Former Voice UK contestants Joe Woolford and Jake Shakeshaft sing for the UK in this year’s final of the Eurovision Song Contest* (Saturday, BBC1, 8pm) in Sweden, hoping their catchy pop song You’re Not Alone will prove a hit with Europe’s voting public.
The lively pair sat down with What’s On TV for a quick chat about their successful singing partnership, why Robbie Williams loves them and how they’ve found the whole crazy Eurovision experience so far…
Did competing in The Voice UK last year help you both prepare you for all things Eurovision?
Joe: “Massively, especially how to deal with the limelight and how to handle the pressure of performing on primetime TV with a huge audience watching. We’ve learned so much.”
Jake: “And we wouldn’t have been a duo if we hadn’t met on that show as contestants?”
Can you remember the first time you met?
Jake: “It was just before the battle rounds of The Voice.”
Joe: “We were standing together talking. Jake knew the guy I was battling, who introduced us. We just hit it off from the get go and had a laugh together. We had loads in common and supported the same football team, Liverpool, which helps a lot with lads when making friendships. We stayed in touch after we left the show and here we are representing the UK at Eurovision.”
Why did you decide to try singing together as a pop duo?
Jake: “We met up as friends mostly, then with both of us being musicians, we thought we’d sing together and start working on some stuff for a bit of fun. It went really well and grew from there, so we thought why not take this further and perform as a duo?”
Have your Voice UK coaches been in touch to wish you luck and offer advice?
Jake: “Not our coaches, Rita Ora and Will.i.am…”
Joe: “But Ricky Wilson did get in touch. He saw us perform on the Eurovision selection show. He was lovely, and said his mum actually voted for us represent the UK. It was such a lovely message and really nice that Ricky went out of his way to give us that little boost.”
Has anyone else famous been in touch?
Joe: “Yes Robbie Williams, who saw us on the selection show, too.”
Jake: “Well, I’m from Stoke and so is he, and he loved that someone from Stoke is doing Eurovision. He tweeted us a message: ‘Well done, so proud, I’ll be watching.’ Was a nice little tweet. Hopefully we’ll meet him one day. Maybe we’ll find ourselves in LA!”
Your Eurovision song You’re Not Alone is all about friendship? Does it sum up you two together for the last year?
Joe: “It sums up loads of people’s friendships and relationships.”
It’s such a catchy pop song…
Joe: “Thank you! It’s a good indicator on where we want to be music-wise and move forward with our career. We really want to do well for the UK this year. A win for the UK is long overdue, so we want to get the best result we can.”
Are your friends and family big fans of Eurovision? How have they reacted to your success so far?
Joe: “Absolutely, they’re big fans, and love that we’re doing it.”
Jake: “We always watch Eurovision together anyway, and always have a party! This time they’re coming out to Stockholm to support us! We’re going to be so busy that week, so we’re probably not going to see them there until after.”
Joe: “We’ll try to give them a wave when we’re on stage… and meet them after for some Swedish meatballs”
Tell us about a bit about your intended performance and staging?
Joe: “The song is about friendship and we announced that people can send in selfies to be put on a screen. We got one with Meryl Streep and Keeley Hawes on The Graham Norton Show. We got a few with Scott Mills too and previous UK contestants like Katrina.”
Jake: “You’re only allowed six people on stage, so we found a good way to combat that by bringing thousands of people on a screen with us. We want everyone sending pictures and the whole of Europe, that’s what the song is about. Meeting Meryl Streep was incredible. She’s such a lovely person and knew a lot about Eurovision. She did Mamma Mia so her Abba knowledge is spot on.”
Where have you travelled to promote the song?
Jake: “Amsterdam and Israel so far. Stockholm is the next stop. So we can see the city where we’ll be performing and hopefully the arena. Neither of us has been to Sweden before. So far we’ve just seen pictures of the arena and a 3D plan of it.”
Have you met a lot of other contestants on your travels?
Joe: “A lot of them yes. It was all very friendly which is how we expected it to be. There are all in it for the same reasons as us – their passion for music and to represent their country.”
Did you meet Ivan from Belarus, who sings naked with wolves?
Jake: “Yes we did. What a character! He wasn’t naked when we met him!”
Joe: “We’ve been trying to get information out of him about his performance, but he hasn’t said what’s actually happening on stage. Nothing’s been OK’d or denied yet!”
Jake: “But he’s told us what he wants to do – and that’s to be completely naked! That’s what he wants! I reckon we should do it ourselves and steal his thunder.”
Joe: “Yeah double trouble from us!”
Being together so much lately, have you noticed each other’s bad habits?
Joe: “Jake gets very annoyed because I ad lib and sing stuff wherever I go often to different melodies than they’re supposed to be.”
Jake: “He can go proper diva and put it in all the scales.”
Have you met past winners of Eurovision. And what did they say?
Jake: “At the selection show, we spoke to Katrina, from Katrina and the Waves, and last year’s Swedish winner Mans Zelmerlow. Katrina told us we were going to have such good fun, and to embrace the whole experience, as there’s nothing like it. Mans tweeted that the UK had voted well and we saw him to thank him, and he told us how much he liked our song. He even compared it to his winning song last year, which is a brilliant sign.
Joe: “We both love last year’s song sop that was such a compliment.”
And have you heard some of the other songs? Russia are favourites at the moment according to bookies…
Joe: “We saw Russia’s performance when we were in Tel Aviv, but to be honest they’re all strong songs. It’s all a really high standard this year. So it’s going to be difficult but an amazing experience. We can’t focus on the other songs, we can only make our own the best we can make it.”
Watch Joe and Jake singing the Eurovision song You’re Not Alone:
The Eurovision semi-finals screen on BBC4 on Tuesday and Thursday, before the Song Contest Final on BBC1 this Saturday.