Miriam Christine, the youngest artist to represent Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest has never shied away from the local music industry with three albums of original songs and countless hits, all of which are very much known by the public at large. In recent years, the individual has focused on training the next set of artists whilst writing songs for other performers. Nevertheless, her return to the industry a couple of years back took everyone by surprise mainly due to the fact that she never lost her spark and star quality. escflashmalta.com had the pleasure to speak to Miriam Christine about her past, present and future.
It was only your second participation within the national selection when you had emerged as the winner with the track In a Woman’s Heart composed by Paul Abela to the lyrics of Alfred C Sant. You are still to this day, one of the youngest performers to have ever represented Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest. The result was extremely satisfactory as the nation finished in tenth place for the second consecutive year. The differences between Mike Spiteri, already a veteran in 1995 and Miriam Christine, a newcomer were astonishing though. What could you recall of your experience in Oslo and in hindsight, would you have done anything differently?
I always have a big smile on my face whenever I think about 1996 and the wonderful experiences I lived during that year. The win in Malta came as a big shock to me too. I never thought in a million years that I would have won the competition at such a young age, and also with such an up-beat song. Back then, ballads were still the favourites to win, and hence, I opted to sing an up-beat song, just so I present something different and to gain more experience. The win brought with it a lot of excitement due to all the preparations.
We re-recorded the song in Germany, and then shot the music video, had a numerous amount of TV appearances, Radio interviews, and invites to go and sing abroad. It was a special time. Obviously, it all culminated in our week in Oslo. Nothing had prepared me for the big stage, the very demanding press, all the lovely friends I made, and those three minutes on stage. It was magical. Of course, there were various things that on hindsight I would have done differently, especially since I couldn’t be decisive on certain issues as I was so young. Nevertheless, 1996 will remain one of the highlights of my whole life. I will never forget it.
Nistaqsi composed by Paul Abela to the lyrics of Ray Mahoney was the winning entry of the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza back in 1998. The competition is one of the most popular in the local music scene for the simple reason that it helps promotes the language in the best possible way. You had the opportunity to participate on four occasions as the lead vocalist and on countless occasions as a songwriter, the most recent being with the track Rebbiħin performed by Francesca Sciberras and Bil-Bnadar F’Idejna sung by Sarah Bonnici. What do such local competitions mean to you and are the feelings of being a singer different than those of being a songwriter?
During the 90s and early 2000, I participated in a lot of local Festivals. Kanzunetta Indipendenza and Festival Kanzunetta Maltija were two of my absolute favourite competitions. First of all, I really like singing in Maltese, and both competitions had such a lovely feel to them. Lately, I have ceased competing as main singer in such Festivals, and it is a big pity that Festival Kanzunetta Maltija is not being held anymore. I would definitely go for it again should they decide to revive it. In the recent years, I enjoy participating as a song-writer. I love the thrill of composing a song from scratch on my piano, and the happiness in the singers’ eyes when they listen to my creation for the first time. Composing is one of my favourite skills, and I am very proud of it. When I compare it to singing, I only think that when I find myself during the final stage of a competition, I always end up feeling more nervous when I am a composer! Whenever I hear one of my songs being interpreted, I always get lots of butterflies doing somersaults in the pit of my stomach! Very thrilling!
In 2009, it was decided that the former advisory board responsible for the participation of Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest would ultimately be abolished with the Public Broadcasting Services receiving full autonomy over the selection process and so forth. You had the opportunity to be one of the finalists in the first trial event with your self-written track Mama achieving a mid-table finish. Having participated in the national finals of the nineties on three occasions, you saw the competition move from completely live music to a backing track but apart from that, people have noted the vast improvement of the showcase along the years. Would you support such a comment?
With all due respect to all musicians, I do agree that the competition has improved during recent years. I still believe that when the live orchestra was involved, the Festival had a different special feel to it. But I have to also say, that I feel that the orchestra wasn’t given enough rehearsal time to perfect their act. Hence, the sound wasn’t always so great. Singing with backing tracks has made life much easier for everybody, and song-writers have been experimenting with more sounds and genres. The local Festival has mirrored the Eurovision Song Contest itself too. It is good that we emulate what EBU is doing, as it will facilitate the journey of the local representative. I do miss the orchestra, but considering our limitations with rehearsal time and schedule, I think it was a wise decision to change.
