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Interview | The Mamas on improving diversity in Eurovision and being fierce LGBTQ allies

Three divas are better than one. That's science.

2020-06-30

Miss Corona may have derailed The Mamas’ dreams to win the Eurovision Song Contest – but it will take more than a pesky pandemic to hold these ladies down.

The super diva trio were due to represent Sweden with their uplifting bop ‘Move’, until that is, COVID-19 forced organisers to pull the plug.

Ash Haynes – who recently moved from Washington DC to Sweden – Loulou Lamotte and Dinah Yonasmanna formed a group after appearing as back-up singers for last year’s Swedish entry, John Lundvik.

In a catch-up with Attitude, The Mamas opened up about the possibility of flying the flag for Eurovision again, how the competition has diversified (at long last), new music and why they’re such fierce LGBTQ allies.

How did you settle on the name, The Mamas?

Loulou: It started as a joke, Beyoncé has her mamas so why shouldn’t John? Then it kinda stuck.

Ash: Not to mention, mamas are always encouraging and supportive.

Dinah: We're nurturing women as well as moms, aunties and sisters, so we just let it be.

Who are your biggest music inspirations and why?

L: I like powerful ladies like Cher, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Lizzo.

A: I love Gregory Porter. He inspires me by the way he can use symbolism of love in the way he writes.

D: In no particular order: Chaka Khan for her funk, Ella Fitzgerald for her jazz, Tracy Chapman for her singer-songwriter chops and Erykah Badu for her swag.

You were chosen to represent Sweden at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. What went through your minds when the contest was cancelled as a result of COVID-19?

L: First I felt like, OK, that was that, what can I do. And then one hour later I called the other girls and we cried.

A: I just learned of the competition last year, but the other two mamas have dreamt of this; they’ve grown up watching and it made me feel helpless that they (we) couldn’t fulfil that dream.

D: Dang. Damn it. Darn. I let myself be depressed for a while and then I dusted myself off and proceeded with life.

Image: Pelle T Nilsson

Your song ‘Move’ has still been massively successful, going to no.1 on Spotify and in Sweden. Why do you think it has struck a chord with fans?

L: A feel good, happy message of staying strong and spreading love is hard not to like.

A: I believe that people can feel the authenticity in our song, that we mean every word.

D: ‘Move’'s message of love, community and teamwork is extra profound in this day and age, both in a pre- and post-pandemic world, as well as during the crisis: we're all in this together, so let's keep it moving!

Will you be looking to fly the flag for Sweden at a future Eurovision?

L: I don’t think we will try again next year. We don’t want to let this year’s sad outcome overshadow the artists that will compete. They have the same dream as we had.

A: I am definitely not opposed to that idea... I don’t know when, but it’d be nice to try again in the future.

D: If the stars are aligned and the right song comes along again, then maybe. I would love to write for other artists as well.

Eurovision has been criticised in the past for not being diverse enough. How much progress do you feel is being made on that front?

L: It’s getting better, but I also see how people tend to like the same kind of songs or artist as they always have. That’s hard to change.

A Well, I haven’t been watching it so long, however this year was gonna be super diverse and I think the competition would be thick.

D: Progress is happening, just look at all the Afro-Europeans that were selected to represent this year from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Israel, Malta, the Netherlands, San Marino and Sweden, as well as Asian-Europeans and other BIPOC contestants. Let's keep it up for 2021. Next step: diversity among the songwriters, crew and music industry executives.

The Mamas after winning Melodifestivalen (Image: Pelle T Nilsson)

What rituals/superstitions do you have before going on stage?

L: We take each other’s hand and when we let go, we say, “Drop it!” And with that we drop all the anxiety and nervousness we have before entering the stage.

A: We [also] pray.

D: I check off my list: brushing teeth, adjusting spanks, doing nails and warming up. Then it's showtime!

Tell us about your new song ‘Let It Be’ (out now). What was the inspiration behind it?

D: It is written by the songwriters behind ‘Move.’ To me, it's like ‘Move Pt. 2’ and represents "...the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference." It is an anthem of the times we live in today, re-shaping society through Pride, MeToo and Black Lives Matter.

L: We didn’t write it, but I got inspired the first time I heard it. It makes me happy.

A: Corona has cancelled everything. All the shows and gigs we had lined up and there was no person to blame, just this plague. There was absolutely nothing we could do to change the world’s circumstances and when this song came about, we felt it’d be perfect for us and our fans to get us through in some kind of way.

Image: Pelle T Nilsson

You just mentioned Pride, another one of Miss Corona’s casualties. What does Pride mean to you?

L: Being free and being able to be the person you wanna be.

A: Being yourself 100% and telling ya haters to kiss it! Pride means showing yourself unconditional love because that’s what you deserve.

D: Pride, to me, means standing by queer loved ones as an ally and fighting for their civil rights and their freedom to be and love however and whoever they like. To celebrate life, love and culture through music, demos and educating myself and others by spreading the message. All in solidarity with my queer siblings and fellow minorities.

What are your Pride anthems and why?

L: ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’ –  I am a non-white person growing up in Sweden [and] I’ve heard that I am too big, too loud or too much. If I had listened, I would probably never had followed my dream. It’s about not letting anyone else dictate your life and, even if it hurts, just keep on fighting for yourself.

A: Billy Porter’s ‘Love Is on the Way” because it gives me hope and I absolutely love Billy.

D: Definitely Diana Ross's ‘I'm Coming Out.’ The whole musical intro with the drums and horn section really symbolizes the joy and freedom of transforming into your truest, realest, fiercest self.

The Mamas made an appearance in Attitude and Netflix’s Big Eurovision Song Contest Quiz on Saturday night, to mark the release of Netflix's Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams.

The Mamas new single ‘Let It Be’ is out now.