Yesterday, Swedish radio station P4 Göteborg had a little chat with Christer Björkman in which he both looked back on his life and career and looked forward on projects to come. Naturally, having represented Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest 1992 in Malmö and being supervisor of Melodifestivalen since 2002, the main focus of the interview was on Melodifestivalen and the Eurovision Song Contest. And he told us some interesting things.
Christer visited the radio station in the middle of a tiny break, as he tells he has been busy from August 2014 up until when Stockholm was revealed as the host city for Eurovision 2016 and he needs the little break as he has a heavy year in front of him. The host asks him how natural the choice for Stockholm actually was and he replies that it wasn’t all that much of a given. As a host city they need a city that’s excited to take on such a project and that understand that organising it is about a mix of both functionality and passion and this time it was Stockholm who blew the committee away by showing with all their heart and delivered a really good proposal.
Upon the host asking what kind of reactions SVT has gotten to their choice, Christer answers they’ve seen both positive reactions and a feeling of ”I expected that already”, but that latter sort of reaction is, according to him, more something one sees from the outside, as for SVT themselves the playing field was wide open.
The radio host then asks Christer for a little trip down memory lane and asks him what went down in the green room during the voting sequence. Christer says Måns asked him all kinds of questions during about the voting, when the votes went all over the board, questions like: ”what does that mean?”, ”was that a good thing?”, ”is that bad?” and Christer says that there are certain ”cultural blueprints” when it comes to the voting. Certain countries tend to give Sweden more countries than other countries do, but in order to finish high you also need to get points from countries that don’t really vote for you historically. When that happened indeed, Christer told him ”ah, this is good. yes, this gonna go well! ” but Christer actually got worried halfway during the voting when it became apparent that Italy was lagging behind a bit and that it would be a two-horse race between Sweden and Russia. But when one of the Baltic countries (Lithuania red.) didn’t give Russia a single point, he felt that this was a turning point and he told Måns: ”you’re gonna get this”. Måns in return was like ”how can you say that!? why are you saying so?!” After this little insight the host is curious about what being part of that moment felt like for Christer himself and Christer admits they’re anxious moments but also an incredible honour to get to experience this for a second time even, to take the country’s entry to the #1 position. At the very same moment he realised, however, that he could forget about a relaxed summer that year and that his year would be dedicated to working entirely, but he says it’s so much fun to and excitedly adds: ”now we’re only 1 victory behind Ireland!”
Curious as to where they are when it comes to planning next year’s event the host gets to know Christer’s job in choosing the host city is done, so he can take a little break now but Martin Österdahl, executive producer for ESC 2013 and again in 2016, still has a little bit of work to do before he can relax, as he wants to finish putting a so-called ”core team” for next year’s Eurovision first. The creative process for next year’s contest will have its kick-off after the summer.
The lady who’s interviewing Christer tells him Robin Paulsson said in another radio show a few days ago how much fun it was that he and Sanna Nielsen had to sneak into the building where the press conference to announce the Melodifestivalen 2015 hosts was held and wonders how far Christer and his team have come in the preparations for Melodifestivalen 2016. Christer then says they are actually in a really luxurious position this time as they have many fun and talented people to choose among, so choosing hosts will be both an interesting and exciting process until somewhere this fall, when they will announce the Melodifestivalen 2016 host(s).
Christer says, though, that first it is important that everyone working with either Melodifestivalen or Eurovision or both to take a break, as the experience of hosting Eurovision 2013 has taught them in what order to do things, what has to be done first, what can wait and Christer is glad they have such recent experience when it comes to that. Upon the host asking him what’s the thing SVT knows but us on the outside don’t, he answers that it’s the fact that organising the event is not just creating the live shows. They create 6 of them every year for Melodifestivalen, but it’s the logistics behind the event: 40 countries, 2000 journalists and 10.000 fans who come attend the festival and the hardest part is to create an unforgetable experience for them.
They go on to reflect on Christer’s career a bit. How he started as a quite famous hairdresser with his own salon in Borås, but went to Stockholm to pursue a musical career. How it was a dream come true winning Melodifestivalen in 1992 with Imorgon Är En Annan Dag and is incredibly thankful for the network in the musical business it gave him. When asked how his own experience of being an artist helps him in his job, he says he thinks he’s a good link between TV producers and the artists, because, even though he’s executive supervisor for Melodifestivalen, he knows how important it is to have a fitting total package for an entry. Also it’s important to let artists have their way when it comes to their own act and it’s important for the artists to feel well and comfortable in their own performance. Christer notes how Melodifestivalen has changed over time. How nowadays artists take it really seriously and show a really professional attitude towards the competition itself, as the result can have a great impact on their careers, both positively and negatively.
To conclude the interview, the interviewer asks Christer what the 3 best Swedish Eurovision entries are. He says he, ofcourse, has to pick the two entries he found himself, Euphoria and Heroes, and for the third one, because Sweden has so much to thank Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson from ABBA for in making Sweden the musical nation it is today: Waterloo.
The interview (in Swedish) can be found over here(click!)