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Mae Muller on ‘I Wrote A Song’ origins, Rina Sawayama, and being a ‘gay icon’

Exclusive: The UK's representative at the Eurovision Song Contest teases what we can expect from the live performance and her excitement to be in Liverpool: "Scousers know how to party."

By Alastair James

Mae Muller will represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2023
Mae Muller will represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 (Image: BBC)

We have less than two months until the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023! And Mae Muller is ready for it.

The 25-year-old singer was announced as the UK’s entry earlier in March. It was also revealed she would be taking to the stage in Liverpool with her own song catchily called ‘I Wrote A Song’.

It’s a modern-day pop banger and honestly, the gays have been living for this one. And so is everyone else from a cursory look on social media.

Muller was born in 1997, the same year the UK last won. Could it be fate? We think so, as does Mae. “It was a match made in heaven,” she tells Attitude in an exclusive interview.

The song was co-written by Mae as a self-empowering anthem. Like all of her music, she wants it to be inclusive and for everybody.

Reflecting on that, as well as her LGBTQ fans, Mae told Attitude: “I’ve always wanted my music to create a safe space for everybody.” Having been welcomed by the queer community, she feels it’s only right she do the same.

Reacting to the moniker of ‘gay icon’ bestowed upon her by many on social media, Mae said: “That just reassures me that I’m doing the right thing. I want everyone to be able to enjoy my music.”

She added: “I love it! I’ll take that title!” A great reaction.

Sitting down with Attitude over a light breakfast in London, the UK’s next Eurovision entry discussed writing this year’s entry song, her connection to her LGBTQ fans, and watching Rina Sawayama fool everyone into thinking she was representing the UK instead.

Hello! How are you doing today?

I’m good, thank you. I was rehearsing until 10 last night. It’s good. It’s all worth it.

Fabulous! It’s been two weeks since the announcement that you’re representing the UK at Eurovision. How are you feeling?

I feel like I’ve done more in these past two weeks than I’ve done in my entire life. But it’s going really well. Keeping it a secret was really, really difficult because the second I had the news, I just wanted to scream about it. Being able to chat and share the news, it’s been nice.

When did you find out that you’re representing the UK?

It was about three months ago that it was on the table. Obviously, I was in 100%. I think it was about two months, maybe a month and a half ago now that it was fully confirmed. My manager called me and they were like, ‘Is this the UK entry to Eurovision?’ I was like, ‘Is it?! I think it is!’

Having written the song, does that make it an even better experience?

100%. I love like writing my own music. For something like Eurovision it’s really nice that it was actually really authentic and genuine and quite personal to me, the song. So seeing how other people are enjoying it and how it’s relating to all those other people because I actually wrote it, it just makes it a more magical experience.

It’s also the first UK Eurovision Top 40 debut in over a decade. How does that feel?

It is really nice and it just reassured me that people do like it. It’s always nice to know that people are resonating with your work, so it was really exciting. We were over the moon, for sure.

You wrote ‘I Wrote A Song’ before you knew about Eurovision. Is that right?

Yes. I had written the song literally a few days before I found out about Eurovision. So when the conversation was happening, I was like: ‘Guys, I have just written, like, a Eurovision bop.’ I’m really happy that it worked out that way. I’m happy that it just came naturally. And then a few days later, Eurovision came around. It was a match made in heaven. It’s meant to be.

But it wasn’t something you had in mind as an influence at the very least when you were writing the song? It sounds like a Eurovision song, which I mean in the best way possible!

No, no, I take that as a compliment. I think when I was writing it, I just wanted to write something that was empowering, for people to feel confident and sassy. That just aligns with what Eurovision is. Maybe subconsciously, in a way, it was. All the influences were there.

Did the song come easily? You’ve said it came from a dark place.

No. Another reason why I feel like this all happened very naturally is that song fell out of me. I’ve always said writing for me is like therapy. Not every song happens like that. I was taking on personal experiences, but I was thinking about the bigger picture. When anyone’s going through a hard time, how do we take that and turn it into something where we feel empowered afterward? I’m really hoping that anyone who hears that song can kind of feel that.

On a scale of 1-10 how daunting is it going into rehearsals? You’re also performing last!

I saw that on Twitter and kept scrolling and then I saw a verified Eurovision post. Obviously, there is pressure and I think that is good because it makes me want to work harder. I have my moments. I shed a few tears and I get back up and I’m like, ‘We’re on now! Let’s go!’ I think it’s important to have those moments where you can feel the nerves a bit. As long as I get over it I’ll be absolutely fine. The excitement is outweighing the nerves for sure.

