Ever since she won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2016, Jamala has been on our radar as she continued to release new music to expand her career. She recently released the track “Solo” as well as a remix EP. She’s gearing up to release a music video for the song, followed by a greatest hits album, and then a sixth studio album in 2020.
She has a lot of upcoming stuff and we’re excited to follow her career. So when an opportunity to interview her came through, how could we say no? We’ve previously interviewed Eurovision winners Måns Zelmerlöw and Netta, so we’re excited to include Jamala in this list too.
We chatted about her recently released song – titled “Solo”, her upcoming sixth studio album as well as her greatest hits album, and being part of the Ukranian national selection show Vidbir 2019 even though Ukraine withdrew from the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.
Hi Jamala, how are you today?
I am doing great, thanks. And you?
We’re good too, thank you. What have you been up to recently?
A period of concerts and festivals have begun for me. [The other] weekend, for instance, we performed at the jazz festival in Zaporizhzhia (Ukraine) and at a multi-genre festival in Mariupol (Ukraine). Next, I go to Poznan (Poland) and perform in Lebanon. I am working in a recording studio a lot too; we are having two collaborations at a time, one is with Jah Khalib, a famous rapper from Kazakhstan, and a new rising star of Ukrainian hip-hop. I won’t reveal her name now, as we are keeping the project secret so far.
Finally, in May a long-awaited official music video of “Solo” will be released.
“Solo” is your latest release and you also released remixes for the track. Can you tell us more about the song?
It has always seemed to me that speaking about music is like dancing about architecture. You can’t describe a song in words, you need to listen to it. Even if you talk about lyrics, you can interpret them in a different way. I like that about songs a lot. Each [person] can [hear] something different in them. For someone “Solo” is nearly an anthem for feminism; for someone else, it is a story of saying goodbye; and, for others, it is a saga of a strong woman who may feel ok even if she is alone.
What has the reaction been like to the single so far?
The reaction has been absolutely great so far. Ukraine likes the song, there are lots of comments on Instagram and YouTube, appreciating the song and saying I’ve started a new stage in my career. I have performed it at [Ukraine’s] National Selection for Eurovision and the Ukrainian Music Award, Yuna (where I got “Best Female Artist”, by the way). I am really delighted that “Solo” caught attention in the UK. I know it got into Top 10 of two charts and a lot of radio stations are playing it. I think even more people will notice it the official music video is released.
Do you have a favourite remix, and why is it your favourite?
Remixes live their own life. Generally, I like all of them, though I like the Slim Tim Remix a little more than others. I like that vibe.
The song was produced by Grammy Award nominee producer, Bryan Todd. What was he like to work with?
I felt very comfortable. He is a producer who knows what sound he wants to get. He is very professional and talented.
What does this song mean to you?
It is the first song in my career for which I’ve composed neither music nor lyrics. It is an absolutely new but successful experience for me. I hope more people in the UK and the US will know about me thanks to this song. To say more, I really hope this song will be a real hit.
What five words would you use to describe the song?
Hit mid-tempo pop-anthem
With the new music, does that mean another album is on its way?
Now we are actually working a lot over some new material, a release of a new album is scheduled in 2020. As for now, the compilation of the best songs is to be released.
Last year saw you drop your fifth album, what was it like to release that album?
For me to record an album is like carrying and giving birth to a child. It was my fifth album, so the previous experiences have certainly had some effect. Still, it is a big event and a new stage.
Do you have a favourite track from the album, and why is it your favourite?
No, I don’t have favourites among my songs. I like them equally, otherwise, I wouldn’t have recorded them at all.
What can we expect from your upcoming music releases? We currently love “Solo”.
I think the new releases will be interesting for hip-hop lovers, first of all, both in Ukraine and abroad.
Your debut single, “You Are Made of Love”, was released in 2010, which means next year you’ll be celebrating 10 years of being in the music industry. How does it feel to reach such an achievement?
You are right, the single “You Are Made of Love” was released in 2010, but we think my career started officially since I won an international contest called New Wave in 2009 in Latvia. Millions of people watched it, and I had 3-4 concerts a week within the first months after it. So, this year is the 10th anniversary of my career. The compilation of the best songs and a big tour around Ukraine are devoted to it. Though these 10 years have been very intensive, I still feel that I’m just beginning my career. I enjoy this feeling.
Your biggest achievement to date was totally winning the Eurovision Song Contest 2016, what was that moment like? And how does it feel to look back on it?
Oh, I’ll never forget that moment! The emotions are tremendous! I’ve always felt a responsibility to my country, and I was so happy to hear when [they] declared that Ukraine won. We were all very happy. I still feel delighted to remember these moments. Still, I think that my greatest achievements are ahead, and Eurovision was an important stage, but I’ve moved on.
This year, Ukraine won’t be taking part in the contest. How do you feel about that?
It’s a pity Ukraine is not participating this year. Our country has always performed very well, and this year wouldn’t have been an exception.
However, there was a national selection show, Vidbir 2019, where you were part of the expert panel. What was it like being on the panel and watching the contestants?
To be honest, it was very disturbing. The responsibility was really high. Somebody is always discontent no matter how you evaluate a contestant’s performance. To make it short, being on the panel is a hard and thankless job.
Have you listened to any of the Eurovision 2019 songs? Are there any you particularly like? Any countries that you hope will win?
Yes, I listened to all the participants. The British website ESCplus asked me to be a part of a virtual panel, so I made my own Top-10. This is not the order, just 10 best entries: Malta, Sweden, Montenegro, Russia, Israel, Armenia, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Netherlands, and the UK. I can’t say whom I will support before I listen to their live performance.
Do you think the break from Eurovision will make Ukraine stronger for when they return next year? – That’s if they do return.
I don’t think it will have this exact effect. I’m sure Ukraine will participate in Eurovision in the future.
Do you have any advice for the 2019 contestants?
Remember that during the contest you don’t just perform twice, in the Semi-Final and in the Grand Final, but 13 times if we count all rehearsals! Each of these performances are important, as journalists and bookmakers follow them very carefully.
Would you ever consider representing Ukraine at Eurovision again?
You could not step twice into the same river. I think I’ve had enough Eurovision in my life.
What do you hope to achieve in the upcoming years?
I would like my music to be known and loved all around the world. I would also love to get a GRAMMY!
Finally, do you have a message for your fans?
Love is the most important thing in life. Love each other, listen to music and make this world a better place to live in!
Thank you, Jamala, for taking time out to answer our questions. You have got us all excited for your future releases, from your “Solo” music video to your best songs compilation album, to your sixth studio album as well as your upcoming hip-hop collaboration.
As we wait for her music video, why not listen to her most popular songs on Spotify below.