Ireland's Eurovision hopeful Lesley Roy has opened up about the staging of her song Maps, saying she and the team wanted to create something different to "the usual beautiful Eurovision lights".
The Dublin singer, who is based in New York, will perform the upbeat, anthemic song at the Eurovision Semi-Final in Rotterdam on May 18.
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Speaking after her second rehearsal on the Rotterdam Ahoy stage, she said she felt "really excited" about the performance.
"We're really moving towards the place that we've envisioned it," Lesley said. "It's getting very close now and it's really nice seeing everything coming together."
The 34-year-old from Balbriggan was originally set to represent Ireland in last year's Eurovision, which was then cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Her Eurovision dreams were reignited when she was chosen to return for this year's contest, leading to her writing and producing Maps along with Eurovision producer Lukas Hallgren (She Got Me, fourth place ESC 2019), Philip Strand (producer/songwriter Normandie), Deepend and Emelie Eriksson (known as EEVA).
The complex staging of Maps, which relies on intricate paper props and dancers to move them onstage, mirrors Lesley's lengthy Eurovision journey.
"My entire journey for this whole Eurovision over this past 14 months - I've been trying to tell this story," she explained.
"People just catching some pictures of it are probably a little bit confused that we've built these miniature paper worlds that I travel through to get to the end of the song, to get to my home, my inner true self.
"What I think is cool, and what I hope people see on the night, is everything in our props - it's all hand-moved. I've got [dancers] Ingrid and Malin on the stage with me and they actually move everything."
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"We wanted it to have texture and be tangible and be analogue and be different from the usual beautiful Eurovision lights. So, I'm so excited for people to see all our paper forests, and our city and our ocean. Everything is all paper and is all handmade," she added.
Lesley doesn't seem phased about taking a staging idea that has never been done before to the Eurovision.
"I mean, at the very least, when you come here on such a massive stage and worldwide talent and amazing songs and artists, it's nice to know that the work we've put in on all those months, that we have brought something different, which is hard to do," she said.
"We really wanted to hand-build this different world that wasn't the world that we're used to in the Eurovision. That's why we brought it down so small; we wanted to centre and focus the viewers at home on this journey."
When asked if she thinks she has found her "true self", Lesley replied: "I believe so. I think we change all the time as humans, so I think we're always journeying to new parts of ourselves.
"Within this Eurovision journey, I did have to really dig down deep to find Maps. That's really what Maps is about: coming back to your true sense of self."
Lesley and her wife Lauren, who is providing "fantastic" support for her in Rotterdam at the song contest, currently live in New York. However, the singer said she would like to perform more in her home country and across Europe after the Eurovision.
"I would love to. I think that was one of the reasons to try and do the Eurovision was to root ourselves back home in Ireland a little bit more.
"I would love to be back in Ireland much more, performing and writing for other Irish artists too. That is a plan."
Lesley Roy will represent Ireland performing Maps at the Eurovision Semi-Final on May 18. The programme will air live on RTÉ2, RTÉ Radio 1 and the RTÉ Player.