Leonid Gutkin, the former bass player of famed Russian rock band Autograph, is no stranger to Eurovision. In 2013 he oversaw the songwriting team behind Dina Garipova’s “What If”, and he later worked on ESC tracks for Polina Gagarina (“A Million Voices”) and Lidia Isac (“Falling Stars”). Those first two tracks both placed in the Top 5 at Eurovision.
And this year he’s turned his attention to Julia Samoylova and her Eurovision 2018 song “I Won’t Break”, which he co-wrote alongside Israeli composers Netta Nimrodi and Arie Burshtein. They are the same trio responsible for last year’s intended entry “Flame is Burning.”
“It was great working again with Netta and Arie,” he told me on the red carpet at the Moscow Eurovision Party earlier this month.
“When we started working it was a little bit easier this year because we knew who the artist was supposed to be. The idea was the find the concept of the song that will fit the artist and Eurovision as well.”
He says Julia took well to the song — an ode to perseverance and overcoming obstacles.
“When we got this idea and I presented it to Julia she said, ‘Yes it’s mine. I feel it’s mine.'”
That echoes what Julia told us on the red carpet a little later. “It was love at first sight,” she said. “When I heard the song I added it to my playlist. I saw the translation of the song and I enjoyed it very much.”
Flashing back to the #Moscow #Eurovision party, where I got to wish Russia’s #eurovision star Julia Samoylova a happy birthday alongside @dmitri_melnik and @alexshuykov ?? (And yes: That is a façade of the Coliseum) #ESC2018 #Eurovision2018 #AllAboard #HappyBirthday @jsvok @wiwibloggs #shoppingmall #russia #visitmoscow #instatravel #birthdaycake
Our interview took place days after a number of Western countries had expelled Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former KGB spy in Salisbury, England. That seemed to colour his response when I asked how he thought Julia will do in Lisbon.
“I know she will do great as an artist,” he says. “But as we know there are so many aspects involved. It’s a matter of stage production. It’s a matter of all-around environment. It’s a matter of politics — especially this year with stormy winds around Europe. But I think the best she can do is just go there and let it go. Let loose and enjoy the performance.”
Picking one’s favourite artist is no easy feat. But I asked him anyway.
“I love them all,” he says of his Eurovision darlings. “They all are very bright personalities and brilliant artists. I have been very honoured to be part of their creative life.”