This Saturday it’s the turn of Norway to choose who they would like to send to Eurovision 2019. One of the acts competing at Melodi Grand Prix in Oslo will be the group KEiiNO, made up of Tom Hugo, Alexandra Roton and Fred Buljo.
As a solo artist Tom entered the competition back in 2013 and 2018, whilst Alexandra also took part in 2018 duetting with Stella Mwangi. They have teamed up with newcomer Fred on the very catchy ‘Spirit In The Sky’ which combines traditional joik music with modern electronic pop. We spoke to the group just ahead of the big show this week:
Congratulations on making the final 10 in this year’s Melodi Grand Prix. Can we first find out about how KEiiNO began. Tom and Alexandra you had both taken part on Melodi Grand Prix in 2018 – was the idea of working together something you discussed at the time and was KEiiNO a group formed with MGP 2019 in mind and to send to Eurovision?
Thanks a lot! We didn’t discuss it during MGP 2018, but Tom knew that he’d like to work with Alexandra at one point, and when Spirit in the Sky started to take form, all of the team pointed at Alexandra as the perfect front-woman. And yes, the group was formed with MGP in mind, but after we started working we all knew that MGP would only be the start of a fun collaboration.
The song is very much about the value of everyone in society and that no matter how different you are that you deserve to be respected and loved. Is this a message that all three of you relate to and therefore the lyrics came from personal experiences?
We share a lot of values, and all of us think its super important that one is allowed to be accepted and loved for the person you are and the way you chose to live. The whole process of the song actually started with this theme, then Alex (our main lyricist) came up with a first draft one night he was visiting his father in Verdal (north of Trondheim). That night, you could see the Northern Lights, and standing under the starlit sky witnessing this natural wonder, he came to think about how nature will never judge you for who you love, how you look, or what culture you come from. Being gay growing up outside of a big city, both Alex and Tom have felt that we are not as much worth as the majority, and Fred has also experienced people mocking him for being Sami. But you don’t actually have to have an alternative sexuality or cultural background to feel different than the majority. Having a different passion that the people around you can also make you feel like an outsider, which has been the case for Alexandra being the only one in her group of friends doing music.
I was reading your Facebook post about what ‘Spirit In The Sky’ means to you and was stunned by the amazing imagery by YuliusGi. How did you end up getting him to work on the art and do you have plans to use his imagery as part of your staging, particularly with all three of you now having your own spirit animal?
We were inspired by the spirit animals of Sami religion, and we searched for an illustrator that could bring our vision on paper. And we found him on Fiverr, a webpage where you can find freelancers with all sorts of talents. He loved the song, and immediately had some ideas. We are not allowed to reveal anything about the staging I’m afraid, so people just have to wait and see!
One of the things that we’ve all been impressed by is the mix of modern music with the Sami culture and it makes your song stand out so much. What is it about the merge of these two distinct styles that made you think it would be suitable for Eurovision?
If you think of Eurovision as a dinner party where people from different countries are asked to bring their best dish, its much more interesting if the dish you bring is special for your home country. And even though pop-music is universal, we believe Europe will appreciate songs with a strong national identity. But for our song to reach a large audience, we also wanted it to sound modern.
What would it mean to you all to represent Norway at Eurovision, is it something you’ve all dreamt about doing and are you fans of the Contest?
Representing Norway at Eurovision is a dream all three of us have had since we were kids. The idea of the event; celebrating music together with people from all over Europe, is something that we are big fans of, and it would mean the world for us to take part in it.
So the question we are all curious to know, will KEiiNO be releasing more music after both MGP and hopefully post Eurovision if you are selected?
We have already started writing new songs, so yes! When and which of the songs its gonna be depends a bit on how we do in MGP, but we are very excited about the future!
Thank you for your time today, do you have a final message to all of the new fans you’re gaining since the release of ‘Spirit In The Sky’?
Take on the world proud and with your head high, cause you are perfect just the way you are. If anyone tells you differently, they’ve got a problem, not you!
Which act would you like to see win Melodi Grand Prix on Saturday? Let us know by voting in our poll below: