Theodor Andrei is the young, talented and ambitious winner of Romania’s Selecţia Naţională 2023. He is the one who will carry the Romanian flag at Eurovision in Liverpool this May, competing with his song “D.G.T. (Off and On)”.
Wiwiblogger Ruxandra Tudor spoke with Theodor to discuss his Eurovision journey so far and the steps he’s about to take.
Read on to find out more about the message of his song, the staging from Selecţia Naţională, the changes he will make to his staging for Liverpool, and some of his music preferences.
Interview: Theodor Andrei “D.G.T. (Off and On)” (Romania Eurovision 2023)
How is your life since you won Selecţia Naţională? How do you manage to share your time between rehearsals, theatre and school?
“I think you can find time for anything if you really look for it. It is true that I am prioritising Eurovision now because it is a bigger responsibility. I am responsible for every vote I received and I work with my team and the TVR team at a memorable moment to say the least. The baccalaureate is something easy, it’s true that the precarious education system requires learning by heart some mostly useless information further to the disadvantage of formulating a relevant opinion on a certain subject, but I’ll finish it with these exams too and I’ll move on far away.
“Just a week before the National Selection Final, I was awarded at the ‘Stefan Mihailescu-Braila’ Comedy Festival with the Grand Trophy for my individual repertoire and the 1st Prize for the first theatrical play directed by me – O Floare De Zapada – adapted from Zapezile de Altadata by Dumitru Solomon. My colleagues look at me the same way, I tend to think so. We work together, we talk about various things and we are now preparing for the Actor’s Art Olympiad, where last year I was awarded individually, but now I want to bring a big award with my performance and the play I directed.”
We would love to know more about your song “D.G.T. (Off and On)”. This song appears on your album FRAGIL. as collaboration with Luca Udăţ. How did the idea of this song come to you? What was your inspiration? What’s the most important message of the song?
“The song ‘D.G.T (Off And On)’ stages a love story where reason is in conflict with instinct, where passion and safety duel – a song about a love that becomes an addiction with both its good and bad sides as well as the pleasure of returning to something harmful, where love is grounded and adrenaline makes decisions. A necessary evil with love and all that it means – passion, sex, tears, smiles, childhood, maturity, trust, risks, truths and lies.
“‘D.G.T (Off And On)’ started as a game – I started making the instrumental of the song out of boredom and then I started adding elements and I started to like it, and then I started writing lines for the chorus. I recorded the chorus in the form it was then and sent the project to my friend Luca De Mezzo, with whom I wrote the two pre-choruses and part C of the song. I did all these three on a video call, and then I wrote the first verse myself and finished the instrumental of the song in just one week. I sent the instrumental to my friends MikailJahed and Luca Udateanu and together we wrote the second verse of the song, in its original form – the one that is full in Romanian – which can be found on my album FRAGIL. in duet with Luca Udateanu.
For the Eurovision version, I chose to do the second verse in English because I felt that it gives a nice dynamic to the song and it is among the few songs that I know where this combination does not disturb. Of course, I was inspired by two songs that I really like: “De La Capat (All Over Again)” – the song that was performed by Voltaj in Eurovision 2015 – which also used both Romanian and the English languages; and “Pe-o Margine de Lume” – the superb song by Andrei Tudor, which Nico and Vlad Mirita sang in Romanian and Italian at the 2008 edition of Eurovision – this is also one of the favourite songs of my mother. I also sang it at one point when I was younger.
Your song is half in Romanian, half in English. Do you intend to keep it like this?
“Yes, of course. It seems to me, as most of the foreigners’ reactions say, the fact that the song has a part in Romanian is a very, very big asset. Considering that the song puts elements from Rock, Blues, R&B, Pop and Hip-Hop in the same place, making this interesting fusion it becomes a song that Romania has never sent to Eurovision and a song that has never been heard before at Eurovision. That’s why I think that the lyrics in Romanian add a national element to the song.
“On the other hand, those who want to understand the lyrics in Romanian and look for the translation will get a completely new area of the whole story of the universe that the song presents. And those who don’t bother looking for the translation can enjoy the fact that it sounds good, that the lyrics become a rhythmic element and build the way to the big chorus.”
How did you select your song for Selecţia Naţională among all the songs from your album? Did you feel that this one has a winning potential?
“Eurovision is my childhood dream. I remember that every year I watched Eurovision with my family when I was a child and I kept telling myself that I would be there too. And I tried three years in a row. Initially, everyone told me that I was crazy, that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, that it would be difficult and that everyone would criticise me. Now that I have won the national selection for Eurovision 2023, I feel that I have taken a big step towards realising my dream.
“I tried to make a song like our country has never sent to the grand final. I tried to make a fusion of several genres that would be beautiful for both Romanians and foreigners, and “D.G.T (Off And On)” – the song I wrote together with Luca De Mezzo, MikailJahed and Luca Udateanu – it ended up being highly appreciated by the foreign audience. I had the original version, the full Romanian one, and I just thought that maybe if I would make it half Romanian and half English and write a harder vocal part I can sign it up for the national selection.”
