He’s the Russian lyricist behind some of of the most successful Eastern European Eurovision songs in the past two decades. Karen Kavaleryan has talked to Wiwibloggs about his Eurovision experiences and the importance of song lyrics at Eurovision.

Internationally, Kavaleryan is most known for his poetic contributions to many of the most successful Eastern European Eurovision songs in the late ’00s and early ’10s. Among others, he penned the lyrics of Dima Bilan’s “Never Let You Go”, Dmitry Koldun’s “Work Your Magic” and Ani Lorak’s “Shady Lady”.

It is therefore easy to conclude that Russian lyricist Karen Kavaleryan has built up a large legacy throughout the years. In his home country, he has also received numerous accolates. Eighteen of his songs were chosen to receive prizes during the prestigious annual Russian Song of the Year. Next to that, he penned the anthem for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. But preferring to be in the background, his current career focuses on theatre productions.

But back in May, on his personal Facebook page, Kavaleryan wrote a series of posts detailing his numerous Eurovision experiences between 2002 and 2013. The posts paint a picture of the emergence of Eastern Europe at the contest. It produced an interesting perspective on the successes of then, sometimes perhaps showing a shadow sight too.

As a result, Wiwibloggs decided to have an in-depth chat with Karen Kavaleryan to discuss what it was like to be a songwriter at that time and his opinion on songwriting in general at Eurovision.

Karen Kavaleryan Interview: Veteran lyricist talks about his Eurovision legacy

Wiwibloggs: Despite the fact that you have not written for the contest in seven years, your contributions are still very well regarded. What do you think of that?

Kavaleryan: I am pleased to hear that, although now I have nothing to do with the Eurovision and am busy only with theatrical projects. We come to this world to leave a good memory of ourselves. If I succeeded, then I did my job honestly.

Since the pandemic, fans of Eurovision have held a few re-votes of the contest under the name of #EurovisionAgain. For on the Eurovision 2008 screening, “Shady Lady” finished first. Did you hear at all of that news?

I am grateful to the fans for remembering the song “Shady Lady”, but I cannot take this vote seriously. Another contestant with a different song won the real contest. Unfortunately.

Did you use some special formula or does songwriting come from the soul? Can you please tell us something about your creative processes?

I have no formulas. And there are no rules either. Each new song is a different adventure. You just go into an unknown direction and react to the circumstances. You only have faith in yourself, a certain number of skills and your reflexes. But you never know how this will end. It feels alive. But songs are my life. Anyway, it was, when I dealt with the Eurovision.

You worked with some of the most prolific show-business people in Eastern Europe, such as Philipp Kirkorov, Dima Bilan and Ani Lorak. But was getting so close to those artists like? Who did you enjoy working most with and why?

All of them are really good at what they do. I respect all of these performers. But I have never been close to any of them. This is not a necessity for the creation of a good song. In general, I never get close to the artists and do not want to become part of their entourage. I am interested in my own life.

How much influence did you as a songwriter have on what is eventually presented on stage?

The only time I ever actively participated in this was in 2010. I practically co-produced Eva Rivas and “Apricot Stone” song. It was the most ideologically driven performance that I have ever seen in my life. It was more than show business. There, in Oslo, a part of my heart remained on the stage. We did not manage to realize everything that was planned. But I’m proud of this song and this particular performance.

What was it like to attend Eurovision as a songwriter?

I was present in person in 2002 (Tallinn), 2008 (Belgrade) and 2010 (Oslo). But the most memorable visit I ever made was the first one — to Tallinn. We had a very tightknit team. Despite the fact that almost 20 years have passed, my co-author, composer Kim Breitburg, and I are still working together on various theatre projects. As for the rest of the guys from the Prime Minister band, we are still friends, despite the fact that I was terribly angry because of their frivolous behaviour on the eve of the performance that almost failed us. I remember that I was so disappointed with the tenth place that I did not go to the afterparty and wandered around the city all night on my own, drinking cognac right out of a bottle.

What has been your favourite memory in this Eurovision phase of your life?

