whatever you want – not an inspiring selection of songs, strong competition, the curse of Brexit – but United Kingdom suffers from a severe case Eurovision thin.

Finishing the dead bottom for the last two editions, with the poor old man James Newman beaten down by the shame of zero points in 2021, these islands have not been in the top 10 since Jade Ewan reached the drunken heights of fifth place back in 2009. So how did Sam Ryder feel – a social media sensation whose TikToks helped him win a contract with a major label during the pandemic – when they called to try to change the fate of the UK at this year’s Eurovision?

“My emotional reaction was like a fan: it’s amazing what an incredible opportunity,” recalls the 32-year-old. “Then, after this immediate blinding of light, you get scared, and there is excessive reflection. What if you get such points? What if you come here on the leaderboard?

“But then I had to constantly remind myself that it had nothing to do with anything in my power, and base my decision on any of these things – that is, base my decision on fear. And I never want to have a relationship where I choose not to sing because I’m scared or scared. ”

This is a sound approach for a musician whose last couple of years have been something else. Announcement that Ryder will head to Turin on Eurovision final in May he “opened the gateways” in terms of diary commitments – our interview is between a weekend trip to Madrid and a flight to Germany for concerts – but this is only the last injection of rocket fuel for Ryder’s ascent.

Raised in the SS, he grew up “in a house where there has always been music”; The duet with Freddie Mercury’s solo recordings in the car body as a child is one of his earliest memories of singing. Later, inspired by artists from the heaviest strata of the spectrum, such as Iron Maiden, Ryder fussed between bands, “like a flea on a dog,” as he puts it, and played instruments and sang. “As soon as the band member left and someone needed someone, I jumped on him. I was in the band for about a year or so, and then I was kicked out – otherwise the band would actually end … that’s what usually happened.

“I was like the Black Death,” he says with a laugh. “As soon as I showed up, you knew the days were numbered.”

A few years before the pandemic, Ryder focused on trying to start a solo career, but soon got stuck in this “cycle of overthinking things”, spending weeks on projects before putting it all together, doomed to repeat the process.

Enter the first Covid lock. “It gave me a really good opportunity to clear the slate,” Ryder says. He decided to “figure out how my relationship works with music. It was a question, and to overcome this delay, I just pulled out my phone and sang into it. “

A few weeks later Ryder became one of TikTokThe most viral musicians. His videos, in which Ryder processed pop songs to show off his awesome vocals (and gorgeous hair), were just over 30-second snippets, but they attracted millions of viewers, including well-known fans. “Justin Bieber DM asked me to say that he wrote my video in which he sings Sia Elastic Heart office Sia, ”Ryder recalls. “And then Sia posted it on her Instagram with this amazing, reassuring caption. It was a big stage. “

Ryder’s digital fame continued to grow – with 12.3 million TikTok subscribers and more than 100 million likes on the platform – and soon major record labels began to spin, although Covid rules meant that any fancy dinners with company executives changed to “coffee in the alley.” says Ryder.

“There’s been a lot of interest for a while, but it’s not just a done deal, like,‘ Hey, we’ve seen that you have so many subscribers to TikTok, so we want to sign you up ’because it’s immediately obvious it’s nonsense. It does not happen. In fact it was Space Man that made me sign [current label] Intercom.

Ryder is referring to the song he will be singing at Eurovision, a track that “pressed the start button all over”. Co-written with Amy Wedge, a Grammy winner for her role in writing Ed Sharon’s hit Thinking Out Loud, and songwriter Max Wolfgang, it was first released in February this year.

The bright pop ballad, highlighting Ryder’s dynamic, powerful voice, became a hit during sold-out shows in the UK earlier this year. It was during the tour that Ryder realized that Space Man also caught the ears of the BBC who wanted him for Eurovision.

“It took me three days to make a decision, although I knew my decision because I knew once you say so, it all starts,” Ryder says. “I was on my first UK tour and I really wanted to just be in this moment and enjoy this moment and not let myself be overwhelmed by this other huge force which is Eurovision which is coming too early before I will be able to handle it. Honestly, I was worried it would be too much on my plate, mentally. ”

An avid Eurovision spectator from childhood who calls Finnish horror rockers Lordi his favorite song of all time, Ryder seems well aware of the surreal pressure he is now taking on himself in competitions, but he is determined to enjoy the moment in May.

“These three minutes on stage in Turin will pass in the blink of an eye,” he says. “And if you’re afraid of your decision or a place on the list of leaders, it goes even faster. It’s so important for me to try to stay calm, focused and focused through it all because I want to enjoy it. ”

And even though there aren’t many in the UK by recent origins, there is cautious optimism: some bookmakers have put Ryder among the favorites. It’s nice to feel “encouraged by what, hopefully, is a positive air at home,” Ryder says, but he also made a conscious decision not to get too involved. “I just want to get away from Eurovision, get off the stage and know I did the best job I could.”

The grand finale of the Eurovision Song Contest will be shown on BBC One, iPlayer, Radio 2 and BBC Sounds from 20:00 on 14 May.


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