Bonjour Bruno, you started as head of the French delegation for the Eurovision Song Contest in Tallinn, 2002, this will be your tenth contest in charge, and we would like to review those contests.
Eurovision.tv: Let's start with your first experience in 2002 and Sandrine François, what was the most significant event this year?
BB: I will never forget this first experience with Sandrine François. Sandrine was among the favorites. I remember something special and unexpected I saw only two times in those 10 years, with Patricia Kaas and Sandrine François: when Sandrine started at the very first rehearsal with the sound check, I noticed all technicians stopped working to listen to her.
Eurovision.tv: One amazing thing many people reported was that her live performance on stage is even better than the CD version!
BB: True, actually, Sandrine is what we call in french the "witness voice" of Céline Dion meaning that Sandrine records all candidates songs submitted for a new french album for Céline. Céline and her management make up their mind based on Sandrine François's interpretation. Sandrine has a tremendous voice but I think Eurovision came a bit too early for her. Participating three or four years later would have been probably fabulous.
Eurovision.tv: In 2003, France was represented by Louisa Baileche when something really unexpected happened during the final?
BB: Well, to start with, I have to say that in Riga, all delegations had to face major sound return issues. If you watch carefully the video of the 2003 contest, you can clearly distinguish between 2 categories of artists: on one side, experienced artists who figured out how to deal with those sound return problems and, on the other side, newcomers who hardly managed those issues.
Louisa, experienced singer, expected to have such sound problems at the final and then focused exclusively on her voice and she actually never was out of tune. Now, fully concentrated on her voice, Louisa forgot all the rest. Furthermore, though Louisa was extremely relaxed during the rehearsals, I clearly realized she got stressed when I brought her to the stage at the final. On stage, she performed her song "outside of her body". I've seen that many times during castings. Even though some hair stuck to her make up, she could not even feel it. She was victim of her stress.
Eurovision.tv: Let's now talk about Sébastien Tellier and the 2008 contest in Belgrade. How was Sébastien chosen?
BB: Given the average and bad ESC viewing figures from past years, Marie-Claire Mézerette, Director of the Entertainment department, clearly stated that she wanted to do something with Eurovision and bring there a singer representing a specific style of music associated to a significant market in the world. She looked to various singers, including Sébastien Tellier, who just released a new album. She attended Sébastien Tellier's concert at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and took this opportunity to talk to ask him directly whether he would like to participate to the Eurovision song contest or not. In 3 seconds, Sébastien said "yes"! Decision was taken to pick up a song from his new album and Divine appeared quickly as being the best option for the contest.
Eurovision.tv: What about sending a song with English lyrics at Eurovision Song Contest for France?
BB: Sébastien wrote the English lyrics for Divine simply because french lyrics did not fit to the song. Composed by Sébastien Tellier and produced by Daft Punk, Divine is an obvious and brilliant example of the French touch, even with English lyrics. There's one thing I want to clarify: we never decided to keep the original English lyrics thinking like some other delegations it's required to win the contest.
Eurovision.tv: Wouldn't you say there's a "before Tellier" and "after Tellier"?
BB: There's clearly an "after Tellier" but not only for France! There's an "after Tellier" for the contest itself! Let me explain a bit. When the old jury system was replaced by 100% televote, never ending discussions started whether juries should be re-introduced in the voting system or not. In 2007, Roger Cicero, representing Germany, came 19th with the full televote system and 5th according to back up juries votes. People started to point out that such a difference was a problem and one more evidence full televote was a barrier for some musical styles. In 2008, Sébastien Tellier ended 17th in the final but became the biggest commercial hit that year. Another big difference! How a song ending in last positions could be the biggest Eurovision success in the end? This is why the voting system was modified from 100% televote to 50% televote and 50% juries. As for french selections, the participation of a known, experienced and famous artist like Sébastien Tellier brought the attention of the major record companies and the music community as well. To sum up, Sébastien Tellier's participation in Belgrade led to two major changes: first, Eurovision Song Contest voting modified with professional juries involved at 50% in the voting. Second, Sébastien and his success brought the attention to the record companies and major music actors in France. Two important changes and significant arguments to convince Patricia Kaas to participate to the 2009 contest in Moscow...
Eurovision.tv: Talking about Patricia Kaas, despite the arguments you just mentioned, wasn't it hard to convince Patricia to participate in the Song Contest?
BB: The idea of asking Patricia grew in September 2008 in Moscow where I attended the Reference Group meeting. While walking in the streets, many pics of Patricia in the city brought my attention. Patricia is so famous in Russia hence she was the perfect French candidate for a contest in Moscow. Another coïncidence, when I came back to Paris two days later, I led a radio show with a special guest, François Bernheim, who wrote so many hits for Patricia Kaas. Off the record, I told him I would like Patricia to represent France in Moscow. Two hours later, Patricia's manager called me and I explained for about one hour, without being interrupted, all the good reasons for Patricia to participate in the song contest. At the end, he told me "Why not?". Patricia's Manager got in touch with France Télévisions and 3 months of negotiations started.... Given she was touring all over Europe, the only condition of Patricia was to pickup a song from her last album.
Eurovision.tv: Sébastien Tellier and then Patricia Kaas at the Eurovision Song Contest, do you see changes in the French press about the Song Contest?
BB: It's quite amazing I must say. When I started ten years ago, most of French music newspapers did not care about the song contest at all! Even when the name of the artist or the song was revealed officially, no real interest was given to them! In 2007, les Fatals Picards saw their success growing after the contest. In 2008, as I already explained, Sébastien Tellier got a huge worldwide commercial success. In 2009, Patricia Kaas had a brilliant tour all around Europe. In 2010, Jessy Matador, number one in sales in France and big sales in Europe. The contest is still seen as a bit old fashioned, but record companies and known singers in France have a different view of the event. They keep in mind it's the biggest TV music event with a huge promotion all over Europe. If participating to the contest is still considered a bit risky for artists, I tell to them "You're not taking any risks. Either you are a great singer and there's no risk at all, people won't forget your performance and if you don't manage to be in a top10 in the final, the audience will consider a bad ranking as undeserved". That's why I think the Eurovision Song Contest is a magnifying glass!
Eurovision.tv: 2011 is your 10th year as head of the french delegation in the contest, and we would like to know more about the selection process which led to Amaury Vassilli's choice.
BB: I did not met Amaury especially for the Eurovision Song Contest as I already knew him, having seen him when he participated to the casting of "Le Roi Soleil". We did not want to send pop opera but powerful and contemporary music with an opera voice. When the selection committee at France Television listened for the very first time to the demo version, all of us were immediately impressed. It was really incredible and it's really hard to explain. It was clearly an outstanding composition with a fabulous voice, far beyond our expectations. I have never seen that in all previous selections. There was something magic. We did not hesitate one second. Even those who initially thought it was not the best idea to send an opera singer to the contest changed completely their minds after listening to the song.
Eurovision.tv: What are France Televisions' expectations for Düsseldorf?
BB: The worst thing for singers participating in the Eurovision Song Contest is probably to be forgotten. No one will forget Sébastien Tellier or Patricia Kaas. There's one thing I am sure about regarding Amaury Vassilli: no one will forget him and his song. Daniel Moyne who wrote Sognu together with Quentin Bachelet already has a Eurovision Song Contest experience as he was Press attaché of ... Marie Myriam in 1977... 34 years ago! We wish him to have another successful experience in Düsseldorf. And yes, France Television has really high expectations with our 2011 entry!