Good to hear. You’ve performed in Liverpool before so you know what that can be like plus the Eurovision crowd. Are you excited for all that?

I’m so excited. Scousers know how to party. The times I’ve been there before, the energy is great. So with Eurovision and that, it’s just going to be a big party. I’m looking forward to being a small part of that celebration.

Can you give us any hints as to what the performance is going to look like on the night?

This is so hard for me because I just love sharing everything. If it was up to me, I’d be on Instagram live in the rehearsals. I really want to tell you the tea, but it’s gonna be empowering. And like I said, it’s just gonna be like a celebration, and it’s going to be a party and the energy is going to be high. And I feel like especially now I know that I’m closing the show we just have to come out with a big bang. That’s all I can say. I’m sorry!

Thats ok. Has Sam Ryder shared any advice?

He was very kind. He said just try and enjoy each day. It’s such a whirlwind, you’re going to be so busy and it’s really easy for it to pass you by as you go through the motions. Just enjoy every second of it because you’re not going to get that experience again. I think that is probably the best advice I could have.

The response to the song has been overwhelmingly positive. A lot of people are describing you now as a ‘gay icon.’ What do you make about that?

From when I started music, performing in front of 100 people, I’ve always wanted my music to create a safe space for everybody. So that just reassures me that I’m doing the right thing. I want everyone to be able to enjoy my music. And I think that only reassures me. I love it! I’ll take that title!

Have you always felt a kinship with your queer fans?

Yeah, I have naturally because I feel like the LGBTQ+ community has always been so accepting of my music, and I feel like the music I make is, hopefully, quite empowering. And it makes people feel good, it makes people want to dance, makes people want to sing. I have wanted to create that safe space. So, I’m glad that it is resonating in that way. The gay community has created a safe space for me as well, I love going to gay clubs because I feel accepted in their space too. It’s only right that everyone’s accepted in mine as well.

You’ve demonstrated your allyship in the past: you’ve celebrated Marsha P. Johnson and you’ve called for trans-inclusive feminism. That still feels like a really rare type of allyship from someone in your position. Has that always come naturally?

I’ve always been a firm believer that everyone should just be allowed to be who they want to be. I’ve never understood why someone living their authentic self could ever be a problem for another person. I think people should be allowed to live and unfortunately, that’s not where the world is at, at the moment. I feel like especially living in London, it’s definitely not perfect, but we live in such a bubble and I feel like obviously with music, you can reach all over the world. I’ve always just kind of wanted to spread that message that it’s OK to be your authentic self and that should be celebrated. I have a lot of trans friends as well and I don’t think we need to have close proximity with trans people or gay people to understand that we all deserve equality. I think it’s all just been a very personal and close thing to my heart as well.

A lot of people were speculating beforehand before you announced that it might be Rina Sawayama who would represent us this year…

Queen! We love Rina!

We do! You’ve referenced the speculation on Tik Tok. Have you two spoken?

Yeah, she’s been really sweet. She reached out and commented. She’s just been like: ‘You’re gonna slay!’ I think she’s amazing. I was really enjoying watching all the speculation and seeing Rina’s TikToks, I was like: ‘Oh my god!’ I love all that. I love the tease. It was hard not to be a part of it. But watching from the sidelines was quite entertaining.

You’re a big Eurovision fan. When was the first time you came across Eurovision?

I think it’s always been a constant in everyone’s life. Obviously, it was before my time but I’m a huge ABBA fan. Before I knew what music was my family were always playing ABBA. Knowing that they came from Eurovision highlights how iconic it really is.

Any other Eurovision idols?

I loved Netta with ‘Toy’. I thought she was brilliant. Just so wacky but in the best way possible. And I thought her message stands with what I write about. Måneskin was iconic as well. I actually mention Scooch quite a bit because I know we’ve kind of veered away from that a little bit in the UK but it’s just marked in my memory. I’ll always remember that performance and how fun and camp it was with the little ad-libs. I’m obsessed.

Definitely camp. And definitely very different from ‘I Wrote A Song’ – in a good way!

Exactly! That’s what I love about Eurovision. Every single year is so different. You don’t really know what you’re gonna get. Especially with me and Sam Ryder, we’re so different. It shows that in the UK there’s so much variety of music and there’s room for everything.

The Semi-Finals will be broadcast on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Tuesday 9 and Thursday 11 May at 8pm.

The Grand Final will be broadcast on BBC One and BBC iPlayer, as well as BBC Radio 2 and BBC, Sounds on Saturday 13 May from 8pm.