Alexander Rybak (Photo: Illustration: HuffPost; Photo: Getty Images)
With his wide smile, energetic performances and omnipresent violin to hand, Alexander Rybak has become one of the most recognisable figures from the Eurovision Song Contest of the 21st century.
After winning for Norway with his signature tune Fairytale back in 2009, he’s returned to the competition on several occasions, joining fellow Eurovision alum in various interval medleys over the years and even appearing as himself in the Netflix comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga.
Looking back at his victory 13 years later, Alexander is still far from tired of his winning entry, instead insisting he feels “more and more blessed” to have the “worldwide hit and calling card” in his catalogue as time goes by.
“I love every time I get to perform it,” he tells HuffPost UK shortly before this year’s Eurovision gets underway. “Fairytale lets me have fun with music and experiment with new genres and styles every year.
“It’s essentially an old-fashioned oom-pah tune with Tin Pan Alley chords, but people called it a ‘modern tune’ because I believed in it in the here and now. I will be forever grateful for the people who stream it and show it to their friends, so that it may live on and be discovered by new generations.”
Alexander celebrating his Eurovision win in 2009 (Photo: Oleg Nikishin via Getty Images)
In recent years, Alexander has made something of a u-turn in his life, relocating from Oslo to the US, where he’s pursuing a lifelong dream and studying music composition for the screen at Columbia College in Chicago.
Still, having returned as a Eurovision competitor for Norway in 2017, Alexander admits the contest is still something he’d return to for a third time – “and a fourth… and a seventh!” – were the right song to come his way.
Here’s what else Alexander had to say when we asked him about all things Eurovision...
What’s your earliest memory of watching Eurovision?
Actually it was in 2008, the year before I won. If I like something, I´ve always been like a kid who points at the screen and says ‘I wanna try that, too!’. I was also very inspired by Maria Haukaas Storeng, the Norwegian participant that year, who came fifth with Hold On Be Strong.
I didn’t think too much before starting writing Fairytale, specifically with Eurovision in mind.
Alexander on stage in 2009 (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)
Have you always been a fan of Eurovision? How has your opinion of it changed over time?
I’ve always been a huge fan. And I’m grateful for every time someone invites me to perform at a national selection or anything else connected to the Eurovision Song Contest.
Do you have a favourite memory of being part of Eurovision?
Honestly, what I love the most is being part of the medleys and interval acts. I love getting together with other Eurovision artists on stage! I loved being part of the Love, Love, Peace, Peace interval performance in Sweden in 2017. Måns Zelmerlöw is not only a great Eurovision winner, but a great comedian, as it turned out.
However, my most, most, most favourite moment was in Baku in 2012, when I performed along with [fellow winners] Lena, Dima Bilan and Marija Šerifović.
What are your three all-time favourite Eurovision songs and why?
Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst because it hits me in the feels every single time. Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw is beautiful because it’s perfect. And Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral is beautiful because it’s imperfect.
Salvador Sobral won Eurovision in 2017 with his song Amar Pelos Dois (Photo: via Associated Press)
Who are you rooting for at Eurovision in 2022 and why?
I’m rooting for Norway because they are hardworking wolves – on social media as well as on stage. And because they’ve got a really cool concept behind their song.
Why is Eurovision still so important?
The more spread out our entertainment choices become, and the more streaming options we get, the more we get into our own custom-made bubbles. So we need something like Eurovision to unite us once in a while!
Follow Alexander on TikTok here. “I can’t complain about the warm welcome the TikTok community has given me, since I started last year,” he explains. ”But I’ll never do the dances. No, sir.” Take a listen to his latest single Memories below:
We’ll be publishing an interview with a different Eurovision legend every day leading up to this year’s live final on Saturday 14 May. Come back tomorrow for our interview with the much-loved UK entrant SuRie.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.