Austria 2024: Kaleen
Photo: Rankin / ORF

Kaleen from Austria: "The whole three minutes will be a dance break"

INTERVIEW She started as a stand-in for Eleni Foureira, went on to be the creative director for Chanel, and now she'll represent Austria in Eurovision 2024. Kaleen's journey wasn't always easy, but now she's ready to bring a lot of dancing to Malmö: "We Will Rave"

She did the stand-in rehearsal for Cyprus' "Fuego" performance before Eurovision 2018 and she's been involved as a creative director for multiple other performances, including Spain's "SloMo" in 2022. In 2023, she was heavily involved in Eurovision and helped in creating the performances for Austria, Armenia, Germany, and Georgia.

This year's Austrian representative, Kaleen, has a Eurovision resume that would make any fan jealous. And in just one month, she'll be singing "We Will Rave" on the Eurovision Song Contest stage.

Austria 2024: Kaleen – "We Will Rave" (Music video)

What you may not know yet is that the 29-year-old Kaleen started daydreaming about the contest when she did the stand-in rehearsal for Saara Aalto's "Monsters" in 2018:

– I also did the stand-in for Saara Aalto and there was this moment right before the high note and before I got into the prop that I thought "this is so much fun, I have to try!"

It was when she started approaching music more seriously:

– From there I had to find my way into songwriting, that didn't come easy, and find the confidence in saying I wanted to become an artist.

Her first Eurovision attempt as an artist happened last year. Regardless, the Austrian broadcaster ORF decided to go for Teya & Salena's "Who The Hell Is Edgar?" Another curiosity is that Kaleen ended up coaching the duo as part of her functions within ORF itself.

The road to Eurovision

This year, Kaleen tried again and was selected:

– Last year's "no" was a pretty hard one for me, Kaleen says.

– You never know how it can go and obviously it doesn't mean you're not a good artist or that your song isn't good. As one of my friends said: "it's not a decision against you, but for someone else."

For all of those out there who are still trying, Kaleen has some advice:

– If you go through that experience where you're rejected or you get a "no," I think you should really lean into that... Cry, scream, whatever because it does hurt. With me, after all of that, there was this moment where I wanted to show what I was made of and convinced myself I'd come back stronger and harder.

It's not a decision against you, but for someone else

She unveils that it was thanks to last year's rejection that she found the strenght to release her first studio album, "Stripping Feelings," an album that sonically shares little in common with her Eurovision entry, "We Will Rave." Instead of the pop EDM beats, you'll hear a cuter pop with softer melodies:

– Both are still me. The music I made pre-Eurovision was mostly written and produced by me and now I am grateful to have people arround me who will push me towards a direction I normally wouldn't go, she explains.

– That's what happened with "We Will Rave." Although I did brief them, I wasn't sure if I could do it, I didn't know if Kaleen was a raver but perhaps because I wasn't too sure on what that meant. Now I can say that it fits Kaleen perfectly as well as Eurovision and I wouldn't want it any other way. After Eurovision, there'll be more songs and maybe I will lean into pop again.

It must feel like a dream being here now?

– It does feel like a dream come true, I still have some moments where I can't believe I am in a meeting about Eurovision and it's actually about me!

As mentioned above, Kaleen has been involved with Eurovision for a while and works closely with Austrian broadcaster ORF. It didn’t give her any advantage, she still had to audition like everyone else and hope for a positive feedback:

– There was no shortcut for me at all. I think it was quite the opposite.

– I think because of my involvement with ORF and Eurovision, I had to work twice as hard because no one looked at me as the artist but a choreographer instead, Kaleen says.

– The process was the same for me as it was for anyone else, we had to submit the song, send it to a specific email address, I had to go to a live audition, had to wait and eventually got a call saying I had been shortlisted.

Austria 2024: Kaleen – "We Will Rave" (PrePartyES 2024)

And how did you feel when you got the final call saying you had been selected?

– I was extremely happy and I remember saying: "is this for real? Can I now be happy? Can I look forward?" Yes, I couldn't believe it but then after half an hour of extreme emotions, I started assimilating what was happening and started booking hotel rooms for my family in Malmö just to be sure they'd have a place, she says.

