Catch up with the first Junior Eurovision Song Contest winner: Croatia’s Dino Jelusic

Dino Jelusic was only eleven years old when he not only represented Croatia but also won the very first Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2003. His song, ‘Ti si moja prva ljubav’ (You are my first love) also showed audiences across Europe that he could play the piano and dance as well as sing. Belén García of ESC-Plus recently caught up with Dino to find out his thoughts about Junior Eurovision; what happened afterwards and what he’s up to in 2013.

“Being part of such a great show, performing in front of a sold-out concert crowd and being able to do what I loved most – and still love – was unforgettable,” he says. “I’ll always remember that it was not just the performance but everything that surrounded the event: the other contestants, stage, organisation, technical options and the crew involved. Who wouldn’t have loved to have been in that position?”

For someone who had been performing – and winning many prizes and accolades – since he was five years old, Dino is careful to remain modest. “My goal was and is to feel comfortable and to do my best. Results aren’t the things to worry about but to send my emotions through my music and see the reaction of the audience.”

As an eleven year old, he had three other favourites from 2003. “I have always preferred rock and really liked the guys from Belgium called X!NK and their song ‘De vriendschapsband’ (The bond of friendship). I also liked BUBU because I know him from a festival in Romania and have always liked drums. I became very good friends with Volha from Belarus, who sang ‘Tantsui’ (Dance) and we’ve stayed in touch with each other ever since. In 2010, when we met up n Minsk she gave me a document that showed that I had a star named after me which made me quite emotional!”

Immediately after his Junior Eurovision Song Contest victory, Dino was kept busy with his EP, which became the largest selling in Croatian history before releasing his album ‘No 1’ which was also successful and sold in another thirteen countries. “The next two years I toured everywhere from Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Denmark and Norway and to America and Australia, and also performed in concerts with Ronan Keating and UB40” he recalls.

In his early teens, it was inevitable that Dino's voice would change and he took several years away from performing to concentrate on school. He was then given the opportunity to return to Australia and recorded his second album ‘Living my own life there with Swedish producer Robert Ahrling. “This album represented that I had now grown up and had all the songs I loved – rock,” he says.

Not that he’s on his own. “I have a fantastic support band, ‘Ground Zero.’ These guys are killer: so talented and I love playing with them. That’s what I like the most; being able to perform with a terrific crew and we play as often as we can. As the English album was released worldwide, we’re looking at options to tour in Germany, Australia, South Africa and America.”

But wait, there’s still more. “I’m a regular student at Music Academy, am writing music for a movie and compose on a daily basis,” he adds. “When I gain the academy diploma it will help me continue to work and perform internationally.”

Dino's work also led to being part of a big international project in South Africa called Synkropation. The album features collaborations from different artists and will be released soon. However, Dino’s love of heavy metal is something he never wants to forget and he’s also the lead singer of Iron maiden tribute band called ‘Made in iron,’ and also of M.U.D; a progressive/heavy metal band from Zagreb.

You can watch Dino's latest single is ‘Sjaj u ocima’ (Twinkle) by cliking: here.

This certainly won’t be the last we hear of him, and you can keep up to date with all of the new released from the first ever Junior Eurovision winner on his official YouTube channel: here.

Nine years on - life after Junior Eurovision for Greece 2004 entrant George Kotsougiannis

George Kotsougiannis was the lead singer of ‘Secret Band’ who represented Greece in the 2004 Junior Eurovision Song Contest with the song ‘O Palios Mou Eaftos’ (My Old Self) in Lillehammer, Norway. Nine years later, George lives, studies and works in London. Fotis Konstantopoulos of recently caught up with the young artist as he shared his thoughts about life and Junior Eurovision.

“Looking back nine years, I can honestly say that participating in Junior Eurovision was one of the greatest moments of my life until now. It still seems like it was only yesterday to me; going to Lillehammer with my friends (Secret Band) and just having fun and enjoying the moment. It was an amazing feeling and I would most definitely do it all over again.”

Since then, George has finished his music studies and recently moved to London to expand his opportunities as a musician and composer. “Everything is going to plan so far,” he smiles.

As for his Junior Eurovision experience, he believes that it helped shape his life and dreams to continue on with music and performing. “When I participated in JESC I was only fifteen years old and, like all other kids of my age, I was still trying to figure out what I really wanted to do in life. I always had a strong passion for music and started studying and playing at a very early age but the fact that I could represent my country in a Eurovision competition was crucial because it made me believe in me and make me think that my choice to become a musician was actually the right choice.”

In fact he still likes to follow Junior Eurovision news online and listen to all the songs that make it to the finals. Whether his next path leads to the senior Eurovision Song Contest is another matter. “Senior Eurovision is a lot different, I think. Junior Eurovision is a great competition with kids able to have fun and enjoy the moment without it becoming too competitive. It allows them to enjoy the experience at its fullest. On the other hand, senior Eurovision is a more complex and competitive competition with lots of different things going on such as marketing, the process behind writing the official entry and even the political relationships between countries.” He thinks for a bit longer before saying, “However I would definitely be motivated to enter senior Eurovision at some point but only with a very good song and the right marketing available to make sure that it ranks well in the finals.”

With Greece’s financial situation in a perilous state, George is adamant that they should re-enter the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. “I definitely want to see Greece in JESC again. I think that we have more to give in this competition. I know Greece has endured some huge financial problems in the past few years but I strongly believe that giving the opportunity to kids to show their talent at a high level competition is more important than a few Euros.”

However, even in Greece’s absence this year, he is keen to wish all the participants of JESC 2013 well in Kyiv. His advice is simple but true: “Go there to have fun; try your best and enjoy this amazing time of your life!”