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Nuša Derenda: “My song is very dynamic, cinematic and powerful” (Slovenian finalist – Exclusive Interview)

ESC+Plus has talked to Nuša Derenda, Slovenian representative at Eurovision 2001 and finalist of the Slovenian national selection for this year’s Eurovision, “EMA 2016”.

ESC+Plus: Hello! First of all, thank you for your time and congratulations on having been selected to compete in the Slovenian national selection for Eurovision 2016!

E+: Can you tell us about you, your musical career and important achievements?

This year marks the 18th anniversary of my solo career. In these years, I took part in many festivals and competitions in Slovenia and abroad, which helped me gain recognition and a great audience. Among the international festivals that I took part at, Eurovision Song Contest 2001 definitely stands out. That year, I represented Slovenia with a song called Energy and finished 7th, which is still Slovenia’s best result up to date. That was definitely one of my achievements that I am most proud of as the song was very well accepted by Slovenian as well as European/Eurovision audience. No surprise that even today, 15 years later, I still perform Energy at my concerts and people don’t get tired of it at all.

E+: What impelled you to take part again in “EMA 2016”?

It was the song that convinced me the moment I first heard it. That has usually been the case – I would only apply to a festival, if I were persuaded by the song, or if I was invited directly. Also, I still love singing and performing, and a big part of that are festivals. They are a great opportunity to present new songs.

E+: How did you feel when you knew you had qualified for the final? Did you expect it?

Honestly, yes, I did expect it, because I really believe in the song. In the last few years, I said many times that I would only take part in EMA again, if I found a song that would totally convince me. And this one definitely did. Or let’s say, the song just found me. Even if I weren’t selected, I would still believe that this song has a strong potential and it’s made for the audience that doesn’t know you and has to be immediately convinced by the song itself and the whole performance.

E+: What would it mean for you to represent Slovenia for the second time? 

Winning again would be a huge responsibility for me. It would definitely be harder than the first time, because Slovenian people would most likely expect me to achieve a result at least as good as the first time and that is no easy burden to bear. At the same time, it would be most exciting to once again join the Eurovision, re-live those wonderful memories from 2001, especially as this is most likely my last EMA.

E+: Can you tell us about your song? What is the story behind the lyrics?

The song I will perform this year really convinced me and has, in my opinion, everything that a Eurovision song needs. It is the first song since Energy that immediately caught my attention and I knew right away that I have to record it and send it to EMA. It is very dynamic, cinematic and powerful. The lyrics itself is about a special story with a lot of “female energy” and power.

My team has been working very hard on the final version – we are soon recording a 65-piece film orchestra and a lot of production is taking place in L.A. with people who are working for some of the most successful international artists at the moment. So I can’t wait to hear and present the song to you.

E+: Why do you think your song has to be selected for Stockholm? What are you strengths to reach the top in the competition?

In general, I like dramatic songs that have strong energy and are made for large stages. I feel great when interpreting them and this song really feels like it was written for me. It is made for a stage that requires a memorable and convincing performance, and it has a majestic, cinematic and modern production. With great staging and a powerful vocal performance, I believe it can do really well, in Slovenia as well as internationally.

E+: Have you started to prepare your stage performance for “EMA 2016”?

At this stage, my team and I have started gathering ideas and suggestions, planning the final performance, but no final decisions have been made yet.

E+: You represented Slovenia in 2001, with the song “Energy”, getting the 7th place, best Slovenian result at Eurovision. Can you tell us about your experience in the contest? How have your life and musical career changed since then?

After 2001, I became much more known in Slovenia and abroad. Energy was another song that really suited me well; it matched my personality and my voice perfectly. Because of that I was probably even more convincing, and Slovenians and Europeans knew how to appreciate that. Therefore, as I said in one of the questions above, I sing Energy at almost all of my performances and on many of them I have to repeat it, because the audience so desires.

My appearance at the Eurovision has opened many doors for me in Slovenia as well as abroad, but in the end, I opted for Slovenia, and even though we are small, I don’t regret my decision at all, as I still travel and perform around Europe regularly.

E+: Do you usually watch Eurovision? What are your favourite songs in the history of the competition?

If I can, I definitely watch the final show, but I often only see the performances on YouTube, due to my performances that usually take place on the weekend. Otherwise, I have been following the Eurovision from my early age and many of the songs are really dear to me.

I especially like singing some of the older ones and that’s why I had a special concert of Eurovision hits in 2011. A few years earlier, Johnny Logan, whose songs I respect and appreciate very much, was also a guest at one of my concerts. To name a few that I really enjoy singing: Ne partez pas sans moi by Celine Dion; Waterloo by Abba, Everyway That I Can by Sertab Erener, Molitva by Marija Šerifović, Take Me to Your Heaven by Charlotte Nilsson, and many more. In the last few years, I really liked the dynamic Euphoria.

E+: If you could choose a Eurovision former participant to sing along with, who would it be?

As I mentioned above, I had the opportunity to sing with Johnny Logan, which was a really special experience. Otherwise, my greatest desire would be to sing with Celine Dion, because she is an amazing singer and I am really impressed by her life story. It seems to me that our characters and energy are very much alike and we even have birthdays on the same day.

E+: Besides Eurovision, what are your plans for this year?

Just a week before EMA 2016, I’ll be taking part at another major national song competition – Slovenska Popevka 2016 (Slovenian Song Festival), which – like EMA – is now part of a broader festival Dnevi slovenske zabavne glasbe (Slovenian Popular Music Days). Also, even before I decided to participate at both festivals, I was invited to perform in a musical, and I am really looking forward to that, because I’ve always dreamed about singing in musical theatre and now my dream is becoming a reality.

E+: Finally, you can send a message for our readers and Eurovision fans?

Greetings to each and every one of you who know me and also to those who don’t 🙂 Thank you for all your messages of support, which I really appreciate. Enjoy the music, enjoy the Eurovision. Hold your fingers crossed for me and wish me luck. And who knows, we might see each other in Stockholm in May.

E+: Thank you for your time and good luck!

About Tony Rodríguez (Spain)