Eric Saade won top marks from the international jury and public televoters at last month’s Melodifestivalen final. But the hard work that catapulted the half-Lebanese singer to stardom started long before that. As the oldest of eight siblings and half siblings, he shouldered grown-up responsibilities when his parents divorced—and when he signed his first record contract at the age of 13. “My mental age is probably a bit older than my biological age,” he says, noting that he’s a bit of a control freak. “I find it hard to let go of things and tend, for example, to double check that my manager made the call he should have, which isn’t always so popular.” Eric recently spoke with Wiwi Bloggs about his win in Stockholm, his stage show in Düsseldorf, and the pressure of representing Sweden at the world’s biggest song contest.
Wiwi: Hi Eric. Congratulations on your win at Melodifestivalen!
Eric: Thank you!
How have you been keeping busy since your victory?
I’m actually writing my second album right now, so I’m in the studio writing songs every day and recording. The album is coming out this summer in Sweden, so I’m working on that and I’m doing a lot of interviews and practicing dance moves for the Eurovision song. I’ve got a lot to do.
Can you tell us about your new album? Will it be different than your previous albums?
It will be more, like, clubby pop. Much more electro, I’d say.
So it’s safe to assume you’re a fan of electro music?
I love electro music. I love Robyn—the Swedish artist. She inspired me a lot when she released her latest albums with electro music and I was like “I love this and I want to do electro music.”
Besides Robyn, which other artists do you admire?
I love Robbie Williams because he is a #1 entertainer, and also Justin Timberlake because he is the #1 performer.
How often are you practicing your routine for Eurovision?
Right now not so much because I’m in the studio, but otherwise I practice a lot. It’s all about what you’re doing. If I’m going on tour I need to practice for a month to be able to do around ten dance numbers in one show. For Eurovision I’ll practice for a couple of weeks now to make sure it looks better at Eurovision than it did in Sweden.
Does that mean you weren’t satisfied with your dancing at Melodifestivalen?
It was good but it can always get better. I’m never satisfied. When you’re satisfied you need to quit. So I’ll never be satisfied.
What’s the message of your Eurovision entry “Popular”?
I’m trying to say that I want to be number one, and I want to get there on my own.
Last year you finished third at Melodifestivalen. Did coming so close to victory motivate you to enter again this year?
No, actually not. At the time I was like, “I don’t want to do this over and over again.” So if I ‘m going to do it again I’m going to do it immediately because I don’t want to come back in two or three years. I want to have Melodifestivalen as one chapter of my career and then move forward. That’s why I did it again so soon. And I wanted to win. From the beginning I said, “I’m here to win this time and I want to go to Eurovision and spread my music all over Europe.” That’s my goal.
What about the United States?
That’s a dream for me. The first dream was to have a breakthrough in Sweden. The next thing is to have a breakthrough in Europe and the United States and all over the world.
If you do well at Eurovision will it change your life?
I don’t know actually. I just hope that people love my music and if they do I hope they vote. And I hope that I can release my albums all over Europe in the future. But I don’t know about the result at Eurovision. Music is all about taste. You can’t be the best in music. So I’m just going to do my thing, and I hope people like it.
Is there a lot of pressure from Swedes for you to do well?
I’m just going to do my thing and hope the European people like “Popular” as much as the Swedish people. But you never know. In fact, last year Sweden [Anna Bergendahl to be precise] went out in the semi-finals of Eurovision. And that makes it better for me because if we get to the finals this year that will be a success.
Are you going to change your stage performance for Düsseldorf?
The choreography will be the same—the dance moves and all. We’ll change a bit maybe because we are just going to be three dancers and me [instead of six back-up dancers as at Melodifestivalen] because of the rules in Eurovision. We’ll change it a bit just to make it look better. It will be better than at Melodifestivalen I swear!
We’ve read reports in Sweden that say you may not be able to take your glass cage to Germany. Any word on that?
I don’t know yet. We’re working on that right now. I hope so because it’s a part of the story. I’m singing I want to get there on my own and that’s part of the story. I get trapped inside a box and I get on my own.
I loved your tight leather jacket and black vest with straps and loose suspenders. What are you trying to convey with that outfit?
The costume is about a feeling. You dress to give a message of a feeling to something. And I think we had a hard look. The dancers were hard dressed and I was too. The number was black and white all over, and I love that stuff. It feels MTV. That’s what I love about it. It feels international.
In Sweden, does everyone on the street recognize you now?
Yeah, they do maybe. But I don’t think about that. I’m just a guy who loves music and loves to perform and dance. I’m so glad that people nowadays listen to my music. That’s been my dream since I was a boy. I don’t think so much about the famous stuff because I’m not interested in that?
When did you realize you could sing?
My relatives realized that when I was six. I sang at my mother’s wedding. And then my relatives knew I could sing from then. They always told me to sing at all the parties. When I was 15 I got signed with my first record label. Since then I’ve been working and writing songs and working my way up.
You come from a family of eight siblings and half-siblings. Did they act as an audience for you growing up?
Of course! And they pushed me a lot. I needed their support and they are always there for me. The family is always the most important thing for me.
How did they react when you placed third at Melodifestivalen last year?
They were blown away just as I was. I didn’t think I would get my breakthrough last year. I thought, “Let’s do this and we’ll see how it goes.” But it went good!
Have you heard any of the other songs competing at Eurovision this year?
No. I would like to but I haven’t got time for that right now. I will in a couple of weeks.
Did you grow up watching Eurovision with your family?
Yeah, I did. I was a kid — maybe 5 or 6 years old — when I started to watch it with my family. It’s the biggest TV show in Sweden. Everybody watches it. I was just one of them but I didn’t think I was going to stand there myself one day.
Who is your favorite Swedish Eurovision act of all time?
I loved the Ark when they won. I think they’re great. Ola Salo is a great singer and I love him.
Of all the national Eurovision contests in Europe, Sweden’s is the biggest and most watched. Why do you think that is?
Sweden is a small country, and there are not a lot of music TV shows, and this is one of them and this one is good. I just think people love it because it’s good music and it’s a chance for new artists to get a breakthrough even though it’s very hard.
Is there anything else you want Europe to know about you?
I just hope they love my music and if they love my music I hope they will vote. They are the ones who will make the result at Eurovision. I just want them to know that I love what I do and I love the music. That’s why I do it. And for my fans: don’t forget to vote! That’s the most important part right now. I hope I get to see them one day on a European tour.
Have you been to Germany before?
Yes. I have cousins in Germany. They can vote for Sweden! My relatives in Sweden cannot. But my relatives there can!