Eurovision.tv managed to catch up with Harel Skaat to discuss his career to date, and upcoming participation in Oslo.
Can you tell us a little more about the early stages of your career and education prior to entering the Kokhav Nolad (A Star Is Born) series in 2004?
Harel Skaat: "Ever since I can remember, I've always been singing. The first time I performed on stage I was only six years old, at the Children Songs Festival, which took place in my home town. Whilst growing up I sang in festivals, with my high school band, in a musical ensemble, various TV shows and alongside an array of Israeli musicians. In a way, as cliche as it may sound, I have always felt that I was born to sing."
What was behind your decision to enter Kokhav Nolad in 2004? Did you try to break in to the music business before this opportunity came along?
Harel Skaat: "It was during my second year at Beit Tzvi, one of Israel's top acting schools, when a very good friend told me that she had signed me up for the competition. At the time I really did not know much about Kokhav Nolad and almost didn't go to the audition, but she convinced me to go and I am glad she did! I would have never gone if it wasn't for her. The show is like a Pop Idol format."
Can you share some memories of the Kokhav Nolad experience, were you disappointed not to win the eventual series?
Harel Skaat: "To put it quite simply, Kokhav Nolad was an amazing experience for the plain reason that it allowed me to touch people's hearts through music. I didn't really see it as a competition, more as an opportunity to reach an audience and continue and grow as a singer and a performer. I remember the day of the final so vividly. It was an amazing physical and spiritual experience which summed up the journey that had brought me there. At that moment I was far from being disappointed. I went to Kokhav Nolad to create, to perform, to accomplish, to learn and to grow. And that is exactly what I did."
What kind of music do you enjoy listening to, what kind of tracks could we expect to find amongst your personal music collection? Are there any particular artists who have influenced anything about your career to date?
Harel Skaat: "I don't think I ever been influenced by someone in specific. I have always listened to so many different kinds of music. I feel as if I have learned from each singer I listened to (and still do!) From the vigour of the great female singers, through the song interpretation of French performers to the intricate structures of classical music pieces. I find inspiration in them all!. My musical taste is very diverse. I know everybody says it but I really do love everything!. Classical music, Middle Eastern music, Pop, Rock, you name it. I also love all genres in Israeli music and am always very moved by them."
Have you been a keen follower of the Eurovision Song Contest from an early age? If so, what are your greatest memories? Were you watching when Dana International won for Israel in 1998?
Harel Skaat: "I have always watched the Eurovision Song Contest, and each time I imagined myself performing on that stage. When Dana won, you could feel the sheer excitement taking over the country and I have to say, that even back then I didn't understand how Dana could take all of that in!."
Which of the past Israeli artists that have represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest do you have most respect for and why? Do you have a personal favourite Israeli entry from the past?
Harel Skaat: "I have nothing but great appreciation for all of the Israeli participants through the years. To me, what matters is not how many points they got but how good their performance was. There are three performances I remember the most, Duo Datz which after having a strong lead won third place, Dana International and Shiri Maimon."
It was rumoured that the Israeli broadcaster, IBA approached you in 2009 to represent Israel in the Moscow contest, but due to a contractual problem this was not possible. Is this true? If so were you disappointed not to get the opportunity to go to Moscow?
Harel Skaat: "In the past few years the option to compete in the Eurovision came up more than once thats true, and each time I decided not to follow through with participation due to different reasons. This year, deciding to compete, just felt like the right thing to do, and it felt like the right time for me."
Israel has been drawn in the Second Semi Final of the Eurovision contest in Oslo. How do you feel about having to qualify through a Semi Final system? Have you set yourself a goal as to what success would look like in your eyes?
Harel Skaat: "First and foremost, I am a singer. I always sing to move and touch the hearts of my audience and my goal is no different this time. No matter what happens, if I manage to move each and every viewer, for full three minutes, that would be enough of a success to me."
Finally Harel, what can you tell us about the selection process for your song for Eurovision 2010? When will this take place? What other plans do you have in the coming months before arriving in Oslo?
Harel Skaat: "I wrote and received an impressive amount of songs from incredibly talented Israeli musicians in the search for a song, that on one hand will show my emotional and vocal range and on the other will be fitting for such a grand event. In the end, all I am really looking for is to sing a well written and moving song. We have now narrowed it down to 4 songs and on March 14th, in a nationally televised event, broadcast on the leading TV network, Israel will chose that one song with which I will perform in the competition. Needless to say, I am very excited!. As for the coming months, I hope to perform in Europe while continuing my current tour in Israel."
Eurovision.tv would like to thank Harel Skaat for taking time out of his schedule to talk with us, and also Ofer Menachem for organising the interview.