Germany 2024: Isaak
Photo: Valentin Ammon

Isaak from Germany: "I never thought about competing in Eurovision. It seemed so unreachable"

INTERVIEW From street musician to Eurovision 2024. Isaak is living proof you should never give up on your dreams. He'll represent Germany in Malmö with "Always On The Run," an autobiographical song that will undergo changes for the contest

Hoping to get Germany back to good, or even decent, results in the Eurovision Song Contest is Isaak, a 29-year-old singer, married with two kids.

His journey proves that one should never give up on their dreams as it all started as a street musician for him. From then on, he found a band, played at weddings, did pop gigs, and even got to compete in Germany's X Factor.

He didn't win back then. A few years later on he tried again but in another show where he'd be crowned as the winner. Now he's in Eurovision:

– I started busking when I was only 12 and grew from there. It wasn't a hard cut from a street musician into Eurovision.

Eurovision wasn't even a goal for Isaak nor something he dedicated a lot of thought to. It was in 2021, with the release of his song "Water to the Seed," when his fans started hinting that participating could be a good idea.

His fans are his focus and priority and nothing will ever get in the way of that, even if that cost missing out on a big event such as the pre-party Eurovision in Concert in Amsterdam. He shares a recent episode to proof this point:

– I had a concert booked for 13 April, the date of this year's Amsterdam pre-party. The gig had been booked since November last year. Lots of people were wondering why I wasn't going to this pre-party since it was such a big event and my show, on the contrary, would be smaller, he tells us.

– The thing is, people that wanted to come and see me in concert were already my fans prior to Eurovision and they're my roots. I couldn't just cancel it and head to Amsterdam. That would be smashing my base.

Luckily, Isaak was able to perform a day before and travel to Amsterdam for the pre-party.

Isaak has already been picking up new fans with this Eurovision participation and is thankful to everyone who stands up for him:

– There are different opinions about me, he says concerning the Eurovision community.

– But I have to say it's nice to see people nearly going to war because of me, I really feel proud when I see people standing up for me. So I don't have to. I feel grateful, even if it's a bit overwhelming.

That kind of describes Eurovision. What does it mean to you?

– Eurovision is a very crazy and artsy world where everyone can just be themselves. I've always been a fan of thinking outside of the box and that's what I love about it. In reality, I never thought about competing in it because it seemed so unreachable.

I never thought about competing in Eurovision because it seemed so unreachableIsaak

Isaak has been struggling all of his life playing music. It has always been his plan:

– When I was 18, I quit school to become a professional musician. I don't even think it was my decision to do music, it was just something that was meant to happen and I had no other option but to do it.

– I obviously had tough times but I have a family now; a wife and two kids and I have to feed them. Music has always been the bread and butter for them and it's exactly what I always wanted, to make a living out of that and doing Eurovision is the biggest step I could ever take in order to make that happen.

"Always On The Run"

Isaak attempted to go to Eurovision last year but wasn't shortlisted. This time around, when his label heard "Always On The Run," he decided to try again even if it wasn't written specifically for the contest:

– I never write songs for a specific situation and that's also the reason why I don't particularly like writing camps because there's just too many restrictions. Music is like a playground where you are allowed to do everything. The songs simply happen, I just catch whatever idea that comes to my mind, he explains.

– I wrote "Always On The Run" with a few friends and we all felt good about it. I wanted to release it as soon as possible, and that's when I got a request from someone in Universal asking if I'd like to compete in the German selection with it.

Germany 2024: Isaak – "Always on the Run"

He goes on to share that he never believed the song would actually work. Not only because it's a personal track but also because it isn't as fun as many Eurovision songs.

"Always On The Run" is about life itself but also about his issue of being over-focused all the time:

– I always had ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) but my parents never believed in it so they didn't test me. It's really hard for me to concentrate on things.

– I think this, let's call it, problem can be seen as a great thing for my music because I can just continue doing music for hours and completely forget everything else. But also as a curse; if I go into the studio for half an hour, I can just spend my entire day there, if not the night. I have kids to take care of and they wake up at seven in the morning, so it can become a struggle.

So, you're always on the run?

– Yes, I feel often overwhelmed because I know I have things to take care of. But I'm a musician and music is also important and that's exactly why I've had so much struggle throughout my life because I never took care of things. They accumulate.

He goes on to admit that he is yet to find a solution for that problem but as it turned out, "Always On The Run" did work for Eurovision or at least for the German national selection, Das deutsche Finale 2024.

A new version for the song and a new staging

What we've seen in the national selection competition will not be exported to Malmö. While Isaak will continue to be by himself on stage "with some shadow effect" behind him, there will be a lot of changes, including to the song itself:

– I am not sure you know but we struggled to shorten up the song to only three minutes. Its original version has an extra 20 seconds or something and we had to cut it.

– I wasn't too happy with it because it started so immediately, but it was too late to change it. Luckily, we could do that change for Eurovision and I am so glad we did it. We actually changed a lot of the song and the intro is completely different, he teases.

He confirms that this new version should eventually be released, but given the bureaucracy he's not sure when that will happen yet.

We actually changed a lot about the song and the intro is completely different.Isaak

Marvin Dietmann will be in charge of the staging:

– Since day one, he has been like, "What do you feel like? "Who are you? "What do you want to do?" He's always trying to make the best out of the person he has in front of him, he says.

– He won't just put you in a basket, he's open and he's listening to you. I told him I had no idea about visuals but I knew I wanted it to be authentic and I wanted to be in it emotionally.

It took a lot of meetings to figure out what they were going to do, but on one day it all just came together:

– It was quite a jump because we had no ideas, and then there was a small input that did it all. We had the whole staging done in a matter of minutes and everyone was happy with it.

What can you share?

– For me, the most important thing is to feel comfortable. I am not the guy of the crazy outfits or something. I wear on stage what I'd wear to go shopping or just to be at home, and that's when I perform the best because I am comfortable and calm, Isaak says.

For Isaak, it's not about the perfect vocals nor the perfect movements. It's about the perfect emotions and, as he said, authenticity:

– This is a huge step for me, I will be presenting myself in front of millions of people, and if I try to do something that isn't me it won't work. I am aware a lot will happen from this and I want to be prepared and people to know exactly who I am.

He concludes:

– But...there will be a lot of fire, actually.

A message to his fans

For the first time in Eurovision, the Big-5 will be performing live during the Semi-finals. We discuss that:

– I love that! You can perform the song without any pressure, nothing will happen from there, it's a great opportunity and I feel like it's fair because it gives you as much buzz as the other competing semi-finalists.

While Isaak is completely focused on Eurovision, a lot of new music and a lot of shows will follow after the contest. He has a few messages to everyone who's been supporting him:

– First of all, thank you. Thank you for your love and for the time you take on sending me messages. Sometimes you send me really long messages that I wish I could reply to with even bigger ones but time lacks. I want you to know it that I see it and I will try to answer them all, I am so grateful. You mean so much to me and I wouldn't go far without you all.

Isaak will perform "Always On The Run" in the first Semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 on 7 May, but will only compete at the Grand Final on 11 May.

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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