We caught up with ‘Eurovision France, c’est vous qui décidez!’ and The Voice France star Terence James to find out a bit more about his entry Je t’emmènerai danser. The singer-songwriter shared his backstory, how he wants to get Europe dancing with his submission, his thoughts on some of his fellow entrant’s tracks, and goals of Eurovision glory.
Culture Fix: Can you tell me a little bit about your connections with Scotland and how you came to live and work in France?
Terence: My mum is from Shettleston in the East End of Glasgow and I lived in Glasgow from the age of 17 to 24 so I spent a lot of time there. I don’t have a Scottish accent but “My blood’s fae Glasgow” [Scottish accent].
Culture Fix: Thinking of Scotland, is there anything you miss about the country?
Terence: Absolutely. The people are what I miss from Scotland – not the weather, absolutely not the weather. I just love being there.
Culture Fix: What are your thoughts on Scotland, Wales, and England entering Eurovision as independent countries?
Terence: I don’t know, I think it would be really cool. I really hope I go so I could be the next Scottish guy to do Eurovision – although hopefully representing France! I think Scotland should, I don’t know why they haven’t? But I hope they do, that would be awesome.
Culture Fix: Thinking of your career pre-Eurovision, can you tell me a little about how your life has changed since your time on The Voice France?
Terence: When I was seventeen I went back to Scotland to try and pursue a career in music and I got to do some amazing things. We got to do a tour going into lots of the schools in Scotland and the UK. I did a lot of concerts there and got signed to a record label and kind of got a bit lost. I didn’t know the direction that I was meant to be taking. Then my fiancé signed me up for The Voice France because I had lost hope in a career in music myself and I had mainly pursued songwriting and producing for other artists (which I absolutely love) – it’s what I do all day and everyday – but I had given up the hope and dream of being on stage. So my fiancé sent a video into The Voice France and then I got a call from an unknown number and it was them telling me they wanted me to do the Blind Audition. I thought “Wow that came out of nowhere, but I’d love to do it.” I got all the way to the semi-final – very close to the final, but I’m really happy I got that far. Since then I’ve signed to Sony and Twin Music which was always a dream of mine. Now here we are at the Eurovision stage which is so cool. I really hope that we do end up going to Rotterdam – it would be a dream come true.
Culture Fix: How did you come to submit an entry for the French Eurovision selection?
Terence: Eurovision brings so much joy to so many people around the planet and it’s an awesome thing to be involved in. The way I got involved in it was that my management approached me with a song written by a successful French artist called Ben Mazué, an amazing songwriter who wrote my entry Je t’emmènerai danser. So my management and Eurovision approached me saying we think this could be a really cool mix. It’s the perfect song for Eurovision this year. It’s a really happy song; it brings a lot of joy. I think after the year that the entire planet has had we could all use a good laugh and a good dance about. We made the production a little more Scottish because that was important for me and obviously Scotland and France are old friends. I think it was important to bring the bagpipes in to make it more fun, unique and Scottish. I absolutely love the song; it makes me smile every time I listen to it.
Culture Fix: Can you tell me a little bit about the themes and inspiration behind ‘Je t’emmènerai danser‘?
Terence: The song is basically saying no matter what is going on in your life, if you’re feeling down (which a lot of people are at the moment due to isolation and the confinement of the lockdown) even if it’s just for the three minutes of this song, let’s have a dance. I’m there for you, I’ll take you dancing. So it’s kind of like a nice warm hug from a big brother. That’s how I take the song, it’s a love song, but it’s a big hug for anyone who is feeling not too loved or a bit lonely.
Culture Fix: How did the track differ before you put the bagpipes and Scottish flourishes on it?
Terence: It was quite young sounding, I’m twenty-nine and felt it a little young for my personal taste. I wanted to make it, not more serious but a slightly more grown up pop track. I really like the way it sounds now with the bagpipes, there’s a lot of Celtic influence in it. I think it really does make it unique and you hear it once and think “Hang on a minute; this is not what you expect from France.” My parents moved to France when I was two so I grew up here and it would be an absolute honour to represent France with a Scottish song. It would be the perfect mix.
