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Albanian-descent singer, Gjon Muharremaj became known by his stage name Gjon’s Taers and swept last year’s Eurovision bets with his song “Répondez-moi”. The competition, however, did not take place after all and the front runner song became another “shinny gem” in Eurovision’s history as one of the most moving ballads ever written for this purpose. The announcement of his re-election to represent the country where he was born and raised, Switzerland, automatically created a series of questions: “How could he now surpass the glory of his previous creation”, “What new could he present and surprise the audience once again?”,” what would be the meaning of “Répondez-moi”‘s successor?”…

Most of the questions got their answers when we first heard “Tout l’Univers”, the song that Gjon dressed with the Swiss colors, his beautiful voice and his need to talk about a strong topic. Along with Sacha Jean-Baptiste who will be in charge of Gjon’s Tears’ participation, “Tout l’Univers” is ready to conquer the crowds again, while it managed to be among the first places of the bets, making it again a big front runner song.

Gjon, more revealing than ever, spoke to explaining what is ultimately the secret of his success, the meaning of “Tout l’Univers”, and even his own Top5 songs from this year’s Eurovision competitors! Read everything in the interview that follows!

Good luck Gjon! Good luck Switzerland!

Photos by: Oscar Alessio

Hello Gjon and welcome to What have you been up to these days? You must be really busy lately with all the Eurovision preparations right?

Actually I’m flying to Rotterdam in two days which is quite soon. I’m really excited and at the same time I wish that everything will be fine, that we will fly there safely, that when I’ll be back here I will be healthy and that all the other artists will be negative too, that I will live the whole Eurovision experience without any trouble.

Have you been vaccinated yet?

No. Now in Switzerland I think that people over 50 or 60 are getting vaccinated. In addition to get the rendezvous is quite hard. It’s not impossible but it’s quite hard. I’m just taking care of myself and I’m just paying attention. At the moment I’m still healthy. My brother had it but he’s OK. I will be vaccinated when it will be mandatory. I’m sure it’s going to be mandatory for travelling but for the moment I’m not gonna do that.

I supposed that since it was decided to have an audience in Eurovision it would be obligatory for the partecipants to be vaccinated…

We are tested like every two days and we are not allowed to go out of our rooms actually. We are not allowed to have visits. They’re really strict about that, so we are really strictly looked after.

Last year you were selected to represent Switzerland at the contest with the song “Répondez-moi”. How did you feel after the cancellation of the contest?

I didn’t really understand it because when it was cancelled, the week before, they told me that it would be still on, and that there were several possibilities. I was like “OK OK”. Then they called me to say that it was cancelled and I didn’t really realize that. Then I saw myself on TV and I understood that I shouldn’t be on that side of the screen, in my living room, on the sofa watching TV and that I had to be on the other side. After this moment I think I was a bit frustrated and sad because I really wanted to live the Eurovision experience. Of course that’s life. When I had to go back this year it wasn’t like a really big question to me because I didn’t have the chance to live the Eurovision experience and I really want to live it now.

Your song “Tout l’Univers” is the one that was selected to represent Switzerland in Eurovision 2021. What’s the story behind it?

“Tout l’Univers” is a song that speaks about feelings and how you feel during an explosion. First of all the song was written in English and it was called “Ground Zero”. I loved this expression, the fact that it means the center of an atomic explosion but then after the 11th of 2001 the signification of this expression changed a bit, meaning that everything goes back to the ground so back to zero, so to nothing. It’s a cruel expression and at the same time it could be heard like a really hopeful one because when you have nothing anymore you can rebuild it. I really had the feeling I wanted to explain that so the song speaks about three things: First thing is that it speaks about being in the explosion and then you have two possibilities, to give up or to fight against this explosion and to take back your energy to reconstruct your life. Then the second thing is that I wanted to have a warrior and a hopeful song. It’s not a sad song. It’s a really hopeful song I mean when we say “Tout l’Univers”, in French we have this expression that we say that means “I want to look further”, “I want to project myself”. It’s an optimistic way through which I want to see my future, I want to imagine what is going to happen, I want to create myself a future looking as far as I could. For me you can’t see more than the whole universe. There are too many things to see. The third thing is more a visual thing. I really wanted to explain that this power you have inside you fighting against these explosions is in you and you are the only one who can find that power and who can use it to fight against those things. That’s why I’m alone in the video in which you can see all these three elements of the cycle of life. Of course I’m talking about an explosion but that’s a metaphor. You can compare it with… someone’s death or a break-up. We can see the cycle of life in this video because it starts where it ends. When people see all these space images they are like “oh that’s beautiful” and that’s exactly the reaction that I would like to see in people when they’re looking at their future, thinking “oh that’s beautiful, maybe I should try this activity that I never tried before” or “maybe I can do that now because I never did it before and now is the time to reconstruct myself”. That’s why in the video you can see me taking myself out of the car, meaning that there’s no one else around. I’m alone in this video and I’m the only one that can push me out of that car and push me out of these problems.

