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Maro: I refused Eurovision three times [WYWIAD]

Maro: I refused Eurovision three times [WYWIAD]

He loves playing concerts, although he doesn’t like being the center of attention. He admits that Portugal is special. And although it was thanks to Eurovision that she became recognizable, she was advised not to take part in the competition. Mieszko Marek Czarnecki talks to MARO.

Mieszko Marek Czarnecki: You started writing songs very early.

Maro: Indeed. My mother teaches at the music university in Lisbon. He also conducts classes with children. So my sister, brother and I had contact with music basically from the beginning. Mom didn’t force us to do anything, but since she emphasizes at every step, both during classes and in public, how important artistic education is for children, she skillfully guided us in this direction. And music for development cannot be overestimated: it improves memory, develops coordination and cognitive skills, and teaches planning and self-organization. Advantages only. And since our mother promoted this way of parenting outside, she also raised her three children this way.

Were you supposed to become a pianist?

Oh! When I was a teenager, all I thought about was playing sports. Then I came up with the idea to study veterinary medicine or anything related to animals. I wanted to go to Asia to study and save the last tigers. But really, I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself. So I took a year off.

Teenagers are afraid, even in their families, to admit that they have no idea what they want to do with themselves.

And on top of that, they are even more afraid that they will make the wrong choice, that they will be unhappy, that they will not find the best path for themselves. Our everyday life is structured like this: you have to do this, then this, then this and that. If it weren’t for a year off, which helped me sort out the things that were most important to me, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. Parents – don’t be afraid, these few months’ break will not be a tragedy for your teenager. This could really be a chance for him to be happy with himself for years to come.

And you went to the USA.

I couldn’t afford to live, let alone study, in the United States. However, slowly I became convinced that it was not animals, not scientific research, but music that was most important to me. I applied for a scholarship, got it and went to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music.

To become an artist even though you’ve never played a concert before.

That’s true! Twelve years of conservatory in Lisbon and I have never once performed live in front of an audience! It’s unimaginable today, but back then I was very ashamed and had great stage fright… I wrote songs – it’s true. The first one was created when I was 11 years old and my parents had just separated. Then more appeared in my notebooks, but I wrote them only for myself. I didn’t intend to present them anywhere or to anyone. Until a Friday party in a Boston club, when everyone could go on stage and play their own thing. My friends almost pushed me to the middle, and I didn’t even have a guitar with me. It was lent to me by a musician who had played before. I sang, played on a borrowed guitar and that’s how it stayed.

What were you ashamed of? Did you lack self-confidence?

No, that’s not it. I had a musical education, I studied at an art university. Thanks to this, I was aware which of my songs were good and which were not. It’s more of a personality thing. I just don’t like being the center of attention. With all the lights shining on me, I felt out of place. It sounds funny now, because my life consists largely of concerts, but back then, getting on stage to attract the attention of the audience was not what I was looking for. It helped me when I realized that it doesn’t have to be about me. That both me and the audience are in one place for one and the same reason – because of the music. This is why we meet and experience it together. Maybe that’s why I’m not afraid of performing live. Even though I play and sing songs that I wrote myself from beginning to end, when I meet the audience, it is not – which may be surprising – me involved. There is only or as much as a community of people who have gathered in one place, at one time and for one purpose: to celebrate music.

So how did you get into Eurovision?

It’s a funny story. For several years, every year I was invited to take part in the Portuguese qualifiers. I refused three times because I couldn’t imagine myself in this place at all. The fourth time I thought, “Why not?” But while my friends thought it was a great idea, my management, and I was working with a company owned by Quicy Jones, made it clear that they didn’t think it was the best solution. However, I had a feeling that the fourth time might be mine. The professionals advised me against Eurovision, but I went and I’m incredibly happy that I did.

Otherwise we wouldn’t be talking today.

Exactly! I think that many people in Europe would be completely unaware of my existence. Certainly overseas too, but here in Europe a completely unknown and unexpected door opened for me. I’m very glad I stood my ground.

The judges decided that “Saudade, saudade” was the fifth best song in the 2022 edition.

And that’s how it all started in Portugal, where I was just supposed to take part in the qualifiers, and I won. It was much more than I expected. And then Turin. Since we had no plans to reach the Italian final, my team and I decided that we would simply enjoy every moment of the competition. Simply. Without great ambitions and pressure, especially since the song we went with was not at all in the style of this competition. We thought: “if we are last – OK, if higher, that’s good too. Turin in May, that’s what.” And suddenly it turned out that “Saudade, saudade” hit the hearts of both the jury and the audience. We had absolutely no expectations, no promotion, no building tension around our participation in the competition, so every single point was solely due to the fact that our music moved the audience. Something amazing. I shudder when I think back to that evening.

However, there is something special about the Portuguese Eurovision picks. You are different, more sensitive and calmer than others.

You’re probably right. I remember Salvador Sobral in 2017. He was so calm, modest, gentle, and thanks to “Amar pelos dois” Portugal won that edition. Neither he nor I came to the finale with a song like “Waterloo”, where everyone can join in after the first chorus and sing along with the performer in the second chorus. Maybe it’s because we have a lot of nostalgia? Maybe because we miss them easily? Maybe it’s our language? This is probably why fado is so popular. I can’t fully describe it, but that’s because I’m Portuguese and it’s all obvious to me.

Didn’t your trip to the USA change you?

He changed. It was my first time away from home and so far away. Three years in Boston, one year in California. I had the opportunity to get to know myself better. I also met wonderful, talented and inspiring people from all over the world. I experienced the freedom to make my own choices, but also the consequences of them. In Boston, I slept on the floor for a year because I had no money for rent, so I lived with some friends! Each of these experiences taught me what I now remember every day: to be grateful, to work hard, to take advantage of every opportunity that appears on the horizon, to be patient, to enjoy meeting people from every corner of our world.

And now you’re back and you’re going on your first, but not last, European tour this year. What can we expect?

I will be visiting most of these places for the first time in my life. I have never visited Lithuania, Poland or Hungary. I’ve never been to Norway or Sweden. This is a great adventure for me and I treat it as a dream trip. At the same time, I will play in unique places – in Poland I play in Blue Note in Poznań, which I know is one of the most important jazz clubs in your country. In Oslo, I will be performing at Cosmopolite, which is probably the most important stage for jazz and ethnic music artists in Scandinavia. And what’s more, it turns out that apart from the European trip of a lifetime ahead of me, almost every concert I perform is already sold out.

That’s why you come to Poland also in summer.

Yes, but with completely different material. My current route, full of nostalgia, peace and emotions, is a farewell trip. The friends I play with want to develop their other projects, and I also want to show a different side of my sensitivity. That’s why in August at Salt Wave on the Polish seaside I will show something completely different. I’m not nervous, but every time I can’t wait to meet the audience in one place, at one time, to experience what is most important to us at the moment – music.

Source: Gazeta

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