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Diving into Eurovision headfirst with Azerbaijan's Nadir Rustamli

06 May 2022 at 12:00 CEST
Azerbaijan's Nadir Rustamli - WIDE EBU / Corinne Cumming
Originally from the coastal town of Salyan, Azerbaijan’s Nadir Rustamli rocketed to stardom in his home country after his winning run on 'Səs Azərbaycan', the local edition of 'The Voice'.

An opportunity like that would be an incredible start to any musical career, but Nadir found himself working with a mentor who had extra insight into the Eurovision world: Eldar Gasimov. The sense of mutual respect between them carried Nadir to a win this January, and to the international level here in Turin. When asked what it was about Nadir that caused Eldar to select him, the 2011 Eurovision champion said:

I felt something that I couldn’t hear from anyone else, and I was afraid that he wouldn’t choose me. I was the lucky one!

Nadir Rustamli from Azerbaijan prepares to rehearse EBU / Andres Putting

Following Nadir’s win on Səs Azərbaycan, the idea of Eurovision wasn’t too far from his mind, but he was still genuinely surprised when he was informed on live television that he would be representing his home country at the Contest. Fortunately, he was on board with the idea.

I was hoping that one day I’d represent Azerbaijan, and after my win on The Voice, a lot of people were talking and commenting with my name. I was hoping it would happen this year, but they surprised me with the news on the morning television show! Nobody knew what my reaction would be, so that was pretty risky!

After being offered a number of demos, it was the dramatic Fade to Black that resonated with him, even over the rock songs that he expected to gravitate towards. Fade to Black is an emotional ballad that deals with the theme of overcoming adversity head-on. That carries over into the staging here in Turin, which incorporates Nadir and a dancer, the embodiment of his negativity, in synchronised movement on a set of stairs before a climactic face-off.

The staircase represents stepping away from the past and moving forward. At the end of the staircase, I face my fears, insecurities, and all of the dark thoughts I’ve been through. Then I fight through them, and win. It’s a beautiful song with good energy.

📺 Watch: Nadir Rustamli – Fade to Black – Exclusive Rehearsal Clip

The music industry isn’t the first place where Nadir has had to come face-to-face with competition, fear, or distraction. As a teenager, he was a competitive swimmer, an experience that informed his later forays into musical competition and particularly Eurovision.

I’ve learned to listen to silence, and disconnect from everything. It’s the same feeling as being underwater. No matter how loud everything around me is, when I’m underwater, I’m not hearing anything. I can just tune out, focus, and do what I have to do.

Nadir Rustamli, Azerbaijan, Second Rehearsal EBU / Andres Putting

Nadir has a great resource in Eldar, who’s been through the wonderful circus of Eurovision before. When asked what advice he’s gotten from his mentor, Nadir said:

Enjoy every moment that you’re here, because it’s something different. It’s really more about friendship and a celebration of music. Don’t think about placements or numbers…just focus on the music, do your best, and entertain people.

Let’s just make sure to keep Nadir out of the stage’s fountain, and he should be fine. Be sure to watch Fade to Black at the Second Semi Final of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest on Thursday 12 May.

📺 Watch: All 40 Songs of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest

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