Belfast Telegraph

Seven things you need to know about the UK’s Eurovision contestant Michael Rice

The Hartlepool native is hoping to surprise the bookies at this year’s contest in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Michael Rice performs on the Graham Norton Show (Isabel Infantes/PA)
Michael Rice performs on the Graham Norton Show (Isabel Infantes/PA)

The UK’s Eurovision Song Contest pick Michael Rice is no stranger to TV talent shows.

Born and raised in Hartlepool, County Durham, the 21-year-old made his small screen debut aged 16 when he auditioned for The X Factor.

He later appeared on the BBC’s All Together Now and swept to victory in 2018, transforming him from quiet busker to genuine performer in the process.

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Michael Rice competes on Eurovision: You Decide (Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

Earlier this year he competed against five other acts to win Eurovision: You Decide and represent the UK with the song Bigger Than Us in Tel Aviv.

The Press Association runs down seven things you need to know about the Eurovision hopeful.

1. His mother’s sacrifices so he could pursue music

The eldest of four, Rice was brought up by his mother, a single parent, in Hartlepool.

She gave him a taste of music from a young age, signing him up for a weekend school.

“When I was six my mum put me into a musical theatre school on the Saturdays,” he said.

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Michael Rice on the Graham Norton Show (Isabel Infantes/PA)

“It was a little bit of a struggle for her because it was £60 every fortnight and she was a single mum at the time – and there were four of us.”

He added: “She really focused on me and made sure I got my dream – the dream I am living now.

“That’s my earliest memory of performing and doing musicals.”

2. His earliest Eurovision memory is of ABBA’s Waterloo

Their songs are now famous all over the world but back in 1974 no-one had heard of the Swedish quartet.

Their Eurovision victory set their course for stardom.

Rice remembers watching their top-scoring performance in Brighton on YouTube after the release of Mamma Mia in 2008 prompted his mother to take a trip down memory lane.

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(Left to right) ABBA’s Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngatad, Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus (PA)

3. His Eurovision performance is still under wraps

Rice will sing Bigger Than Us – penned by Sweden’s pick for the contest, John Lundvik, in front of as many as 7,000 fans when he takes to the stage at the Expo Tel Aviv on May 18.

But details of his performance are scant.

He confirmed his three-minute show would feature five backing gospel singers – two from the UK and three from Sweden.

4. Geri Horner once invited him over for tea

Ginger Spice was a judge on the BBC’s singing competition All Together Now when Rice won the crown last year.

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Geri Horner (Ian West/PA)

As a treat she invited him over for a spot of tea and even marched him to his first meeting with record label bosses.

He said: “We had a tea party with scones and cake and a big posh pot of tea. She’s really lovely, Geri.”

5. He has five tattoos and got his first aged 14

He might only be 21 but Rice has already started building a collection of tattoos.

Rice’s first was on his right arm and reads “Lead Not Follow”, the name of the first song he penned.

He also has a rose inked on the back of his left hand, the words “que sera, sera” – whatever will be, will be – and a music note behind his left ear.

6. Whitney Houston is his musical hero

Rice auditioned for The X Factor in 2014 when he sang for Simon Cowell, Cheryl, Mel B and Louis Walsh, performing I Look To You by Whitney Houston.

The late soul singer is a major inspiration but Christina Aguilera also played a part in him discovering music.

He remembers watching YouTube tutorials as a teenager, trying to learn how to sing like the American pop star.

Right now he looks to rising stars such as Grace Carter and Lewis Capaldi, and would love to collaborate with either.

7. His karaoke song is Proud Mary by Tina Turner

Rice’s go-to jukebox song comes from another acclaimed soul singer and was the track he used to wow the judges on All Together Now.

“Whenever I go back home, I go for a few drinks with my pals and they always ask me to get up and sing Tina Turner,” he said.

– The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Israel between May 14 and 18 after the 2018 contest was won by Israel entry Netta with her song Toy.

PA

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