Bellaghy singer and Voice star ready to give contest her best shot
Bellaghy’s Brooke Scullion is set for even bigger stardom whether she wins this week’s Eurovision Song Contest or not.
The singer, who will represent Ireland in the competition in Turin, has revealed she will soon be creating new songs with her mentor and All About That Bass star Meghan Trainor.
Brooke, who is getting Eurovision tips from the song contest’s former winner Dana, was part of Meghan’s team when she appeared on The Voice UK in 2020.
The 23-year-old has big plans for the weeks and months ahead.
She reveals: “My EP is dropping maybe the day after the competition. And I’m heading to LA to write with Meghan when everything calms down. You know, I’ve never been more grateful for anything in my life. It’s just so surreal.
“Like, I genuinely think that this was meant to be. I’m not scared or anything. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, do you get nervous before you go on stage?’ And I’m like, ‘no’, because I’ve done the work. I know that I’m ready. At this moment in time, this is exactly where I’m meant to be. And I’m thrilled to be here.”
But she admits a singing career was never the plan: “I’ve always sung around the place, but not well. I used to butcher Christina Aguilera songs. In Derry, there’s a massive trad music scene and unless you have a soft, lilting voice, you’re going nowhere.
“My voice is kind of raspy and gravelly so it never really fit the mould. I was even asked to not join the choir!
“I went for acting instead, going to drama school in Derry. The Voice was actually auditioning people there one day. I was drinking in the student bar with a mate of mine who signed me up for it and I went to audition for a laugh, genuinely not thinking anything of it.
“I auditioned with an Adele song at first and they told me I had a good voice but they’d heard Adele a hundred times already that day.
“So I cracked into Hotel California, just a cappella (she plays the guitar but her fake nails prevented her from doing so that day) and it wasn’t until they’d sat me down and had been telling me for 15 minutes or so about me going into the next round that I believed them.”
She finished in third place on The Voice and immediately dropped her debut single, Attention, to much acclaim. It was recorded, produced and the video shot remotely on the north coast (“I was fully sick for a week after; filming in that water was baltic”) while The Voice was on hiatus due to Covid-19.
Her second track, That’s Rich — co-written by Brooke, Karl Zine and Izzy Warner — would be played on BBC Two, to crowds across London, Tel Aviv and Barcelona and, this week, to an estimated global TV audience of 183 million people at Eurovision. Not to mention her friends and family who have “all bought tickets”. “God help me, every relative I’ve ever known is flying in.”
“It’s the first song I ever wrote,” Brooke admits, with a smile; she wrote it before Attention. “I only started writing music last January after The Voice. Back then, there were no career prospects for me whatsoever, as I had no existing music repertoire to fall back on or to approach labels with.
“I also couldn’t make money from singing, as restrictions were still in place — so there was no way for me to work as an artist. Because of that, I went headfirst into writing, which was great because I had no expectations for myself. That’s where That’s Rich came about.
“Obviously, everyone is going to have their opinion and mine is just mine, but I do feel like it is quite a universal song. I wrote it when I was finally single after a long time of casual relationships and I kind of stepped back and wondered to myself, ‘Why am I doing this if my heart’s not really in it?’ I also wanted to write something that boasted familiarity the second or third time you heard it, which I think I did.
“And it’s also really poppy and kitschy and full of 1980s-inspired choppy guitar, which I’m hoping will give what is a very contemporary song a very nostalgic edge. Saying that, my mother didn’t like it at all the first time she heard it — but she loves it now.”
Despite a genuine appreciation for the show, her Eurovision journey came about unusually; while crafting her EP, she realised That’s Rich didn’t exactly fit with the rest, so, with guidance, she submitted it to The Late Late Show EuroSong Special — from which her first-ever writing credit was chosen from 400 submissions.
It was the first public vote — two juries were also involved — for an Irish Eurovision entry since Dustin The Turkey’s infamous Irelande Douze Pointe in 2008 (“Am I in the same league as a turkey? I hope not”) but it was never something she had planned.
Despite still holding the title for the most wins (seven) Ireland’s recent track record when it comes to the song contest is nul points. The last win was back in 1996 (Eimear Quinn with The Voice).
But that doesn’t faze Brooke who says: “Honestly, I am just so grateful to be here. You have to remember, I didn’t have a career before this and I still can’t believe I’ve managed to get this massive opportunity.
“Yes, I agree with people that it can be cheesy but Eurovision is everything I love — campy, kitschy weirdness. I’m a total oddball and this is my dream gig. My song is the same, it’s tongue-in-cheek; pop; fun. I mean, Eurovision means all things to all people and yes, that can be utter cheesiness, but I don’t really care; I’m having the time of my life.”
In February, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) made the decision to ban the Russian entry from participating in the contest this year.
The EBU, which produces the event, said Russia’s inclusion would bring the competition into disrepute “in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine”.
When asked about the ban, the Bellaghy singer says she has been horrified by what has happened in Ukraine.
She replies: “It kind of doesn’t matter what I think. What’s happening in Ukraine is horrendous. I completely sympathise with them. Their song is amazing this year too, genuinely.
“What I will say is that the Eurovision is so inclusive, it gives countries an immense opportunity to share their culture and languages — like, I would never have heard a Ukrainian song only for this. When you’re in the arena, it’s so powerful. I fully got goosebumps listening.”
She’s garnering the support of Dana, the original Derry girl, along the way.
“Dana’s been really good, actually,” she says of the 1970 Eurovision winner. “Like, really cool. She gave me the best advice. She told me to not compare myself to other acts. That everyone is going to be very good and very different.
“So not to compare my act to anyone else’s because if I do that, I’ll lose focus on my own performance.”
Brooke Scullion will perform That’s Rich in the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest on Thursday. The Eurovision final will be broadcast on Saturday.