Ina Shai: «I think my strengths are my soulful voice and my stage presence» (Slovenian semifinalist – Interview)

ESC+Plus has talked to Ina Shai, semifinalist of this year’s Slovenian national selection for Eurovision. Ina will perform in the second semi-final of EMA set to take place on February 18th.

ESC+Plus: Hello! First of all, thank you so much for your time and congratulations on having been selected to take part in the Slovenian national selection for Eurovision 2017!

Ina Shai: My pleasure and thank you!

Can you tell us about you, your musical career and important achievements?

Ina Shai: I’ve been involved in music since an early age. When I was 15, I released my first song and 2 years later I was selected to perform at EMA in 2010 (Slovenian national selection for Eurovision). I was 17 at the time and I think I’m the youngest one to perform at that festival in the traditional scheme where you have to send a song to get selected so I’m very proud of that achievement. Since then a lot of things happened.

I went to study music in London and I just released my first EP album ‘Overload’ which has received support from one of the UK’s biggest radio stations– BBC Radio. I received a few awards such as the title ‘Most prominent artist’ at Slovenian festival MMS in 2015 and I was nominated for best artist in 2016 by Slovenian academy ‘Zlata piščal’. I’ve recently also won the Charter Champion Music Innovation Award here in the UK. Besides all of that what I’m most proud of is my team. I’m working with young, talented musicians that I’ve met at the university where I study. I feel we have something special – we are all driven, ambitious and really here for the music.

ESC+Plus: What impelled you to take part in EMA 2017?

Ina Shai: EMA is one of the biggest festivals in Slovenia and I thought it would be a good opportunity to show people from my home country what we’ve been working on for the past 2 years. Although I’m currently living and studying in London, Slovenia is and will always be very dear to me so remaining active there and engaging with people is really important to me. I also just had a good feeling about it. It’s hard to explain but I felt that the timing was right and that I was ready to perform at the festival again.

ESC+Plus: How did you feel when you knew you had qualified for the semi-final? Did you expect it?

Ina Shai: I was extremely happy! When you put so much into your music seeing that it resonates with people is the best reward. I never want to assume my songs will get picked but we really believe in the song so seeing that other people believe in it enough to select it is really heart-warming.

ESC+Plus: What would it mean to you to represent Slovenia?

Ina Shai: It would be a dream come true and a huge honor! Not only for me but also for my team. Although the team is very diverse coming from different countries (Slovenia, England, Malta, Estonia and Italy) we are all European and the Eurovision has been an annual part of our youth and upbringing watching it with our family and friends. So the prospect of taking part is very surreal but exciting to all of us!

Eurovision is a great way to connect countries through music for at least one night and it’s that message which really resonates with us as a band.

ESC+Plus: Can you tell us about your song? What is the story behind the lyrics?

Ina Shai: I wrote the song myself and it was produced and arranged by a great producer and my friend Hans Kristjan Aljas. I’m usually a very positive person but everyone, no matter who you are or where you are from, has those dark moments. This song came from one of those moments I was having and the lyrics really describe those emotions of feeling colourless and looking for the light to come back.

Although it is a very emotional song honing in to those deep feelings the message is really hope and I think that comes across in the music itself. With the backing vocalists we wanted to create the idea of singing it together as an anthem of solitude and hope.

By singing the song I hope it gives people everywhere who may be having a tough day, week, month or even year some positivity and comfort in the fact that they are not alone – I’ll be singing the song for you!

ESC+Plus: Why do you think your song has to be selected for Kiev? What are your strengths to reach the top in the competition?

Ina Shai: Well I must be honest and say I didn’t write my song with Eurovision on my mind but when I heard it arranged and produced I felt it’s the perfect song for the festival. It’s very raw and honest song that evolves into something big and powerful.

I think my strengths are my soulful voice and my stage presence. I always give my all when I’m performing and because I wrote the song myself I can connect with it on a deeper level and deliver a very emotional performance each time which will hopefully resonate with people and touch their souls a bit.

ESC+Plus: Can you tell us anything about your stage performance for EMA?

Ina Shai: We are still working on my stage performance, currently rehearsing with my backing vocalists and choreographer, but I really want to present my true self and I believe in less is more. So you can expect something very simple yet effective that will support the song and that I will feel comfortable in.

ESC+Plus: Do you usually watch Eurovision? What is your favorite song in the history of the competition?

Ina Shai: I do! When I was little there was no way I would’ve missed this festival. Now with my busy schedule it did happen that I missed a show or two but I always check the contestants and the songs online.

My favorite song? That is a tough one because there were so many good ones! But if I had to choose one I’d say Waterloo by Abba. It’s just such a happy tune that makes you want to dance.

ESC+Plus: If you could choose a Eurovision former participant to sing along with, who would it be?

Ina Shai: Well, it would have to be Celine Dion. She was my idol while growing up and I would watch Titanic and sing ‘My heart will go on’ day and night!

ESC+Plus: Finally, can you send a message for our readers and Eurovision fans?

Ina Shai: Be good to one another, be brave and follow your heart! And if you like my music stop by on my Facebook or Instagram page or even better on one of my gigs. It would be lovely to see you!