Eurovision Fave SuRie: 'I Don't Wish What Happened On Anyone, But That's Not What I Take Away'

Four years after competing with Storm, the singer reflects on her Eurovision journey – and that on-stage incident.
Illustration: HuffPost; Photo: Getty Images

Because of our… hmmmm… let’s just say complicated relationship with Eurovision in the UK, we as a nation sometimes have a tendency to toss our competing acts aside pretty swiftly after the contest is over.

One definite exception to this would be SuRie, who competed with her song Storm in 2018, and has remained close to British fans’ hearts ever since, appearing at a string of official Eurovision gigs and fan events alike in the past four years.

I feel so lucky because [representing the UK] has been anything but a poisoned chalice for me,” she tells HuffPost UK as preparations for this year’s contest get underway. “It’s been an absolute gift that keeps on giving.

“I don’t know I can really answer why, but I’m incredibly grateful for it. We’ve gone on quite a path together, which is just a thrill.

“We can be a fickle bunch, can’t we, as Brits? But I love us for our cynical, self-deprecating attitude as well.”

Of course, SuRie does have one theory about her enduring popularity, which relates to why her 2018 performance was so infamous.

“I mean, I had quite a unique moment on the Eurovision stage, so maybe that’s had something to do with how much people have taken me under their wing,” she suggests.

For those in need of a reminder, SuRie was at the centre of a stage invasion during her performance in 2018, when a man burst onto the stage, stole her microphone and shouted a message “demanding freedom” from the “modern Nazis of the UK media”.

The man in question was removed from the stage by security, and while a lesser performer might have crumbled in the heat of the moment, a defiant SuRie won praise for her tenacity and persistence, finishing the song with gusto and a visible fire in her.

SuRie won huge praise from fans after completing her performance
SuRie won huge praise from fans after completing her performance
picture alliance via Getty Images

“It was so surreal that it came back on the lyrics, ‘hold your head up, don’t give up’,” she recalls. “You can see in my eyes how fired up I was. I mean, I was livid.

“But the empowerment of the last part of the song, plus the incredible reaction from the crowd, that’s what I take away from it.”

“I don’t wish what happened to me on stage upon anyone,” she quickly adds. “But that’s not the moment I take away. It’s the 30 seconds at the end where everyone got behind me and that roar was shared by all.”

SuRie has always publicly shown a sense of humour about the incident (“life is tough enough”), but admits this isn’t something she’s always found easy.

“In the immediate aftermath, it wasn’t particularly funny,” she recalls. “I tried my best to keep my calm and composure on stage, but immediately after, when I was backstage, I wasn’t laughing.

“I went through a phase of obsessively watching it. And I’m not saying that was a healthy thing, but that was just part of my brain trying to make sense of the fall-out of what happened on stage. And also I was watching it from different angles, from fans who’d filmed it in the stadium. Even though I very vividly remember what happened, I was there! I don’t necessarily need to fill in the gaps!

“I’m fine now, and I was fine quite quickly afterwards. But yes, I do like to keep humour a big part of my life as well. It was my moment, I can’t change it, can I? It’s what happened. There we go.”

Here’s what else SuRie had to say when we spoke all things Eurovision with the Storm singer…

What’s your first memory of watching Eurovision?

I was first introduced to Eurovision in 2015. I didn’t watch it growing up, which is shameful to admit. So, my first real experience of Eurovision was actually working at it, as a backing singer and dancer for Loïc Nottet, representing Belgium with Rhythm Inside.

I had the most phenomenal time in Vienna, and I was invited back in 2017 to Kyiv with the Belgian delegation again, this time with Blanche and City Lights. Then I met with the BBC backstage and started working with them as a songwriter. And that led to my 2018 moment.

SuRie performed as a backing singer for Belgian entrant Loïc Nottet three years before taking the spotlight herself
SuRie performed as a backing singer for Belgian entrant Loïc Nottet three years before taking the spotlight herself
Nigel Treblin via Getty Images

Have you always been a fan of Eurovision, and has your opinion of it changed over time?

