Singer Svala Björgvinsdóttir will be representing Iceland in The Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev this year, after winning the Icelandic national selection for the contest last night. GayIceland’s Lilja Katrín Gunnarsdóttir was there.
“I had such belief in this song and knew I could be proud of it, no matter what happened,” said one of Iceland’s most beloved musicians and fashion icons Svala Björgvinsdóttir, at a press conference that was held straight after the show on Saturday night.
Svala won the Icelandic national selection for The Eurovision Song Contest (“Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins”) which took place in Reykjavík, after going head-to-head with Daði Freyr Pétursson in the super-finals. She will therefore represent Iceland in the contest early May, with her song Paper.
The song is very personal for Svala who has fought anxiety since she was a teenager and gone on to discuss her battles openly in the media, in the aims of being a role model for young people who also suffer from the disorder. “This is not a love song like some people tend to think,” she points out. “It’s about inner struggle; about not giving up, not being ashamed and being strong.”
“We’re working on it (the act). We’ll be taking it to the next level (in Kiev).”
Paper was composed by Svala and her husband Einar Egilsson, Lester Mendez and Lily Elise, who also wrote the English lyrics to it alongside Svala. “We’ve put together a fantastic team,” she says. “It’s such a good collaboration.”
Einar was the art director for the performance, which was minimalistic and cool, with Svala singing by herself on stage – surrounded by an impressive light show. When asked about the act he says in a reserved manner that it “was all Svala”.
But will the act be different in Kiev?
“We’re working on it,” he replies. “We’ll be taking it to the next level.”
“I’m a perfectionist”
Many people have rooted for Svala ever since it was announced that she would be competing in the Icelandic national selection for The Eurovision Song Contest. But did Svala ever feel like she was under more pressure than other contestants, in light of the fact that she’s the daughter of music legend and former Eurovison contender Björgvin Halldórsson (Bo Hall). “I’m a perfectionist. So I mostly put pressure on myself,” she replies. “But I love being on stage and this is so exciting. A cool project that I want to do well. I want to do my very best for Iceland!”
Svala has competed in Icelandic national selection before, as a songwriter for the Wiggle Wiggle Song in 2008. The year that The Euroband won with the song This is My Life. Why compete again now?
“Originally the song wasn’t written for Eurovision, just for our band,” she admits. “We wrote it a year ago but a few weeks after that we started talking about that it would be a cool number for Eurovision; since it’s big and also very international. So I went online to do a little research on the contest and ended up thinking to myself that competing could be fun.”
Svala says that even though Paper may be a bit mainstream its in line with the style she’s already know for. Adding: “But, I want to do something original and I do think my style is different from those that have competed in Eurovision the last years.”
“I want to do something original and I do think my style is different from those that have competed in Eurovision the last years.”
A few days before the Icelandic national selection took place Svala did a carpool kareoke session (á la James Corden) with Eurovision darlings Jóhanna Guðrún Jónsdóttir and Selma Björnsdóttir, who both ended up in second place in the conest; Jóhanna Guðrún with Is it true in 2009 and Selma with All out of Luck in 1999. Does Svala think she can follow in their footsteps, and get Iceland to second place – the best the country has done in the competition so far?
“Getting to second place like they did, would be an honor for me,” she says. “But you never know if people in Europe are going to appreciate the song as much as the people in Iceland. But I will certainly do my very best in Kiev and try to go as far as I possibly can.”
Svala Björgvinsdóttir started her career when she was only seven years old, singing backup on one of her father’s albums. At the tender age of nine she had her first number one hit in Iceland, a Christmas duet with her father titled Before Christmas (Fyrir jól). Two years late she had another hit: I’m so excited (Ég hlakka svo til); again, a Christmas song, the ultimate one for many Icelanders.
During her teenage years in the 90’s Svala joined several popular bands (including Scope) and got her big break in 1999 when she signed a deal with EMI and Priority Records in North America. She had a Billboard top 40 single with The Real Me.
In 2006 Svala formed the band Steed Lord with now husband Einar, and his brother Edvard Egilsson (the third brother, Elli Egilsson, joined the band a few months later but left it in 2010. Steed Lord has toured all over the world and their music has been featured in TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Svala also designs clothes under the name Kali and is a judge on the Icelandic version of The Voice.
Main photo: Mummi Lú