Page last updated at 09:09 GMT, Friday, 2 January 2009

Talking Shop: Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber has signed up to compose the UK's 2009 Eurovision Song Contest entry.

And, as part of a new BBC show entitled Your Country Needs You, the 60-year-old will also help select a performer to compete in Moscow in May.

Viewers can vote on who they want to represent them out of six acts who have already been lined up for the series.

Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lloyd Webber says he does not expect to win Eurovision

What made you want to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest?

I thought it would be fun.

We're not going to win it, let's face it. I don't think that's possible, but at the same time we could have a laugh along the way.

It's Eurovision. I think secretly everybody watches it and secretly everybody has a bit of a laugh about it.

I'm just looking forward to being in Moscow with Graham, because I know we'll get up to no good.

During recording the show you travelled to Russia to meet with prime minister Valdimir Putin - what did you talk about?

I have his personal vote for the UK.

I tried to get him to guarantee the nation's vote, but he was at pains to point out that Russia is a democratic country these days, and he couldn't speak for his people.

At which point I asked him what he was going to do about this.

But you'll see all this in my interview, because I pointed out that Russia can't vote for itself, and it would be helpful in my view, for UK and Russia to work together.

Why do you think Eurovision has such a poor reputation in the UK?

It's because our entries have been absolute and total rubbish.

I get a little bit of an advantage because I've got quite a lot of shows running round Europe so I have got a kind of grass roots support.

I canvassed all the casts in my shows and they said the reason why they don't vote for Britain is because we don't bother. They resent it.

Let's face it, some of the acts have been rather ludicrous, but from their point of view, what we've done to Eurovision is almost worse.

What is the secret to a good Eurovision song?

Graham Norton and Andrew Lloyd Webber

I'm just looking forward to being in Moscow with Graham, because I know we'll get up to no good

Andrew Lloyd Webber

I don't plan to follow any rules like including a key change or following a structure.

You know every country is going to include everything from roller-skating to pole vaulting.

I don't think we should go that way. I think that if we've got a chance to do anything, then we should really be about the song and the performer.

I'm quite pleased because I think the final acts that we've got there are potentially several artists with a long-term career.

But last year's contestant Andy Abraham did not use gimmicks and he still came joint last.

I didn't actually see that one, but I did hear the song and I don't think that's really quite what we want.

What we have to is get the best song that we possibly can do, find the best artist we possibly can and then stage it in the best possible way.

Now, if that means we need a thousand roller-skaters behind us, then that's what we'll have to do, but I somehow doubt it.

What sort of act are you hoping to put forward?

Well the six acts are so different that it wouldn't be possible to describe how different they are.

And it would be wrong for me to say what they are at the moment, because you'll see when the show starts.

Do you think people care enough about Eurovision to want to vote?

We'll see, I don't know. I rather feel it's a slight make or break and I think it would be a shame if it ended.

It would be good if it got back to be what it was intended to be, which was a song contest.

People forget that it has thrown up some extremely good songs over the years. Particularly in the early years of its existence.

Andy Abraham
Andy Abraham came joint last in 2008's Eurovision contest

It launched Abba, and the success of Abba may not have happened if it had not been for Eurovision.

What's your favourite Eurovision song?

A song that no one would remember. A song called Are You Sure? by The Allisons, who came second.

I remember that, because I was a kid in school at the time, and I remember thinking what a shame it was that Britain didn't win it that year.

It is a very, very good song.

Are you worried the public may vote for the underdog in the series just like they did in Strictly Come Dancing?

I don't think so, because with my shows so far the public has voted for the best candidate.

All of the acts we've got could do it.

Are you worried the public have lost trust in voting for BBC shows after various phoneline scandals?

I can tell you that the BBC haven't really done anything wrong here. They just got some things muddled up.

In fact what the BBC have done is entirely honourable.

They saw a mathematical problem and a lot of programmes wouldn't have even mentioned it. So, if I was to say anything about the BBC, they're too honest about these things.

Your Country Needs You begins on BBC One at 1910 GMT on 3 January.

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