MEET Maria Elena, representing GREECE would like to thank Maria Elena and Gina Fountoulaki at Minos EMI for this interview (Interview by Douwe Reveler)

Published on by Gary Speirs




Maria Elena Kyriakou will Greece at the 60th Eurovision Song Contest with the song "One Last Breath".
* Maria Elena, congratulations on winning the Eurosong 2015 contest in Greece . How are you and what have you been doing since then? How are the preparations for Vienna going?

Thank you very much! I am having a very intense and exciting time! Since the Eurosong I have been performing in a big night Hall in Athens while at the same time I am rehearsing a lot for what you will see in Vienna .
* Before we concentrate on your Eurovision Song Contest adventure, can you tell us something about yourself?

I am 31 years old, a proud mother of 3 boys. I have studied greek philology and for the time being I am chasing my dream which is being a singer.
* Can you describe the place you were born and are you still living there?

I was born in a village in Cyprus in the Larnaka district, named Oroklini. For now I am spending half my weeks in Athens and then also in Oroklini where I take care of my children.

* Do you come from a musical family and if so can you tell us more about them?

No, not really. Although my family had always a tendency towards arts, I am the only one singing.

* At what age did you start singing and do you have a musical education?

I remember myself singing since I was a very little girl! My first breakthrough though was at the age of 12 when I won a national contest for kids. I don't really have a musical education but I have taken some voice lessons in the past which I currently keep taking.

* You won The Voice of Greece in 2014. Can you describe that experience and do you think that will help you in the Eurovision?

The Voice of Greece was the ticket for my career. Not only it was an amazing experience but it's also the very reason one of my biggest dreams, being part of the Eurovision family, came true! I think the Voice experience will help me because it was a tough competition on its own.

* Despina Vandi was your coach. What has been her most valuable advice to you?

To live my dream and let my stress and fears go.

* You were one of 5 artists in the Eurosong 2015 contest. Of the other competing songs which one did you see as your strongest rival?

I thought all of them were pretty strong. Shaya in theory was the strongest rival, having an ethnic uptempo song. That kind of song had already met success in Greece before. 

* Did you expect to win?

I tried not to think about our chances a lot to be honest. But let's just say Ii was hopeful! 
* How did you become involved with the contest?

My label asked me and my pianist, Efthivoulos Theocharous, to compose a song for the greek national final.

* Was 'One Last Breath' written and composed with the Eurovision Song Contest specifically in mind?

Although we wrote it specifically for the Eurovision Song Contest we didn't follow any pattern. The song came rather naturally. It's a personal song for me because it somehow reflects my feelings from that period of time. 

* Can you tell us in more detail about 'One Last Breath'' and what it means to you? 

As I said above it's a song that describes my feelings and thus it means a lot to me. Love has always played a big role in my life and this song is a product of various experiences.

* The lyrics are very powerful and moving. Can you identify with them?

I think everyone can find a small piece of himself in those lyrics. After all, love, break up, tears, desperation and hope are among the most common human feelings.

* Do you plan any significant changes to your stage performance in Vienna  compared with how the song was presented in Athens ?

Me and my team are fans of simplicity and we do believe in the power of the song. That means we won't be having a heavy staging but it won't be the same as in the NF either. We are still working on it. But I can say that I am all excited.

* Can you describe the changes made to the Eurovision version of 'One Last Breath' and what was the reason for these changes?

There were some minor changes, mostly with the addition of violins in the verses and the removal of the first 10 seconds. The reason was that we wanted to make it sound even more powerful.

* Can you tell us something about what you will be wearing in Vienna ? Who will design your dress?

 No I can't say much at the moment. All I can tell you is that it's gonna be a dress!

*  What is it about your song that you feel will hopefully make the people of Europe (and Australia ) want to vote for it?

Its simplicity and its honesty. It's something everyone can connects to and understand

* Cyprus also held an open competition this year. Did you ever consider representing your home country?

I did and I would have if the competition they organized wasn't just a few months after the end of the Voice. It was in a period of time I wanted to take a break.
* What do you think about the Cypriot song ('One Thing I Should Have Done')?

It's among my favourites -and I have already heard everything. Its two major advantages are John's charm and the song being straightforward.

* Is the Eurovision a contest you have followed over the years?

Since I was a little girl actually. I am a very big and proud fan! 
* Your song is the 36th to represent Greece . Earlier entries were performed in Greek. What is your opinion about the free language rule and would you ever have considered singing in Greek at the Eurovision Song Contest?

I support the free language rule. Music has progressed and songs in english are more or less part of the music scene of the majority of the countries participating so giving them the chance to perform in english is only fair. I have considered singing in greek but I thought that english would fit better in a western ballad for the competition.

* Do you have a favourite Greek and Cypriot entry and a favourite winning song?

"My Number One" is my favourite Greek entry.  "Genesis" is my favourite Cypriot entry and "Euphoria" my favourite winning song.
* A promotional tour in the lead up to the contest has become popular in recent years. Will you promote 'One Last Breath' internationally in the coming weeks and if so, where?

I will be visiting Amsterdam and London for their respective concerts.
* The contest this year will take place in Vienna . Do you know this city or will it be your first visit? What are you most looking forward to experiencing there?

It will be my very first time in Vienna and I have already searched for photos and videos from the city. Seems like a totally fabulous place which I can't wait to see!
* Last year Conchita won with 'Rise Like a Phoenix'. What did you think about that song?

It was the best ballad of the night. Well composed and well performed.
* What are you hoping to achieve from participating in the contest?

More people to get to know me and my work. Also getting the chance to meet a lot of interesting people from all over Europe .

* Have you heard any of the other songs competing in this years contest and if so do you have a favourite?

I have heard everything. Among my favourites are Albania , Sweden , Italy and Spain .
* If you could sing a dream duet with any artist (dead or alive) who would it be with and why?

CÚline Dion of course! That's another one of my dreams. Hopefully I will meet her at some point.

* Do you have time for any hobbies apart from singing?

For the time being I can't have any hobbies. I spend my entire free time with my children. Previously in my free time I was playing tennis.


* Careerwise, if you were not a singer, what else interests you?

I am a teacher having an after school program for children that want to have some extra help and that's a job I totally love.

Greece and Cyprus are both well known for their history and beautiful weather. Can you tell us some other things about both countries that you feel we should know about?

The hospitality and the cuisine!

* Do you enjoy cooking?

A lot, especially for my three children. I find it rather relaxing.

* What is your favourite Greek food?

I have a lot of stuff I like. If I had to choose one I would pick is souvlaki with chicken.

* Do you perform a ritual before going on stage?

Visiting a church to pray is my personal ritual before anything huge is about to happen in my life.

* Finally, let us look beyond the contest in May. What are you plans afterwards?

I will finish recording my second personal album and then hopefully I will get some much needed rest.

* Do you have a special message for the readers of this interview?

 I hope everyone enjoys my song and votes for it. Have fun and don't forget it's just a competition which purpose is to unite us all!
Maria Elena
, every success with your preparations for Vienna and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us!