Ahead of Söngvakeppnin 2023, Isabelle had the opportunity to chat with MÓA, who is competing in the first semi-final of the Icelandic song contest on Saturday 18th February with her song “Glötuð ást.”
Hi MÓA, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us! You’re participating in Söngvakeppnin this weekend with your song “Glötuð ást.” How are you feeling ahead of the competition? Any last-minute preparations?
I’m feeling happy and excited and to be honest just enjoying the ride! I’ve learned that you have to create your own adventures and being part of Söngvakeppnin has definitely been one of them so far. Mentally and musically I’m ready for the stage, just a little adjustment with the staging at this point!
It’s very exciting to finally see you at Söngvakeppnin! Had you thought about participating in the contest before? And what prompted you to decide to take the plunge this year?
Thank you! I’m excited to be there. I recently made a comeback to the music scene after a long break in which I studied theology and education. I was very active in the music scene both locally and internationally around the millennium and was, for example, signed to the American hip hop label Tommy Boy, who released my album “Universal.” Back then the the paths of me and Söngvakeppnin never crossed somehow. But after rekindling my love for music, I discovered that my music writing had evolved during my long break and I was drawn to a more simple outlook, focusing on my vocals and the piano. I am currently working on new material with Iceland/Sweden producer Arnar Guðjónsson and there was this one song that stood out. My intuition told me to submit it to Söngvakeppnin, so here we are.
“Glötuð ást”/“Lose this dream” is a beautiful ballad that feels so full of warmth and wisdom despite its rather heartbreaking theme. Can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration and the process of writing it? What emotions do you hope it evokes for the audience?
It was one of the first songs I wrote after I started writing music again. And like the other songs I’ve been working on it came quite effortlessly to me, like it had been waiting for the right time. I felt this urge to use my vocal range more than I had been doing before, and explore the higher notes like I did when I first started singing standards at young age. I felt this this joy of just singing it like it wasn’t even my own song. “Glötuð ást”/”Lose this dream” is a breakup song, written in hindsight. It’s about the end of love and the lyrics revolve around the acknowledgement that both parties will inevitably be hurt. But essentially, by letting go – by losing the dream – it will set you free to find a better place.
Söngvakeppnin requires the songs to be in Icelandic for the semi-finals. Which came to you first: the Icelandic or the English lyrics of “Glötuð ást”/“Lose this dream?” Was it a challenge to go back to writing in Icelandic after mostly writing songs in English?
I wrote the lyrics in English, like I used to do for the most part. The Icelandic lyrics came quite easily although I had to have a little help from my mother to finish it. She is a writer and a journalist – it was such a beautiful experience to finish it together at her kitchen table. But yes, it was challenging for me to write it in Icelandic, but I’ve come to like it very much.
Can you tell us anything about the staging you have planned for Saturday’s show?
The staging will complement the dramatic but simple nature of the song with a touch of classical glamour and a little edge. A strong vocal performance, surrounded by backing vocals.
You took a long break from music before coming back with your 2021 single “Pure.” How has it felt to be back in the thick of things, surrounded by other musicians in the contest? Is it a bit like a homecoming? Or did that part of your creative life never really go away?
It’s a bit like homecoming. This is an environment I used to love and thrive in until I had the urge to explore other paths in life and different sides of myself. Now I have a multidimensional perspective on things although I’m still the same Móa and it feels right. I think if you’re creative it never leaves you, it just finds a different channel. A person once said to me that being both a musician and a theologian must mean that I probably don’t like reality that much.
We saw you in the Söngvakeppnin warm-up show “#12Stig” last week with the other artists in the first semi-final, answering quiz questions and playing each other’s songs. You all seem to have a lovely rapport. How has the experience of participating in Söngvakeppnin been for you so far? Has it been different from how you expected it to be?
It’s been a lovely journey and I feel lucky to be part of it. I love the feeling of being part of something bigger and I think all these people who are participating in creating Söngvakeppnin share the same goal: to make a great show and give something to other people through music.
Being an established name in the music industry, do you feel a particular pressure to do well at the contest?
No, I don’t think so. I think I would have felt more pressure when I was younger to be honest. I was much more competitive back then. Now I just want to enjoy the ride!
We know Eurovision is a very big deal in Iceland. Do you have any particular memories of watching the contest? Do you have a favourite past Eurovision song (from Iceland or another country)?
I have watched Eurovision every year ever since I was a little girl. My first recollection of Eurovision was “Hallelujah” by Milk and Honey with Gali [Atari]. I was blown away by the song, the staging and the glamour of it all. Recent favourite entries are Rise Like a Phoenix by Conchita Wurst 2014 and Euphoria by Loreen 2012.
Our younger readers might not know this about you, but as well as being a big name in Iceland, you made your musical mark on the UK club scene in the ’90s. If you were to win Söngvakeppnin, what would it mean to you to return to the UK with your music in 2023?
It would be very exciting to return to the UK with my music, I have great memories from being there and loved being part of the strong and vibrant music scene there.
Finally, is there anything you would like to say to the international readers of That Eurovision Site?
Enjoy the ride, all will be well, we’ve got music!
True! Thank you again for taking the time to talk to us. We wish you the best of luck for Söngvakeppnin!
Móeiður Júníusdóttir – aka MÓA – fell in love with an old piano as a young child, and has been composing ever since. She launched herself as a singer by competing in Iceland’s inaugural national high school singing competition in 1990, where she befriended Páll Óskar (who would go on to represent Iceland at Eurovision in 1997) with whom she formed a jazz band. From singing songbook standards in piano bars as a teenager, to signing with US label Tommy Boy Music and finding global success with 1999 trip-hop album “Universal,” then taking a long break from the industry before returning in 2021, MÓA’s musical journey has taken her many places. This year is her first time participating in Söngvakeppnin, however!
Iceland’s Eurovision journey
Iceland made its debut on the Eurovision stage in 1986, finishing 16th with the song “Gleðibankinn” by ICY. In its 34 appearances at the contest, Iceland has finished in the top ten an impressive seven times. Iceland’s best result to date is second place, achieved twice. The first time was in 1999, when Selma Björnsdóttir received 146 points for her performance of “All Out of Luck.” The second time was in 2009, with Yohanna’s “Is It True,” which received 218 points. Iceland’s most recent Eurovision representative was Systur, whose “Með hækkandi sól” placed 23rd with 20 points in 2022.
Are you excited to see MÓA in Söngvakeppnin 2023? Will she represent Iceland at Eurovision this year with “Glötuð ást”/”Lose this dream?” As always, let us know what you think by commenting below. Also, be sure to follow That Eurovision Site on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok as we gear up for Eurovision 2023!
News Source: That Eurovision Site
Photo Credit: Baldur Kristjánsson / RÚV Söngvakeppnin