She’s fabulous and stylish. She’s sensitive and quick-witted. She also has a beard.
Conchita Wurst both polarised and fascinated people with her wonderful singing and fearless image. One of the world’s most celebrated entertainers and a beacon of hope to many spoke to us in Glasgow about her new album, writing her book and winning that singing contest.
AJ: You grew up watching Eurovision. Can you describe the moment when Rise Like a Phoenix was announced as the winner?
Conchita: It was surreal. Everybody was jumping around and I yelled at my manager, ‘Have I won this?’ And he said yes, and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ I couldn’t believe it. I relive this moment by watching youtube videos. It’s how I’ve reconstructed this moment.
AJ: You’ve been involved with the music industry for many years and were briefly in a boyband. How did you find it being catapulted in to the limelight after Eurovision?
Conchita: I still can’t believe it. If you said I spent most of my career being not that successful, not famous, it is a whole new situation and not something I compensate in a year so it’s still something that I see rewards that people actually show up just because my name is on the headline. It’s so crazy but I really appreciate it.
AJ: You’ve now released your debut album, simply entitled Conchita, how did you choose the songs to go on that album?
Conchita: Actually, I receive my songs from all over the world, and for me, a song got just one chance. I need to listen to it and it needs to touch me in some way and luckily for me I had more than just those songs to fill a record, so I was privileged to decide which ones would fit perfectly. I was definitely involved in the whole musical process, but I haven’t written any of these songs myself. It’s a wonderful record, I’m proud of it.
AJ: Did you find any of these songs particularly challenging?
Conchita: Definitely! There is a song on the record called The other side of me and it is written or inspired by the very situation when I won. The name of the songwriter is Eric, he is from Sweden and he sent this song with a message saying he was so inspired by this energy that he felt and the whole situation. So, lyric wise, it is very touching to me and musically it is very challenging to me because I’m not really good at not being loud, it is challenging to be soft.
AJ: Usually you are stood on stage as a solo artist, but on one of the songs, Put that fire out, you have a choral arrangement. How did you find that?
Conchita: Simply beautiful. It is such a strong song, I think about twenty people were singing on it and it just gives the perfect lift to the song. I have a really wide range of music on this record because I’m interested in so many different things. I also wanted to achieve something, by presenting myself to the music industry.
AJ: Do you strive to push boundaries and challenge yourself within your music?
Conchita: Definitely. I think I have a nice gift and talent but I’m not Mariah Carey, so I’m working very hard and I’m hard on myself because I’m my worse critic. I want to remain as Conchita and for people to say ‘oh she was a fantastic singer’ . This is what I want to achieve for myself.
AJ: Are you keen to develop your own songwriting skills?
Conchita: Yes. I’m already working on my second album. As an artist I at least have to try it. For myself, I need to say that I have written a song, whether it’s good or not. I have about six songs and feel the creative process is now really starting.
AJ: What hopes do you have for the album?
Conchita: As it is my first album everything is completely new to me and fresh and I’m thinking of a live concert. How can I put this record on the stage? The choice of the venues. I’m excited about playing smaller venues with a live band, these are the goals that I want to achieve with this record.
AJ: You have said that you don’t really like the label icon or role model but you are in that position where people look up to you?
Conchita: No, I don’t. It’s flattering but it’s hard to understand because at the end of the day it is me just me being me and I’m not perfect and I say stupid things, but it’s touching and I have to accept it I guess. I just do what I think is right. So if I can’t fulfil people’s expectations, I’m sorry, but it’s not my fault. I never said that I will change the world. Everything I say is just my opinion. I will always speak out for what I think is right. So it’s really unbelievable when people say that I inspire them. It’s a huge honour, but I’m just being me.
AJ: Your book, Being Conchita – We Are Unstoppable is out now. How did you finding retelling certain personal parts of your life? You are still young yet have had a lot of life experiences…
Conchita: I am very young and didn’t want to do it in the first place. I said I am just 26, but the publisher forced me to think about it and I did and I’m very proud because the book is now released in six languages. The whole process of creating this book almost felt like a gift. You get the chance to watch your life in one piece. You don’t often get the chance to think what happened when you were 13, you often forget those things. In the process of creating the book I called friends and my family and asked them what did they remember. Some parts were more intense than others. When it comes to my teenage years it was definitely one of the most emotional phases of writing the book. Being a teenager is just not fun for anyone, if you have another sexuality, you’re squinting or have red hair it can be a tough time. I felt the need to tell the story from this specific time because many kids nowadays could be in a similar situation and if my story is inspiring to them or they think oh wow, she did it that way then I would love it if the message comes across that ‘you have to find your own truth’ . You have to find your comfort zone and your way of doing it.
AJ: You found your teenage years difficult?
Conchita: My teenage years were hard, society telling me that something was wrong with me for being gay, and dressing in skirts. We spend our adult lives getting rid of our teenage insecurities. I got called so many hurtful names as a teenager, all because of my feelings for men – I thought that there was something wrong with me.
AJ: Was the book the most challenging aspect of your career to date? To relive what you went through?
Conchita: I relived being bullied at school, of name calling, of feeling physically sick at the prospect of going to class each morning, but I am not a victim, I just had a tough time. I’ve always been surrounded by love and friends. Thinking about it now, then yes, that was challenging, but aren’t I lucky? Because I’ve never really experienced real pain. I’ve never been in a situation where I thought what should I do now? So lucky me if I can say that is the toughest challenge that I’ve had to face yet.
AJ: Has being in the public eye ever felt too much?
Conchita: I can honestly say no. I always wanted my life to be like this and I’ve prepared myself for it so I’m very thankful.
AJ: What is next for you?
Conchita: I will enjoy the album. I get to travel the world doing what I do. I am so happy to be so busy and doing what I love.
AJ: And will the beard always be a part of your work?
Conchita: Well, never say never (she smiles) but I think for Conchita, you know, she’s just a bearded lady.