Olivier Vanhoutte is from BELGIUM and has been to EUROVISION for 18 years as a member of many different countries’ delegations.
This year, Oliver Vanhoutte is a member of the Belarus delegation. He will serve as the P.R.O., or the Public Relations Officer. So in a nutshell, he is the person from the Belarus delegation that is in charge of all promotional events and materials. Not too shabby of a job, especially since he is also friends with the composer of “Solayoh,” Marc Paelinck.
Oliver also played a role in South African artist Willem Botha becoming a part of the Belarus act. He had Willem over in Belgium and the Netherlands in January. When Belarus notified Oliver that they were looking for a male backup singer, he proposed Willem. Willem had an audition and was thus chosen to join Alyona in Malmo. Oliver tells us more.
ESC UNITED: When Belarus changed their song and the song Solayoh (composed by Marc Paelinck) was chosen, this was the ideal opportunity for you to get involved. Tell us a bit of the process.
OLIVER: Well Alyona won the national selection for Belarus last December but it was already clear than then if they found a more appropriate song for eurovision, they would change. I proposed Solayoh to the team via the composer and it was chosen in the end after an internal selection, so I’m very happy about it! I also want to mention the lyrics were written by British Martin King; he’s an extremely respected person on many levels.
ESC UNITED: In Baku you and OGAE Rest of the World president Roy van der Merwe discussed the possibilities of a South African singer coming onto the Eurovision stage. Now it has happened. Did you expect it would be so soon?
OLIVER: Actually no! I had this plan to make it happen as soon as possible but only with the right artist from South Africa! But when starting to work with Willem earlier this year I knew instantly this could happen much quicker then expected.
ESC UNITED: I gather you looked at a variety of South African singers. Why did you pick WILLEM BOTHA?
OLIVER: Well I have had the opportunity to get in touch with several South African artists which are really talented! However Willem Botha is an exceptional artist. He’s not only extremely talented, but also very professional and takes the chance as it comes, not letting things come easily. Willem and his team are such hard workers and determined to work very hard and professionally, so thats why there was no doubt for me I wanted to go totally for Willem!
ESC UNITED: Willem will be one of the backing singers. He is off to Serbia to rehearse with the others. tell us more about the line-up of the other people on stage?
OLIVER: Well the two dancers on stage are Mehmet Durmaz from Germany and Ziga Sotlar from Slovenia. Two extremely good and professional dancers. Mehmet has done shows with Rihanna and Madonna already while Ziga did already big shows in his homecountry Slovenia. The two female backing vocalists from Serbia are also one of the best possible options so I’m very honoured that Willem will be a part of this dreamteam!
ESC UNITED: WILLEM will be part of the entry in Belgium towards the end of the month. I guess it will be his debut with the song?
OLIVER: If you are talking about Solayoh, I guess yes indeed! About his Afrikaans version of Hemelhoog, the hit single from Lisa del Bo (Belgium ESC 1996) that will be released later this year surely.
ESC UNITED: You have been involved with Willem since January and recently Nick and Simon from the Netherlands came to South Africa and performed with Willem. You also had him cover Lia del Bo’s song HEMELHOOG. What other plans do you have for Willem? Or are they still a secret?
OLIVER: Well you should know me. I come only out with news if it is concrete. I am so honoured that Willem and his team trusted me on working with them. Honestly in 18 years of Eurovision and working with singers across the world, Willem and his team have been one of the most professional groups of people to work with. So definately count on it that I have many plans with Willem, I’m sure you will know about it on the right moment!
ESC UNITED: Finally we want to thank you for the part you play in South African music. Belgium has produced several singers who made their mark in the South African market like Helmut Lotti, Dana Winner, Laura Lynn and Christoff de Bolle. Do you think it is finally time for a SA singer like Willem to make his mark in Belgium (Vlaandere) and the Netherlands?
OLIVER: There is no doubt about that! During his visit to Belgium and the Netherlands Willem gave such a good and charming impression with the audience and with the press, so it will happen!
ESC UNITED: Best of luck to you and Belarus, Oliver! Solayoh is available on iTunes (including South Africa and the USA).