A tattooed glass salesman from Bergen with no show business experience but a powerful voice won Norway’s prelude to the Eurovision Song Contest Saturday night. Carl Espen Thorbjørnsen’s song “Silent Storm” swept into first place with the help of heavy voting from his home district on the west coast.
The song was written by his cousin Josephin Winther and had been heavily favoured heading into the weekend final of the Eurovision qualifier called Melodi Grand Prix in Norway. Newspaper Aftenposten, for example, had given it a score of five on a scale of one to six and it won the most votes in the semi-finals last weekend. It ended up in a duel for first place along with one of the other favourites, “High Hopes” sung by Linnea Dale.
While Dale is a professional entertainer and well-known in Norway from her time with the popular band Donkey Boy, the singer who now goes simply by “Carl Espen” was completely unknown before this year’s Eurovision competition began. He has worked for 12 years as a sales representative for a glass firm in Bergen but his songwriter cousin thought he had potential as a performer.
So did the bookmakers, critics and, not least, the public, who started placing him high on the rankings when votes first started being reported on a regional basis Saturday night. He ended up competing against Dale and two other semi-finalists, Knut Kippersund Nesdal and the singer known as “Mo.” It was the 16,542 votes from his home region of Vestlandet that catapulted him into the top spot by a wide margin.
“I’m feeling a lot right now, both relief and joy,” Carl Espen told state broadcaster NRK’s program hosts Jenny Skavlan and Erik Solbakken. “It feels just completely fantastic.”
He admitted to also feeling pressure from all the hype about his song, which is a ballad that starts off slowly and quietly but builds up along the way and allows his voice to boom towards the end. “I just focused on what I needed to do,” he told NRK, which aired the show live from the Oslo Spectrum Arena. “And I’m just so incredibly grateful that Vestlandet managed to mobilize so many votes.”
(Hear the song on NRK’s website – click on the photo with the arrow.)
The voting otherwise was very close among the four finalists, but now it will be Carl Espen representing Norway at the Eurovision Song Contest that will be broadcast live from Copenhagen this year in May. He called it a “huge honour” to represent his country in the annual music extravaganza and said the entire Eurovision process had been “an adventure.”
Morten Thomassen, president of Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix Club, told NRK he thinks Norway’s chances to score high at Eurovision are good. “We’re already a favourite and it’s time we sent a ballad,” he said. Norway is due to perform in the second of the two Eurovision semi-finals, set for Thursday evening May 8.