For our first Catching Up With, we’re thrilled to welcome Kurt Calleja who waved the Maltese flag in Baku 2012! Kurt made fans with his infectious song “This Is The Night”, his stylish dance moves, great smile, a funny personality. He made it through to the final where he ultimately placed 21st. Big thanks for Kurt for being the first to venture down this road with us.
DjS: Hi Kurt, you have a new single out with Ticli & Gas called “Lost In Paradise”, and it’s very electro/dance (which I LOVE!). How did you hook up with these Sicilian producers?
Kurt Calleja: Well Ticli & Gas is an upcoming Italian brand made of a DJ (Rino Ticli) and a producer (Gas – short for Gasper) that have had a number of tracks with singers from different countries. Back in 2014 they were in Malta performing at a party which I happened to be performing some remixed tracks from my album Love On Mars and also some remixed cover tracks (I think one of the songs was “Sky Full Of Stars” by Coldplay). Their agent came up to me and asked if I was interested in working on some new material and the rest is history.
DjS: How can people pick up the single if they want to purchase it? Amazon, Spotify and anywhere else?
KC: The track can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. (smiles)
DjS: Before that we saw you pair with Malta’s own Mykill on ‘Waiting In The Sun’, which was a chilled slice of summery house. Most of the readers will know you for your Eurovision song ‘This Is The Night’, which was very danceable with a bit of a dubstep break, but it was much more pop oriented, as was much of your first album. Do you have a preference? What style most excites Kurt Calleja?
KC: Since I have not yet been able to get myself a record a deal (something almost non-existent in Malta) — I try to adapt to fit the current trend. When we did “This Is The Night”— pop/disco was very much in (“Moves Like Jagger” and “Get Lucky” are 2 very good examples of songs that were on top at the time).
Pairing up with Mykill to do “WITS” was actually a coincidence turned into success because we just met up to plan a big performance. As we were planning this big event he decided to play me a demo (which was in fact the demo of “Waiting In The Sun”) and he asked me if I knew anyone who writes lyrics and if I was interested in recording a B-side track with him. What he didn’t know is that I was writing a track of my own and I was not liking the music so I tried putting these lyrics I wrote onto Mykill’s demo and it worked. Within the hour we recorded it and he further produced it to make it what it is today. I enjoyed it, it was number 1 in Malta for 3 weeks and that’s that but the kind of music I am really into now is more a cross between Coldplay and One Direction (if you find that hard to understand — just wait until our second album is out — oops spoiler alert)
DjS: Congratulations on your Number 1! Moving to Eurovision, you’ve been forthcoming about what a joy it was for you to represent your country in Baku 2012. You even posted to Facebook that you reminisce each year on February 4, the day you won the Maltese selection. What are your thoughts about the contest 4 years on?
KC: Ever since I was a kid, my family and I had an annual tradition which is staying in, ordering some pizza or Chinese food and we would watch Eurovision together. The only time I missed that annual tradition was when my family and I where in Baku and last year when we went again to support Amber who was my backing vocalist. What can I say? I love it, I love the buzz about it, I love how Europe comes together to watch it, I love that even though 4 years have gone by I still get many of these interviews like yours and I am more than happy to be a part of because it is my opportunity to pass on my love to my fans.
DjS: Considering the amount of returning talent this year, are you feeling the itch to make a Eurovision return?
KC: I felt that itch in 2014 (laughs). And every year it gets itchier and itchier.
DjS: Is it a matter of finding the perfect song?
KC: There is no such thing as the perfect song. It’s a matter of having a track that stands for something, a track that will make people smile, or cry, but in a good way, something that the audience can relate to. But that is not the reason why I haven’t returned yet — it’s only a matter of having so many other commitments that keep me away from it for now. I do wish to return to it but only if/when the time and the feeling is right.
DjS: Since Eurovision, you’ve performed quite a bit with your debut album and singles as mentioned earlier, aside from the occasional Eurovision-related gig, what keeps Kurt going?
KC: That is a good question and if I may elaborate, being in this business is anything but easy — with all the backstabbing and people trying to trick you into signing contracts that will take away most of your earnings unless you are smart or you have someone to guide you. Sometimes you start questioning yourself — why do I even bother? So there was a time short after Eurovision that I was seriously considering quitting music. Unfortunately I felt so empty that it was almost like this hunger that was never satisfied. Seeing my audience (being 10 or 10,000 people) enjoy my show and shout for an encore is all I need to keep doing what I do.
DjS: You’re very communicative with your fans on Facebook, and you recently posted a picture of you and Ira after her win this year. Beyond your hopes for Malta, have you been paying any attention to the contest as it shapes up? (Note this interview took place before May 14) Some people are saying Barei from Spain has stolen the Calleja dance steps for her performance. Any comment?
KC: Unfortunately with preparations for my album, band gigs and many other commitments I haven’t been following this year’s Eurovision so no, I didn’t know about Barei from Spain and using our foot move – but then again – Warren did not exactly pioneer that foot move himself. The move is called Apple Jacks and it is a movement used in line dancing.
DjS: Another thing I noticed you promoting on Facebook, a great cause, animal adoption. How did you come to that cause? Do you have anything more you’d like to say about it for the readers? Any other volunteer works close to your heart?
KC: One of the six rules of success is to give back to society. I was lucky to have lived a dream come true (Eurovision) and that was because the Maltese people had the pleasure of voting for me. I understand that people like buying pure breed dogs. I do — sometimes they look nicer — but providing a home for an animal that was once abandoned is so much more satisfying. It is not a business — it is purely about the love for these amazing creatures. The SPCA provides home training to these strays and then when they feel that the dog is ready — then they can be adopted. When someone gives up their own time to dedicate it to others they receive something that no amount of money can buy — love.
DjS: Relating to Malta in general, as a citizen of the US, I find that part of the appeal of Eurovision is seeing destinations that are far away and exotic. What would you tell someone about visiting Malta? Places to see, things to do and eat? Be our tour guide for a minute if you will?
KC: There are not enough words to describe the beauty of Malta. It’s small yet you can find pretty much everything, we have a language of our own. Weather is pretty much stable, traditional food is amazing but there are also many gourmet restaurants on the island and fast food too. The party life is something incomparable, beaches and lidos are the pretty much to go to places as soon as it starts getting a bit warmer. The island is loaded with history and sites to see, and fashion is all over the place. There is so much more I can say but then it will take the surprise away from when you decide to visit us. (smiles)
DjS: I will definitely be doing that. Maybe next trip over. Back to Eurovision for an in depth question, I’ve been doing some research on the contest’s ever shifting position in popular culture/importance/credibility. As an artist and competitor, how do you see the contest? Do you think it has changed at all?
KC: An artist must not get lost in the contest itself. It’s not just about winning – it’s about making a statement on that stage, the platform, to the followers and showcasing what you are all about whilst also hoping that you get accepted and loved. Most Eurovision songs have recently been more in liaison with American/British charts and therefore one cannot fail to take this contest as seriously as possible — again not in terms of the result alone — but also the show case and lobbying in itself.
(Editor’s note: Please go and purchase the songs to support these artists who share their time with us.)