With thanks to ManuELLA and Maruša Kobal


Interview by Douwe Reveler for

Published by Gary Speirs for


ManuElla, many congratulations on winning the Slovenian ticket to the Eurovision Song Contest. How are you feeling and can you describe how you felt when you were announced as the winner of EMA 2016?

It was always my dream to sing on the big Eurovision stage. When I won Slovene national selection for ESC I was completely overwhelmed. So many emotions ran through me at that moment, it is even hard to describe it. I felt so much gratitude, joy and excitement and I can still feel it all!

Of the other songs in EMA 2016 which did you feel was your closest rival?

Songs on EMA 2016 were so unique and different from artist to artist. And at that moment I was just concentrated on my performance. But if I have to choose one, I would say Raiven, because we were both qualified in super-final part of the show based on jury votes.

We will talk about 'Blue And Red' in more detail later but can you introduce yourself? Where were you born and are you still living there? Can you describe the place?

I grew up in a small Slovene town Laško, which is known by its good beer. I've got a sister and a loving family who always supported me in my music. The person who gave me the most support and showed me the love for music was my father who sadly passed away last year. But it all made me even stronger and my passion for singing got even stronger.

Since I can remember, music was a big part of my life. I started singing when I was a little girl and I knew right away I always want to keep music close.

Can you describe yourself in 3 words? 

Bright, positive woman who loves life and music.

Can you outline the highlights of your career so far?

In 2010 I was classified in top 100 talents in RTL show Das Supertalent, and year after that competing in ’Misija Evrovizija’ (Mission Eurovision). The national broadcaster RTV Slovenia produced series of programs, with only one goal in mind, to choose the singer who would represent Slovenia at the Eurovision Song Contest 2011. My mission was finished in semi-final.

In 2013 I perform on traditional festival dedicated to a music genre known as Slovenian song ("popevka") that was most popular during the 1960s and 1970s and had a similarly high standing in Slovene culture as did the Sanremo Music Festival in Italian culture. With song ’Zadnji ples’ (Last dance) I was classified on 5th place.

And last, but not least, winning this year's Slovenian national selection EMA with Blue and Red written by me in cooperation with Marjan Hvala, and Leon Oblak contributing the lyrics.

When and where did you start singing?

Since I was a little girl I was watching Eurovision and dreaming that one day I will stand on that magnificent stage as well. But if you ask about my first live performance – that was at my age 6 in my primary school.

Have you enjoyed a musical education?

Yes I did. I have attended music school, playing piano accordion. Later I also learn to play bass guitar.

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

My grandfather was a musician. My mum and dad have ear for music, but never had the opportunity for develop this more. And that’s why they support me so much on my way.

Who are your main musical influences?

There are so many great artists that I like and admire, and of course their music might influence me in the way of loving music even more and giving me even more will to do my own music. I feel big respect for artists like Ellie Goulding, Taylor Swift, LeAnn Rimes and many more…

If you were not a singer what other occupations interest you?

I enjoy free time with my dog Gucci, love to swim and cycling, and of course catching up with my family and friends. I also enjoy attending good concerts.

You participated in Misija Evrovizija in 2012 and reached the semi final. Can you tell us more about that experience and what it taught you?

Yes. That was an amazing experience, I think in some way it was some kind of preparation for what I'm going through now. I wished to represent Slovenia on the Eurovision that year, but now I am grateful everything end up as it did, because I know I feel much more ready now for this big, amazing responsibility.

Two of the judges during Misija Evrovizija were Darja Švajger and Raay, both of whom represented Slovenia twice at the Eurovision Song Contest. What advice did they give you at that time and have they contacted you since you won the right to represent Slovenia this year?

They both congratulated me and wished me great time and experience. Raay also gave me a lot of useful advices how to do my best on Eurovision stage.

What made you decide to participate again this year?

I've started writing and recording my first album, and when we were working on 'Blue And Red', I knew that is the song I would like Europe to hear. So I've entered EMA2016 and here I am now.

Can you tell us more about 'Blue And Red' and the meaning of the lyrics?

Blue and Red is a song about a relationship that we can probably all relate to at some point of our lives. It's about ups and downs. Blue symbolizes sad and unhappy emotions, while red symbolizes love and passion. And what I'm trying to say is that it's sometimes better to let go and find our own happiness. 

What are your favourite colours?

Purple and now of course - blue and redJ

'Blue And Red' has been composed by yourself and Marjan Hvala and the lyrics have been written by Leon Oblak, who was also the co-writer of the Slovenian entry 'Narodnozabavni rock' sung by Ansambel Žlindra and Kalamari in the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo . Has Leon given you some tips about how to prepare for the contest?

Leon encourage us to be a part of this year’s EMA. He is a true friend, with many years of experiences, and he definitely gave me a lot of useful tips. J

You recently recorded a slightly different version of 'Blue And Red'. What prompted you to take that decision?

We wanted to do some small changes and record new version that is even more attractive and suitable for the big Eurovision stage.

What are the strengths of this composition in your opinion that will hopefully persuade people from  Dublin to Tirana and from  Brussels to  Oslo to vote for it?

I will give the best of me, and I hope people will see and feel my passion and enjoy with me.

Can you tell us about the staging of the song in Stockholm ? Will it be similar to when you won in  Slovenia ? Will you have backing vocalists on stage with you?

It is definitely going to be different than the performance on Ema 2016. Me and my whole team are working really hard these days to create a good stage performance. I can reveal that world famous dancer and choreographer Anže Škrube is preparing stage performance. All the rest is still a secret.

What will you be wearing and can you tell us who will design your dress?

David Hojnik - DH fashion will design my amazing dress.

