It’s been a year since Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest with her song “Rise Like a Phoenix”. Since then she’s joined the global A-list, become the face of the Bank of Austria, and mingled with Ban Ki Moon and Jean Paul Gaultier. And while she’s rightly stolen the Eurovision spotlight, she didn’t do it alone. Among those behind her was Charlie Mason, an American lyricist whose credits include releases by Miley Cyrus, Eric Saade, Monrose, Sergey Lazarev, Sweet California, and Danny Saucedo. Charlie caught up with us ahead of the Eurovision final to talk about “Rise Like a Phoenix” and the two songs he has in the final this year: “Here for You” (Slovenia) and “Beauty Never Lies” (Serbia).
Were you in Copenhagen last year to cheer Conchita to victory?
No, I wasn’t in Copenhagen. Sadly, I’ve never been to Europe. I only get to sample foreign intrigue when I get to hang out with Sweden’s secret weapon, Mans Ek, on his visits to New York. (Google him, it’s worth it — he’s a genius.) I used to be dying to visit Stockholm, but now I’d rather go to London and have a pint with Paul Reynolds, whose old blog was so kind to my pet projects that he should have been on the payroll. If I was really lucky, I’d coax Ricardo Autobahn (who did Bojana’s remix) and Richard Hymas (who co-wrote Ulrik Munther’s “Scarecrow”) into town to join us. Or I’d love to visit Crush Boys (Daniel Volpe and Thomas Lipp) in Germany. I understand their studio in the mountains rivals the Batcave.
Your song won Eurovision in a landslide — has it given you a big boost professionally?
I’d love to say that since last year I’ve bopped from Kylie single to Eric Saade single to Paloma Faith single, but it really hasn’t changed my career at all. I don’t have a rep and usually pitch my co-writes to artists or their managers myself — and usually with no reply. But on the other hand, I think (hope) it made me a more attractive prospect as a collaborator to Vlad and Bojana.
How did your collaboration with Maraaya on “Here for You” come about? Did they come with a tune and say “give us lyrics!” Or was it a real collaboration?
I’ve known Raay for some time and he’s always been very patient with me — I’m told I can be a handful. With this song, he sent me the demo, which already had lyrics, and asked me to tack a whack at them, I did and sent them back, and then, since he and Marjetka already had a very clear picture of what they wanted the song to be, they executed their vision, and that was that.
You also wrote the English lyrics for Bojana’s song for Serbia. How does that work? Did someone give you the literal translation of the Serbian song and then you just did your thing? Or was there a lot of discussion?
With this one, unlike a lot of collaborations, I spoke a lot not only with Vlad but also with Bojana, and developed what I feel like are real relationships, which is a joy — to feel like you actually know the people you are working with and can root for them on a personal as well as professional level. Maybe I’m just sentimental that way — I like to like people. Haha. Anyway, when Bojana told me what she wanted to express in the song, it didn’t take much for me to understand it, because as someone who is not a big fan of himself in any way, shape or form, I understood why she would want to put a song out there that might make people rethink their self-doubt or their self-hatred. If a song could fix that part of my brain that can’t stand me, that says I’m worthless, that would be freaking amazing. If a song could do that for other people, how incredible would that be? I don’t know if it’s possible, but it’s a nice dream to hold onto and certainly worth a shot, right? I guess the world will soon tell us if we succeeded in that goal.
What’s the shortest amount of time it’s taken you to write a song? Is there one (doesn’t have to be Eurovision!) that just came to you?
Well, I’m very now, now, now. I always want things to happen yesterday, not tomorrow, so as a side effect of that — or maybe to facilitate that?
Which came first, I dunno — I tend to work very quickly unless I’m being micromanaged. So a song will rarely take me more than a day to finish. And if I’m really inspired, it can go even quicker than that. Like “Italian Stallion,” the song I just did with Crush Boys for Fabrizio Ferrara (who tried out for Swiss Eurovision this year). That was so much fun and our idea for it was so clear, I think I did it in an afternoon. Sometimes the lyrics practically write themselves. All I have to do is type the words the song tells me write down.
And what was one of the more difficult ones?
Truthfully, I probably secondguess myself and overthink and rethink the most on the silly little songs I coerce my friends into writing with me for my family’s insane home movies. It started with the theme song to “Sharktapiranhapus” (which was a monster movie my five-year-old nephew wanted us to make) and they’ve only gotten more elaborate since then. Now it’s a total addiction. (And no, that isn’t me in the video… although I do turn up as an uncoordinated zombie during the “Thriller” dance section.)
Where do you do your writing? Do you find that there’s a specific location or setting where you are most inspired?
I’m like the fortune cookie joke — just add “in bed.” I do my best writing in bed. Haha. Usually with a glass of wine about to spill because pillows aren’t made for balancing glasses of wine.
Lastly how can our readers keep up with your news?
I’m not exactly social media savvy, but I’m always posting new music — or, if it’s a dry spell, just music that I like — on my Facebook account. That’s really the best place to reach me. Especially if you’re Kylie and you’re looking for a new song.