With only a few days remaining until the competitors travel to Moscow for the start of the rehearsal process for this year's Eurovision Song Contest, esctoday.com took an opportunity to catch up with Arash and AySel, the Azerbaijan representatives in the song contest. In this exclusive interview we hear how the couple plan to bring some Azeri fire to the Moscow stage, how they were selected to represent Azerbaijan and how they will be working with a prominent Swedish director and choreographer to prepare for their stage performance of their song Always.
esctoday.com: Firstly, congratulations on being selected to represent Azerbaijan in the Eurovision Song Contest. How do you feel about representing Azerbaijan in this years contest?
AySel: This year is very special for Azerbaijan and for us. Our country is taking part in Eurovision for the second time. Yes, it is very hard to start something new but believe me – it’s harder to be more unique and better that those before you! I’m very proud to represent Azerbaijan in this competition, I feel like it’s a life changing experience for me and a great responsibility. Besides, I think we’ll be getting even more attention during the Song Contest in Moscow since Azerbaijan will be hosting the Eurovision Dance Contest in Baku in September of this year. Everybody will be curious to find out how the Land of Fire will welcome them in just a few months.
Arash: I never thought that I will take part in Eurovision as a contestant. But as soon as I heard about the Azeri national song contest and saw AySel, I couldn’t think about anything else. I have Azerbaijani roots it’s a great honor for me to represent Azerbaijan in Eurovision this year.
esctoday.com: Azerbaijan is known throughout the world as the Land of Fire. Do you plan on bringing some of the Azeri flames to the Eurovision stage in Moscow?
Arash: We will set the stage on fire in every way you can imagine it, that I can promise (laughing).
AySel: Even we don’t really know how it’s going to work out but as we are represent the Land of Fire and the fire of our passion will make all Europe hot.
esctoday.com: What more can you tell me about your plans for the stage presentation in Moscow?
AySel: You can be fully confident that it will be an impressive and interesting show with great choreography.
Arash: But the final version of our show you can see only in Moscow. Be prepared, it’ll surprise you! For now, I can tell you that we are working with a prominent Swedish director and choreographer. We will release all details to Esctoday.com in the next several days.
esctoday.com: Back in January Azerbaijan Television announced that AySel would represent Azerbaijan as a single singer. How did this change to include Arash and change the project to a duet?
AySel: It was an official jury decision after they’ve listened to the song Arash wrote for me. And I think it was the best idea ever. To be around such a talented person, to have somebody experienced and professional by my side is a true blessing.
Arash: I wasn’t planning to sing when I wrote this song for AySel, it was meant for her. I didn’t expect that Always will be performed as the duet but the idea was born spontaneously and I’m very happy how everything worked out! We work great as a duet, we’ve got some amazing chemistry; we feel so free and have so much fun around each other. I have never worked with somebody so natural and as amazing as AySel.
esctoday.com: How would you best describe your song Always?
Arash: If you have love in your heart – this is the song for you. Only one feeling can give you such an understanding of the world.
AySel: The romantic anthem of Eurovision 2009. It’s a great love story and there’s little that can be added beyond that!
esctoday.com: Arash – have you been able to introduce some traditional Azeri elements in the production of Always?
Arash: We’ve used tar, the national Azerbaijani instrument, in arrangement and it gave this song a unique sound and vibe that I’ve always wanted to hear. I think everyone likes it now.
esctoday.com: Last year we saw a fantastic national final in Baku were Elnur and Samir were selected to represent Azerbaijan. This year there was an internal selection for the singer and song selection, can you tell me about this year's selection process?
AySel: Azerbaijani national selection was done by a 7-member jury made of prominent Azerbaijani culture and show business figures. Only ITV decided not to organize a large-scale show like before. So all of us who wanted to take part in the competition were invited to take part in several rounds of auditions. The same jury made the decision to invite Arash after his song won the song competition and make it a duet. And I think it all worked out amazingly well.
esctoday.com: Arash – how would you best describe AySel, firstly as a person and secondly as an artist?
Arash: She is amazing in every way I can imaging. Loving and caring as a person and incredibly talented as an artist, she rocks my world!
esctoday.com: AySel – how would you best describe Arash, firstly as person and secondly as an artist?
AySel: I have been a fan of Arash’s music before and I’ve never thought it would be so easy and so much fun to work with him. He’s a great professional and one of the most likable persons I know.
esctday.com: AySel – can you tell me a little about your musical career?
AySel: Sure! I started singing at the age of four and began taking part in vocal competitions when I was eight. When I turned 13, I started going to a Baku music school where I have been learning to play the piano and singing in the choir. My parents keep an antique XVIII-century piano at home, which has inspired me since childhood. In 2004, I went to study in the US on a FLEX scholarship. In the US I won 3 gold medals at different vocalists’ contests. Back in Baku I took part in some young talents TV projects – and now I am here, preparing to sing for Azerbaijani in Eurovision.
esctoday.com: Same question to Arash?
Music is my life! After finishing college in Sweden, I released my first album, Arash in 2005. You probably know my singles Boro Boro and Temptation – they hit the charts across Europe and the world. I also have a gold album in 4 countries – Germany, Russia, Slovenia and Greece for Arash, and a gold single in Sweden for Boro Boro. But I can definitely say that participating in Eurovision for Azerbaijan is going to be the highlight of my career.
esctoday.com: Last year Azerbaijan made its debut in the Euovision Song Contest and finished in a very respectful 8th position. What lessons were learnt from last year's campaign and have you been able to include these elements into this year entry?
AySel: I think we became more Eurovision-mature, so to speak, perhaps more passionate about what we do. I believe we made a very good Eurovision debut and we’ll try to build upon this success to reach even higher.
esctoday.com: Have you had a chance to listen to this year's entries and if so, which are your favourite songs?
Arash: I’m trying to stay tuned but it’s a lot of songs to listen too. I think this year is about true meaning of Eurovision itself, there are many strong songs, and every song is unique and interesting.
AySel: Same goes for me, it is a very tough competition this year.
esctoday.com: What are your aims for this year's Eurovision Song Contest?
Arash: We want to win! If you don’t want to win in a contest – just don’t go and don’t waste your time.
AySel: I’m really hoping for the best results!
esctoday.com: Finally, do you have a message for esctoday.com readers?
Arash: Guys, thank you for your support. See you all in Moscow and enjoy your Eurovision 2009!
AySel: Just listen to the most romantic song of this year’s Eurovision, you are on our minds and in our hearts! And don’t forget that in September 2009, Azerbaijan will be delighted to welcome all of you at the Eurovision Dance Contest in Baku!