Culture Fix: Have you had a chance to think of the staging of your next performance of ‘Je t’emmènerai danser’?
Terence: So we have, but I don’t think I’m allowed to say. It’s going to be awesome, I can tell you that. We are working a lot on the staging. Do not judge based on the video that was released initially as none of us were aware that that video was getting released. I had no idea, so I walked on stage and just sang the song like “This is the song, would you like it to represent France?” There were a lot of comments like “He can’t perform” and “What is this?” [laughs] and I wasn’t aware I was meant to be performing. It was an empty room so I wasn’t aware there was a performance necessary. But we’ve worked on it a lot and it’s starting to feel really cool. I’m excited to show everyone that this is the progression and this has to be the song. For me, it’s the song anyway!
Culture Fix: Outside of Eurovision, what are your musical aspirations? Do you think ‘Je t’emmènerai danser’ could be part of a wider project: an EP or album?
Terence: Since seventeen I’ve been a professional musician so I’ve been writing and producing songs for a while. I love writing and in my opinion I have some amazing songs that I cannot wait to start putting in an album. We are absolutely doing an album since I’ve signed to Sony. We’ve got some amazing songwriters and producers working on the tracks. Everything is on hold at the moment because of Eurovision. Since Eurovision is massive and we really want to do it and think we can, we’ve been putting all our energy and time into that at the moment. As soon as we know what is happening with the Eurovision we’ll either start working on the album or continue to work on Eurovision.
Culture Fix: Have you had a chance to listen to the fellow entries? What are the highlights for you?
Terence: Je t’emmènerai danser by Terence James would be my favourite [laughs]. There are some amazing songs! Casanova is a friend of mine and I really love his song and I like the fact the chorus is in Corsican. I love ballads so Juliette Moraine and Barbara Pravi’s songs are my two favourite ballads in there. There are some seriously strong entries and if you take out my personal preference as to which songs I like and you go with which song is best for Eurovision, I think my song is the winner and I hope France agrees with me!
Culture Fix: What would winning the French selection mean to you?
Terence: I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about this. Winning the French selection would mean the world to me because I am the person I am today partly because of France. All the influences here, all the culture here, all the music here. I wouldn’t be the artist I am today without France. My fiancé is French; I wouldn’t be engaged now if it wasn’t for France. My life is great thanks to France so it would be an absolute honour to represent them and I hope to represent them well and place high. That would be the absolute dream.
Culture Fix: We don’t have too much luck in Eurovision in the UK in recent years. What direction do you think the UK should be taking with their Eurovision selections?
Terence: I’ve been so removed from the UK musical culture because I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles, Russia, Thailand – but when it comes to Eurovision and the UK it’s not something that goes well is it? [laughs] I haven’t put that much thought into it.
Culture Fix: It’s strange as the artists are there and there is so much talent in the UK in terms of musicians, but with Eurovision is just doesn’t seem to be connecting.
Terence: I don’t know. It might be the songs as the artists are there. There are some phenomenal artists in the UK; it might be the song choices. I honestly don’t know. Maybe it’s political? I don’t think Brexit helps! [laughs]
Culture Fix: Did you have a favourite entry from the 2020 Eurovision artists?
Terence: I was so focussed on The Voice last year and that took up all my time. I kind of took a year out of listening to music and tried to figure what songs I should be singing to try and win that competition.
Culture Fix: Speaking of Eurovision more generally, who are a few of your all time favourite acts?
Terence: Absolutely. Michael Schulte from Germany a few years ago. The song [You Let Me Walk Alone] was about his mum and that was my all time favourite by far. It makes me cry every time I listen to it. It was a phenomenal song!
You can connect with the lovely Terence on the links below. You can support him in the live final of Eurovision France: c’est vous qui décidez on Saturday 30th of January. Stream his entry Je t’emmènerai danser above.