In recent years, the local music scene has been thriving and this is due to the fact that a crop of artists is quickly emerging out of the shadows gaining recognition both on a national and an international scale. The growing dominance of the music market following the opening of the ITunes store in Malta might prove to be beneficial towards the industry with a number of vocal performances, songwriters and producers putting their best talents up to test in hope of reaching success of various levels. With the focus being on the Malta Eurovision Song Contest, one tends to lose touch with some of the acts that have become known through the national event and have continuously been representing the country with their respective talents. Today, we are going to be talking to no one else other than Tiziana Calleja who has led one of the busiest lives of any contestant in the event since coming in third place at the Malta Eurosong back in 2010.
Looking back through time, many people never expected to see you at the Malta Eurosong as a contestant due to the fact that many had already become accustomed to your face as a presenter of the show ‘Singledout’ which aired ONE Television during the autumn/winter schedule. Members of the editorial board remember seeing you at the second stage auditions thinking that you had dabbled in vocal performing for quite some time but had never really acted upon it. What was the reason behind the change of scenery when you were born talented and what advice do you give to upcoming performers who are yet to make respective decisions on what to do in general?
Malta Eurosong wasn’t the first step in my singing career. Before entering the Maltasong I did several concert and Musical Theatre performances with different companies functioning in Malta. I even spend a whole year studying Voice and Music in England where I got my diploma in Popular Music. Other than that my main target was always the Arts of Performing. I studied and got my Degree in Musical Theatre, which also requires singing. Part of my everyday work is that of entertaining guests in functions and hotels. So I wouldn’t say that I started singing just for the sake of Malta Eurosong.
When I entered the festival I must admit it was a bonus as the Maltese community sees it as one of our local main events and therefore you get recognized, being a singer. My advice would be that at a young age it’s good to try different things out. Perhaps playing an instrument or any other hobby. It’s good to put your hands on opportunities that come up, however by time one has to choose and see what they really want to do. By time you’ll realize that your forte would automatically eliminate the rest of disciplines, as it will be taking much more of your time.
The very first time that you tried your hand in the Malta Eurosong competition was actually back in 2010 with the song ‘Words Are Not Enough’ composed by John David Zammit and penned by Paul Callus, a team which had not been in the competition for quite a number of years, with their last work together published back in 2006 with the sisterly duo of Ali & Lis. Nevertheless, it seems like you had made the right decision having made it to the final stages of the competition where you eventually finished in third place overall despite a second place finish in tele-voting in front of public favourite Glen Vella. What did the song mean to you and did you believe that you were going to do so well?
The first thing that came up to my mind when I first heard the song ‘Words are not Enough’ was ‘Yes, this could work’. It’s fun, bubbly and a positive tune. Must admit that having a theatre background helped more than enough to portray a good performance overall. The dancers and choreographer, Jes Sciberras used to meet up and try out different movements. When everyone is comfortable and feel that the move/dance routine/lifts fit in, then we mark it and repeat it over and over again till it’s all brought together. To be honest I had never thought that I would be placed in third place. It sort of gave me the boost to believe in what I was offering the audiences. However I believed in the whole package from the very beginning. I don’t own third place on my own. There’s a great team behind all that effort.
The result normally leads to prospective interest from the public and with such support from the people; you were surely in with a chance to prepare the best possible direction for your music. In eventuality, you returned to the television screens prior to returning to music. You tried to return to the Maltese selection for the Eurovision Song Contest on more than one occasion namely in 2011 and 2012 but unfortunately your attempts were not successful and still hoping to improve on that result that you had obtained back in 2010. What could you tell us about the second phase where you had to perform the song ‘Come Back’ in front of a couple of individuals appointed by the Public Broadcasting Services as judges?
