When Mae Muller was asked to represent the UK at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which is now well underway in Liverpool, bringing even more mirth and merriment to Merseyside, she didn’t hesitate to say yes. “I was 100% in from the start,” the 25-year-old Londoner says brightly when we meet at her record label a few weeks before she enters Eurovision battle mode. If a tiny sliver of doubt crept in, Muller pushed it aside immediately. “Because it’s such a huge deal. I was like, ‘Can I do it? Like, am I ready for this?'” she recalls. “And then I was like, ‘Yeah, absolutely, let’s go!” Because I think for Eurovision, you have to be all in, or not [do it]. And so I was all in from the start.”
In early March, a couple of months after Muller firmly but confidentially grabbed the Eurovision bull by its horns, she was announced as the UK’s 2023 entrant. I Wrote a Song, the somewhat meta earworm she will be performing at Saturday’s grand final, rocketed straight into the UK Top 40. This kind of instant chart splash hadn’t happened since boyband Blue entered the contest with I Can in 2011, a reflection of the UK’s renewed enthusiasm for Eurovision this year, but also of the song’s quality. Co-written by Muller with electro producer Lewis Thompson and Kylie Minogue collaborator Karen Poole, it’s a catchy slab of dance-pop that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Love Island montage – in other words, a hit.
I Wrote a Song wasn’t written with Eurovision in mind, but it was designed to be uplifting. “I could’ve cried at home and spent the night alone – instead I wrote a song,” Muller sings on the chorus – and in a way, this is exactly what happened. Muller started writing it when she was “feeling rubbish” and “down in the dumps” while “going through a heartbreak”, before what she calls “that sort of fight or flight thing” kicked in. “I was like, ‘How can I take those negative emotions and work through them? ” she says. “I wanted to process them in a way that would actually empower me instead, which is why I wrote this song in the way that I did.”
Muller finished I Wrote A Song “a few days before” that first Eurovision conversation in January, which she agrees is a bit spooky. “I feel it really does sound like a Eurovision bop,” she says, entirely accurately. “So the fact it came naturally… maybe subconsciously it was in my brain? Something told me, like, ‘You’re gonna write your Eurovision bop today.'” I Wrote a Song didn’t need abbreviating to meet Eurovision’s strict three-minutes-or-less rule – enforced to stop the final from feeling like a marathon – but Muller did tweak its structure once she knew she’d be singing it in Liverpool. “The middle eight spoken word section wasn’t originally in the song,” she explains. “But when I had my Eurovision cap on, I thought that on the night, it would be really nice to have a moment where it feels like I’m speaking directly to the audience. Eurovision is such a huge stage, so I thought that could make it feel intimate.”
That huge stage is docked in Liverpool this week because of Sam Ryder’s extraordinary performance at last year’s contest in Turin. The former metal frontman finished second with his soaring, Elton-esque ballad Space Man, the UK’s best result in 24 years. He was pipped by Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra, who won deservedly and stirringly with their anthemic folk-hip-hop banger Stefania, but the UK is hosting on Ukraine’s behalf due to the war with Russia. “You know, I’m very different to Sam, so I feel like I’m doing it in my own way,” Muller says. This is no exaggeration: if Ryder gambolled at the contest with puppyish enthusiasm, Muller has taken a slightly more wry approach. She’s really funny on social media, where she has even embraced the lolzy idea of calling her fans the “Muller Corners”. At the time of writing, Muller is eighth favourite to win on Saturday, a sign that her bop and personality are connecting with Eurovision’s clued-up fanbase, who can smell apathy a mile off.
Like Ryder, Muller was hand-picked for the job by TaP Music, a leading talent management company that counts Ellie Goulding and Lana Del Rey among its clients. Given that Ryder returned from Turin a national hero and later scored a Number One album, she must be aware that this week is potentially career-making. But at the same time, Muller is no wide-eyed novice. Raised in Kentish Town, North London, she began writing songs and performing for anyone who would watch her a five-year-old. “There’s plenty of home videos – my poor family!” she says today, rolling her eyes affectionately at her own precociousness. Five years later, she appeared in Mika’s Grace Kelly music video, an early credit that gives her a tangential Eurovision connection because the piano-playing showman co-hosted and performed at last year’s contest.
After college, Muller worked at a pub and the Oxford Street branch of American Apparel before landing a record deal thanks to promising original songs she posted on SoundCloud. A year later, in 2019, she supported Little Mix on a formative 32-date arena tour. “Having to win people over every night, that was quite daunting, but I think it really built me up to be ready for this,” she says today. Then in 2021, she scored an international smash as the featured vocalist on Better Days, a funk-pop nugget by Swedish collective Neiked. “I got to do a lot of TV appearances in the US [with that song],” she says. “When I sang it on [The Tonight Show Starring] Jimmy Fallon, that was a moment where I was like, ‘OK, people are taking you seriously now.'” Better Days, a Top 40 hit on both sides of the Atlantic, has now racked up nearly 400 million Spotify streams.
Still, Muller is savvy enough to recognise that Saturday’s grand final is another level up. “I feel like you can’t ever fully be ready for something like Eurovision,” she says, “because there’s nothing you can compare it to, you know?” She is also far too smart to pretend she doesn’t care where she finishes on Saturday. “If I come off stage and think, ‘That was great, I couldn’t have done any better,’ then I’ll be pleased,” she says. “But also, let’s get a top five [result]. That would also be great, wouldn’t it?”