In the post-Brexit world we’re living in, standing in front of all of Europe and asking for their votes on behalf of the United Kingdom is, for most of us, an unenviable task. However, it’s one that singer/songwriter and former West End star SuRie has accepted with gusto.
Earlier this year, the British public chose SuRie to represent the UK at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with her song, ‘Storm’, winning the viewer-voted selection show, ‘You Decide’, live in Brighton.
It’s been a while since Britain has had any joy at Eurovision (it’s now been more than two decades since we last won, while in the last five years, our most successful act finished in 15th place of 26 competing countries), but SuRie is adamant the nation’s past disappointments won’t deter her.
“Look at Brighton,” SuRie reminds HuffPost UK. “I was nowhere near the top of the betting odds for Brighton.
“I’ve learned at Eurovision that anything can happen, anything is possible, and it is a song contest. People are listening for a song that speaks to them, grabs them in whatever way that they can relate to or that means something to them.
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW ENTERTAINMENT
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements. Learn more
“That seems to be the driving force for the winner, or the top five or top 10 or whatever. And there’s something for everyone at Eurovision.
“I will just try and do my best with that performance and that song. If I get too bogged down with the leaderboard, I think it would kind of distract from my focus, which has got to be doing myself proud, and doing the country proud!”
Despite being about to step into one of the biggest musical competitions on the planet, SuRie says that she’s not an especially competitive person, noting that she’ll consider “anything above nil points a victory”.
“I don’t think there’s any point competing with others,” she explains. “I think competing within myself, just being the best that I can be [is better]. Whether I’m talking about my performance, or just in life, how I interact with other people and my relationships and my friendships.
“I think that competition within yourself is healthy, but I think comparing with others and competing with other people is kind of futile, and that’s not something that hugely interests me.
“If I got too bogged with statistics and betting odds, I think that would be quite stressful and probably detrimental.”
She does, however, remember surprising herself with the sudden competitive energy she felt following her performance at ‘You Decide’ back in February, noting: “Having said that, in Brighton, once I’d finished my performance, and the reaction was so incredible, I really wanted it. I really wanted that result so badly, and that meant a huge deal to me.”
Despite her buckets of enthusiasm, there’s no denying SuRie has a tough job ahead of her when it comes to impressing the rest of Europe, at a time when it’s fair to say the UK’s public image isn’t exactly sky high.
She’s quick to dispel the suggestion she’s “brave” for representing Britain though, joking: “I’m not a neurosurgeon or something, there are brave people out there doing very brave things. I’m singing a song in a song contest, I think, you know, we need to keep our heads. What I’m doing is a big deal, but no one’s life is on the line. I hope. I hope!”
“I dunno… I love the UK, I always have done, and I always will,” she continues. “Even with our flaws and whatever. And again… I think the song will be the driving force.
“I’ve already seen examples of ‘Storm’ reaching out to people all over the globe, of all kinds of ages, experiencing all different things in their life, good and bad, and clinging onto that message of hope. I think that’s what’s going to be the driving force, and I don’t think on the night, I hope, it wouldn’t really matter whether I was singing for Belgium or Estonia or the UK. I’m hoping the song will be the thing that leads it, and I can only keep my fingers crossed for that.”
So, we ask, no Brexit-related stress dreams ahead of Eurovision, then?
“Really not,” SuRie insists. “I’m going to focus on the music, and that’s the beautiful thing about Eurovision as well, we can leave politics at the door for one night.
“That’s not to say that those conversations and discussions aren’t incredibly important, and our future, and the future of our nation and everything. But for one night, we can really unite, across nations, in a love of music and celebrating equality and diversity and positivity. It’s all beautiful things at Eurovision.
“I think Eurovision is a coming together-ness. I’ve really seen that first hand, and I’ve been very fortunate to see that… and I do think that kind of united front, that beautiful positive energy that is charged at Eurovision, should be bottled and then spread throughout a lot of the other conversations, be they political or whatever else. I think it would actually help a lot. I think Eurovision could save the world!
