You are currently viewing 🇬🇧 Editorial: Lessons We Can Learn From Sam Ryder

Image Credit: EBU // Corinne Cumming

His momentum has only grown over the last two months since he was announced as the UK’s representative back in March, and now as we head ever closer to the final, Sam Ryder has become the UK’s best shot at winning, or at least coming left-hand side, in over a decade.

One of the most striking things about Sam is his energy and the positivity that has exuded from him since he began his press & pre-party tour. This has only developed since he reached Turin, with him directly responding to journalists in the press centre asking about his opinions on the “Brexit affects results” excuses, often used to explain away bad showings for the UK in the contest.

If you’d like to learn more about Sam before we get into this article, you can do so by clicking here.

Pre-Contest Response

One of the most popular UK TV shows This Morning was one of Sam’s early stops on his promotional tour. This show has been known to be not so positive about Eurovision, especially when hosted by Phillip Schofield. Phillip is one of the UK’s most popular TV presenters, and in this instance can almost be used as the ‘voice’ of causal Eurovision viewers.

Phillip said “when you look at all the blocks, all the individual blocks and all the little cliques and all the stuff that goes on you’d think they don’t like us”

Sam responded by saying:

[…] My enthusiasm is just so much greater than my fear. I love singing and singing is about connecting with people, and it’s connecting with those people that have been supporting you. And for me over the past two years, so many amazing, lovely people around Europe have been watching my videos on social media and rooting for me. To be able to go over there and go to Turin on May the 14th and sing for some of those people, I can’t think of the boxes that I’m not ticking as a singer or as an artist and a performer. If I let fear of where I come on a scoreboard define what I wanna do in any aspect of my life, right now it’s Eurovision, but I’m sure there’s gonna be things later on in my life that I don’t want fear to define. I want to go there and sing my head off.

Sam Ryder, This Morning

Sam said he’s confident and ready, saying that ultimately we need to focus on the positivity at home surrounding Eurovision.

I think we have a lot to answer for in just rallying and getting behind, radiating that light. […] I can’t let [previous UK results] psych me out.

Sam Ryder, This Morning

Sam also appeared on the BBC’s The One Show for his first TV performance of ‘Space Man’.

It was really important for me to not let that fear of the stigma get in the way of just being a part of something that I love with all my heart, what an honour, I’m so stoked.

Sam Ryder, the One Show

The British media relationship towards Eurovision is rooted in cynicism from years of poor results, to political changes within the country and comments from the UK commentators over the years (that specifically got more harsh and malicious, especially in the voting towards the later years of Terry Wogan in around 2007-2008). You can read more about this issue by clicking here.

Sam’s attitude to the contest radiates through the fact he is not only a Eurovision fan but also from the fact he genuinely doesn’t buy into the ‘it’s all political, it’s Brexit, everyone hates us’ mindset. For Sam, this contest is an opportunity for him to get his music out on the world stage beyond TikTok, not just something he can go and participate in and forget about. Hearing Sam go on TV shows in the UK and speak about how he views the contest, ignoring the usual derogatory viewpoints and pushing the positivity narrative was so important for fans. Hearing someone on TV speak positively about Eurovision – especially in the UK – is an unusual but welcome experience.

Sam also appeared on Rylan’s BBC Radio 2 Eurovision Special show just before he went over to Turin. Over the course of the last few months, BBC Radio stations have been pushing a more positive outlook on Eurovision in order to try and get people hyped for the shows and to look at the contest from a less negative perspective. Sam told Rylan:

[…] If our attitude becomes super positive and we get behind every artist that gets involved [for the UK] in years to come it would be amazing

Sam Ryder, BBC Radio 2

Press Conferences At Eurovision

On May 5th 2022, Sam had his first rehearsal for ‘Space Man’ on stage at the PalaOlimpico, which prompted an overwhelmingly positive response as soon as the pictures were revealed, and once again this reaction was reciprocated on May 7th after his second rehearsal clip was released. Both times, Sam partook in the press conferences, in which he had questions directed towards him surrounding the current climate of the UK in the contest, and the external factors that could explain previous poor showings in the contest.