If you had to choose between these two songs for this year’s contest which one would you choose and why? Which of these two makes you feel more comfortable while performing it?

I really love both songs at the same intensity. It’s just that I listened so much to “Répondez-moi” before its release that seems like I released that song ten years ago. For the moment that’s not the case between them so that’s why I’m happy to sing “Tout l’Univers”. I don’t think that this song would have happened without “Répondez-moi”. I’m proud of both songs but now the fresher in my mind is “Tout l’Univers” because I’m not getting bored listening to it.

Are you satisfied with the audience’s response you have received so far for “Tout l’Univers”?

Of course. I couldn’t expect such a crazy reaction and I’m so happy that people support me. I couldn’t believed it and that’s why I’m really happy about it. I’m proud that people are behind me. It was quite hard because when I had to come back with another song, the real question was “how to do better than last year?” and then “how can you surprise someone that you already have surprised before”, so I just tried to be myself and try to stay authentic because people saw that and I think that’s why they like our songs.

Are you watching the bets?

I have seen them but I’m not looking at them all the time. As I said I’m proud that people like my song because that’s the most important thing. On the other hand I’m a really down to earth person and I need to focus on the world.

Could you tell us what should we expect from your live performance on the Eurovision stage on the 20th of May?

We did the live on tape before the video but there’s not a connection between the video and the live. I had two choices, to change everything we’ve prepared with Sacha or to take what we alrady had prepared. I chose the second because I was proud of it. I loved the video but I also loved the fact that it’s different. It’s something else and I don’t want people to expect too much. I just tried to stay myself.

Are there any other songs in this year’s participations that you like?

Of course I have my little top 5. I like “Dicoteque” from The Roop because it’s a nice dancing song, full of energy and that’s cool. I like Daði Freyr from Iceland because I love his world and I also love the fact that he’s having something really local with his family, with his friends and he’s being himself, a thing which is very really important to me. Of course I like Anxhela Peristeri and her song “Karma” because I like the registers. At first it’s a more dancing song and then it’s more dramatic. I like the different parts in her song. I like Barbara Pravi because she’s French and I love the French language. Finally I was really surprised with Roxen with her song “Amnesia” but since I saw the odds, I think it’s a really underrated song but for me, it’s a very beautiful song and I hope people will remark that. She has a very special voice and I would love to hear how it would sound like in live.

You like Anxhela’s song because she’s also Albanian right?

Maybe. I like it because she sings it in Albanian. I really like when people are putting their culture in front of their song but then it’s not the most important thing. It’s just the way you use your language and that’s really interesting. I like the fact that she really uses it well.

Are you a fan of the contest? Which are your favorite Eurovision songs of all time?

I think my favorite song would be “Un jour, un enfant” by Frida Boccara in 1969 because when I discovered that song I really loved her voice. Then I have other songs but even with the top5 I said before there’s not a first one or a last one. They’re just five songs that I like. I would also say “Euphoria” by Loreen. It’s a song I’ve danced to so many times and with which I had so much fun. Also it’s the song that when you sing it, you destroy your voice because it’s quite high but at the same time it’s a dancing song. It’s a funny song.

If you had the chance to collaborate with one of your favorite artists, who would you choose?

It’s hard to answer because for me the most important thing is not just the music but the humanity of that artist so first I would love to meet that person. I would love to meet Grace Jones and Aurora. I wouldn’t say I would like to collaborate with them because I would have to know them first and if they are incredibly cool, then I would also love to collaborate with them. For me humans are more important than anything else.

After Eurovision, what are your next professional plans?

Making an album and having some collaborations. I’m looking forward to what it’s going to happen and how it’s gonna go.

What’s your motto in life?

“Believe in yourself, because you’re the only one who believes in you, more than anyone else”.

Interview/Transcription/Translation: Thodoris Kolliopoulos

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