I was just clueless about it at first. And again, I shamefully admit that because, I have since listened back to the wealth of songwriting gold that there has been over the 60-odd years, and not having those Eurovision parties or moments or nights with my family growing up, I’m sad and kicking myself that I missed out on that.

Being there in person, my mind was blown to the beautiful, inclusive celebratory world that Eurovision is. And now I’m hooked. I’m a true convert.

SuRie performing at London Pride following her most recent Eurovision appearance
SuRie performing at London Pride following her most recent Eurovision appearance
Mike Marsland via Getty Images

What’s your favourite memory of being part of Eurovision?

I had the most amazing memories twice over with the Belgian delegation, who just treated us so incredibly. But nothing can compare with actually flying the flag for the country that you are very proud of – for all our flaws and all our faults and everything.

I suppose [the best memory] is just the rush of adrenaline and the visceral emotional reaction in the few seconds where you take to the stage. The camera light comes on, the little sound in your ear counts you down, nothing will ever compare with that memory. I describe it like white noise. Everything was so calm in that moment, like, “I am completely in the right place doing exactly the right thing that I should be doing with my life”. And that was a really happy feeling.

SuRie during rehearsals for her Storm performance
SuRie during rehearsals for her Storm performance
Pedro Gomes via Getty Images

Who are you rooting for at Eurovision this year?

I’ve listened to them all, and it’s a wonderful bunch. There’s something for everyone, which is what I love about Eurovision

Cornelia’s Hold Me Closer [for Sweden] is an absolute earworm of a tune. But for me, Maro for Portugal is my favourite. It just makes my heart sad and happy, with this melancholic yearning mixed with light folk music.

It gives me a really really visceral reaction, and I can’t argue with that. Compared to everything else, that is the one that gets into my chest, tugs on my heartstrings and reminds me that I’m alive. And there’s no better reaction to music than that. I hope it does well.

What are your three all-time favourite Eurovision songs?

I loved Carl Espen’s Silent Storm as a tune even before my Lisbon moment. But after that, the poignancy of those lyrics took on a whole new meaning. That’s one of my favourites.

Also, I love the quirky ones, like Nocturne by Secret Garden. That an instrumental, cinematic soundscape of a track can win at Eurovision is just amazing.

And I know this might feel like a bit of a cop-out, but I have to say Duncan Laurence’s Arcade. There can be a strength in stillness and simplicity, and songwriting rising to the top in this theatrical spectacle of a show. Arcade is a beautiful song.

Duncan Laurence won Eurovision in 2019
Duncan Laurence won Eurovision in 2019
Michael Campanella via Getty Images

Why is Eurovision still so important?

I implore anyone to go to one Eurovision Song Contest in their life and soak up the positive inclusive energy that is not just in the arena, or in the shows, but in the whole host city. If we could bottle up some of that positive energy that is unique and indescribable to those that don’t know Eurovision, we could solve a lot of the world’s problems. Eurovision for world peace, I think.

Would you ever consider going back to Eurovision to compete in the future?

I feel lucky to have had a hat-trick of Eurovision memories in different capacities. But, of course I would go again. Nothing would bring me more pleasure, because it is the most incredible show.

The difference this time is I would like to have more creative input and have more of a hand in things artistically.

So, yes, I would love to go again. I may have tried, and I was maybe told no... But we’ll see – things take time. And maybe it’s for the best, maybe I need to go away, work on my craft and make sure I’ve got something really impossible to say no to.

SuRie walking the Eurovision red carpet in 2018
SuRie walking the Eurovision red carpet in 2018
Pedro Gomes via Getty Images

SuRie is currently working on her third studio album. Her latest EP Rye is available on all digital platforms.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

We’ll be publishing an interview with a different Eurovision legend every day leading up to this year’s live final on Saturday 14 May. Come back tomorrow when we’ll be speaking to returning favourite Mahmood, who will represent Italy for the second time in 2022.


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