Latvia 2024: Dons
Photo: Dons Music

Dons from Latvia: "Hollow is my story"

INTERVIEW Dons decided to pause his career to enjoy every minute of his Eurovision journey and speak about his journey through his song. Once the contest is over, he'll continue sharing his stories through his music until he has nothing else to say

There was little to no competition once Latvia's broadcaster (LTV) announced the lineup for this year's Supernova 2024, their national selection contest for Eurovision. All because among the 15 contestants there was Dons, one of the country's biggest stars.

The bookmakers were certain of his victory, and Eurovisionworld's visitors also voted for Dons in our poll. In the Supernova Final, Dons conquered the maximum score from both the televote and the jury, and he's now on his way to represent Latvia in Malmö with the song "Hollow."

His breakthrough happened in 2003, and since then he's released multiple singles, 10 studio albums, and won a huge amount of prestigious awards. He attempted to sing in Eurovision twice before:

– I am very happy I didn't win back then, he says.

– I wasn't ready. I wouldn't be able to enjoy it the way I am enjoying it today. I was too young and too stupid, he stops.

– Now I am just stupid.

We laugh.

– Dons from 10 years ago was just a guy trying his best and would only be able to enjoy 10% of this. Today's Dons would be fine by just sitting on his sofa and embracing the little things.

We're at the Barcelona pre-party, just a few hours before his performance. It's sunny, he's in a good mood, and he's happy. But he acknowledges the Eurovision madness:

– Look around you. People are tired, they're working hard, doing interviews, but we're all working on the same purpose: uniting people.

Were you aware that Eurovision was all of this?

– I heard of it, but it's something you can't imagine. You have to be within the "bubble," within the family to acknowledge the love and to feel it. It started right after I was selected and it didn't just come from Europe. I'd call it "Worldvision" instead of Eurovision.


Unlike many others, Dons paused his career outside of Eurovision: no concerts, no new songs, and his 11th studio album has been postponed. It continues his narrative of embracing all of the Eurovision experience:

– I just want to be here living the moment. That's maybe my life motto and I always try to follow it, he says.

– Sometimes my mind travels between the past and the future, but I try to be present as much as I can.

It wasn't only Dons the person that changed since those two previous attempts. The artist is also not the same. From a song that could resemble the likes of Ricky Martin in 2010 titled "My Religion Is Freedom," to a more adult rock track in 2014, "Pēdējā vēstule," it all led to who Dons the artist is today, and to "Hollow," a song he sees as timeless:

– "Hollow" is the closest you can get to me, it is me. I can see myself through it as a 16-year-old boy or as a 30-year-old man, and if a song can represent any stage of your life it means it's timeless for you.

Latvia 2024: Dons – "Hollow"

For the singer there was never any other option to compete in Supernova with other than "Hollow," which also has its own Latvian version titled "Lauzto šķēpu karaļvalsts." The Latvian version was created after the English one, and they have different meanings:

– The Latvian version is more about a destroyed relationship, whereas "Hollow" is like a conversation I am having with whoever's up there, he says referring to what many would call "God."

– In it I am basically asking what is going on with the world, why am I here, how am I supposed to live my life, and all those questions that we ask ourselves multiple times during life. We have to be strong physically and mentally in order to face reality and find the answers.

How did "Hollow" come to life?

– It was actually born here in Spain, he shares.

"Hollow" is the closest you can get to me, it is me. I can see myself through it as a 16-year-old boy or as a 30-year-old man.Dons

– I remember that day so well. It was written by a group of three people: myself, Kate Northrop and Liam Geddes. It came to us so easily, and once we'd finished it we were just like kids who had built a sandcastle and wanted to show it off to their parents.

According to Dons, "Hollow" is a song that discusses the truth in life. In a world where we're surrounded by opinions and standards (those who he refers to as "preachers"), it's important to choose our own path and find hope. That's his history and what he wants to share with Europe:

– I want people to feel honesty with "Hollow" and with my performance because I will be telling my story.

Eurovision 2024

During our conversation, I suggest that Eurovision was one of the things he had yet to experience in his career, and assume that it would be the reason why he'd be competing now. He corrects me:

– The goal was never about being in Eurovision, this is a song contest. You need to have the song and you need to have something you want to share with the audience. "Hollow" came at the right time and at the right moment.