“I think the lessons we learn on that night can then spread wider into bigger more global issues and conversations, for sure… but I don’t see the night as being a big political thing. I just don’t see it, it’s a song contest.”
It’s clear SuRie has a great deal of faith in ‘Storm’, a song she said she was “grabbed by instantly” the first time she heard it last year
“That quite dynamic mix, where it develops into this quite anthemic uplifting dance-y pop tune, that grabbed me, because that is what Eurovision is all about,” she says. “We want to have a good time and celebrate all the good things in life, so it had all the ingredients.
“And then this lyrical message that was so catchy and relatable and instant, it just grabbed me straight away.”
The track has undergone some minor changes since ‘You Decide’ (or as SuRie puts it “some fine-tuning to make it a little bit more SuRie-led”), as well as making it sound more “spacious” and “contemporary”, which she feels will appeal more to Eurovision fans.
“Eurovision is the biggest stage, with a global audience of hundreds of millions of people - which is impossible to fathom, but what an honour to participate in”, SuRie explains. “So you’ve got to have a big song.
“I think with ‘Storm’, the ascending melody and the shape of how that’s written, the production needed to beef up to that as well. And on that big stage as well, I hope it’ll land really well. I’ll do my best.”
Given the wide-eyed and enamoured way SuRie talks about Eurovision, you’d be forgiven for thinking that being able to represent her home country on that global stage is a lifelong dream of hers, but it would seem this is far from the case.
“Well...” she begins, sheepishly. “This is where I guiltily admit that actually, before 2015, when I actually went to work there for a job, I put my hands up and say Eurovision was not on my radar at all.”
Indeed, this year’s contest won’t be SuRie’s first time on the Eurovision stage, as she previously served as a backing singer and dancer for Belgium’s Loïc Nottet in 2015, revealing that before that, Eurovision was something she’d always felt completely “indifferently” towards.
“I’m such a terrible person, and the Eurovision community will kick me for that,” she jokes. “I’m kicking myself for all the years I’ve missed out on!
“But, what changed in 2015 is that my brain was blown by the positive beautiful experience that Eurovision can be, and I’m so lucky to have witnessed that first-hand.
“So, professionally, it wasn’t on my radar, it wasn’t necessarily a goal I was working towards. But the opportunity to then participate and do it for the UK and to be a part of - hopefully! - the improving reputation around it, and the attitude towards it... that’s a real honour, it’s a big deal, and it’s a real exciting incredible thing.”
“So, I am a huge fan of Eurovision,” she adds, “But I’m afraid I’m a bit of a fresh convert to it.
“I don’t know what I was doing with my life before then. It just came and went. It wasn’t that I actively avoided it, but we never watched it as a family growing up, I never went to any Eurovision parties, I was just busy doing other things. Probably picking my fingers and staring out the window… I don’t know how I missed it all these years!”
Now a fully-fledged Eurovision devotee, we’re curious to know how SuRie will react if viewers around Europe and beyond do get behind her and vote for ‘Storm’ as this year’s winning offering.
With a laugh, she admits that’s “not something she’s thought about”, asking: “I mean... do you actually think it’s a possibility?”
Admittedly, recent history would suggest the odds are stacked against her, but we point out that if what she’s told us about the quality of the song being the “driving force” behind people’s votes, we think she has a chance.
“Well, look, deep down I totally agree,” she says, “And I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t. And I love you for saying that. I’m going to do my very, very best, and I’m going to have an amazing time.
“I can’t say how I would react if I did win, because I haven’t got the foggiest idea. I think that would be the most surreal moment in my entire life. But anything is possible at Eurovision - even the chance of the UK winning.”
This year’s Eurovision Song Contest grand final will air live from Lisbon on BBC One at 8pm on Saturday 12 May.