With the time trickling away, days becoming longer and longer, our national final season for the Eurovision song contest is fast approaching its end. Liverpool is in full swing when it comes to the preparations for the biggest European musical event of the year, which is also true when it comes to the countries that will set off on this adventure in May. Today we sat down with Ivona, one of the participants in the Serbian selection for this country’s representative at the Eurovision Song Contest, and had the opportunity to get to know her career, plans, as well as the song she will present at PZE.

Ivona Pantelić was born in Belgrade, and she nurtured her talent and love for music from her early days. What is interesting about Ivona is the fact that she is not only a singer-songwriter, but also a radio presenter on Radio S, and from 2022 she is also a presenter for the SKYMusic production.

Last year, she participated in the first edition of PZE (ex Beovizija) with her song Znam, for which she wrote the music and lyrics herself, that also made it to the grand final of this competition. For the same song, she was nominated for Best Pop Track at the Music Awards Ceremony 2023.

First of all, welcome aboard, dear Ivona! It is an honor to talk to you and introduce you to our Eurovision audience.

Happy to be here! Thank you, I’m glad to be talking to you today.

Photo: Instagram

When it comes to our international readers, why not take this opportunity to get to know you a little better? How would you describe yourself in three words, and how would you describe your music? Is there a difference between your personality and the music you create?

I describe myself as curious, passionate, persevering! As for my music, hmmm, I like to compare myself to an onion for how layered it is (laugh), and in line with that, my musical expression is similar. I like to play around, with both sound and lyrics, I don’t like to define myself through one genre. I am everything and my music is an expression of my inspiration at a given moment. There is no difference between my personality and the music I create, you just haven’t had the chance to get to know me through everything I have created but I promise, you will. I say, onions! (laugh)

I like that, it sounds like where you end, the music begins and vice versa! Do you have any musical role models, and who would you like to record a duet with one day?

Oh… there are so many of them, but let me hastily answer, Jorja Smith! She’s an inspiration, girl crush and the “wouldn’t it be nice” if it came true. Rihanna, when it comes to songs and style, and Beyonce – she has inspired me since childhood with her discipline and how dedicated and attentive she is to every detail, when it comes to both the studio and her performances. Not to mention her stage performances and dancing. I also enjoy music made by MGK, Harry Styles, Miley Cyrus, SZA etc.

You and I have a very similar musical taste (laugh). While I was researching your musical background, I found out that Marija Šerifović’s victory inspired you to try your hand in these waters. 2007 was really a motivational year for many of us, and Eurovision became one of the most watched events in our region. Is that something that still draws you to Eurovision, or do you have other reasons?

Yes, Marija inspired and encouraged many! To me, who was then in the fourth grade of elementary school, she emboldened me and gave me faith to live my dreams. Of course, Eurovision-wise as well as this industry in general, faded out my rose colored glasses a little because I simply grew up and understood certain things, but they are still there and I still believe. Considering that I create mostly in English, Eurovision would be a great opportunity to get to know the foreign audience and try my luck! Also, I would be proud to stand behind my country and present the world-class sound in my mother tongue!

I think you would do amazing internationally, especially with the sound you do have and the energy you carry around. That said, you are one of the PZE participants that is sending a faster track this year. How did you decide to go with something different this time than what we saw last year, and why?

As I said, more layers of me. This song was written at the same time as the previous entry Znam, and has been sitting in the drawer for quite a long time. Now I simply felt that it was her time and that she was worthy of the festival like Eurovision! After all, I don’t like to play the same card because I don’t get excited myself to hear the same product in a different package.

Let’s talk a bit about your song, then. U noćima is a real banger! You wrote the music and lyrics yourself, while the arrangement is the work of Bone N Skin (Nemanja Lukić). The melody is modern, sensual, I would even say mystical. How would you describe the creative process of putting this song together?

Ahhh, yes! (laugh) The only song I wrote in the middle of the day, irony! And at work, while on a break! I heard the beat at Nemanja’s place and came to my senses. I sent him a message “We have to do something like this”. At the same moment, he sent me a beat and wrote “Do it”. I finished the song that same day, forwarded it back to him and he just wrote me “Damn, let’s go! ” I hear this being played song at clubs, at parties on the beach, I hear it when you’re melting with someone and I hear it BOOMING in a huge hall like in the Eurovision! It’s just a sound that requires strong sounding and strong masses!

Photo: Instagram

Such a fast process! Guess that’s exactly what happens when you’re overwhelmed by inspiration. What are the biggest challenges for you when it comes to that creative process, but also when it comes to creating the performance itself for PZE, and generally participating in this renowned competition?

The challenge is to focus everything on those 3 minutes. I don’t like limitations and that’s actually my biggest challenge, to satisfy yourself and others and pack everything into a song in that duration as well as into a performance. I also tend to stray away from the “Eurovision forms”. What is that anyway? If we stick to the form, there is no room for innovation. Fortune follows the brave so we’ll see.

Actually, I think a lot of the Eurofandom agrees with you! Especially in the last few years. We want to see innovation and step away from the old forms. That said, I can’t help but ask you – can you reveal at least some details of what we can expect from your performance at PZE?

Me, more spontaneous than organized in the sense of what I will do with each second that goes by. We have some plan of movement around the stage, but I will act in accordance with my feelings. Sensual and free and nothing like last year.

Seems like the way to go! Are you planning a music video for U noćima, and will there perhaps be an acoustic version? You are also no stranger to writing in English, maybe an English version? Honestly, as far as I’m concerned, I would include all possible versions in my playlist (laugh).

(Laugh) I would really love to! I can’t imagine an acoustic version for now, but I can do it with an electric guitar! Although knowing myself, I can already see myself recording acoustics tomorrow, and I literally surprising myself (laugh). As for the English version – absolutely! When it comes to the music video, I will see where land circumstances-wise, I will follow the development of the song after the performance, I already have some ideas.

Wow, a guitar version would actually sound incredible! I sure am looking forward to that, if it happens! Finally – is there anything you would like to share with our readers that you haven’t yet? Give us an exclusive. 😀

You will hear the song that almost went to this year’s PZE instead of U noćima, and soon!

You heard it here, folks! How exciting! We wish Ivona the best of luck in the upcoming competition and can’t wait to hear more from her!

Ivona performs in the 2nd semi-final of PZE on March 2 at 21:00 CET. You can follow her on Instagram here.

What do #YOU think about Ivona and her song U noćima? Let us know on social media @ESCUnited, on our Discord, or on our forum page!

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