In 2008, Belgrade, I had two songs out there — one from Ukraine (“Shady Lady”) and from Georgia (“Peace Will Come”), and the Georgian delegation was very jealous of me because of the Ukrainian song. So much so that me, my wife and son weren’t even given the tickets to the show’s finals.

My good friend Andy Mikheev from ESCKAZ.COM invited us to watch the finals in the press centre and we accepted the invitation. At the entrance to the press centre, a security guard, who then carefully examined our accreditations, stopped us. Especially mine. Then he asked to open the bag. I thought that I would have problems now — there were two bottles of Armenian cognac, which I brought from Moscow.

I asked the guard if I could take my liquor with me and I was sure that the answer would be no. But he smiled and unexpectedly replied that I can do anything. I asked him, why so. And he said that this is because I was the star of this show. Then, he took my autograph and asked me to take a picture with him. So I did.

That was the most unexpected confession that was ever addressed to me. But at that time, I really was the “star of the show”. After all, I held a Eurovision record — I wrote songs for performers from five different countries. It seems that as of now, this record is beaten.

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Do you feel that composers get enough praise at the contest? What do you think about initiatives, such as the Marcel Benzencon Award, to give recognition to the best composition, as decided by the composers?

That’s a fine idea. But why should only the opinion of composers be taken into account? Why are the poets less important? Poets matter too.

Do you feel that songwriting changed throughout the contests you were involved with and do you think it has evolved since?

I reckon it’s the same game that it was a hundred years ago. Nothing new was discovered ever since the Tin Pan Alley.

Recently, winners have called to focus again on the song as opposed to the staging. Portuguese singer Salvador Sobral said that “music is feeling and not fireworks” and the last contest winner Duncan Laurence said that he dedicated his prize to “Music first, always”. What do you think about these kinds of statements?

Artists are prone to simplifying. But it is impossible to fit life into a universal formula, no matter how much you repeat all these mantras that something is more important than something else. Everything is important. Music, lyrics, production, costumes, sound, light, PR, and even the lunch you have on the day of the competition. And the dream you had the night before, too. I don’t know why music seems to be the most important element to these guys. Personally, I think that’s nonsense.

Read more of our interviews here

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Veta
Veta
1 month ago

I would have said that he is right and that I agree the lyrics are definitely the most important thing in a song, but the irony is… “Work your magic”, “Shady lady” and “Never let you go” are exactly the examples of one of the poorest lyrics in Eurovision. : ))) Fourtinately, songs with good and meaningful lyrics are still able to win Eurovision nowadays (Conchita, Jamala, Netta, Emmelie…).

Dawid
Dawid
1 month ago
Reply to  Veta

You bring up Netta as argument? Really? For rhyming boy with toy?

Rasmus Bording Irlind
Rasmus Bording Irlind
1 month ago

really liking the honesty from this guy, and his story about his dissapointment at his entry not doing as well as he had hoped is pretty understandable, i wonder how other songwriters/participants dealt with their disappointing result

Sabrina
Sabrina
1 month ago

I understand that his intention was to value everything and everyone involved with an Eurovision entry, but a songwriter saying it’s nonsense to consider music the most important element in a song contest is… well, nonsense.

Anyway, I love the idea of you guys interviewing more songwriters and also stage directors, like NickC suggested.

matteo
matteo
1 month ago

Sooo the lyricist of Russia was the Gargamel of the smurfs?? Wasn’t expecting that tho

NickC
NickC
1 month ago

wiwibloggs, can you also interview stage directors? They may want to explain their highs and lows…no?

FanESC
FanESC
1 month ago

As a french, I think you could interview Nazim Khaled (very popular composer in France), he composed “J’ai cherché” from Amir, “Requiem” from Alma and “In the shadow” from Florina (DE2019), for example.

Or classical ESC composers like Thomas G:Son, Borislav Milanov, Dimitris Kontopoulos, etc, it could be super interesting.

Last edited 1 month ago by FanESC
Kosey
Kosey
1 month ago

I love this guy, he just tells things straight, which I like.

Oporcovo Førskoro
Oporcovo Førskoro
1 month ago

He speaks as if his lyrics deserved the Nobel of Literature.

(Spoiler: they don’t.)

