songs can be found on major labels like Universal and Warner Brothers. He had a top 5 hit for Universal artist Tereza Kerndlova in the Czech Republic – a song which was selected to be in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest (voted on
by the people of the Czech Republic to represent their country.) Gordon has had songs recorded for "Idol" (the European version of "American Idol"). Last year, Gordon had a major hit in Russia that became the number 2 song of the year. He's had a platinum record with the Australian "Popstars" group Scandal'us, three platinum records with the Greek "Popstars" group Hi-5, and a platinum recording for
Finnish female hard rock band Tiktak. Gordon's songs have also been featured in various Disney films, TV shows and DVD releases. Pogoda's ost successful song in the U.S. is "If Cupid Had a Heart", which has
been featured in 14 popular films & TV shows, including "Hannah ontana", "Little Miss Sunshine", a Lindsay Lohan movie, the TV shows King of the Hill", "Popstars", "The Facts of Life Reunion" movie, the
film "Long Shot" (featuring Britney Spears & 'N Sync), and others. In he past five years, he has signed publishing deals with EMI Music, Universal Music and Warner Chappell Music and is currently independent.

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