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Interview: 2019 Champion Duncan Laurence 🇳🇱

22 May 2021 at 09:00 CEST
Winner 2019 Greenroom Thomas Hanses
It’s been two years since Duncan Laurence’s ‘Arcade’ won the Eurovision Song Contest, and in that time its popularity has gone from strength to strength, finding new audiences across 2019, 2020 and 2021. caught up with the Dutch singer to reminisce about Tel Aviv and to discover his future plans. asked Duncan to take us back to Tel Aviv, May 2019, and the morning of the Eurovision Grand Final:

‘Oh my god, well it was just a roller coaster of emotions. Being at this huge new thing that I had never experienced before was kind of scary and it almost felt a little bit like the first day of school.

At the same time it was so exciting because there’s a chance a door might open and you can already hear what’s behind it – that makes it so exciting and so I thought, ‘even if I screw up, I’m still here and this is the first time ever that I released a single and that I’ll perform to such a big audience.

I was proud of myself and at the same time kind of nervous and a little thrilled and excited and it was just all that combined in a beautiful cocktail of emotions.’

Watch: Duncan Laurence perform Arcade at Eurovision Song Contest 2019

For Duncan, winning the Eurovision Song Contest was the icing on the cake, as for him, the thrill was to be found in performing a personal song for such a large audience:

'I was there to perform and show the world this is who I am. It’s me Duncan, and this is my song, and this is a story that I’d love to tell you guys and hopefully you’ll connect with it. The winning aspect was amazing because it meant that the opportunity that I was given would only be bigger but I was like ‘regardless of the result, this is 200 million people who see me and it’s just incredible to have this opportunity to share a vision.’

I focused on that. It was such an amazing vibe and so warm and so welcoming and the fans of Eurovision are the best in the world.'

As are Duncan fans, we’d imagine. And if Rihanna has her ‘Navy’, Mariah’s got the ‘Lambily’, and Little Mix have their ‘Mixers’ – what’s the name of the DL fandom?

‘DUNCALS!’ he laughs. ‘Fletcher, who I recorded a duet with was doing some liners and she messed up saying ‘Duncan Laurence’ and said: “Hi, This is my new song with DUNCAL” and all of a sudden people started to call themselves DUNCALS, so Fletcher has decided what my fan base is going to be called. it’s done.'

Fletcher appears on the duet version of Arcade which has been flying in the US, breaking into the Billboard Hot 100 and performed on The Ellen Show in April 2021.

Watch: Duncan Laurence feat. FLETCHER – Arcade (Live On The Ellen Show)

It’s the first time a Eurovision track has graced the Billboard chart since Gina G’s Ooh Ahh… Just a Little Bit back in 1997, and the first winner since Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses For Me hit number 27 back in 1976.

Reflecting on the success of Arcade, two years after winning Eurovision, Duncan says:

'It’s incredible, especially in a time where it’s so difficult to connect with people and to see people it’s amazing when your song gets picked up purely based on the fact that people love the song and relate to the lyrics and connect to it.

The renewed interest in Arcade has been a gift, it’s just incredible to see the track climbing the charts again.'

Duncan Laurence Paul Bellaart

In the 26 months since the official release of the winning Eurovision 2019 chart-topper, how has Duncan felt he’s developed as an artist?

‘I think back then, I was already really aware of what I wanted to do, I was not so aware of what I did not want to do. ‘No’ is a very powerful word, and in some ways, when you use it well, it can really bring you so much further than you can expect – so that’s a thing that I really learned. Especially in lockdown saying no to things when they don’t feel like you.

I really learned to say no, and to stand by it and to not hesitate. I naturally like to be pleasing everyone, I have to be nice to everyone, but it’s also about what you want, in life, and what your dreams are.'

Some top advice from our reigning champ, who coined the iconic phrase: “Music first, always” in his winner’s speech.

‘It was the answer to all those questions, those hundreds of interviews, and those hundreds of moments where I was like ‘ why am I doing this? Am I gonna win this? Am I gonna do it?’ the reason behind me being at the Eurovision Song Contest was because of the music – first and foremost. I stood there and thought, well, I can give a whole speech thanking my mom and dad, thank you this, thank you that – but no; it’s about music. It always has been. I felt like the perfect moment to be like: ‘hey guys, music first, peace out, bye, we did it!’

Watch: Duncan Laurence – A Winner’s Journey

He certainly did do it! Arcade stormed the Eurovision Song Contest 2019, winning with a total of 498 points.

So where is the trophy now?

'I put it on my piano: the most important place in my house, apart from my bed. I like to sleep, but I love to perform and write songs and it’s so amazing to be able to write songs behind this beautiful piano which I got from Ilse DeLange. It’s so amazing to write songs behind it and see that trophy and feel support and feel welcome and to appreciate it and know that what you’re doing is what people love.'

Finally, wanted to know about those rumours that Duncan accidentally broke the trophy on the way home from Israel. Duncan laughs:

'I did! Because that thing is impossible to transport! They have to start making a box for it or something, because when you win the EBU is like: ‘it’s yours now, bye!’

It’s so heavy, made of glass and it’s kind of really small at the bottom and the top is really heavy and big so you have to be careful where you grab it.

So in the morning after Eurovision I had to get the airplane and I thought: ‘OK, how are we going to do this?’ So I wrapped the trophy in a million hotel towels (sorry hotel!) and put it in to a bag. I thought it was safe. Then I put the bag down and heard a crunch.

The EBU were very cool about it and made sure it was repaired, but it’s the one thing you just don’t think about during the entire Contest, and if you want to win, you really should have a plan for getting that thing home.'

Any other advice for the 2021 winner, Duncan?

‘Just enjoy it and don’t take anything too seriously. This is your moment, you won the Contest, follow your own vision and keep the music first. Always.’

Duncan Laurence will feature in the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021, he’s also going on a European Tour and you can buy the deluxe version of his debut album Small Town Boy now.