Liza Vassilieva:I sing about finding the strength to be different from the norm!

The final of 60th edition for selection of Norwegian entry, Melodi Grand Prix 2020 is just around the corner. It will be held on 15th of February at Trondheim Spektrum Arena with the start at 19:50 CET. We had a nice chat with another one of the artists competing in final, Liza Vassilieva.

Liza Vassilieva (30) is born in Murmansk, Russia and moved to Norway at the age of three. At the age of 19, she moved to Trondheim where she has taken a Masters Degree in European Studies. While there, she came in contact with the local songwriting community. In 2017 one of her songs was released by the K-pop girl group TWICE, entitled “Eye Eye Eyes”. In 2018 she released her single “Third Wheel”. Liza participates in the Melodi Grand Prix with the song “I am Gay” which is supposed to be a Pride song with the intention to break stereotypes in this way she shows support to the LGBT community. Her song also symbolizes celebration and freedom to be oneself and although it is a pride song she thinks the message is something that everyone can relate to.

Hello Liza, How does it feel to be part of the MGP final in Trondheim the town where you spent your student years and place of the festival which published your first single “Run Run Girl”?
It feels amazing! Trondheim lies very close to my heart. It feels almost like a “second home” to me. I have so many good memories from this place: from my student years, from the people I have met here, from different music events and of course the songwriting community. And now, being part of the MGP final in Trondheim is a dream come true. Actually, I have some interesting memories connected to the arena where we will be performing (Trondheim Spektrum). The first time I ever visited Trondheim was 15 years ago. I was attending a talent contest there together with 300 other teenagers. Trondheim Spektrum was used as a lodging area. We all slept there in sleeping bags on the floor. And now, 15 years later I will be sitting in the same spot where I once slept in a sleeping bag, but this time there will be a green room in this area. Another memory from Trondheim Spektrum is from my student years. We used to have exams there. I guess this Saturday will feel a little bit like an exam as well, only the number of “sensors” will be considerably higher!

How did you decide to apply for Melodi Grand Prix?
The song was written last year at a songwriting camp in Trondheim by Audun Agnar Guldbrandsen, Myrtoula Røe, Stian Nyhammer Olsen and myself. This particular song was different from the songs we normally would write at a songwriting camp. The song had a strong message and a very specific “framing”, as it was a pride song. This meant that it would be more difficult for us to pitch the song to an artist, compared to a regular pop song. Suddenly the idea came to one of the other writers of the song: “Let’s send it to MGP and see if they can find an artist for this song!”. We all agreed that the song had the potential to fit in the contest. So we sent it to NRK. Two months later we got the big news. Not only were they interested in the song, but they asked me if I wanted to perform it. At first, I couldn’t believe it. I had never even imagined this as a possibility. Nor had I ever before worked on a television production or performed on a stage of this size. The fact that the NRK believed I could do this was incredible. Of course I had to say yes. First of all, it was a huge opportunity for me as an artist. Secondly, I really believed in the song. It has an important message, a good vibe, it is catchy and dynamic, and it stands out from other pop songs.

Through the song “I am Gay” you want to advocate for LGBT community, can you tell us more about where you got the inspiration for it and idea behind the song?
We wrote the song last summer, right after Pride month. As songwriters, we were inspired to write a song that paid tribute to the LGBT community, the freedom to love and the freedom to be yourself, despite what society dictates. “I Am Gay” is first and foremost meant to be a Pride song. While other similar songs are often packed in metaphors, this one is quite direct, which I think makes it unique. In a way, this song was an experiment. We wanted to make something that hasn’t been done before, and do it with a positive intention: to break stereotypes. The message of the song is “finding the strength in being different from the norm”. I think that many of us can relate to this message, gay or not. We wanted this song to empower people, to make people happy and to support each other.

Some people said that it is a bit ironic for you to sing a song which states that you are gay even though you are heterosexual, what could you say about that?
Like I already mentioned, this song has a universal message. For this reason, I don´t think that it should matter who performs it. I know that some people may not agree with this point of view, and that’s just the reality. I also understand that you can’t please everyone. But the thing that gives me hope is that the majority of feedback has been positive. I have even received messages from people in Europe, who told me that the song really spoke to them, and how important it was to have a song like this for their community. This type of feedback is truly the most valuable to me, because it means that we actually did something good for other people. As a songwriter and artist, this is the best feedback I could ever ask for. 

You have been taking part in Song:Expo (songwriting camp) every single year since 2013 and the song you co-wrote in 2017 ended up being named “Eye Eye Eyes” and became a hit of a Kpop group TWICE, how did that feel?
That felt great! 

Regarding the previous question your performance was really bubbly, colorful and vibrant just like a Kpop music video is that where you got your inspiration for it or it was the wish to recreate the atmosphere of the PRIDE festival because it also felt very much like that?
That´s an interesting observation! I would probably say that writing k-pop music for many years has definitely set its mark in the way I write. I also love writing music that you can dance to. It´s really fun!

The competition of this year’s MGP is so tough, have you listened to other finalists? Which act do you see as the biggest competitor/like the most?
I have listened to each finalist and watched all the semi finals! I have been a true MGP fan this year! I like all of the other songs, so I could easily see any of them as competition. All of the contestants in this final are very talented and experienced. So it´s really hard to pick just one. 

What is your first memory related to Eurovision?
It must have been the memory of me and my friend dancing to Bobbysocks “La det swinge” in kindergarten.

Do you watch the show regularly and which song is your favourite?
Actually, I haven´t been watching the show regularly in the previous years. I have watched it the times when I knew some of the contestants, or if there was a song I really liked. My favourite Eurovision song of all time is “Euphoria” by Loreen.  

What are your plans after Melodi Grand Prix 2020?
To release some more music.

Do you want to share something else or you maybe have a message for followers of escbubble?
I hope you will enjoy this year´s Melodi Grand Prix final! It is the biggest MGP final we have ever seen and I can’t wait for you all to watch it this Saturday! 

Liza Vassilieva – I am Gay (MGP Semifinal 5)

Here you have a full guide for Melodi Grand Prix final which is set for Saturday 15th of February at 19:50 CET
Don’t forget to vote for your favourite at the poll below!

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