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Interview: Conchita talks Eurovision, debut album

By Will Stroude

It’s been quite the year for Austria’s Tom Neuwirth, aka reigning Queen of Europe Conchita Wurst. Since the tear-jerking moment she romped to victory in Copenhagen last year, the 26-year-old’s life has been a whirlwind of high society parties, photo shoots with Karl Lagerfeld and, as she tells us, girlie catch-ups with Desperate Houswives stars in the toilets of the Golden Globes.

But with a new Eurovision champ about to be crowned and her debut album – featuring hits like Heroes, You’re Unstoppable and, of course, Rise Like a Phoenix – about to be released, Conchita knows the hard work of making it as an artist in her own right starts now. Before she returns to the Eurovision arena as a presenter this year, we caught up with the bearded lady herself to find out what fans can expect from the album, whether the UK can ever win the competition again, and whether she managed to behave herself at last year’s Attitude Awards…


Are you going to be sad to give up your crown next week after your year as Queen of Europe?

Well I think the other week [at the 60th anniversary show in London] was a good example, because there were all the winners of the last years, and they’re still winners! So no, not really, I mean I won, so I can’t ask for more [than that]. I’m very excited about the event to come because I will host the green room, which is very exciting for me, because I’m not used to hosting – so we’ll see how that turns out!

With such a huge audience watching, are you nervous?

Yeah I am quite nervous because when it comes to singing, I know what to do, I know how that will turn out, but hosting, no! It’s a live show, and if there’s a break there’s a break, even if I’m talking to somebody the break will happen. That would be very embarrassing if I keep on talking and they have to shut me down, so that’s the thing I have to figure out!

It’s a big anniversary year for Eurovision, you must be proud it’s coming to Vienna with all the renewed excitement around it.

Well I didn’t realise by winning that we’d also have the honour of the anniversary show, so that’s even more pressure actually, that’s even more to think about! But everyone’s really excited, not just the city but the whole country is really giving their best and want to be the best hosts they can be, and that’s a really nice thing to see, because I didn’t know that from any examples before of a country coming together and saying ‘these are the things we’re going to do to entertain everybody’. I moved to Vienna when I was about 17, and from that time on I’ve lived there. I could have said ‘Oh I love London why not move here – and never say never – but I love to be in Vienna.

You’re debut album is out imminently too: how long has it taken to get together? What can we expect from it?

Well I was watching the tracklist because we’re now picking the correct order of the songs, and basically I’m either singing about finding yourself or sleeping with someone! I don’t know how or why that could happen! [laughs] You know, I’m  a very emotional person and I want to sing about stuff that moves me, so that was the influence I guess, It wasn’t on purpose but I just ended up singing about those stuff!

It’ll be released right around Eurovision time and it’ll definitely feature Rise Like a Phoenix and Heroes and You’re Unstoppable. It took me a while because first of all there were so many things that I could do after Eurovision, and it was so great to just do it and accept invitations and meet people and travel around, and in the background I did many things to create this album, because I don’t write the songs myself, so from a demo becoming my version on my album is a very long way.

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Will people be surprised by it?

I think with some songs, yes. It’s not really a Rise Like a Phoenix album. I think it’s quite dark and quite mystique like that. I do have some up-tempo songs and that was quite hard because you have to be good at being cool! If you do an up-tempo song you have to be kind of cool.

I think you’ve got enough sass onstage to do that!

I mean, we figured out that I’m good at being sexy! [laughs] That’s me and up-tempo together! Just a lot of breathy notes!

We’ve been thinking about the UK’s chances and whether we’ll ever win again and whether we take it seriously enough. What are your tips for what makes a great Eurovision entry?

Well to be completely honest the Austrians didn’t take it serious either. I mean, you know, the Eurovision Song Contest is the Eurovision Song Contest and the community is always excited about that, but basically in the whole media and national broadcasters it was always ‘yeah it’s the Eurovision Song Contest – we won’t win’, and we hadn’t won for 48 years. So I don’t think we’re in the best spot to get some tips! [laughs] I don’t know, with Rise Like a Phoenix, it’s not a commercial song, it’s not a song which would be played on the radio if I hadn’t won Eurovision, so I guess for me the key is do whatever you have to do, you have to enjoy it. You have to deliver the kind of music you are interested in.

We also had this meeting thinking about ‘maybe we should take this song on because it’s more for the radio stations, it’s more like a pop song, but then Rise Like a Phoenix came in and I said ‘I’m sorry everybody we have to start all over again because this is the song’, and this is what we did. So that’s the only advice I could give. Is just feel as comfortable as possible, because I know in this whole Eurovision process I know people tend to be very concentrated – which is good – and sometimes maybe want it too much and forget to have fun.

A lot of people say that the UK will never do well because a lot of Europe doesn’t like the UK and that no one will vote for us. Is that true in your experience?

Everybody loves the UK! We had the same way of thinking, we also thought that it was a political thing, that Austria’s too small, nobody cares about us, blah blah blah… and then I won. That’s it. I think it can happen if there is the right moment, the right artist, the right song, the right performance, it could happen. That’s basically it. Just try try try, and you will win again, as we won again after 48 years.


Have you heard many of this year’s entries? Do you have any early picks?

Well I haven’t heard many. I have to be completely honest. And I haven’t heard the UK entry yet – I’m sorry! But I will definitely! From the songs that I know now there are some that I really like, but I wouldn’t tell! I have to keep neutral! I can’t be like ‘Hey I love your song, let’s WIN!’ [chuckles]

And of course you also won our Moment of the Year at the Attitude Awards last year – can you take us back to that evening?

Well I was sitting there, I was honoured to get a chance to open the show and there were so many people that I hadn’t met before. I mean I knew Graham Norton but I hadn’t met Ana [Matronic], and she hosted the show so well, she was brilliant! And then at the end, Naomi Campbell, I thought [fans self] ‘Good lord, what am I doing here!’ And Jonathan Ross… It was a really really nice evening, and I was sitting there and I’d ordered some glasses of champagne because I thought ‘Well, my job is done now’, and I think I was a bit tipsy when I went on stage! [laughs] But Panti Bliss was sitting next to me so it was her fault! She made me drunk. I was standing there and as I said, I thought that the winners know if they’re going to get a prize or not because they have to say something clever! [chuckles] It was overwhelming. I often think back to that night.

There must be so many highlights from the last year, but what are the moments that really stand out for you?

People keep asking me that and I wouldn’t dare to rank them, because each moment is so individually great in their own thing. To start out with the win, that was the best thing, but doing the catwalk with Jean Paul [Gaultier] and doing the photoshoot with Karl [Lagerfeld], receiving flowers from Elton John, the tweet from Cher – that will forever be in my mind!

And also my little girl talk on the toilet of the Golden Globes with Felicity Huffman, that was quite overwhelming. I was going to the bathroom and washing my hands and I recognised Miss Huffman standing there, and I didn’t want to, you know, but she turned to me and said ‘Oh hi, nice to meet you, I heard what you’re doing, I think that’s great – congratulations!’ and I thought [mouth hangs open] ‘Wait, this should be the other way round, because you’re the star.’ And we talked a bit about the community and about Transamerica, and I said thank you for that because I thought it was a brilliant job you did and such an important movie, so that was quite a nice moment! I loved Desperate Housewives for sure, but I have to say I loved her even more for the projects she did afterwards.

Conchita Wurst’s debut album, Conchita, is out now.

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