Have you followed the Eurovision Song Contest closely over the years?

I've been watching Eurovision every year, since I was a little girl. I was 3 years old, standing in front of television, watching Eurovision and pretending that I'm standing on the stage and singing. So Eurovision has a very special place in my heart and I am so grateful that I've got a chance to be a part of it this year.

Do you have a favourite winning song and perhaps a favourite Slovenian entry ?

Eurovision gave us such beautiful music through years, it would be quite hard to pick just one favorite. I really like The Common Linnets's 'Calm After the Storm', Loreen's 'Euphoria' and many more..

I think Slovenia had quite a lot of good songs on the Eurovision, my favorite so far is definitely Maja Keuc's 'No One' from 2011. 

Interview continues after photos

Photos Credit : Ziga Mihelcic

How important is the Eurovision Song Contest in  Slovenia ?

Our national selection “EMA” is the most popular TV show among Slovenian public. That’s why I wish that they will have the chance to enjoy my performance also in semi-final and final of Eurovision Song Contest.

Can you describe the Slovenian music scene in more detail?

There’s a lot of variety in Slovenia music scene. There are lots of genres and tastes. We have all kind of music festivals – this year Slovenian national TV station produced three festivals – Pop-rock, Slovenian song and EMA. In Slovenia is also well known oberkrainer music, well known after musician Slavko Avsenik.  

Have you received any words of advice or congratulations from any previous Slovenian representatives and if yes what did they say to you ?

They all gave me lots of advices. I’ll try to follow them as much as I can. What did they say? That’s a secret-)

A promotional tour in the lead up to the contest has become popular in recent years. You were in Amsterdam and Tel Aviv. Can you tell us more about those two experiences ? Do you have further plans to promote 'Blue And Red' internationally before the contest and if so where will you travel to ?

I had a small promo tour. I performed at the special event Eurovision in Concert in the capital of the Netherlands , with the participation of the record number of this year's contestants. And few days later, I performed at the special Eurovision event Israel Calling in Tel Aviv, responding to the invitation by the organizers. It was absolute fun and I enjoyed meeting artists on Eurovision Song Contest and fans. Now it is time to prepare for my Eurovision performance.

Do you plan any different versions of the song for promotional purposes ?

For now, there are no special versions planned, I'm only concentrating on the performance at the moment.

The contest this year will take place in Stockholm . Will it be your first time there or do you already know the city ?

This is my first trip to Stockholm . I heard that it is magnificent city, and also called “ Venice of the North”. Therefore I’m excited, and hope that I’ll have opportunity to see a small part of the city during my busy schedule.

Sweden is one of the most successful countries in the Eurovision Song Contest. What is the key to their success in your opinion ?

They have long music tradition and many excellent performers: ABBA, A-ha, Charlotte Nilsen, Avicii and many more. Although I think, that Melodie Festival is the bas for their constant success on Eurovision.

Did you enjoy the winning song last year ('Heroes') ?

I think Mĺns Zelmerlöw had a great energy and stage performance, he has a great vocal, so it was no surprise he won last year's Eurovision Song Contest.

Would you consider yourself a fan of the group ABBA and which of their songs is your favourite ?

Group ABBA is for me one of the core musicians, they made world career and I respect them a lot. It’s hard to choose among all those great songs…so I will just say allJ

What are you most looking forward to and what do you hope to gain from participating in the contest ?

I expect one unforgettable experience, lots of great music. I'm really looking forward to the whole Eurovision adventure, I am not stressed about the results, I only want to give the best of me, and I hope people will see and feel my passion and enjoy with me.

Since 2015  Australia has joined the Eurovision Song Contest. What is your reaction to this development ?

It is a great opportunity for the musicians that we can introduce ourselves to the widest possible range of music fans, so I welcome the participation of Australia a lot. I hope that someday I will have the opportunity to perform in Australia , because they will love my music based on my performance in Eurovision Song Contest.  

Have you listened to any of the other competing songs this year and if so do you have any favourites ?

If I can be completely honest, I haven't had a chance to listen to all of them yet. There are so many good artist every year, I am sure this year is no different.

You will be the musical ambassador for  Slovenia in Stockholm . Can you tell us some interesting things about your country you feel people really need to know? It has been said that culture features prominently in the national identity of Slovenes. Do you agree ?

Slovenia is a small but beautiful country rich with lakes, mountains, sea. Slovenian people are nice and always prepare to help. Last few months we have new “natural wonder” -  Vivarium Proteus in Postojna cave. And Slovenian traditional food is delicious. I suggest to all readers to come and visit us, because they have to see and feel the great atmosphere our country has.

Do you enjoy cooking ?

Yes, I loooove cooking. I love variety on the plate and all different tastes.

What is your favourite Slovenian food ?

My favorite cuisine is roasted potatoe.

Do you have any time for hobbies and if so what do you enjoy doing? 

I enjoy spending time with my dog Gucci. I also like to swim and cycle. And of course catching up time with my family and friends.

If you could sing with any artist or artists (dead or alive) who would you choose and why ? and what is your all-time favourite song (any genre)?

I would choose Michael Jackson. He was definitely my musical hero. And all-time favorite song - Whitney Houston’s song I will always love you.

Do you perform any rituals before going on stage ?

Before going on stage I take a deep breath, gather thoughts and concentrate on my performance.

What are your plans immediately after the contest in May?

At the moment all my focus is on the Eurovision Song Contest. After that, I will get back to writing and recording songs for my first album, that has been in the making.

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

I love and respect each and every one of you. And please, remember to always follow your dreams and never ever give up!!

ManuElla, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us ! Good luck in the contest and enjoy the experience !

Thank you very much! It was my absolute pleasure to answer your questions!