TEO—Belarus’ answer to Robin Thicke—has one of this year’s most talked about Eurovision songs. His entry “Cheesecake” is so divisive that some Eurofans have suggested that it should be called “Marmite”. Love it or hate it, you have to admit it’s making people talk.
The Belarusian crew, with the assistance of their charming Australian press attaché, have been very busy cooking their Eurovision campaign. But TEO (born Yuriy Vaschuk) still managed to squeeze in a chat with our North of England correspondent Katie Wilson. Here are the highlights.
First of all, congratulations on winning the Belarus National Selection! How did you feel when they called out your name?’
It took a little while to sink in. As you might know it was a three-way tie that had to be decided again which was a nerve-wracking experience. Now, though, I’m starting to feel excited about it and plans are underway for the performance in the semi finals in Copenhagen.
You’ve composed a lot of songs for Eurovision before, so how does it feel to be on the stage rather than behind the scenes?
In 2008 I was in the national finals with Anna Blagova and after that wrote songs for other Eurovision singers including Alyona Lanskaya, Natalie Tamelo and Tasha Odi. This gave me a tiny taste of what it would be like, but in reality it’s a big, busy blur of preparation, anticipation and lack of sleep!
You went by your birth name Yuriy until finding your stage name TEO during a random Google search. What do you think is the difference between Yuriy who wrote songs for other people and the TEO who will sing his own in Copenhagen?
I’m probably a bit more laid-back about it these days. I entered at the very last minute after writing songs for two other terrific singers – Natalie Tamelo and Tasha Odi – and thought it would be fun to try again too. Maybe that relaxed attitude helped?
What’s the story behind the song “Cheesecake”?
The meaning behind ‘Cheesecake’ is simple but a good one. It’s a positive song because even though I’ve broken up with a girl because I’m tired of her calling me her ‘sweet cheesecake,’ the message is that we all want to be treated with respect.
You recently filmed Belarus’ postcard in preparation for Eurovision. What was it like to film and can you give us a few spoilers about what it might contain?
I’m sworn to secrecy – the Danish film crew (who were fantastic, and made it a lot of fun) would kill me! Let’s just say that an ice rink is part of the clip…..
Your song “Cheesecake” has gotten mixed reviews. How do you react to the critical comments?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and at the moment I’m focused on doing my best for Eurovision.
Many have compared you to Robin Thicke. What is your response to this?
I might wear a black suit and a white shirt, but I’m TEO and not him. I’m the one being objectified in the song and video for ‘Cheesecake,’ and the lyrics make clear that I don’t like it.
What’s your goal for Copenhagen?
It might be bad luck if I try to dream that or make a prediction….. It’s such a huge opportunity for me, so I hope that I make my family, friends and country proud of me.
Eurovision 2014 is going to be a fierce competition. What do you think of the other songs?
It’s impossible to pick a favourite winning song as each one has that special ‘something’ that makes it great. To be honest, I like them all – every song I’ve heard so far is different from the rest so hopefully it will make the entire competition a memorable event.
How about ALL of the ones that were winners? If you look at the winning songs for the past ten years, you’ll see that every single one is different but brilliant in their own unique way. It’s a combination of what catches the audience’s ear, the judges, the fashions of the time, the moods…. I wish that I had written them all!
What advice has last year’s Belorussian representative Alyona Lanskaya given you about performing at Eurovision?
To try my best but also to enjoy the experience; to have fun and meet the contestants from other countries. She pointed out that it’s also a chance for performers and countries to show their creative sides and offer the world some new music.
For those that don’t know, explain a little about the competition you are currently running and what the entries are like so far?
They must hurry, because it closes on 17th of March. We are challenging you to do your own unique cover version of my song for Belarus, ‘Cheesecake,’ and send the audio or video before the 17th of March to: teo.cover @gmail.com.
The rules are few – you must be over eighteen years old; the song has to be three minutes or less in duration; and the language needs to be in English, Russian or Belarusian. I will then select ten finalists, which will be played on Radius FM on 20th March, with invited to SMS and vote for their favourite version. The winner will then be invited to perform their version on live television (‘Good Morning, Belarus,’ on Belarus 1). Last but not least they will also be given a ticket to the second semi-final and final of the Eurovision Song Contest. Details can be found here.
Those going to Copenhagen are hoping for free cheesecake. Can you make any promises?
Haha yes! We had a two-metre wide cheesecake served at a party a couple of weeks ago and I am wondering about having more in Copenhagen and some more traditional-style Belarusian cheesecake. The main ingredient, apart from cheese, is potatoes!
Do you have a message for wiwibloggs readers?
Your site is one of my favourites and is always full of good interviews, reviews and articles. Keep up the excellent work and I hope to meet your team in Copenhagen!