In the first press conference Sam was asked:

Last year was a tough year for the UK in Eurovision, so did you hesitate to take part in Eurovision this year? You are one of the favourites to win, is it pressure for you, or do you try not to give importance to the odds?” – to which Sam replied:

When I was asked to do Eurovision as a fan my heart was like “you should do it, absolutely it’s a yes” like the opportunity and just being part of the story – so few people get to experience Eurovision, having and dreaming of having a career in music, the odds are against you let’s be real. Now how do we make that even harder? Pick one person per country in the music industry to represent [a country]. So when you get the offer, when you get the call if you’re a fan you have a duty and responsibility to be stoked and to be happy and they were my initial feelings, and it was only like that split second after […] in your head and your heart you’re like “yes let’s go for it” and I’m talking about a flash second later you get the thoughts of “what if you get nul points? what if you never work again?” or like “yeah but your careers gonna go nowhere after this”. But all of those thoughts, we create them, all of those negative patterns we come back to were made by you just the same as being stoked, being excited was made by you, you get to choose which path you take from that point and I think it’s a good call to follow that gut instinct from the very beginning.

I don’t feel pressure, because first of all I haven’t really read the internet since I’ve accepted the job because I think that’s only gonna psych you out and for every good thing you’ll read something bad and then you’ll forget about the good things […]. I couldn’t help but hear about the odds because everyone keeps telling me about it so of course I’m so happy and grateful about that. The thing that I’m taking away from that news is that there is a shift in attitude towards Eurovision in the UK hopefully. People are getting positive, people are getting behind it, people are getting excited, and I mean 3 minutes on stage singing your song you can be fooled into thinking that is what this is about I don’t think it is, it’s how you carry yourself from the beginning up until that time when it’s all over and you walk off the stage – what can you do with your time? Because the build up for this thing is vast and it’s long there is so much opportunity to spread what you’re about and you can’t feel pressure about that. Same as you can’t feel pressure about where you come on a scoreboard it’s totally out of your control […] All I can focus on is getting on that stage singing with the same intention that I’ve sang with during TikTok and in my studio which was a place of joy and doing what I can and enjoying every moment of it.

Sam Ryder on his decision to take part and pressure of the odds

Sam was also asked about the British public opinion – ‘The last years it was always the fault of Brexit, the Nul Points result, and if you win will it also be the Brexit vote or will the British public will realise that it’s about charisma, it’s about good songs?” – You can hear Sam’s response in the video below.

When asked about what the most important message he wants to give with his music & song is, Sam said.

Hopefully as a singer & songwriter your main objective and your goal is to connect with your audience, fill that space between you – between yourself and a stranger in that arena. You’ve got to try and find someway of connecting with that person, making something tangible out of that empty space. If you can do that with your music and lyrics and your song then thats your job, that is the be all and end all . It’s everything. If people feel that positivity and the happiness and the joy from the place that you’re singing from then again, that’s the prize.

Sam Ryder speaking about the message behind his music

This conference – specifically the clip shown above – proved to many that Sam was what many UK fans had been waiting for – an act not afraid to tackle the media questions that surround UK politics & casual viewer excuses head-on & with such a well versed and thought out response. Sam’s replies within this first conference didn’t just gain attention from UK fans either – international Eurofans were glad to see such positivity coming from a UK act. It’s a well-known trope that “Eurovision (supposedly) kills careers” in the UK, even though the UK often send artists without previous experience or whose careers peaked prior to the 2010s. Sam’s unashamed love for the contest being bigger than the fear he has for his future or his result on the scoreboard is something so incredibly fresh to hear from a UK artist & one many hope will continue with the further entrants in future.

Sam Ryder at his second ‘Space Man’ rehearsal at Eurovision 2022 | Credit: EBU / Corinne Cumming

On May 7th 2022, Sam’s second rehearsal took place. Following the positive reaction to both his first rehearsal images and the exclusive second rehearsal clip, he’d found himself moving up and down the top 4 of the odds, fluctuating between 4th and 2nd almost daily.

Sam was once again asked that now he was seen as a favourite to win, if it was any pressure. His response was:

I don’t really feel the pressure honestly, because, you wait right, if we get one point watch me celebrate on that camera – if someone would’ve just turned on the TV at that point they’ll be like “oh the UK won?” like no they got one point! Honestly it’s no pressure, it’s just enjoying the moment that myself and the team, all the songwriters and everyone with us are just soaking up and enjoying the moment. If we put pressure on it we kill the magic, I think. You miss everything that’s good about it.