– I finally could imagine myself on the turquoise carpet, on the stage, at a press conference, at the pre-parties...

When ORF announced Kaleen as this year's Austrian representative, her live audition of "We Will Rave" leaked and the fans got to hear its demo version before it was officially released. The reaction was so positive that the singer wasn't even bothered by it:

– I was fine with it. The reality is, I was so overwhelmed by so many positive aspects and by the fact that I could finally say to the world I was doing Eurovision that it didn't affect me. I also think it was a good audition and a nice version of the demo even if it had been filmed via Zoom but still... People liked it. I wasn't angry, it's not something I could've controlled.

A highly choreographed performance

The leaked audition certainly did not lack choreography. From the first second until the very last one, Kaleen served vocals and moves. We can only expect a similar scenario for Eurovision:

– People often ask me if there will be a dance break. Well, I like to think that the whole performance will be a dance break. Yes, there'll be a lot of dancing. I am saving it all for Malmö, she teases.

– We held back in the music video so it could explode in the live show.

She goes on to reveal that the choreography she did in the audition will be completely different from what we will see in Sweden, and that the music video won't serve as an inspiration for her upcoming performance:

– The music video was a world on its own. Maybe a version of a rave, of me having a good time or just being able to get lost in the moment which you’ll definitely see on stage, just from a different perspective.

We continue to speak about the performance. Having worked as a creative director multiple times makes it impossible for the Austrian singer to be away from what she sees as important factors:

– I am extremely involved in everything related with my performance. I give the first inputs to everyone, from the songwriters to the choreographer to the stylist and everything is closely monitored by me.

– This is a lifetime experience, so obviously you want it to be perfect.

"We Will Rave" was written by Jimmy "Joker" Thörnfeldt, who also worked on Loreen's "Tattoo," and by Anderz Wrethov and Thomas Stengaard who co-wrote "El Diablo" and "Adrenalina." It's a dream team with a high qualification rate that may just translate in Kaleen's transition to the Final:

– In Eurovision, you never know what's going to happen but I feel like if you're happy with your team and if everyone is focused on getting the best possible outcome, you already won and your ride becomes much more enjoyable.

This is a lifetime experience, so obviously you want it to be perfect.Kaleen on Eurovision

Are you nervous about the Eurovision result?

– When I was younger and did dancing competitions, I never wanted to stay for the ceremony, I wanted to go home as soon as it ended. I didn't care if I won or not, it would bring somewhat of a negative energy around me so maybe that will be the hardest part for me in Eurovision, not exactly performing but sitting in the green room waiting, I'd rather be on the toilet, she jokes.

– It's something I have never experienced in that way because it's just a huge deal but what I hope is that I will leave the stage feeling fulfilled with happiness. I do want to win, of course. No one goes into a competition wanting to place second.

Kaleen knows how it works, knows its stages, has worked closely with several delegation, has been preparing herself for this and has had the ambition. She sees that as an advantage:

– I think knowing what to expect is a blessing because I just know all of the checkpoints. If you've never worked with Eurovision and you just watch the show casually, it can definitely be overwhelming as there's so much to do, she says.

– But there's a negative side to it as well because whenever you're caught up within the community too much, you can instead focus on bad reviews, on the odds and eventually feel completely lost after it's done.

For all of the Eurovision newbies out there, Kaleen has something to say:

– Be aware that this is not just fun, it's work. Put discipline first.

What she's certain of is that now is the right moment for her and for her "perfect Eurovision song." She does admit she did submit another song along with "We Will Rave" that may eventually see the light of day in the near future, but for now the focus is solely on "We Will Rave" and all the positivity she's been getting:

– This is to be said very loud, I am so grateful for the support, it makes this journey so much more fun. I can't wait to rave with all the ravers, whether it is at a pre-party or in Malmö or even when I'm in your ear on Spotify. Isn't it a rave? It makes you feel happy. It is a rave. Just enjoy it.

Kaleen will compete in the second Semi-final of Eurovision 2024 with her song "We Will Rave" on 9 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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