Interview: Eurovision Icon and Melodifestivalen Star Charlotte Perrelli Talks ‘Still Young’, Returning to Schlager and Eurovision Collaborations

Lead Photo: Mikael Kenta

We had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Eurovision winner and Melodifestivalen 2021 star Charlotte Perrelli. Charlotte spoke about returning to the competition with her song Still Young, the inspiration behind the staging, returning to the world of schlager music, and potential new music that is on the horizon. You can watch our interview above or read below.

You can connect with Charlotte on her official website, Instagram and Facebook pages. She will be performing in the final of Melodifestivalen on the 13th of March 2021. This can be watched internationally on SVT’s website at 20.00 CET (19.00 GMT).

Culture Fix: What drew you back to Melodifestivalen this year?

It was the song. I got the song sent to me from Bobby Ljunggren who is one of the composers. I just turned up the level and listened to the song and thought “Oh my God this is good. Where has this come from?” I felt that need to participate again. I had no thoughts about going to the competition before I got the song. It wasn’t because of COVID or the pandemic thinking “This is so boring I need to go to the competition,” it wasn’t like that at all, but when I got the song “I thought this is it, I need to do this.” I called Bobby and said “What is this?” and he said “Are you thinking about the competition? Go for it.” So I went to the studio the day after and sang the song. It felt really good and this is a good song for me – of course I didn’t know how it would go in the competition.

Still Young

Culture Fix: What was it about the lyrics and central theme of Still Young that spoke to you?

Today it’s all about how you look. Are you young? Are you old? We talk a lot about your scale. This is about something totally different. You want to feel young, you want to be strong, you want to be healthy because you don’t want to feel that you have done the best you can – you want to have it in front of you and give more. You want to be part of everything that is beautiful that is all around us. I think it is so important to have that feeling. I’m singing about looking back but I can still feel the same feeling inside. If we turn back time to when our parents were young and they became like thirty, forty, we thought that they were old. Today when you are thirty, forty you’re not old. You’re still young. We are taking care of ourselves; we are enjoying life so much. When people are sixty today they start living a new life. They are free from their job and their kids are grown up, they can travel and see the world. This is something new for this time – we don’t allow ourselves to feel old, tired or sick. We want to be strong. We’re playing tennis at seventy-five and we’ve still got it. That’s so wonderful. The lyrics are really important. If you really listen and focus to the lyrics, it’s really good.

Culture Fix: How did you find performing in your semi-final without an audience?

It’s a bit different to do the competition like this. We’re so used to going on stage to this massive public in the big arena. Often in the Friends Arena you have 35,000 people. When you have this massive positive feeling from the audience – they are dancing, they are singing along with the songs, wearing pink hats and having big signs – you’re lifted up by the audience. Of course now it is totally different. Now you are on stage and can hear a needle fall because it’s so empty and so quiet. There are just a few camerapersons. I try to focus my best and understand that there are so many people watching this. Behind the lens there are millions of people following this. I’m just so happy that we could do this this year because things are so different. In the worst scenario we had to cancel it so I think it is quite good anyway. I think SVT have done a fantastic job.

Stina Stjernberg, SVT

Culture Fix: Thinking of the staging, I got themes of a Parisian runway and fashion show. Was that the inspiration?

We wanted to do something totally new and we haven’t’ seen this on stage before. You often see a girl or boy on stage come out with a few dancers or backup singer. You’ve seen it so many times. It’s nothing new. I just felt like we want to something new. This is 2021, we just want to dare. When you do those kinds of things as an artist you open your heart… it’s quite tough. People can say “Oh my god it’s so fucking boring! Ah it’s so bad, we don’t want to see it,” and the papers are ripping you down totally – it could be like that. You have to realise that’s the chance you are taking as an artist – but you can also win. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or bad thing but I’m always trying to do new things. I’m not thinking about all those bad things that might happen. When they are coming, then I have to deal with it. I’m always trying to focus on new things and do my best. This was a way to give the audience something they haven’t got before – especially from me – I’m quite satisfied with this.

We also worked a lot with the lights on the stage. When I take the long note – we wanted it to be really dark like it was night and the stars that give you hope, then it splashes out to the white screen and me and the dancers are walking really with force with the white screen in front. It feels quite strong and hopeful and that was something that we really worked hard on, to give you that feeling as a viewer.

Culture Fix: There’s nothing quite like Still Young in the competition and it is great to have some schlager represented.

Photo: Mikael Kenta

Culture Fix: Do you think that Still Young could perhaps lead to a new studio album?

Yeah, I think at least, we will release a couple of songs. We are actually working on new songs that we will follow it up with.

When I was in the competition as a host a couple of years ago I did a song Här står jag in Swedish. A lot of people really enjoyed it and it was number one on the lists here in Sweden. When I came back to Melodifestivalen a couple of years later with a ballad Mitt Liv, a lot of people were disappointed as they thought I should come back with a schlager song and I didn’t. So I think that people have been waiting for this a little bit. Even though it has a special sound, it’s not the typical pop music, it’s a little more pop-schlager. There are a lot of people who actually like that and as you said I’m quite alone there – but it won’t mean that it will be easy to win, not at all. I think it will be really really hard. There are some songs playing right now really much on the radio in Sweden that will take the victory. Even though I won’t win, I think it’s really good as I think my fans were waiting for something like this. It’s really good for them and it’s really good for me even though I’m not taking first place in the competition.

Culture Fix: Has there been any shocks or surprises for you so far with the Melodifestivalen results?

Actually not. There were many some songs in the semi-finals… I think it was 90-talet, I thought people would like that. I think one thing that is really important this year is that people want happy songs. If the song is really really good it will go through anyway like Eric Saade’s and Tusse’s songs, they aren’t happy at all but they are so good that they will still come through. But then you have to be really really good. I think when we are in this pandemic and things are so boring and people are at home and quite sad because things are not like it used to be, I think they need songs that lift them up, positive songs. You can see that through the whole festival – really good songs with good lyrics that bring you hope will go through. Songs that are maybe a little bit low or don’t have that clear message, people don’t vote for that. So there are actually no big surprises. I feel like I’ve taken all the songs quite well that have gone through to the final. You can always wish, if you have a favourite, that one would go through, but you can realise that it won’t work.

Culture Fix: Speaking of positive songs, I need to mention your collaboration with Dana International Diva to Diva. Such an anthemic and positive track. Are there any other Eurovision or even Melodifestivalen talents that you would be eager to collaborate with?

I would love to do a ballad with Johnny Logan. He is such a nice friend – I like him so much. He has a wonderful voice and has been in the competition several times. He is a good composer. That would be really fun. He is an icon!

Culture Fix: Do you have a favourite memory of either of your times at Eurovision?

I don’t know actually! Now I have been in Melodifestivalen for the fifth time and Eurovision twice. Of course there have been so many things that have happened through all of these years. I’ve been a host in Sweden for three years and I’ve been a middle act songs about eleven or thirteen times! A lot of things have happened, I don’t know if I have something special but it has been a nice trip… a long trip. 25-30 year since I’ve started!