Iceland debuted in 1986 in the contest in Bergen, Norway. This year they're back in Norway for another shot at victory. They came close twice already: in 1999 and last year in Moscow. Regarding the contest not only as a competition, for Icelandic artists, who have a very reduced domestic market, there are further incentives.
"A lot of extra work comes our way actually. The contest is very popular in Iceland... but it is of course up to each and everyone to make the most of it! This is hard work and with good preparations and the right goal setting you should be able to get a lot of work out of this. These three minutes you have in the Eurovision Song Contest is the longest and best three minutes of advertising an artist and a country can get in Europe! "
It is often that we see acts trying their luck more than once at the Eurovision Song Contest; what does make an artist try it again? What does Hera Björk actually get out of this whole experience?
"Experience is the key word here. This is like running a company for four months being the Boss, the product and the product manager all at the same time! You meet a lot of fantastic people and you learn to use your instinct for quick decisions. The networking you do is enormous and the doors that can be opened are many. But as I said, the most important thing is the experience, and of course the fact that around 120 million people just saw you on TV."
As a veteran of the competition we asked Hera to give us her ideas in making some changes to the contest, but she's so eager to live this new chance as the lead vocalist, she prefers to wait.
"Next year I might have a better or more reflected opinion on this matter, so to speak – because right now I'm in the midst of everything plus I'll have so many new impressions after Oslo… So maybe you can ask me this in a year, hehe. Then I'll be watching it like everybody else... hopefully in Iceland, right before I go on stage to give away the trophy to the winner of 2011! "
That's wishful thinking, and a victory for Iceland would certainly be a change in the contest. Some recent changes involve its marketing.
How much is the Eurovision Song Contest about the money and how much is it really about the music?
"Is there any money in this? Am I going to be rich? No one told me about that, haha. For me it is all about the music, baby! Of course you have to spend a little money to get everything done and the whole team to Oslo, but I can assure you that everyone I know who previously have represented Iceland have not turned out to be one of the world's new millionaires. My team is all in it for the fun of it and for the experience, of course. Money is luckily not the priority number one for us."
Hera likes to think of the contest as the music festival, but when we asked her to define the contest in three words, those were "Fun, glamour and variety". It is refreshing to see that for an artist the fun and the music are the main reasons for participating. In fact Hera has said in different interviews that the Eurovision Song Contest is great fun and that there is a communion of artists working together for music, but we wonder how does this work in a competition field.
"Competing in music is in a way a lost competition; it is difficult to compete in music because I think there is room for every genre and every personal taste. I, as a singer and performer, can only do my best and hope that the people watching will like the whole act! And I will enjoy this music festival to the fullest while doing it! Try to imagine if all this was a football match the audience were to decide on which team had the prettiest shorts or the best ball technique - how you score would have nothing to say, only what people thought of it and you had to wait for televoting to know if it was a goal or a no goal ... "
But for Hera herself, the competition is not that much of a competition after all.
"My experience is that one shouldn't lose too much sleep over the competition itself. A diva needs her beauty sleep, you know, hehe. But really, I have seen how easy it can be to write or say nasty things about the other contestants, but when you have them up, close and personal it's suddenly a whole other story! I prefer -tell it to my face or don't tell it at all!- That is the best approach. That way you give the other person a chance to answer and sometimes the answer might even surprise you... and who knows, you might even switch teams. So to make a long answer short, and even longer, for me the Eurovision Song Contest is a music festival of the best sort! The only event in the world, that combines all the music genres in Europe and the whole fantastic rainbow of people loving, or hating, the same thing!"
Iceland in Europe's favourite TV show
Örlygur Smári wrote Iceland's entry in 2008, one of the occasions on which Hera was a backing performer. That song This Is My Life brought Iceland back to the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in four years. Now both Örlygur and Hera pen Je Ne Sais Quoi a powerful song in English with some words French. Does she know what ingredients make up an ideal Eurovision entry and if their song fulfills that magic formula?
"Catchy melody, great performance and honesty. Oh yes, this is my formula, I wrote that formula, haha! Well, maybe not – but I do cherish it, so surely we used it while writing Je Ne Sais Quoi. We hope it will flow smoothly into the eyes and ears of Europe".
Last year Iceland came second thanks to Yohanna's Is It True?, can isolated countries such as Iceland, Portugal, Switzerland or the Netherlands really win in today's Eurovision Song Contest?
"I don't quite understand what you mean by isolated? Is that yet another 'Eurovision theory' I don't know about? I don't see Iceland as an isolated country today! The Internet came to Iceland many years ago, haha... And also, there are so many specialised websites about Eurovision. Of course, one could say that a small country like Iceland needs to shout louder to be heard at times, but then comes Mother Nature to the rescue – who recently decided it was time for volcanic eruptions and that sent us straight to the headlines. So now the job is to perform our song the best we can, and be thankful for this opportunity and the fact that people are watching".
Finally, we've always heard that the Eurovision Song Contest is big in Iceland. What are the streets of Reykjavik typically like during its broadcast?
"One word: EMPTY!!!"
Iceland with Je Ne Sais Quoi will be the last song to be performed in the first semifinal of the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo on the 25th of May.