Your performance impressed the Romanian audience and you won the public vote. There were so many little details on the staging: the undressing moments, the voodoo doll scene, the hand touch moment inspired by Michelangelo’s painting (The Creation of Adam), the anti-war message. Tell us a bit about each of these ideas, the symbolism of them and the way in which you integrated them in your show.
“I tried to combine as many elements from my world in it as possible – from which a certain theatricality resulted that delighted some, and others less so… I put my opinions and ideas at the moment. We have two undresses – once I am undressed by girls and once by boys – which is a reference to acceptance, understanding and equality. We have a moment of sign language that was not meant to attract attention, I put it especially for those who can understand it, to make a moment for everyone, in which no one is discriminated.
“It is true that we tried to reinterpret Michelangelo’s famous picture with God and Adam almost touching their fingers and some understood, some did not. I was saddened by the fact that some people summed up my moment in emptiness and vulgarity, when in fact the message was a deep one – namely that only when we realise that we are ultimately just pieces of earth (like Adam) can we understand that the only things that differentiates us are the circumstances and the choices, but in us identical hearts beat, with four chambers, with smiles and tears. I am not the very religious type, but I felt that it is an appropriate message for the moment and respects the principle that guides me – namely that I do not want to be just a name in a list of participating countries, I want to do something that will remain throughout time. Only when we take off our clothes, ideologies, assumptions and prejudices can we get to the truth – that’s why clothes kept coming off.
“The message “Make Love Not War” was put there for several reasons. Because it had a direct reference to the lyrics of the song that describe an inner war of returning to a necessary evil of love, (so this war in love) and because the current situation in the world we live in needs such an exhortation for us humans as well we are in a continuous war between us because we judge each other, because we discriminate against each other, because we do not appreciate each other enough and, last but not least, because it is a quote from John Lennon, a member of The Beatles, an emblematic band for Liverpool. Maybe I didn’t illustrate too clearly either, maybe it was too much and didn’t have its place. I do not know. I don’t regret it, but I certainly learned something from it, and the Liverpool show will keep the message but the approach will be different.
“I thank those from home who voted because without them I would not have won and I would not have gotten closer to my dream today.”
We know it is still too early to ask you about the final staging in Liverpool, but are there any elements that you definitely want to keep or will it be a brand-new show? The show in Liverpool will be the result of your ideas or it will be settled by the Romanian National Broadcast, TVR?
“We work every day for 7-8 hours for this moment and we have things almost ready already because we mobilised ahead of time. It was more difficult at the beginning because I had my vision as the director of the moment and as the composer of the piece compared to the vision of the director from TVR, but we managed to keep the best of everyone’s ideas and, I think, to create exactly what I wanted – a show like never before at Eurovision – something memorable. Some things will be kept, others we have given up, it is certain that the moment will also have Rock’N’Roll and metaphor and mystery, but above all this a lot of soul.”
Speaking about the national selection, the show was very diverse as the songs were very different. Can you tell us some of your favourite songs from this year’s Selecţia Naţională?
“The songs in the selection were clearly very different from each other, which is great and I think this thing created a very nice atmosphere for us and a difficult mission for the viewers. I made a medley on my YouTube channel in which I sang a bit of each song from the national selection final and I honestly think that this cut the competition between us a bit and brought us to a position in which we were more like friends, like at a show, than in a rivalry.
“Of all the songs, if it hadn’t been mine in the competition, I would have chosen ‘Hai vino’ – Maryliss’s song. It seems to me that it has a retro atmosphere, cute, very close to the heart, the chords are simple and the lyrics very sincere, as if coming from the soul. And I believe that music must leave the soul and reach another soul. I follow this in my music. Many have said both about my song and about Maryliss’ song that they are not ‘Eurovision songs’. I don’t believe in such a thing. Eurovision is so diverse and complex that you have to be naïve or ignorant to believe that there is a ‘Eurovision song’. Every year they look for something else. Just because a song resembles something that has been heard before does not make it the ideal song for the contest. On the contrary. Because it is an interpretative art contest with music, show and feeling, it is not a recipe contest.
“My process of composing is not a predetermined one, most of the time I let myself be guided by what I feel both in terms of instruments and in terms of melodic lines and in the case of lyrics and I think it is felt when the performer is also a composer and I think that it gives a different relationship to the viewer because of the sincerity. When you express your thoughts and ideas, you assume that people will listen to your fun or your vulnerability, and artists are still human. People understand art to the extent that art understands them.”
What were the best and the most challenging moments of Selecţia Naţională?
