- Gjon’s Tears, 22, to represent Switzerland at Eurovision 2021 with song The whole universe.
- He is one of the big favorites for the final victory. “I am very happy and honored, but the problem is that people have special expectations,” he told 20 minutes.
- Barbara Pravi, who will represent France with here, is also favorite. “Honestly, I wish him to win. If it wins, it will be a victory because it is a song in French and it will have defended its authenticity, ”assures Gjon’s Tears.
Gjon’s Tears is not unknown to the French public: two years ago, he made it to the semi-finals of The Voice. Last year, his country, Switzerland, chose him to represent it at Eurovision, but, the competition having been canceled, he was unable to play his song there. Answer me, which was among the favorites. Next May, the 22-year-old artist will have the opportunity to try his luck again with The whole universe to which the bookmakers predict, this time again, a strong chance of victory. One and a half months before the competition organized in Rotterdam (Netherlands), he confides in 20 minutes on the genesis of his song – which was originally written in English -, on the French-speaking world and on his meeting with Barbara Pravi, the French singer whom he will face musically at Eurovision…
Is being one of Eurovision’s favorites reassuring or stressful?
It’s still a lot of pressure. I am very happy and honored, but the problem is that people have special expectations. I don’t know how they will react to the live.
How was “All the Universe” born and what is it about?
I worked with Wouter Hardy, who produced Arcade [le morceau gagnant de l’Eurovision 2019], Nina Sampermans and Xavier Michel. This song was first written in English and was titled Ground Zero. Initially, it signifies the epicenter of an explosion, and with 9/11 the word gained traction, it became more than that. I wanted to express the feelings he inspired in me, but in French, there is no equivalent in our language. That’s why, when we translated the song, we talked about destruction and reconstruction. The second theme addressed is the fact that the only person who can save us from the most complicated situations is ourselves. The whole universe therefore talking about reconstruction by oneself and I wanted us to see further. This is why the themes of space and grandeur were so important. Visually, I needed us to see this point of impact. The opening title of the song in French was “Point impact”, but I found it too dark, too hard. We lost the idea of the vastness of space and the optimism.
We have to go back to 2010 to find a Swiss candidacy for Eurovision with a title in French. How is the song received by your compatriots?
Switzerland is a rather special country. We will say that he supports when he sees that it works elsewhere. I receive support but it’s true that … little confidence: it struck my heart to tell myself that The whole universe was number 1 on iTunes and Shazam in Spain and Switzerland was not the first to put it so high. But that’s how it is, it’s life! (laughs)
Does a song in French go badly in German-speaking or Italian-speaking Switzerland?
In Switzerland, I don’t know. A lot of people say that it can be a barrier to singing in a language other than English at Eurovision Song Contest, but I am convinced that if you feel more comfortable singing in another language, that you think you are interpreting in a fairer, more sincere way, it must be done. My song was written in English but I found that in French it took on a bigger dimension, that there was something stronger in the interpretation. Defending French is for me a deliberate choice in relation to that, but also to the fact that it is one of the national languages of Switzerland and that it is my mother tongue.
Are you committed to defending the Francophonie?
Yes, clearly. The French language has something really special, different sounds. In recent years, there has been so much English at Eurovision Song Contest. The current movements promoting the liberation of oneself, the fact of showing who one is without shame, leads to not being afraid of one’s origins, to looking for sounds, instruments… I have always believed in multiculturalism. It is true that it is not obvious sometimes. When I was little, I was offered a contract [à 12 ans, il a participé à la version albanaise d’Incroyable talent] and they wanted my first name to be spelled John, I was told that no one would understand Gjon.
Are you also talking about Albania where your parents are from?
Albania and Kosovo are the countries of my parents. I went there on vacation every year. I was talking about this in my song Answer me : “Why am I here a stranger, over there a stranger?” This is the feeling I had as a child. In Switzerland, when people saw my first name they told me that I was not from here. I remember one night I sang in a church choir for a Christmas party. A lady came to congratulate me on my solo and asked me where I was from. When I told her my name, she replied: “This is not Swiss! Are you a Christian at least? She left furious. I was 10 years old. I’ve been through a lot of episodes like this. And when I went to Kosovo, I wondered why I had such extraordinary living conditions when the buildings there were in ruins, people slept six or seven in a room… It was complicated. Today, I am no longer afraid to understand all this. I come from Switzerland, Albania and Kosovo at the same time. My education comes from Albania, my values are based in Switzerland, it’s a mix of all that and I want that to be felt in my music.
You have met Barbara Pravi, who will represent France at Eurovision Song Contest. What did you say to yourself?
To be honest, last year, when Tom Leeb was selected to represent France, we exchanged a few messages, but nothing official. There had been so many comparisons between his song and mine that it bothered me. I didn’t find it fair and nice because we don’t just represent a country but also ourselves. It was as if we were trying to pit us against each other. I told myself that the silence, the fact that I didn’t say I got along with him, didn’t help either. This year, I wanted to meet Barbara because I didn’t want there to be any tension between us, I wanted it to be simple. And then, also, I like what she does, what she represents. His music touches me. When we saw each other, it made me happy, my good feelings were confirmed. She is really a good person, simple. We got along really well. I can’t wait to go back to Paris to see her again.
So you see her as an ally rather than an adversary?
She is truly an ally, not at all an adversary, frankly. I wrote her a message before Eurovision France, you decide [la sélection française diffusée fin janvier sur France 2] telling her that I knew she was going to win, even win Eurovision. She has something special. Live, she’s amazing. Her song is amazing. Honestly, I wish him to win. If she wins, it will be a victory because it is a song in French and she will have defended this authenticity.
Eurovision is a month and a half away. You are ready ?
We are preparing the staging. I have to work on my voice because I don’t feel ready and I’m a perfectionist. It takes a lot of repetitions. Right now, I don’t realize it’s a month and a half away. But, in my opinion, the two or three weeks before, I’ll realize (laughs). To be honest, what would make me the happiest is to do a performance that I will be proud of. I would like to be in the Top 3, it would be a victory for all the work it takes. When you get in the top three, for me, it’s a guarantee of quality.