During the years, you have competed in several competitions with original songs written specifically in the national language of the country, that being Maltese. As a matter of fact, your second album entitled L-Emigrant was a compilation of these tracks and was very much appreciated by the general public. In 2002, the final edition of the Festival Internazzjonali tal-Kanzunetta Maltija took place but nevertheless, there has been a public outcry for its return, something that escflashmalta.com fully supports. In the arts, it seems that Maltese has not been given importance in recent years but what is your take on local competitions which promote the language as a medium of song?
I am very disappointed that Festival Kanzunetta Maltija hasn’t been revived yet. It was a lovely competition, and it showcased numerous great songs that have remained popular up to this day. I participated in this competition several times, and I loved it. There is a need for such a competition, and I meet a lot of fans who can’t wait for it to return. It would also help promote our mother tongue in a time when it’s greatly needed. Our lovely Maltese language is struggling at the moment, and I do believe that with the Festival Kanzunetta Maltija returning, we would instill a little more pride in speaking in Maltese, now that the English language seems to have taken the upper hand.
Closer to You co-written with Clifford Borg was the name of the song which you submitted to compete in this years’ edition of the Malta Eurovision Song Contest held earlier this year at the Malta Fairs and Conventions Centre. Despite making it through to the second phase of the competition with another sixty-seven (67) entries, it did not manage to get through to the semi-final stage where twenty-four (24) tracks were competing. Foreign journalists noted that this years’ song quality was relatively high with Malta opting for a more modern touch in the selection of songs. Would you care to comment on the track and would you consider submitting it once more in the future?
I do believe that obviously a good panel of judges choose good songs, but according to their taste in genres. Most probably a different panel of judges would have produced a different set of finalists. I still love the song I submitted. It is very special to me, as similarly to other songs I have written in the past, it brings out a part of the story of my life. I am planning to tweak it a bit this Summer though, and I plan to submit it again. And then we’ll keep our fingers and toes crossed! I would love to perform it on the big stage. We’ll see!
Boris Cezek, co-writer of Tomorrow, winning entry in this years’ edition of the Malta Eurovision Song Contest was the main who produced, mixed and arranged your third and most latest studio album, Little Zee. In a previous interview with escflashmalta.com you commented on the fact that this particular compilation of original tracks bears special meaning to you because it was a new genre to experiment with and somewhat scared at public reaction. What could you tell us about the studio album, and would you work with Boris Cezek on any new material in the next couple of months, possibly even for the Malta Eurovision Song Contest?
Boris Cezek is such a talented man. Working with him was a joy, and I am itching to work with him again on some new material. Little Zee was a lot of hard work, and I am so proud of that album. The writing process was so special to me, as a lot of the songs have a lot of meaning behind them (like Mystery Mama and Symptom of my loneliness). But the real fun started once I hit the studio. Seeing all the songs come together through Boris, and all the talented musicians that contributed on the album was magical. I really miss this process. I have no concrete plans to record some new material this Summer, because I have already been in the recording studio in the past year or so. I have recroded several new songs in a collaboration with talented pianist Clifford Borg. He is going to be releasing his chill-out album very soon, and I have contributed by singing on some songs. It is a very exciting project, and there is some great material on there. I can’t wait for the tracks to start being released for the public to enjoy!
In recent years, Malta has been struggling in the Eurovision Song Contest especially since overcoming the semi-final stage of the competition is becoming more difficult. Nevertheless, for the past two years, Malta has managed to get through to the final with the tracks This Is The Night performed by Kurt Calleja and with Tomorrow sung by Gianluca. Without the support of the juries, Malta would have had a completely different result during the national final as the public awarded the maximum marks to the track Needing You performed by Kevin Borg which finished in second place overall. Do you feel that a panel of local and international personnel should be solely responsible for the result or do you believe that the public should always play a role?
I have a strong opinion that the public should always play a role. I don’t agree that it should ever be 100% televoting, but it should be a mixture of public and local and international judges who produce the final winner. Having 100% televoting would be wrong, as we have to agree that our country is so small, that it’s very likely that a lot of fans will vote for their favourite artist regardless of the song. On the other hand, it’s very unfair not to give a voice to the public. I like the way it is done in the Eurovision Song Contest itself, and I think that we should keep the same or a similar formula they use. After all, Malta has done well in the foreign competition in these last couple of years.
Would you like to say anything to our readers at escflashmalta.com?
I would like to thank all the loyal fans who keep the Eurosong alive and kicking. I still am in awe when I meet the lovely Maltese and Gozitan people, and they still remember my participations clearly. I was shocked a few months ago, when I met this young lady in a club, and she started singing ‘In a woman’s heart’ to me. She knew all the words and even moved like me! I couldn’t believe it! Thank you so much. I feel so blessed. Malta and Gozo I love you!