“The most tense moment was when I found out that I won. From the first day on this road with Eurovision, I had faith in myself, in my piece, in my team and in the show I prepared – an overflowing faith, but I always had a small voice that told me that maybe not it will be as I wish or as I expect, and yet my team and I were called in the top five most voted songs in the national selection. We were already super excited. The fifth, fourth and third places were announced. We couldn’t believe it. At every place, I thought I was going to be called. We were all holding hands tighter and tighter. When I found out that we won, I couldn’t believe it. It’s still an emotion that I don’t know how to describe. I have never felt so much happiness and enthusiasm in one place. I was sharing the stage with my friends who supported me from the first day and together we managed to win the national selection and get one step closer to fulfilling our dream – to be the first Romanians to win Eurovision.”
You won Selecţia Naţională as an independent artist. Do you intend to sign with any music company?
“If I receive an offer from a label that doesn’t restrict me too much… that is, I won’t be told how to dress, what to sing or how my music should sound and I can’t release the music I want, then I would take it calculation to sign. Otherwise, no, because I wouldn’t give up artistic freedom for anything. I think the best idea would be to associate my art with a label, not to sell it, that is, to succeed in turning my team into a partner studio. Currently me and Denis, one of my best friends, we are working on a very nice project called Enigmatic Studio.”
Who are your biggest role models in music and which Romanian artists do you like?
“I grew up listening to the music of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Stefan Banica and Laura Stoica – what my parents listened to. After which I discovered the Rock’N’Roll culture on my own, the differences between genres and many other artists such as Little Richard, James Brown, Whitney Houston, Kiss, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Gary Moore and many extraordinary artists from Romanian music, among whom I mention Gabriel Cotabita, Jean Gavril, Mihai Traistariu, Dan Bittman, Connect-R and Stefan Banica.”
We know you are a big Eurovision fan. Can you tell us your all-time-favourite Eurovision songs?
“Wow…I really liked a lot of moments…I’ve been watching Eurovision since I was little and watched it with my family every year. I tried for three years in a row to prepare a song for Eurovision, apparently it’s really third time lucky. From the whole history of Eurovision, because I’m quite an old-fashioned guy and I have a special love for more retro music like that, I would say that the moments closest to my soul would be Johnny Logan – ‘Hold Me Now’ (Ireland 1987), Mikel Herzog – ‘Que Voy a Hacer Sin Ti?’ (Spain 1998) and, even if it didn’t go to the big Eurovision in the end – Ovidiu Anton – ‘Moment Of Silence’ (Romania 2016) — it’s a song that touched me in a different way during the time when it came out because I was still a constant victim of bullying at school and this piece helps me a lot to relieve myself.
“On another note, the year 2021 was one in which I analysed the Eurovision final very carefully and I really liked many songs, it was a prosperous year — Maneskin – ‘Zitti E Buoni’ (Italy), TIX – ‘Fallen Angel’ (Norway), The Black Mamba – ‘Love Is On My Side’ (Portugal) and Vincent Bueno – ‘Amen’ (Austria). These are the songs that have remained in my mind and soul and that I still sing with pleasure. It was a very good year and it was a year in which Rock’N’Roll received the place it deserved.”
Did you have the chance to listen the songs of ESC 2023 selected so far? Do you have any songs that you like? Which fellow artists are you excited to meet in Liverpool?
“I haven’t had time to listen to all the songs yet. I really liked Elsie Bay’s song ‘Love You In A Dream’ from Norway’s selection – so that song went straight to my soul and found a place to stay there for a long time.
“Out of the ones I’ve listened to so far, I still like the Denmark song – ‘Breaking My Heart’ – sung by Reiley. It is certain that, just as I made a medley with all the songs from the national selection final from us, from Romania, I intend to do the same with all the songs that will go to Liverpool.”
Your first album, FRAGIL., was released in October last year. Which are your top three songs from your album?
“On the album FRAGIL. there are 13 chapters, in 13 different musical genres forming together a story, a very beautiful experience. It’s hard for me to choose between the songs, because they are somehow like my children, in a way. But I think the ones closest to my heart are are ‘O Să Te Iubesc’, ‘Artist’, ‘Nu Renunţa la Noi; because they are somehow more personal songs…about experiences that marked and hurt me, but I can’t help but put ‘D.G.T’ in this list as a composition, for all this wave of happiness, smiles and exposure that it brought.”
To conclude, what message would you like to share with your followers and with our wiwibloggs readers? Something meaningful to you!
“I hope from the bottom of my heart that you like my song and that we have gotten closer now, on this path. If you want to find out more, I’m waiting for you on my social media pages and you can listen to my album FRAGIL. on all streaming platforms. I thank from the bottom of my heart all the people who took the time to vote for me, to write to me, to post. It is a big step towards fulfilling a wonderful dream. I feel blessed and flattered. I am preparing big surprises and I try to answer as much as I can to the messages on Instagram. I am fully grateful to them and I promise that I will respect all the big words that I used when talking about my journey to Eurovision. I want to make something memorable, something evergreen – something that will stick in your mind and make you think. I have great confidence in myself and in my team and I hope that we can give you at least as much joy as you gave us. Much, much love. This year Eurovision is Rock’N’Roll!”
Are you excited to see Theodor Andrei’s performance in Liverpool? Let us know in the comments below.