For Malmö, he confirms that there will be changes from his performance in Supernova:

– The opportunities that the stage gives us are crazy and we have to be smart on using them. It offers a 360-degree experience, there are so many screens that go up and down. It'd be brainless to not use it for our benefit.

He remains secretive about what sort of changes we'll see, but he's confident in the team he has around him and in his song.

What about the color blue? From the music video to the Supernova performance to the pre-parties, he's always in a blue ensemble. We'll most likely see that in Malmö as well. We talk about that:

– That's my favorite color and always has been. I think it came naturally to me and I just embraced it. It feels so me and people usually say that the color that fits me best is the one that matches my eyes, so maybe that's also why.

Dons performs "Hollow" in Barcelona

Latvia hasn't had the best luck in Eurovision. The country hasn't been in a Eurovision Final since 2016, and Dons clearly hopes that he'll be the one who'll change that:

– You never know how the voting will go. It may just depend on how the temperature is going to be on 9 May, how will the weather be that day, he laughs

– I really hope it will be this year that we will break the spell, but it's written in the stars and I cannot predict those things. Let's see how it goes and hope for the best.

Are you nervous?

– It'd be amazing to qualify but the only thing that I can do is tell my story through "Hollow" and represent Latvia, the country that features the shape of a butterfly. We're not that many, somewhere around two million. But we're honest and hardworking people who cherish our culture, he says.

– The support I get and continue to get on the streets when I meet people, all of that gives me strength and I am really happy, which is the most important thing. It's not about the result but about the experience you're getting from this.

Social causes, idols, and storytelling

Home in Latvia Dons is a big star, but that doesn't mean he won't use his power and platform to help others including struggling artists who are trying to make a living out of their music.

In the country the investment from the government in culture is not so much, and this year's Latvian representative does all he can to help out who's still trying to accomplish their dreams:

– Whenever an upcoming artist is starting their career they're vulnerable, and it's not easy to stay alive, so to speak, as an artist. I've been there, he says.

– Therefore, any support they can get whether it is financial, psychological, or even encouragement is important. If I can take a load off your shoulders for a little bit and carry your bag, I will because I've had people do that for me.

He goes on to mention the Latvian band BrainStorm who represented Latvia in Eurovision 2000 with the song "My Star":

– They helped me a lot, and today it's my turn to give back.

Throughout his career, Dons has been sensitive to social causes. In 2020, he participated in multiple collaborations to raise money for victims of domestic violence, and also co-wrote a song with Aminata (Latvia 2015) as a response to the lack of support to culture from the Latvian government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When we speak about his musical heroes it becomes clear that his father and Freddie Mercury are the ones:

– I come from a musical family, and whenever we had parties at home or at gatherings there would always be singing, my father would always play guitar and sing. He was the one who showed me the power of storytelling through music regardless of the language, he explains.

– I wanted to follow his steps as I was amazed by his energy and abilities to embrace everyone, to make people cry, laugh, to evoke emotions. That was my first push that made me want to become an artist, and that's why I always say that the stage is the safest place for me. It's where I feel safe, loved, and where I get to share stories.

Telling stories is Dons' main goal and the reason why he still stands here and will continue to as of now:

– I want to continue to write songs, to tell stories, and to have fun. I will continue to release albums, play concerts and all of that until I have nothing else to say. Only then I will probably stop.

I will continue to release albums, play concerts and all of that until I have nothing else to say.Dons

After Eurovision Dons will get his career back on track, release his 11th studio album, and play a big show in Riga on 17 August:

– I can't wait for that to happen. Every time I meet my audience we cry and laugh together, it's an exchange of emotions. It motivates me to write more and more, and those are the moments when each song stops being mine and becomes everyone's.

Dons will compete in the second Semi-final of Eurovision 2024, and represent Latvia, with his song "Hollow."

About the author: Pedro Santos (Portugal)

authorPedro comes from Lisbon, Portugal. He's 30 years old and graduated in journalism. He has attended Eurovision Song Contest three times live - 2018, 2019 and 2022 - and covered the show twice more (2021, 2023) but his first Eurovision memory takes him back to 2007 when Sarbel delivered his catchy "Yassou Maria" performance. Pedro's favorite Eurovision song is Albania's 2015 "I'm Alive" by Elhaida Dani which is also his favorite Eurovision edition.

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