Last month, at this year’s edition of Dora, Croatia chose Mia Dimšić as its next Eurovision champion. With the song “Guilt Pleasure”, she won with more than a 70 point lead over her next closest competitor. But what accounts for her landslide victory from both the jury and televoters? Let’s find out how we got here:

She Never Dreamed She Could be a Full-Time Musician 

Born on November 7, 1992, in the Slavonian region of Croatia, Mia grew up around music but is the first person in her family to make it a profession. Her father studied guitar and played in a band on the side, and Mia imagined that music would similarly be a hobby for her.

Mia, third from left, with fellow members of the Batorek orchestra, during a trip to perform in Canada in 2011.

“I don’t really think music is limited to professional musicians,” she said in an interview. “There are a lot of people who just live music 24/7, but they don’t earn their income from it.”

Inspired by her favorite musician as a child, Vesna Pisarović (ESC 2002), Mia began playing guitar and writing her own songs in high school. Previous to that, at age 11, she submitted a song for Croatia’s 2003 Junior Eurovision search. She was not selected as a finalist, but Mia was not deterred and continued performing. For many years, she was involved with the Batorek tamburitza orchestra and academy, singing and playing a long-necked string instrument called a tamburica that’s popular in the region. Her time with the orchestra gave her the opportunity to travel and perform all over the world, in countries as disparate as Brazil and China.

(See her performing “Amazing Grace”, alongside fellow Croatian folk orchestra member Maja Batorek, at a 2013 concert below.)

She also formed music duo M&M with Maja Batorek, a girl she met during her time in the tamburitza orchestra, and the pair performed small gigs around the city. Watch one of their performances here.

M&M perform a coffee show set in 2015.

“The guitar was my first instrument and totally changed me,” Mia explained in an interview. “With it, I became crazier for music than ever before. The tamburica [was] more of a follow-up to this newfound love of string instruments.”

While attending university, the prospect of making a living as a full-time musician began to look more appealing to her. In 2014, Mia graduated from the University of Osijek with an undergraduate degree in Literature, writing her thesis on the character of Scarlett O’Hara from the novel Gone with the Wind. (She would go on to graduate with a Master’s degree in translation studies from the same university in 2017, writing her thesis on translations of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”.) But it was while she was finishing up her undergraduate education that a series of people would enter Mia‘s life and change its trajectory.

Her Music Career was Built by a Series of Chance Encounters

“I think it’s a miracle everything happened to me, because some amazing doors were [opened] up to me, and there were random encounters that are hard to believe,” Mia claimed in an interview. “[Everything] came together in the best way.”

Through her time with the Batorek orchestra, Mia met the tamburitza band Džentlmeni from her hometown. In 2014, impressed by her vocal abilities, they invited her to be the female vocalist on their summer tour of Canada and The US, playing primarily for the Croatian diaspora in North America. You can watch Mia and Džentlmeni performing the anthems of The US, Canada, and Croatia in the video from that summer below:

Mia has remained friends with the members of Džentlmeni, the group who gave her this first gig. The band members are supporters of her music and career, and, during Dora, they were vocal supporters of her on social media. The morning after her victory, the band performed a short cover of “Guilty Pleasure” on a Croatian morning show. (See below.)

It was while on this tour that she would meet songwriter Vjekoslav Dimter and producer Damir Bačić, the two men who would turn her life upside down. After hearing her perform, Damir (who remains her manager to this day) asked Mia if she was interested in pursuing a solo career. They began working on music, eventually getting her a record deal at Croatia Records and releasing four singles over the course of 2015 & 2016.

She had a Meteoric Rise to Success

Mia’s first single, “Budi Mi Blizu”, released in October of 2015, received significant airplay and over 100,000 views on YouTube. Watch the official music video below:

That kind of success was not easy to come by.

“From the first single I released, I worked hard, sacrificed and sacrificed, along with my team,” she said in an interview. “My executive producer Damir and I used to sit in the car and go from station to station, to radio programs I didn’t know existed before … when you knock on all the doors, at least some of them will open someday.”

Mia and her frequent collaborator, songwriter/producer Damir Bačić, posing with her gold record for the album ‘Život nije siv’.

After a follow-up single titled “Slobodna“, Mia released the song “Život nije siv” (roughly translates to “Life is Not Gray”) in 2016 and competed with it at the 2016 Split Festival of Pop Music. She did not win, but that song would go on to be her first huge hit. It peaked at #3 on the Croatian music charts, won her the award for Best New Artist from the Croatian Record Association, among other accolades, and eventually helped push her debut album, also titled Život nije siv, to go gold.