Meckie
Meckie
1 month ago

What was that about the behaviour of Russian entry 2002… what did they do?

Whisker
Whisker
1 month ago

Sorry, as far as Northern Girl goes, that vocal performance was quite abysmal in parts. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE “Shady Lady”, however “shady” is not really a compliment, all the contrary, but she sang AND performed very well and she should have deserved the victory IMO. He could be a bit more gracious about that.

Whisker
Whisker
1 month ago
Reply to  Whisker

And I keep hearing “naughty girl” instead of “northern”. They tried tho and the whole performance was enjoyable to watch and LISTEN to.

Robyn Gallagher
Admin
1 month ago

I’m here for the story about him wandering the streets of Tallinn, swigging cognac, absolutely fuming that Prime Minister only placed 10th.

Colin
Colin
1 month ago

Yeah, that sounds fun. 😉 As 2002 is possibly the worst ESC year of the century IMHO, I can see him wanting more than being 10th out of 24. The song, which is fairly cheesy in an enjoyable way, would’ve scored much higher if the performance was even close to okay. Still, considering the competition, the result sounds about right.

Una
Una
1 month ago
Reply to  Colin

Then I hope that Eurovision Again which should be next Saturday will not show the 2002 contest. I would vote for 2009 because that was a very good year IMO. Moscow set the bar very high with their amazing staging so I would be up for that one. And there were some very good songs that year. William even chose one for their wEEDDing party AFAIR. And I think that that was the year when William started wiwibloggs.

Colin
Colin
1 month ago
Reply to  Una

Yeah, 2009 was pretty solid. It had five shockingly poor songs, but as none of them qualified, it will ultimately be inconsequential for the final show. There were some *really* outstanding songs there. 2002, on the other hand, was filled with badly done, lifeless or mediocre songs. Not everything was bad, but a lot of it was, and even most of the better stuff would probably be mid-tier nowadays.

Nicky
Nicky
1 month ago
Reply to  Colin

Prime Minister are way better than Little Big though

Una
Una
1 month ago

I am here for Georgia’s “jealousy” considering I take this at face value. Always wonder how do people with multiple entries do. Run from one’s rehearsal’s to another’s? How do they pick the delegation they will sit with in the green room? How do the other broadcasters feel about it? How do they feel about “the better entry” and everything in between?

Veta
Veta
1 month ago

Why are you guys so surprised? This frase just sums up the regular Russian attitude of when it comes to Eurovision. “We always must (and undoubtedly deserve to) be only 1st, any place lower then 1st is a painful lose, a robbery and one more reason to bash Europe on TV talk shows and make more conspiracy theories.” : ))

Last edited 1 month ago by Veta
Colin
Colin
1 month ago

First off, thank you sir for giving us your contribution in Shady Lady and Work Your Magic, both of which are in my personal top ten of their years. (Actually, I see his full contribution page for ESC and he really gave us only good songs. Or, in the case of Russia 2002, at least a noticeable guilty pleasure). Seems like a bit of a brooder from this interview. Not necessarily someone who appreciates little things in life. Still, it’s nice to see that he respects artists he works with. I agree that lyrics are important. They don’t have to… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Colin
Whisker
Whisker
1 month ago
Reply to  Colin

“Brooder” is the right word, you should become a lyricist!

Ashton
Ashton
1 month ago

I’m sorry but he sounds SO full of himself.

Hello
Hello
1 month ago
Reply to  Ashton

Absolutely agree ..

Yanis2Y
Yanis2Y
1 month ago
Reply to  Ashton

I’m sorry but NO ONE cares about your opinion.

Ashton
Ashton
1 month ago
Reply to  Yanis2Y

You care enough to comment though, Yanis. Stay mad 🙂

Hello
Hello
1 month ago
Reply to  Yanis2Y

Then why should we care about yours ?

Dawid
Dawid
1 month ago
Reply to  Yanis2Y

Yeah, but if only people whose opinions are wanted by everyone were allowed to comment, we’d have empty comment section.

Una
Una
1 month ago

Thank you so much wiwibloggs for this article! *GOLD*!!! Please, do more with more songwriters and lyricists!!