Manel Navarro will be representing Spain at Eurovision in Kiev this year. The 21-year-old singer songwriter from Sabadell is influenced by British artists like James Bay and Passenger.
Navarro’s selection as Spain’s Eurovision entry was a controversial one. At the final round of the contest to choose Spain’s entrant, Navarro came third in the public vote but scored the most points with the judges. After a tiebreak with another contestant, he was proclaimed the winner – but many were unhappy with his win.
Manel spoke to Attitude about his single ‘Do It For Your Lover’, Spain’s chances at this year’s Eurovision and LGBT+ icons …
How do you think the Eurovision stage will compare to making YouTube videos recorded in your bedroom and how are you preparing for thetransition?
It’s so different, Eurovision is going to be huge – but I think I’m ready, I’m working a lot always trying to improve things. We are not stopping until the competition in May!
What has been the most challenging adjustment you’ve had to make since becoming famous? What is your highlight so far?
The fame is strange. I’m not used to people recognising me in the street, I like it though. The people that stop me always say such nice things which is something that I really appreciate. The highlight for me, well I would say … girls (laughter).
Representing your country for Eurovision is a fantastic accomplishment, especially at such a young age. Do you have any personal goals and aspirations for the next stage of your career?
My goal is to have a long career in music – that’s what I’m always working towards. I’m busy writing and recording songs and after Eurovision I’m going to release an album and get even more of my music out there.
What do you make of your competitors this year? Who do you think poses the biggest threat to you?
They are all amazing musicians, good artists. My big competitor is the UK, of course. Lucie has an amazing voice and is a really incredible artist. I think Italy’s Francesco Gabbani is awesome, too.
Spain hasn’t won Eurovision since 1969 – why do you think that is?
I don’t know why Spain hasn’t won in so many years but I’m going to try my best, I’m working so hard for it. Maybe this year everything will change and we’ll bring the Eurovision to Spain!
You have won two major talent competitions to get you this far, so what do you think your chances are of winning Eurovision?
They’re all really different, the talent shows. Eurovision is so big! I think I have a good chance of winning, but it’s going to be really hard. There’s a lot of competition, but I think we can win. Why not?
Who are your favourite former Eurovision entrants or winners?
My favourite Eurovision song of all time is ‘Heroes’ by Mans Zelmerlow from Sweden and I also love Euphoria by Loreen, another one from Sweden.
Following the controversy of the final results of your selection and the events that followed, do you feel more pressure to prove yourself and your place in the competition?
I don’t feel too much pressure. I’m just going to go out there, be myself and play the music that I love. I’m going perform as if we didn’t have any controversy!
Does the criticism ever get to you or bring you down?
The criticism definitely motivated me to work harder and want to win even more, it’s made me stronger as an artist for sure.
‘Do It For Your Lover’ is very different stylistically to runner up Mirela Cabero García’s ‘Contigo’. What do you think gave your performance the upper hand?
I think it won because it’s something new, something that Spain doesn’t normally bring to Eurovision. It’s more mainstream, played on the radio in Spain and I think it could sound good all over Europe.
How are things between you and Mirela since the show?
Mirela actually had a gig two weeks ago and I went to see her play. We had a drink together afterwards so yes, we are good friends.
You write a lot of your own material and have also received praise for you covers of current hits including Hold On, We’re Going Home and Thinking Out Loud. Who is your biggest musical inspiration?
I would love to work with Ed Sheeran – he’s my idol. I started playing for both my father and because of him inspiring me. I’ve followed his work even before his first album, so I would love to work with him in the future.
Do you think Brits will be voting for ‘Do It For Your Love’ come May?
Why not? It’s a catchy song and the chorus is in English so maybe it’ll make British people vote for me. British people are so welcome to Spain – they can come whenever they want!
Eurovision has a huge gay fanbase, but Ukraine offers little protection in the way of LGBT rights. Do you think Eurovision could prompt more acceptance in the country?
Eurovison has a huge gay fan base, it’s really cool that a contest like this brings the LGBT community together through music. I actually told a gay magazine in Spain that if I win I’ll do a naked cover so I’ll say the same to you! I’m very pro the gay community, I have one gay relative who I’m very close to and another relative who is going through a gender transition so it’s something very close to my heart.
Do you have any of your own LGBT+ icons?
I met Conchita yesterday, so I have to say her!
Catch Manel at Eurovision next month, and check out our handy guide to everything Eurovision 2017 here.
Interview by Antony Knight