We had a lovely chat with Efraim Leo who will be taking the stage in Melodifestivalen semi-final four this weekend with his track Best of Me. Efraim gave us some details on the song, spoke about his feelings in the build up to the contest, and shared his enthusiasm for fellow Mello artists Benjamin Ingrosso and Felix Sandman.
Best of Me is written by Efraim, Cornelia Jakobsdotter, Amanda Björkegren, and Herman Gardarfve. Efraim will perform it Saturday 27th February 2021 at 20.00 CET on SVT. International viewers can watch on the SVT website.
You can read our full interview with Efraim below or watch the video interview above. You can connect with Efraim on his social media channels: Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter and Facebook.
Culture Fix: You’re at Melodifestivalen! That’s so exciting. What is it about Melodifestivalen that appeals to you as an artist?
I just think it’s so cool. It’s such a big deal here in Sweden. I’ve always watched it ever since I was little – I’ve watched it every year growing up. It’s such a surreal feeling being a part of it and standing on that stage for everyone to see, so for an artist it’s a big accomplishment.
Culture Fix: I think when there has been such a lack of live performances and music outlets in 2020, it must be pretty amazing to have that?
Yeah it’s unbelievable. It’s been a hard couple of months for us all, definitely artists. This summer not being able to play, this is really a lifesaver because you get to feel that feeling again and do what you love and prepare for something bigger.
Culture Fix: Are you able to give me a little bit of a brief introduction about how you got your start in the music industry?
Sure, yeah. I’ve always loved music growing up – like a lot of my family members sing and play instruments. I started playing guitar when I was thirteen and not long after that I started to write songs. In 2016 I was featured on my first song called Show You the Light with a Swedish DJ called MARC. That was kind of my entrance into the music industry so after that a lot of things have happened and changed. It’s a big world the music business, but it’s really fun as well.
Culture Fix: You previously have supported The Vamps on their UK tour. How was your experience in the UK?
That was a really cool experience because it was my first time in the UK ever. I went to thirteen different cities and it was such a cool experience playing for fans of The Vamps that didn’t know who I was. Just doing that whole thing was such a good experience and something I’ll cherish my whole life.
Culture Fix: Is that quite a daunting experience knowing that the fans are there for the main act and you have to almost prove yourself to them?
It was really scary but I got used to it after a while. We have a Swedish saying where we say invite yourself in and show them who you are and hope they like you and if they don’t just move on. But it was a really good experience.
Culture Fix: How are you feeling about the lack of audience at your semi-final?
I don’t think it’s an issue. Of course it’s sad that we don’t get to have an audience, but it’s also kind of nice as you can get in the moment. I think I’m going to perform a little better because when you have an audience you have so much to think, but now I just have the camera to think about.
Culture Fix: Is it tough waiting until the fourth semi-final? Have you been able to relax and enjoy the other semi finals?
Both I would say! I’ve watched all of them – I think it’s really entertaining. I’ve watched it with my family and they are just as nervous as I am. At the beginning during the first semi-final I didn’t really think about it and just enjoyed watching it. The closer I got, the more nervous I got as well and now I’m just super hyped. It’s going to be really fun.
Culture Fix: On the subject of nerves, do you have strategies or rituals that you do before you go on stage to prepare for the experience?
Yeah, just staying calm and doing a lot of breathing exercises to keep your heartbeat at a regular level. Just staying calm – I think that’s the important thing, not letting the nervousness affect you so you can go out there and do your best.
Culture Fix: Before we talk about your Melo entry Best of Me, I’d love to hear a little bit about the creative process and inspiration behind your brilliant EP Timing. Would you say these songs are joined by a theme?
I actually had an idea of what I wanted it to be. When I went into the studio, I’m a huge fan of film, so I wanted the EP to be kind of like a movie script. So I wanted every song on the EP to tell a story about heartbreak, love and relationships. So it’s kind of like different stages of love and that was my idea for the whole EP. I definitely had a thought of what I wanted it to be.
Culture Fix: Were you pleased with the response to the EP?
I was, yeah! Definitely, especially because I released it as an independent artist without a label.
Culture Fix: Were these songs inspired by the same relationship or did different relationships and experiences feed into that?
I want the listener to think it’s the same relationship, just because it’s more fun. But it’s definitely different experiences, some of my own and some my friends have had. I kind of pieced it together to make the EP whole.
Culture Fix: Do you have a standout track?
I think When I Wanted You was my favourite.
Culture Fix: For those that will be introduced to your music for the first time through Melfest, how would you describe yourself as an artist?
I’m a pop artist. I love pop. I love expanding and doing different kinds of things. I’ve worked on a lot of songs during 2020. During quarantine I’ve just been writing songs and I’ve evolved a lot as an artist. I have a lot of new sides coming out that people haven’t seen yet, so that’s really exciting. Overall I’m a pop artist.
Culture Fix: Obviously things are top secret regarding Best of Me at the moment, but can you give us any indication of its themes?
Absolutely. It’s about how hard it is to leave and forget about someone you love, but you know they are not good for you. It’s based on that idea. I wanted to mix it up so the lyrics are a little bit sad but the song is really happy. It’s pretty dancey and poppy and everything. I’m hoping that people will stand up in their living room and dance along to the tune. The stage is going to have a really modern look and I have two dancers.
Culture Fix: How are you with choreography? Are you a natural with that sort thing or is it quite tough to learn?
It’s a very new thing for me – I’m used to just standing on stage with a guitar – really singer-songwritery. Yeah so it’s a really new thing for me but it’s fun. I’m kind of stiff in my body, I’m not really used to dancing but it’s really fun trying something new.
Culture Fix: Have you had much of a say on outfit choices?
Yes that’s done, but I can’t really say anything about that. It’s done. It’s really nice!
Culture Fix: In terms of putting the performance together, do you get quite a lot of independence as an artist in making these decisions?
I have a really good team working with me. I have a really good stylist, designer, dancers and choreographers but I’ve played a part in everything. I wrote the song together with these great songwriters and I’ve played a part in the choreography as well and what I’m going to wear and stuff like that. It’s a little part of me that’s about to walk on stage.
Culture Fix: With under a week until your semi-final, how will you be preparing for your performance of Best of Me?
This is what we call the Melodifestivalen week so this is where everything starts for me. I have fully booked days up until Saturday where we’re just rehearsing, doing interviews and stuff like that. It’s going to be really fun; It’s going to be a journey.
Culture Fix: Then on Sunday you just sleep for the day!
Exactly! I’ll sleep for a month!
Culture Fix: Do you think Best of Me will form part of a larger project? An EP or album perhaps?
I have some really good tunes coming out afterwards. We’ll see how similar they are!
Culture Fix: When you’re gearing up for Melodifestivalen is Eurovision a possibility in your mind or are you mainly focused on the Melfest goal to start with?
Winning the whole thing and being a part of Eurovision would be crazy, but that’s so far away, so I’m just going to enjoy the moment and see what happens. I’m just really happy to be a part of this. I’m just going to enjoy and hope for the best. If not, I’m still super happy that I got to do it.
Culture Fix: What are your earliest memories of Melodifestivalen? Are there any particular performances or entries that stay with you?
I’ve watched it ever since I was a little kid. I remember Loreen with Euphoria. I have a strong memory of that because it was such an awesome performance and song. She won Eurovision as well and I was super proud of being a Swede right then.
Culture Fix: Thinking of the contest in recent years and its long history, who are some of your all time favourite acts?
Benjamin Ingrosso and Felix Sandman are two really great artists from back in the day that I really adore. I think they’re great. The synergy that they had after the show as well because they went on a tour together after the show, so that was great to see.