The UK’s relationship with the Eurovision Song Contest is a divisive one – for some, the name incites corny Europop, cringe-inducing costumes and Engelbert Humperdinck, while for others it recalls fond memories of evenings shared dressing up in regional (often flag-based) attire, competing with friends and having some good old camp fun. For all of its controversies, the international contest is, at its core, a celebration of our global shared love for music.
For 25-year-old Kentish Town native Mae Muller, competing on behalf of the UK was not on her bingo card for 2023. “Honestly, I don’t think I could have ever imagined it because it’s just not something that you think is possible,” she begins. “If you told me four or five years ago that I’d be doing this, I don’t think I’d have believed you, but in the best way. I wasn’t ready like I am now, I’ve got the experience of live performances, and I feel like I’ve got the belief in myself that I can do it justice.”
Since bursting onto the UK music scene with hit single ‘Anticlimax’ in 2019, Mae has built a lengthy repertoire of pop-infused and dance-inspiring singles, while her sultry vocals have a timeless appeal, making her an ideal candidate for Eurovision’s extended, awards-show-meets-summer-festival stage spectacle. She’s also a big fan of the competition’s greatest hits which surely helps, and says she’s most excited to meet so many musicians from across Europe.
“Obviously, Loren is back this year and she’s like Eurovision royalty, I’m really going to have to keep my cool and stop myself from fangirling!” she reveals. “I love Teya and Selena with ‘Who is Edgar?’. I had a small interaction with Noa Kirel on Twitter, she’s the Israeli contestant and she’s amazing, I’ve got such a girl crush on her. I think we’re going to go on a night out together soon.”
“It’s so nice to connect with as many people as I can. And obviously it’s a contest, but it’s really all about the music and bringing people together,” she explains. “Every year, Eurovision shows how inclusive and diverse the music community is and how diverse the fan base is, and I think that something I’ve always wanted to show with my music as well. For me, it’s like the perfect place, I feel so comfortable in this space, it’s enriching my soul.”
On ‘I Wrote A Song’, Muller brings her mesmerising vocals to a dance-pop anthem that speaks to the pure magic of turning pain into power. With its dizzying cascade of bubbly beats, pulse-pounding grooves, and lush guitar flourishes, the track celebrates the thrill of fully owning her story and finding catharsis through creation.
Below, shares with BRICKS how recovering from heartbreak, Netta’s ‘Toy’ and vintage ABBA performances inspired her latest single ‘I Wrote A Song’.
“Musically, I just wanted it to be something that was sexy but also would get people on their feet. I think there’s a guitar moment that is flamenco-inspired, a bit like early Rosalia. It’s just a moment but I love it,” she explains, “I wanted the song to make me feel confident.”
The melody for the pre-chorus came from an earlier writing session, although she admits she’s unsure of the melody’s origin. “I know it sounds lame, but sometimes these things just come to me. I wish I had a way to know how it happened! I was feeling a bit down in the dumps when I wrote it and I think I was trying to lift myself out, like how can I get out of this? And how can I turn these negative feelings into something positive? I was also recovering from heartbreak at the time, and I was writing a lot to get through it.”
Using her writing as a place to work through her negative emotions, Mae hopes to use the song as an anthem for empowerment. “I wanted the lyrics to be relatable to everyone, so it doesn’t have to be about heartbreak, it can be about anything negative that you’re going through and how you can empower yourself instead.”
Creating an intimate performance moment
A highlight of the song is Mae’s spoken-word verse, in which she defiantly expresses that her “Mother would be proud” of how she’s dealt with pain and heartbreak. “When I wrote the track, I wasn’t doing so with the intention of it going to Eurovision, but I was literally writing it like three days before the conversation [about Eurovision] started happening. It was like all the stars aligned. Originally, when I wrote it there wasn’t a middle verse, but when I found out about the prospect of Eurovision, I didn’t want to change the song too much as it felt really right, but I started thinking about it from a performance perspective,” she explains of the verse. “It’ll be nice to have a moment that feels intimate and to speak directly to the audience and everyone watching at home.”
Vintage Eurovision performances
Once she knew that Eurovision could be a possibility, Mae said her mind went immediately to one act from the past, in particular. “I’m a huge ABBA fan. Obviously, their performance was slightly before my time, but I remember listening to ABBA with my mum all the time and learning they had come from this thing called Eurovision. It’s always been there and it’s an important part of music history, but I feel like in the last five years it’s really gone mainstream,” says Mae.
She’s not wrong, as the international singing competition has long been a staple in the global music calendar, but in recent years it’s winning acts have reached new levels of recognition following their performances. 2020’s Italian winners Maneskin have since gone to receive critical acclaim – including a 2023 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist – and enjoy global success, while last year’s runner-up Sam Rydersaw his post-Eurovision debut album achieve number one in the UK charts.
“I think Netta’s ‘Toy’ was just so brilliant and different, I’d never seen anything like it. I think that’s the performance that really hooked me,” says Mae. Additionally, she cites that she was listening to plenty of Doja Cat and Olivia Dean’s ‘UFO’ while working on the track.
For the track’s music video, Mae is seen dancing through an uncanny set of miniature and super-sized locations. “I just knew that I didn’t want the video to be centred around a man or ‘the partner’, I wanted it to be empowering and uplifting, and just show me feeling confident with my girls,” she shares. “I knew I wanted there to be choreography and dancers. I’d never worked with set design in that way or camera transitions, but the results are so cinematic.”
Mae worked with the Paris-based directing duo AB/CD/CD on the impressive music video. “They really understood my vision of it wanting to feel empowered, not like a revenge video,” she smiles.
Experimenting with her style
Mae worked with her stylist Soki Mac on the video’s many outfit changes, from a relaxed retro tracksuit and Masha Popova laced boots to a ’60s waitress diner dress and Dream Girls-inspired sequin mini. “We’ve been working together for maybe seven or eight months now so it’s still relatively new, but she’s just got such a good eye,” Mae gushes. “She just gets fashion and knows what looks good and what works. She takes risks, which I really liked, and she’s great at bringing my personal style out, but also styling things that I wouldn’t necessarily put together automatically.” She teases that they’re currently working on her outfit for the Eurovision performance, and while the clothes are confirmed, she and Soki are still making final decisions on the finishing details. “I just want it to be perfect,” she beams, and we’re sure she will be.
Stream ‘I Wrote A Song’ on Spotify andApple Music out now, and watch Mae Muller perform at the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 in Liverpool on 13th May at 8pm on BBC1 and BBC iPlayer.
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