His single ‘Amen’ is something you should listen to
What do ABBA, Celine Dion, and Julio Iglesias have in common? Well, apart from being among the music industry’s brightest stars, they have all previously competed at the Eurovision Song Contest. Led by the European Broadcasting Union, the annual music celebration has been participated in by more than 50 countries and has helped launch the career of many new musicians and singers.
It is an understatement to say that the competition is one of the smoothest tracks (pun intended) to success and fame. With its history dating back to 1956, the contest has influenced what is hip and cool in music, and contributed a lot to pop culture thanks to its kitsch appeal.
But among many Filipino music lovers, the fame of Eurovision is quite still under the radar. But that is about to change as a Filipino artist is soon to perform in its very stage.
Filipino-Austrian Vincent Bueno has been chosen to represent Austria to the prestigious music contest with his new single “Amen.” If his name rings a bell, that’s because he once became a part of our local music scene. He did the opening act for Filipina pop singer Sarah Geronimo’s concert in Vienna, performed at ABS-CBN’s Sunday noontime show “ASAP,” and held a concert in the country before going back to Austria.
Now on his way to make his mark on Eurovision history, the 35-year-old music artist chats with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle as he share his inspirations, his life as a singer abroad, and what can people expect from him at the competion and beyond.
What inspired you to pursue a career in music? Do you have icons you look up to?
I do have a lot of people that I admire in showbiz, one of those was Michael Jackson. One of my Filipino heroes is Gary Valenciano. I think they have similar energies when it comes to performing on stage. I was very young [when I started], I think, at the age of six my parents saw the potential in me of kind of having the fire of being on stage. I was always the one dancing in parties and performing so I think that was a passion of mine from a very early age.
Tell us something about ‘Amen.’ What is the story behind it and what makes it different from your past works?
“Amen” is not my own composition, it’s a composition by five different people. It’s an international team this time that I got to work with. I was captivated by the message. At first, when people heard that the title of my upcoming Eurovision single is “Amen,” and they asked if it is a Christian song. It is not about the word amen itself. It speaks about what the singer-songwriter wanted, it tells about an end of a relationship, a dramatic one. Here in Europe, people are very eccentric with words. Sometimes you just say things that you don’t mean, like, “kung iyon ang gusto mong mangyari, edi amen.” It is kind of like that feeling. It is almost like sarcastically saying amen.
[With regard to] my previous work, “Alive,” I wrote that song and produced it with my team. It was a pretty personal song. For me, that song represented my energy on stage… It is a bit challenging to sing and mean that song. It is not hard to do, but it is tough, especially when you feel a lot of energy within you.
Since you mentioned ‘Alive,’ you were supposed to compete for Eurovision 2020 with that song but it was canceled. How did that make you feel?
At first, there was nothing to be surprised about. In March, the government was saying that coronavirus reached our country and it’s taking its toll. I was like, okay, it doesn’t look good for us. As COVID-19 spread all over Europe, it would be a miracle if they say Eurovision will still take place. I think two weeks after the release of “Alive,” I get a phone call from the head of delegation. He said, “Vince, you will not fly to Rotterdam because, as we all expected, it’s not going to happen.” I felt a little bit relieved but [dis]satisfied. Because all of the hard work, the preparation, everything that we put into this half year of work, almost every single day going to the studio and correcting were all just tossed into the garbage can. I think God has different plans.
Speaking of the pandemic, what’s your quarantine story? What kept you busy and did COVID-19 affected the way you make music?
I was getting a lot of my stuff from my office back into our old apartment because that was also the time when we wanted to move out. Right now, I’m in the new apartment. It was pretty exciting, strange, and also a very creative time. I have two daughters and a beautiful wife, I have a great family and I feel like they have given me that stability. Family is such a vital part of our life, especially with us Filipinos. So what I did in that time was to deal with the fact that my cousin Rachel is ill. She was diagnosed with one of the hardest brain cancers you can ever imagine. Then people are getting sick. That made me think about life and compose things that came from deep within me.
My latest album, “On The Run,” talks a lot about the pandemic. The first song in that album—“On The Run” itself—is about all the stress that I was dealing with at that time. You can also hear a family fight on that album. It was just so hard to accept the thought that my young cousin only has a few months to live. But, thank God, she’s still here, she’s still fighting. Another thing is the stress from being in the media. As a Filipino artist, you are also a target of discrimination. So when you listen to “On The Run,” you’ll hear a lot about my feelings from last year.
How did people react when it was announced that you will be representing Austria for the competition?
A lot of people are very happy for me but you will never avoid the people, of course, that talk, it is showbiz. I mean, that is a case you get no matter where you are in life, especially when you are in a foreign country. I was born and raised here. I was also in the Philippines for a few years and the main problem with that is Filipinos thought, “Aba, ang galing mag-Tagalog, parang dito ka pinanganak. Pero bakit ang yabang mo? (laughs).” It is like “parang maangas ‘to.” It is like I couldn’t adapt fully to being a Filipino that I always have to be meek and humble, which I understand. Here, I’m the corny one, that the guy who “doesn’t have an attitude.” I was never right, I have culture clashes all the time. But experiencing all of these, it makes you richer in your personality. You can switch from one culture to the other. It makes your skin thicker. It helps you endure more stress.
But people reacted very positively last year. The fact that our television broadcaster, ORF, was trusting me gave me a boost of confidence.
Why is it important for artists to create art even during the pandemic?
Art is a form of medicine. Can you imagine a world without music? We would die instantly. I think artists, whether you do performing arts or music, are like a form of pharmacy to the people. Art, especially music, always give the people the vibrations, the vibes. Like “Amen,” talking about a very dark time in your life where you have to say goodbye to someone, or maybe you lost someone that you dearly love, somebody died, or whatever, it can give people the feeling that “hey, somebody understands.”
The pandemic is a time where a lot of artists here in Austria have no gigs. That’s why I’m so lucky, so blessed. With the competition, I’m a Filipino-Austrian and I have the opportunity to represent both countries. I represent Austria, officially, But at the end of the day, I also represent the Filipinos all around the world so I feel very honored.
Apart from Eurovision 2021, what can people expect from you next?
Definitely an album to come and new singles. What I have here as a Filipino-Austrian is very special. It’s very seldom that people who are foreign looking get this kind of exposure. So I want to help other foreigners to shine here. I’m also planning to create a label with some teammates or some new teammates. I’m going to work even more on my Suitcase Media. It’s just called Suitcase Media because it’s a metaphor for opening stories untold. I want to work with artists, even from the next generation. At 35, I think I can say that I’m their “kuya.”
The 65th edition of Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and will consist of two semi-finals on May 18 and 20, 2021, and the final on May 22, 2021.
Listen to “Amen” here.