musical memories

Tears, tantrums and Irish pride: What it's really like performing in the Eurovision

We chatted to Brian Kennedy, who represented Ireland back in 2006.

BRIGHT, WEIRD, WONDERFUL and unashamedly pop, the Eurovision is a truly massive event.

The yearly ‘song contest’ is more accurately called a phenomenon, which means that taking part in it is a pretty massive event for the competitors.

This weekend, the competition will take place in Vienna, after Conchita Wurst scooped the top award last year.

Brian Kennedy represented Ireland at the Athens 2006 event, and filled us in on what it was like taking part in the “campest moment of [his] career so far”.


The morning I woke up, it does dawn on you [that you're at the Eurovision] cause they rehearse you like mad. It’s a three-minute performance, but because there’s so many changes you rehearse and rehearse and rehearse.
Everything’s being filmed so you’re constantly on. Because it’s all extras for the DVD and all these different things.
So it’s absolutely exhausting. There is a real sense of ‘oh my God now here we are now – the day has arrived’. So, great excitement. You then have another rehearsal to go to; there’s tonnes of press to go to,  you have a run through, another run through.
As I say, everything is filmed, so you’re constantly performing and you’re constantly thinking ‘I have to mind my voice, I have to sing live tonight’. I think there were maybe 60,000 people in that arena that night in Athens.
You just think ‘God, everyone’s going to be watching at home’. I was getting text messages from people, and the excitement is building, and building, and building.
And all of a sudden you’re in that queue and it’s literally like a factory line. Athens are ahead of you and Germany’s there and Estonia’s over there. You’re all in your gear and you’re all literally lining up to go on.
And you can’t miss it, they go ‘Ireland, GO!’ and you run up and you take your position, and there’s a VT going and then all of a sudden it’s like ‘please welcome: Ireland’. Whoosh… and all of a sudden all of the things you’re rehearsed for, you can probably forget everything, and you just do your best. It’s really surreal and wonderful.
[You think]: Did that actually happen?

bk ev 2

Then you go back to the voting room and you sit around and there’s champagne and you think, ‘ Oh I won’t touch that’. In my case when I knew I wasn’t going to get first – even though we did alright, I got tenth – the minute I knew we couldn’t win I was like ‘crack that champagne open, come on’.
Because we knew we weren’t doing the song again.
To mind your voice, you have to shut up talking. The only thing that really rests my voice is shutting up talking because you do so many interviews, so many things all day long, all night long, eventually the voice just goes. You’ve got to be very careful.
Stand out moment? The funny part was at the semi-final the girl from Iceland [Silvía Night, a character known for her outrageous behaviour] was so enraged she didn’t get through, she started breaking up the set. She jumped onto the set uninvited. She climbed up the set and started breaking bits of it off, and nobody saw it. I was dying. It was very funny.
There are certain people who you think will definitely get through to the final, who didn’t get through, who were devastated. There was a girl from Cyprus and she had an amazing American vocal coach with her and a huge entourage of people and it clearly was costing them a gazillion quid, and she didn’t even get through to the final. And they were like somebody had died, they were devastated. She was in floods of tears. That’s how much people care about it.
I can’t wait to watch it this year. I’ve always loved it.
It’s the campest chapter of my career so far, definitely, and it’s a real sense of pride.
To represent your country in anything is incredible. Just really a proud moment in my career so far.

Here’s Brian Kennedy’s performance that night:

Eurovision Song Contest / YouTube

Read: Explainer: Everything you wanted to know about this year’s Eurovision (but were afraid to ask)>

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