Last week Armenia’s AMPTV revealed French-Armenian singer, songwriter and keyboardist Essaï Altounian as the first of six artists who will make up its Eurovision Supergroup Genealogy. Our Georgia correspondent Rezo Mamsikashvili recently caught up with him. They discussed his family’s harrowing history, his experiences in a boy band, his love of Eurovision and much more.
Hello Essaï! Congratulations for being selected to take part in Genealogy. When AMPTV approached you with the idea of the supergroup, what was your reaction? What motivated you to participate?
Hello! I immediately loved the concept. It’s a beautiful demonstration of unity. As you know, after the Genocide Armenians were scattered all around the world. Now Genealogy is going to represent all of those people. And I’m representing the continent of Europe. I love when people with the same heartbeat are united.
You found great success performing in and composing for musical theatre productions. What do you prefer more? Being on stage or writing songs?
Really both…I’m a creative guy and I’m constantly thinking all the time – night and day. I’m composing everywhere: in my studio, with my piano, in my car, in the shower. Every sound of life inspires me. All this creativity burns inside of me and I need to share it.
Sometimes I’m composing some songs knowing that it won’t be for me but for someone else, even though I like the song. On the other side, I also love to be on stage and express myself. I love to see people with smiling faces, feeling good due to good music. Being on the stage is the same as inviting people for a new trip with you. It’s sweet, sensual, exciting…because we feel the same emotions at the same time. I really love that.
When you were still a law student you became a member of the boy band Ideal-3. What is your lasting memory of the experience? Why did you decide to go solo?
It was my very first professional experience. We were called the French Boyz 2 Men. It was the first time that I listened to myself on the radio and TV. At this time, and after so much hard work, I thought that it was not an inaccessible dream but a reality. Then I decided to split with the band to continue my goal…To live through music and express what I really feel inside.
French people and Armenian people both have very strong national identities. Do you feel equally connected to both cultures?
I really have the double culture. I was born in Paris and grew up there with all the communities that we have there. At school my best friends were Caribbean, Arab, Greek and Italian. We grew up together, playing basketball and football. We were all the time together – mixing everything together…Food, games, culture, languages…My friends were all the time at my place and I was also at their place. We were like brothers. We were all French but our hearts were connected to our roots. I was the Armenian of the band and I was proud of it. France is a multicultural country. I grew up with those guys in a block but I never forgot that my heart was definitely Armenian.
Your grandparents escaped the Armenian Genocide. When did your parents tell you about this, and how did it impact you?
I always knew about this story because my parents and grandparents kept talking about it…So I grew up with the hope that my ancestors will sleep in peace one day. But I always transformed all this emotion to positive and creative energy.
Armenian people are united all around the world like a big chain of brotherhood. So I really think that GENEALOGY will create solidarity.
Are you a big fan of Eurovision?
It has been a family tradition to watch Eurovision in our house every year and I remember watching it since I was a little boy. It’s an amazing show and I have been thinking to be on that amazing stage one day. The law of attraction is most probably working.
What does Eurovision mean for you?
I was honored and very proud to be part of this, especially in the year of 2015. I am feeling the power of being the voice and the messenger of millions of Armenians around the world. It’s a precious feeling.
Who is your favorite Eurovision contestant from Armenia?
Aram MP3 was very good last year.
Which Eurovision song do you like from all of Eurovision history?
The song of Conchita Wurst sang last year was amazing. I knew immediately that it would be in the top.
Do you have a special message for your fans and followers on wiwibloggs?
Believe in your dreams…Never give up and it will happen. I can’t wait to meet you in Vienna and share with you so much joy and happiness.
Thank you for Interview Essaï. Good luck!