- At this year’s ESC, Malik Harris only achieved last place for Germany.
- However, the 24-year-old has not lost his optimism.
- In the interview, he explains why he nevertheless achieved his goals and why he saw the declaration of solidarity with Ukraine as his duty.
Malik Harris, welcome back to Germany! How are you?
Malik Harris: I am fine! It was a blatant time, with a super cool experience, for which I am totally grateful. The ESC allowed me to enter a completely new world.
“I want to do my best and I want to enjoy it” – you went to Turin for the ESC final with these two goals. Were you able to achieve these two goals for yourself?
Definitely, 100 percent! That’s why I’m very happy. For one thing, I can say that I really did my best. I put everything into this performance and also into the preparation time and I pushed myself to the limit. On the other hand, the first thing I thought of when I left the stage was: “Whoa, that was awesome!” I actually had a few moments on stage where I couldn’t stop grinning because I was enjoying it all so much. I was totally in that moment and was able to enjoy everything very intensely. In this respect, I was definitely able to achieve both of these goals.
Nonetheless, the evening also brought with it a great disappointment…
Absolutely, of course I can’t deny that. Of course you’re disappointed if you finish last and only get a few points. This is a pity. But I always meant it seriously when I said that the idea of competition is not that important to me at the ESC. I just don’t think music can be divided into good or bad. It’s all a matter of taste and accordingly I don’t relate this ranking to myself or the song at all. Of course there is some disappointment, but it’s not something that throws me off course.
Do you still ask yourself questions about the possible why and look for reasons for the evaluation?
Actually I didn’t do that. I was and am super happy with everything and how it went. The most important thing for me was to be completely authentic on this stage and to be completely me. I definitely succeeded. And the staging of the stage design was exactly as I had hoped. I felt totally comfortable on stage and also got a lot of positive feedback from different people who told me how great they thought the performance was. That gives me a lot of strength.
Nevertheless, voices were raised in advance that the German “disgrace” of the past ESC years would have to be erased. So the pressure on you was correspondingly high. What does that do to you?
I was actually relatively relaxed about all of this. I never really felt the pressure myself. Maybe because I thought there would be a lot more pressure on me if Germany had always finished first in recent years. In this respect, I probably put the most pressure on myself to enjoy all of this as much as possible and still do my best. I think the way I tick helped me a lot here.
For the artists who will represent Germany at the ESC in the next few years, I wish that they too can shake themselves free of the pressure that will weigh on them as much as possible. I also hope, of course, that there will be a little less pressure from outside in the future. In my opinion, the competitive nature of this show shouldn’t be overplayed.
Why do you think that?
It’s much more about being together, the music, celebrating together with all participating nations and cultures. I think that’s exactly what makes the ESC what it is – it would be nice if there was a greater focus on that, especially from a German perspective. I have observed this in other countries. Many artists are celebrated in advance in their home country, which is a really nice thing. I think that this same kind of support would totally help a lot of other acts.
Her positive nature is one of her character traits. How do you manage to maintain this affirmative view despite the pressure just described and the idea of competition?
That’s a good question. I think a lot of things come from knowing what a privilege it is to do what I’m allowed to do. I do what I love and nobody can ruin my music. I think the most important thing is to do the things you love and enjoy and try to be in the moment. If you succeed, you automatically have a more positive attitude towards life – even if there are setbacks.
But the knowledge of everything that is to come also plays a role. My tour is about to start and there are so many people out there who can identify with my music – that’s the best feeling for me as a musician. I try to focus on the things that make me happy – and fortunately there are a lot of them.
Speaking of feelings, how would you describe the feeling that has carried you through the “ESC Bubble” in the past few weeks?
One would almost have to invent a new word to describe it (laughs). What I was able to experience in the last few weeks was definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life. I’ve traveled to countries I’ve never been to before and was allowed to play my music there. Together with all the other artists we were a tight bunch and we got on really well with each other. I have also been able to make many new and close friends. Overall the feeling I had during this time is hard to put into words. It was a great experience and for that alone I’m eternally grateful that I got to be a part of this show.
So do you also leave this time a little wistful?
Absolutely! When I performed my song, of course, I also had the knowledge in the back of my mind that this would be the last time I was on this special stage. Of course you get a little wistful because the past few weeks have been so much fun.
As in the preliminary round, you insisted on expressing your solidarity with Ukraine after your performance in the ESC final. Actually, political statements are not allowed within the framework of the ESC…
Because I had already given the signal in the preliminary round, I was told before the final that political statements were not allowed. But I have to be honest, I didn’t care at all. To me, a show of solidarity is just something that needs to be done when you have a platform like this and you know millions of people are going to be watching. In a way, I almost saw it as my duty to take a very clear position and set an example – precisely because it is the ESC that stands for this cohesion.
But I had to plan the action secretly. At the last rehearsal on the final day, the guitar had not yet been prepared with the declaration of solidarity. After the rehearsal, I went straight to the backstage area and stuck the note with the message on the back of the guitar. The guitar wasn’t taken out of the case until the performance (laughs). I’m totally happy to have set this sign – and I’m even happier that Ukraine won the competition.
The musicians from the Kalush Orchestra had received a special permit to take part in the ESC and were allowed to travel to Turin. Now they have to go back to the Ukraine – and back to the war. What does this thought trigger in you?
I can’t describe what’s going on inside me. All of this seems incredibly surreal. War is and remains something that I cannot grasp, cannot understand. We live in such a privileged country and war is so far away for us. That’s why I just can’t realize that the boys are now fighting for their homeland. Just a few days ago we sat together, made music, talked and to know that these great people are now defending their beloved country is hard to believe. I just hope this damn war is finally over soon.
What mood did the musicians of the Kalush Orchestra bring to the ESC universe despite all the horrific images from their homeland?
Of course there was a certain shadow over all this. After all, the war is the omnipresent theme and I can’t imagine what it must be like for the musicians to be in such a situation and to know that their friends are defending their country. Despite this, the mood amongst each other was very positive, if only because all the candidates were extremely happy that Ukraine took part. This joy was always very palpable.
I also remember a particularly intense moment before the finale when Kalush Orchestra sang the song in their backstage area. It has to be said that the backstage area is quite noisy. And that is exactly what led to all the artists and delegations who were in the hall at that moment singing along to the song. That was an indescribably beautiful moment and while I’m talking about it, I’m getting goosebumps again…
What were people’s reactions to you and your performance after the ESC?
Totally positive. I really didn’t expect that. After the points were awarded, I was a bit afraid to go online because you didn’t know what the reactions would be. But when I did it, I was really happy to have done it, because mostly nice feedback comes from people from all over the world. The response from people is tremendous – I can hardly keep up with all the messages I get myself.
What’s next for you? What can people look forward to?
My tour starts in Hamburg, I’m really looking forward to playing live and being able to be on many stages in the next few weeks. For me, there’s nothing bigger in the world than being on stage – so the pandemic period was really tough in that respect. All the more I want to take everything that is waiting for me in the future and play at concerts and festivals. Soon there will be a new song from me, which I’m really looking forward to. So I get to do exactly what I love every day and I’m super grateful for that.
The final of the 66th Eurovision Song Contest took place in Turin on May 14, 2022 at 9:00 p.m. As expected, Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine win. The German participant Malik Harris ended up in last place.