25 year old Tooji won back in February the national final of Melodi Grand Prix, the Norwegian preselection for Eurovision Song Contest. GloPop caught up with the singer to talk about Eurovision, preparations for Baku, the future and the charity he supports.
Hi Tooji, thank you so much for allowing us to ask you a few questions before heading to Baku. First of all how are you? Congratulations on winning Melodi Grand Prix and representing Norway at Eurovision this year. Has the feeling of representing Norway at Eurovision in a few weeks time, fully sank in yet?
”Hi and thank you! I’m doing fine, it’s a crazy busy time since winning the Norwegian final. It is one my proudest and greatest achievements and an indescribable honor to represent my country in such a great event as Eurovision. I’m very excited about the upcoming competition, but I don’t think that the reality of it all will truly sink in until I’m actually IN Baku and ON the stage having my first dress rehearsal.”
You’re not a stranger to the Norwegian people are you? Can you tell us a bit more about yourself before you took part in Melodi Grand Prix?
” I started modelling when I was about 17-18 years old, I did a few small modelling gigs back then before I auditioned for MTV and got the job as a TV host there. I also have been focusing on my studies and I’m now working in the children’s welfare system here in Norway. At the same time I’m working with my music, so it’s a bit busy! But the Melodi Grand Prix was actually my big stage debut as an artist! ”
It’s said that Norwegians are very passionate about Eurovision. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being completely crazy about Eurovision, how passionate are you about Eurovision?
”After I entered the competition personally, I’m definitely a 15! haha! But prior to this year, the Eurovision event wasn’t really a great priority for me, I would say maybe a 4?”
”I’ve been working with my music for a while, meaning writing songs and producing them for quite some time before entering the Melodi Grand Prix. It was actually my manager who encouraged me to enter MGP, she said to me “If you’re going to make a debut musically, why not go for it BIG?” And so I did!”
Did you co-write ”Stay”? Or was it specially written for you?
”I co-wrote the song with the two of the greatest producers in Sweden, Figge and Peter Boström. The main idea and theme came from me, I had the chorus and a visual of it in my head, before taking it to Figge and Peter. From there on out it was a close collaboration with them that resulted in “Stay””
”I absolutely adore Loreen and I met her during the Swedish final! She is a really cool girl, I love her song and her voice. Out of the other entries that I’ve heard, she’s definitely my biggest favourite. And of course Cyprus with Ivi Adamou and her song La La Love!”
If you had to describe ”Stay” in three words, which words do you choose.
”I will describe Stay with passion, joy and love.”
Why these three words?
”The song represents for me these three things. It’s about releasing yourself to whatever it is that moves you – whether it is music, emotions or your own passion. I feel a lot of joy when I’m performing the song and hopefully also to the listeners. Stay is a song that speaks of love for your passion!”
Have you been promoting the song outside of Norway? How’s the reception been by the audiences?
”There’s been an overwhelming response to the song internationally. There are Facebook groups and fan pages popping up everywhere and I receive messages every single day from fans from across the world. It’s insane and makes me so happy!”
Do you check on fan forums to see what people say about your song and the other entries? Or are you trying to stay away from media at the moment?
” I prefer not to read too much into the media, partly because everyone is entitled to their personal opinions, whether it’s good or bad, and partly because I think one of the most important things is to keep focused and grounded, and never forget that the main reason I chose to get into this industry is for the music and not for the hype of it.”
You’re about two weeks away from the actual semi final, so you are very busy with rehearsing. Can you give us a short insight of what an intensive day of rehearsal means for you?
”It’s a busy time right now, with all kinds of different rehearsals going on. Anything from dance rehearsal, band rehearsal, to vocal coaching, to styling, interviewing, photo shoots and/or just a “normal” work out. Every single day varies depending on the day –and along with everything on going for the preparation for the Eurovision Contest, I still have my day job!”
Next month in Baku, you’ll be battling it out with 17 other countries for ten places in the final. Do you consider yourself as a competitive person? And who do you consider to be your main rival for the evening?
”I’m very much a competitive person, but in a good and mainly healthy way. I think any form of competition is good for any soul. I have to admit that my main rival would be Loreen from Sweden.”
”You just have to wait and see. So far the performance is to remain a bit of a surprise.”
Do you have any rituals before you go on stage? Or do you do something to control the nerves?
” I usually take a few minutes before going on stage to meditate in order to stay centered and focused- and to give thanks to the universe for guiding me where I am today. My breathing exercises help me calm the nerves and redirect them to the oncoming performance.”
The preview video for your entry is the live performance from the final. Are there any plans to record a video clip for ‘Stay’?
”We are working on it as we speak, and I hope it will be ready before arriving in Baku.”
Let’s assume on May 26, you are crowned the winner of Eurovision 2012. If the choice was yours which city should host the next Eurovision Song Contest in Norway. And why?
”I would have to say Oslo. I love Oslo as I grew up here, and think it represents a great, booming side to Norway that Europe and the rest of the world should see!”
Great choice, Tooji! Now what can we expect for the rest of 2012 from you any plans? Recording an album?
”I’m working on my album right now, it’s quite diverse and represents me on several levels as an artist and I’m very excited about it!”
”Redd Barna is an organization focused on children’s rights around the world. We act as a voice for under privileged children all over the world and work towards fighting for their basic human rights. It’s a cause I’m extremely passionate about, to be able to represent children and make their voices heard with authorities and Governments worldwide.”
And last but not least, is there anything you would like to say to our readers and Tooji-fans?
”First of all, I would like to thank all of my fans and flames for all the love and support. I am so greatful and appreciate everything you’ve done for me! So, I’ll see you all in Baku! Let’s rock Eurovision 2012!!!!”
Thank you so much Tooji. We wish you all the best in your preparations and rehearsals for Baku. Have an amazing time!!
Tooji is representing Norway in the second semi final of this years Eurovision Song Contest on May 24. See the video for his entry below
(Special thanks to Tooji, Silje Marie Lien & NRK for the interview and photos)