I cannot really say what the Maltasong selections are after. Which style and what type of song they look for. After 2010 I had some good songs that didn’t pass through to the finals. This year’s selection as you mentioned was ‘Come Back’. A good, catchy song that my band, Sidewalk wrote. I believed in the tune and still do. However for some reason or another it didn’t pass through. I did return to the TV screens as it’s part of what I do but that doesn’t mean that I stopped my singing career. Maltasong is something that most of the singers look forward to participate in and I believe that one should experience the festival someday or another. But it’s not the only event for a singer to show their capabilities. As from 2010 I participated in Rockestra and Supported Zucchero when his concert was held in Malta back in Summer 2011. Played some gigs with my band Sidewalk round the island as well as performed our own concert back in May 2011. Those are some important and extraordinary events that I would cherish.
Despite the lack of participation in the national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, earlier this year you managed to make it to the final round of the ‘Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza’ with the song ‘Kollox Mill-Qalb’ composed by John David Zammit and penned by Paul Callus. This was the very first time for you in the competition and despite not placing; you gave an astounding performance which included a stunning choice of attire. What can you tell us about the song and the feeling that it evoked in you and how did it feel to perform in front such a large audience in respect of the twentieth anniversary that the competition was celebrating since its inception?
Yes it was my first time in the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza and it was a fun and exciting one. Had a team of backing vocals, which really made the experience even nicer. We enjoyed performing given the fact that we sang in the Maltese language. It is such a beautiful thing to be able to sing in our own language. It’s always a good vibe to perform infront of a large audience.
Later on in the year with another television schedule being setup on all the local television stations, it was announced that you alongside the dancer Jes Sciberras were set to host a programme entitled ‘ShowBiz’ which features a lot of entertainment for viewers on a Sunday afternoon. It has received rave reviews by a number of people for a number of elements that feature predominantly including the celebrity dances and the recently finished section with the paintings drawn and sold off in aid of charity event ‘L-Istrina’. How does it feel to be presenting a programme with the same person who helped you succeed at the biggest stage in music over in Malta and what could you tell us about the fact that the programme will be used to select the acts that will represent the country in ‘San Remo Junior’?
I’ve known Jes for quite sometime now and both of us have something in common. The Love for the arts and performing. We started talking about options of an entertainment programme based on a theatre aspect and so it was. Till now things got geared up and we are working on keeping ShowBiz alive and enjoyable as much as possible. After the success we had with ShowBiz Dancing Challenge, we’ve been offered to have the selections for Ticket To Sanremo Junior where one performer will perform with a 40 piece live orchestra in the theatre Ariston, same theatre where Sanremo is held. It is our pleasure having kids singing and giving their best performance at such a young age.
Top Sprint was superb. The organizers were kind hearted and make you feel comfortable. They were so pleased to have us represent Malta, as I’m sure they were with the other singers performing at the same event. It gives you such a patriotic feeling being in another country and everyone appreciates you as an artist coming from Malta. Maybe it’s true that although we’re small, we’re a special country!! Going back to 2010, I remember I had the same good feeling when I was chosen to perform and open the Show of Graduation Night in England. It’s always extra credit to have foreigners believe in what you do, knowing their opinion as well.
Three hundred sixty five days, fifty two weeks and of course twelve months have brought about the end of another year but then again, a new one will surely be taking centre stage and developing in no time at all with its characteristics. The past year for Tiziana has definitely been no easy ride with so many events and things carefully thought out in various areas of entertainment. What do you have planned for the upcoming year and will the local public be seeing any new material from you in terms of a singer noting that your last original track came during the aforementioned ‘Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza’?
This year I’m working on new material with my band, ‘Sidewalk’. We are working on different stuff that represents our style and music. So stay tuned on upcoming performances and perhaps…. A new Single! Apart from that things look busy so am ready to take the challenge of what’s in store.
Would you like to say anything to your fans and our readers at www.escflashmalta.com?
I would love to say THANK YOU!! I believe that without our audiences and without their comments, a life of a performer cannot move on. Despite all ups and downs you will always find that someone from the public that with his/her words they make you feel respected for what you do. And that means a lot.