At the 2017 Porin music awards, the chalk and concrete-animated official clip for “Život nije siv” won Best Music Video. (See below.) After the release of the album, she did a mini-sweep at the 2018 edition of the Porin music awards, winning Album of the Year, Song of the Year for her follow-up single “Bezimeni“, Best Pop-Rock Album, and Best Spiritual Album for the Christmas record she released in December 2017.

After that point, she was off to the races, winning and receiving nominations from countless other awards bodies, releasing hit singles, competing at festivals, and collaborating with other artists in the Croatian music scene. In 2018, there were even rumors that her record label was jockeying for her to be Croatia’s Eurovision representative. Those rumors turned out to be false, but the fact that her name was already on the top of everyone’s minds is an indication of how quickly she cultivated success. Her third album, Sretan put, was released in 2019 to similar success.

She’s a Country Queen

Unusual for the Croatian music scene, Mia‘s music is heavily influenced by North American country music. She lists Jewel, Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, and Willie Nelson as influences on her songwriting. But perhaps unsurprisingly, she wears her biggest influence on her sleeve.

Mia, pulling strings.

“I am a huge fan of Taylor Swift and the way she just tells stories through lyrics is something that never fails to amaze me,” she explained in an interview. “When I feel strongly about something the most therapeutic way to deal with it is just to sit down and write a song. That’s what I want to do. I want to tell stories through music.”

Mia and Tajči, posing in front of the Grand Ole Opry.

Mia is aware that her musical style might be foreign to her domestic audience, but, to her, genre is just a package. What matters is the emotional pull a singer can have on an audience.

“I believe that any genre can come to life if the performer believes in that sound and sincerely loves it,” she once claimed. “It is not this or that [instrument] that reaches people, but only the energy that they feel.”

Still, for many years, Mia expressed interest in performing in Nashville, Tennessee, home to the Grand Ole Opry and what many believe to be the Mecca of country music. She got the opportunity in September of 2019, when Tajči, the fan favorite representative for Yugoslavia from the 1990 contest, hosted her for a performance at the Mockingbird Theater. (Tajči has lived in Nashville for many years.) Mia performed songs in both Croatian and English and was accompanied by David Langley, an accomplished guitarist who has played with several country music greats … including Willie Nelson, one of Mia‘s heroes. (Watch Mia and Tajči duet on a cover of Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me” at that gig below.)

“Country music has a special sensibility that suits me because I love storytelling in songs,” Mia reflected later. “Visiting Nashville and playing there was the realization of a big and crazy dream.”

She’s a Beacon of Positivity

Left: Mia christening the newborn red panda (Top) and Grga posing for a beauty shot (Bottom). Right: Mia and Snoopy.

My philosophy of life is mostly karma,” Mia once claimed in an interview. “I think you are what you become and that you can change your world with your thoughts and I stick to that. Only positive. That is my motto.”

To whit, she has lent her high profile to causes such as breast cancer awareness and children’s welfare. She has also lent her time to animal welfare causes. The latter pursuit speaks to her love of animals. She owns a dog named Snoopy, and, in one exciting case, she was given the honor of working with a V.I.P. at the Zagreb Zoo … a Very Important Panda. On international Red Panda Day in 2018, Mia got to name the zoo’s newborn red panda. She settled on the name ‘Grga’. 

She has also devoted time and energy into uplifting and inspiring her young fans. In 2018, Mia surprised a sick 13-year-old fan with a private concert in her bedroom. (See below.)

Her positive outlook on life is a conscious choice. As she once put it an interview:

“The world abounds with both the beautiful and the ugly. It is up to us to choose from the pile what we think serves us best.”

Mia poses with her memoir.

During the 2020 Covid quarantine, Mia was approached to write a book about her adolescence and her experience in the entertainment industry. She was hesitant at first, but she unearthed a trove of her own letters and diary entries from her school years and decided a book would be a good way to pay it forward and encourage young fans … just as countless music professionals had done for her at the beginning of her career. That book, Road to a Dream, was published in December 2020.

“I know that I am largely followed by children and teenagers, and I want to tell them some things that I would have liked to understand in my [adolescence],” Mia explained in an interview. “The best way is by my own example …  it took me a while to realize that I just needed to relax and love life and myself the way I am.”

Hopefully Mia can use the Eurovision stage to broadcast her message of self-love and positivity across the globe.

Is Mia’s song a ‘guilty pleasure’ for #YOU this year? Or do #YOU love it unabashedly? Be honest, were #YOU expecting see a video of Mia performing the Canadian national anthem? Sound off in the comments below, in our forum, or on social media @ESCUnited.

Sources: Total Croatia News, Studentski, Sound Guardian, Story, Gloria, On The Road in Pennsylvania, Jutarjni, Mia Dimsic’s Facebook, Index-HR, Osijek 031, Dvenik, Novilist, Karakter, Collage, Slobodna Dalmacija, Net

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