The Swiss district of Gruyère is famed for its eponymous cheese, a staple of French onion soup, as well as le croque-monsieur. But for international music fans it’s increasingly known for being the home of Switzerland’s Eurovision 2021 singer Gjon’s Tears.
The 22-year-old recently joined me on Zoom to discuss his preparations for Eurovision and his French-language song “Tout l’univers”. He held several writing camps in Zurich, Vienna and beyond to develop songs for an internal selection process. But “Tout l’univers” was written during the very first session of the very first camp.
He says co-writer Nina Sampermans first came up with the idea for an English-language song called “Ground Zero”.
“I like the signification of ground zero — it was the centre of an atomic explosion, but with the 11th of September the meaning became bigger,” Gjon says. “I like the signification of construction and destruction.”
Scroll down for the full video interview
Gjon’s Tears shares “Ground Zero” snippet
In a world exclusive, Gjon played us a minute of the original version of his Eurovision 2021 song.
It includes the lyrics, “wherever I begin, nothing but dust and sins, to rise above and grow, I have to let you go.”
View this post on Instagram
During the songwriting camps there were some songs Gjon wanted to sing in English and songs he wanted to sing in French. The preference varied by the song’s feel and his instincts. Gjon wanted to sing “Ground Zero” in both languages, so he re-worked it into French alongside Xavier Michel, who wrote last year’s entry “Répondez-moi” alongside the singer.
During the song evaluation process the juries preferred “Ground Zero” among all the recordings. “But when I sang it live, they really preferred it in French because the interpretation was different.”
Both version of the song are about “construction and destruction” — and how we all have to push to stay afloat in this cycle of life.
“I really wanted to say the most important person, and the person we have to love most, is ourself,” he says. “We are, for ourselves, the most powerful person that we can have in our life and the only one in whom we can trust. I wanted to dedicate this to ourselves and to the person inside of us.”
“I’m really realising in the hard times that if you don’t respect yourself, if you do bad things, if you don’t move and stay at home, you’re not going for a walk, if you’re not taking care of yourself…you can clearly see how you’re becoming. Also your morale, your tiredness…I don’t want that any more.”
“I wanted to make a song with a lot of hope, even if it doesn’t look like that. In French we say ‘you have to see further’ — it’s an optimistic expression and I like it a lot. I wanted to see further — I wanted to see the whole space, the whole universe.”
“It’s a way to say that even if you think you have lived everything, you haven’t lived everything. The universe is so big and you still have so many opportunities and so many things to live. Your job is not finished here. Even if we are dead, we will not have finished what we have to do here.”.
2:33 Discussing the cancellation of Eurovision 2020
8:17 The songwriting process for the song — starting with the English version
11:10 Gjon plays the first version of Ground Zero that they recorded
13:00 Which version did the jury in the Swiss selection prefer?
14:40 What’s the meaning of the song?
18:00 Gjon explains the music video, which represents a cycle — it starts where it ends
22:45 Gjon says he was not satisfied with the live-on-tape performance and hopes to get to perform it live in Rotterdam with full effects and staging.
26:25 What was it like delivering your first live performance on Spanish broadcaster Telecino?
28:10 Gjon does not like to eat the day of a performance
31:56 Gjon sings his favourite Eurovision song — France’s 1969 winner “Un jour, un enfant”
Are you loving Gjon’s inspirational message? Do you eat before your live performances? Let us know in the comments box below.