In an unpromising industrial zone at Reykjavik’s main cargo docks, a grubby warehouse appears through the heavy spring rain. Step through the small rusty door though, and you’re met by a wall of sound emanating from a pretty young woman with an infectious smile and a singing voice sent from above.
Johanna Gudrun Jonsdottir (sometimes just Yohanna) is practicing Iceland’s 2009 Eurovision entry over and over again in a punishing build-up to Moscow designed to elicit a perfect performance on the night. And for the record, inside the warehouse is a roomy and pleasant former film studio.
Allowing her famous backing singers, Erna Hronn, Hera Bjork and Fridrik Omar (last year’s Eurovision entry) a breather, Johanna takes time out to chat with IceNews just days before they all flew off to Russia last week.
So, you’re leaving on Saturday?
Yes, Saturday night at like 4am in the morning or something crazy.
And have you ever been to Russia before?
Are you looking forward to it?
Yes, very much so.
Would you say you are more nervous or excited, or…?
It’s like a mixture of both. But more excited, I would say.
Have you met any of the other contestants yet?
Yes, some of them – when I went to London and Amsterdam last week. It was very nice to be able to tune in on this.
Have you decided who your main threats are?
I don’t really look at it as threats. I just pick some songs I think are the strongest; but I don’t really know who would be my biggest match though. But I think Turkey is a really strong song. I think Norway is going to be very popular. I think Ukraine is going to be a very nice performance too. And there’s a lot of other good stuff; but these are three of the songs that I think will do the best.
Following last year, there seems to be a lot more ballads this time round – including yours. Do you think the Icelandic entry is unique enough?
I don’t actually think Eurovision is all about “unique” – I think it’s more about having the right “thing”: I mean, this is different. This is not a typical Eurovision song. We tried as hard as we could to make it that way, but it took a lot of work. So I think this is quite unique compared to Eurovision, actually.
Have you had a sneak preview of your costume yet?
It’s going to be fantastic. I’m actually just going to go and see it for the first time right after this, so I’m very excited.
Although you were a child star before taking a few years’ break to study and enjoy growing up; I’m guessing this is probably the biggest thing you’ve done?
Yes. I would say so. I mean, I’ve done a lot in the US and stuff; but I’ve never performed to this big an audience before – and probably never will again! There will be millions watching and thousands in the arena.
Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
I would love to see myself taking my music abroad and being able to live nicely from singing; but it’s very hard these days. These are my dreams.
Well, you’ve got a great springboard right here. Is there a new album on the way?
We made an album last year which is ready to go out; but then we might do some stuff after Eurovision, we haven’t really decided yet.
Finally I wanted to ask you about Maria Bjork. Because she’s kind of the one who discovered you all those years ago and now she’s your manager. How is that?
It’s great to have someone who you have known for years and who you can tell everything to. Because sometimes you have to tell your manager a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t tell to someone you don’t know that well, so it’s great. She’s like my second mum!
And obviously she’ll be in Russia with you?
Yup! (Smiles broadly)
Eurovision semi-finals take place on Tuesday and Thursday this week, and the final will be on Saturday. Iceland is competing in tomorrow evening’s heat which will be screened around the world.
(Photos: IceNews/Óli Kr. Ólafsson)