UK’s Eurovision hopeful Mae Muller: ‘This is Ukraine’s big party but at our house’
After leapfrogging from a comedy nil point in 2021 to a silver podium placing last year thanks to the beaming positivity and luscious locks of Sam Ryder and his Space Man, tomorrow night 25-year-old Londoner Mae Muller will hope to continue the UK’s wild uptick in Eurovision fortune with her cheater-dissing pop anthem I Wrote A Song.
Having already signed to major label Universal Music in the UK, supported Little Mix on tour and scored a Top 40 single both here and in the US with her 2021 NEIKED and Polo G collaboration Better Days, it’s a career move that — even a few years ago — might have raised an eyebrow for a credible new pop star. Now, says Muller, that’s no longer the case.
“It does feel like there’s a different energy, and I think Eurovision has deserved that for so long,” she says, speaking to us four days before the big night. “It would be such a shame for it not to be an amazing platform that artists can use to connect with people. I’m really happy it feels like that’s happening, and with Sam Ryder and Måneskin — people who have done really well — that obviously helps, so hopefully that’s gonna just carry on. It does feel good that people are taking Eurovision more seriously now, and you can really feel that and see that, I think.”
Just last week, Italian rockers and 2021 winners Måneskin played a triumphant headline show at London’s 20,000-capacity O2 Arena. In the run-up to this year’s UK entry reveal, musicians including Birdy and Freya Ridings were all slated to be in the running, with BRIT-nominated Rina Sawayama recently saying that she’d returned Eurovision’s 2023 call but heard nothing back. Muller’s own I Wrote A Song, meanwhile, became the first UK entry to chart in the Top 40 since Blue’s I Can in 2011.
For the first time in a long time, stepping up to Eurovision’s sparkly stage doesn’t seem like a risk. “For me, the way I’ve seen it is that, no matter what the result is, connecting with this many people and being able to share the song with so many people can only ever be a good thing,” says Muller. Currently, she is 10th favourite to win and will be closing out the show on home turf, a huge moment that’s evidently not lost on the singer.
“I literally found out when I was scrolling on Twitter,” she laughs of learning the news. “I had no idea and I thought this can’t be real. But then I saw it was from a verified Eurovision account and had a mini freak-out like, ‘Oh my gosh, everyone’s so talented and I’m gonna have to watch every show, what am I gonna do?!’ And then I thought, you know what, this is actually an amazing experience and to be able to say I get to close Eurovision 2023 in my home country — it doesn’t get more surreal than that. I could either say, ‘It’s so much pressure, I’m scared’ or I could be like, ‘This is amazing, let’s have the biggest party ever and end on a high note’. So I’m choosing to focus on the positives.”
This year’s contest, of course, should have been taking place in Ukraine but defaulted to Liverpool due to the country’s ongoing conflict. Muller has been in rehearsals on the Eurovision stage for the past fortnight and speaks warmly of the notable presence that Ukraine has around the entire event village. “There’s Ukrainian flags everywhere — I think there’s just as many Ukrainian flags as the Union Jack, which brings me so much joy and just highlights that, despite what’s going on in the world, we can come together and be united and show support, so that’s been really beautiful to see,” she says.
“As excited as we are to be hosting this year, everyone knows that it’s Ukraine’s party, it’s just at our house. It makes what I feel is such a special year of Eurovision even more special. It’s definitely on people’s minds, no-one has forgotten.”
Although the Eurovision Song Contest has historically attempted to gloss over overt political conversation with a hefty dose of glitter and showmanship, the embrace of Ukraine across 2022 and 2023 is one that perhaps points to a change there, too. Muller, for one, is pleased at the event stepping up and pledging its allegiance so clearly. “There’s 36 countries coming together, so it’s impossible for some politics not to get spoken about; that’s only natural,” she suggests. “This year, hosting on behalf of Ukraine, you can’t ignore that there is a war going on and that’s very real; to ignore it would be even stranger, but the way you don’t ignore it is by coming together and showing support and being there for each other.”
The singer has had to quickly become accustomed to her political views being put in the limelight. Recently, tweets dating back to 2020 in which Muller denounced Boris Johnson’s policies (“The same nurses you praise in your speeches are the same nurses you chose to cut all their benefits, and CHEERED while doing it,” she tweeted) and said she “hates this country” resurfaced, and she notes that it’s a strange new reality that her heightened Eurovision fame has brought with it. “It’s definitely new to me, but the fact is I did say those things. I’m an artist and I make music first and foremost, so it’s quite a weird space to be in, but I’m really grateful and lucky that I live in a place where I’m able to express myself,” she says.
Having recently met King Charles and Camilla after the newly crowned royals opened the Eurovision stage, she diplomatically swerves any questions relating to the Coronation and the divisive views it has provoked among many. Would she have played the Coronation concert? “I had such Eurovision brain, I literally couldn’t think of anything else. I just had that tunnel vision really,” she says. “If I feel passionate about something [I disagree with] then I’ve always felt like I could express an opinion on it, but right now I’ve just been focused on Eurovision and all the crazy, wonderful things that come with that.”
Fair enough. And with the continent’s sparkliest musical spectacle a mere day away, Mae Muller is preparing a finale that she hopes will see her take home a crown of her own.
“I think the song is quite powerful and sassy, so I want [my performance] to match that but for there to also be a cheeky, playful side,” she says. “I’m really excited and I think it’s crazy that it’s almost here. It’s gonna be a big party!”
The final of the Eurovision Song Contest airs on May 13 on BBC One