Our Melodi Grand Prix interview series continues as we speak to one of the second semi-final contestants and 1920’s style jazz band Swing’It!
Swing’it was first formed back in 2014 as street performers, who have quickly taken over the jazz scene with their Gatsby and Prohibition parties. The band also made an appearance on Norway’s Got Talent back in 2018, performing jazz covers of well-known Disney classics. And now they’ve set off on a new adventure – to bring Jazz to the MGP stage.
Hello Swing’It and welcome to ESCUnited.com, thanks for taking some time out of your week to interview with us! How are you doing today amongst all the press and preparations for next Saturday?
Thank you very much for the opportunity! We are extremely excited for this opportunity! It’s really steaming these days, as in addition to interviews, live streams and TV performances we were out in London to play a big show on Saturday the 14th with our concept “Prohibition Party”.
Now your biography on NRK states that Swing’It began as a street performance band back in 2014, but how and when did the band itself come together?
To go way back to the beginning: It all started when my mother used to take me to this jazz café every Saturday to listen to jazz. I grew up with the old, traditional jazz, but I always wondered why everyone was so old and why no young people played this music?! The music was so happy, I thought everybody deserved to hear the music, and I quickly realized that most young people today have never heard this music as it’s never played on radio, TV or festivals!
After my mom passed away, I thought that this happy music was a good way of remembering her, so I gathered a few of my friends and we started busking on the streets playing dixieland and we quickly realized that everyone seemed to like it! We did our first pop festival in 2014 at Slottsfjell-festivalen and since then we’ve done more than 600 concerts across Europe and USA!
Swing’It’s music focuses on the genre of Jazz, specifically in the 1920’s era, but the genre has of course had a very long history that expands past that decade. What made you decide to anchor the band’s sound to the Great Gatsby era?
Well, in addition to the reasons above, I started reading Fitzgerald book about the Great Gatsby and fell in love. I then started watching TV series about the Prohibition Era and the origins of jazz, read books about New Orleans and looked into the politics of the USA, the afro American history and found it all extremely exciting. We therefore created the concept “Prohibition”, which is a secret party (much like during the Prohibition) where everybody dresses up and dances to hot jazz, with burlesque, cabaret and champagne. This has become really popular, and we arranged the biggest NYE party in Norway both in 2019 and 2022, and now we’re touring around in Europe with this concept.
Just a few days ago you released a 1920’s Jazz cover of Alexander Ryback’s Eurovision winning entry “Fairytale” on YouTube, with a promise of other Eurovision covers to come soon. So I have to ask – could there be a future 1920’s style Eurovision album one day?
Perhaps? We just like to have fun and thought it was fun to hear how other Eurovision songs would sound like if they were written in the 1920s. We mainly like to focus on original material, but we did a similar thing with Disney songs in 20s style, so maybe we’ll do an album of Eurovision classics too?
I’m just throwing out ideas! Now as a band you’ve performed in venues and for events both big and small across the globe, what has been your favorite place or event to perform at and why?
It is really difficult to pick, there are so many great gigs to choose from! If we had to choose one, I think it must be the Prohibition Parties. It’s amazing playing at festivals or in front of big or small audiences, but knowing that everyone attending has dressed up and is in our little 20s bubble together with us is quite a unique feeling!
Now of course the big reason we’re chatting today is because you’ll be competing in the Norwegian Eurovision selection Melodi Grand Prix. What made you decide to submit an entry for the selection?
We think it is a shame that jazz and traditional jazz never gets shown on TV, playlisted on radio or on Spotify playlists. Young people today don’t know the genre, and since they’re never exposed to the music they don’t know if they like it or not. We’ve seen how much joy and happiness this music brings and we want to make it available so that people can decide for themselves if they like it or not, and being on TV is one way of achieving that. Then we realized that MGP was just the perfect stage for this and that it really suited the vibe and character of the band.
Talk to me about the songwriting process for your MGP entry “Prohibition”, especially in regards to how long it took to write the song. Was it written with MGP in mind?
It was indeed written with MGP in mind. I sat down with Jonah Hitchens, the banjo player in the band, and said “We need to write a song worthy of Eurovision”. We finished the song in just an hour or two. We then submitted the song to MGP and it was almost chosen for MGP 2022. We then decided to add beats to the song and make it into an electro swing song and changed a few things in the song before submitting it again – and this time it was bingo!
Swing’It is made up of seven total performers, but the Eurovision rules state that only 6 people can be on stage performing. Should you be selected to go to Liverpool does that mean someone will have to stay behind or have you thought of a clever solution to this?
We are actually 8 people on stage when the full band is present – so we already had to ditch the banjo player, which is difficult and sad. If we should happen to go to Liverpool at least the banjo player will get company! We’ll then have to find out which member is less crucial to the performance – but let’s take one problem at a time! Let’s first get to the finals in Trondheim!
For our readers who want to follow and support you before and after the national final, where can they find you? Any plans or upcoming projects you’d like to promote while we have you?
They can find us everywhere on social media – but if they ever get the chance I would recommend seeing the band live at one of the Prohibition Parties. Getting dressed up, sipping champagne, swinging to hot jazz and living in the bubble of the Prohibition Era in the 1920s for a night.
We are also releasing more songs, the first one to come in February and the next in March, in addition to the touring, and there will be lots of backstage fun and material on our Tiktok and Instagram!
In closing, do you have a final message you’d like to share with the readers of ESCUnited?
You can decide to be happy. Grab the opportunity, hug a friend, cherish the moment and enjoy what life brings you! We hope to see you in Liverpool!
PS! I’ll probably be there anyway as I’m a huge fan of the football club and love to go to Liverpool to watch matches live 😉
Swing’It will compete in the second semi-final of Melodi Grand Prix on Saturday January 21st starting at 19:50 CET. A total of three artists will be selected through a voting process to advance to the Grand Final on February 4th. The winner of the Grand Final will win the right to represent Norway at the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in May.