Sam responding to pressure of being a potential winner

Another question put to Sam was “Do you think Brits have changed their attitudes towards Eurovision and are looking more critically at what they can do to improve their results instead of looking at others?” to which he replied:

That’s the aim, I think of this. […] the song and the performance, that 3 minutes, you could be fooled into thinking that’s the thing and that’s the aim, that’s the goal, the objective. But as time goes on in this process I’m realising it’s actually not, it’s what you can do with your time. […] How do you present yourself? Myself and my whole team are representing the UK we have a responsibility to put forth our feelings and our energy about something like that and in our experience everywhere we go there is now energy, there’s only kindness, warmth and just welcoming hearts everywhere we go. So I refuse to buy into this negative Brexit narrative, I can’t – and regardless if it was true I refuse to live my life thinking and putting energy into that belief.

Sam on Brexit & Attitudes in the UK

UK Head of Delegation Andrew Cartmel actually provided a response too, saying:

This guy [Sam] has done an incredible job in shifting perceptions about Eurovision in the UK I think, I’ve never believed it’s been about politics at all it really isn’t, we all know the reasons why we’ve not done well in the past. This guy has just put the most positive light on representing the UK and people have responded and he’s done an incredible job of that he really has. He’s massively helped shift perceptions about Eurovision, so big up to Sam, because he’s done the job that’s been needed for years so thank you Sam.

UK HoD on Sam Ryder’s attitude to Eurovision.

Andrew Cartmel has been in charge of Eurovision on and off for the UK and hasn’t received the best results in his tenure as HoD. He went relatively unknown as the HoD for years. Seeing him actually speak out in a press conference and recognise himself that there’s been a shift in attitudes because of Sam shows the work and effort Sam has put into this Eurovision journey has paid off. The energy Sam speaks about has clearly started to be noticed by those casually looking into the contest as a three-night event, or even one-night event compared to fans who follow it year-round.

Sam also spoke positively of the Eurovision fans earlier on in the conference. He said:

It is a pleasure. The fans of Eurovision are incredible . It’s nothing short of one of the biggest honours of my entire life being part of this gorgeous family and gorgeous sort of, collection of passionate people, it’s amazing

Sam on being the British artist & Eurovision fans
Sam At The Opening Ceremony | Credit: EBU / Sarah Lousie Bennett

Sam told Music Week that he was going to “do the best I possibly can” in Turin, and that he wasn’t the fans to know that they’ve “left no stone unturned”. With an elevated staging structure & new electric guitar solo at the end of the live performance, it appears like he was right – this year, the UK are pulling out all the stops to show Europe they can make an effort with Eurovision, and they can do it well.

What Does It Mean To The Fans?

We asked fans from The United Kingdom to tell us what it meant to them to see Sam’s positive attitude to Eurovision, and how it feels to see the UK doing well. Here are their responses.

What Does It Mean To See Sam Being So Positive In The Run-Up To Eurovision?

‘It’s exciting to see he has as much love and passion for the competition as the fans do’ – Lucy

‘Sam seems like one of the most positive people on the planet! It’s great to see because the positivity passes on to other people too!’ – Laura

‘I couldn’t be prouder to have him as our representative because his aim isn’t primarily on just winning but also to change the attitude of people of the U.K. towards Eurovision. He’s been able to tackle tough questions about the effect of Brexit on results really well and kept people like Phillip Schofield in check about his negativity!’ – Aaran

‘I think it’s absolutely fantastic to see, his enthusiasm is infectious and he’s such a fantastic representative for the U.K.!’ – Luke

‘It’s what a lot of British Eurofans have been screaming out for now for ages. When the dreaded B word has popped up previous artists have given a mealy-mouthed response, but Sam has just straight up said it’s nonsense, Europe doesn’t hate us, and that he hasn’t got time for such rubbish, and expressed that it’s not all about winning! I agree!’ – Kris

How Do You Feel About The UK & The Positive Reception They’ve Received This year?

‘It makes me feel hopeful that the BBC do know how to up their game, and there’s a potential to keep it up’ – Lucy

‘It’s a very very strange feeling because we’re so used to doing badly, but it just goes to show that if we put the effort in we can get a good result and prove the “Europe hates us” brigade wrong. It’s exciting but also nerve-wracking!’ – Laura

‘I’m still in disbelief about how positive the reaction has been to our song and the hype that it has to do very well. I have to try to keep my expectations as low as possible though because I could be quite upset if our results don’t reflect the hype. However, the song combined with very strong staging makes me more confident than I’ve been in an U.K. entry’ – Aaran

‘I think it’s so lovely to see such a positive reception! Sam’s wonderful, and his song is equally as uplifting, and wonderous!’ – Luke

‘The UK has already won in my eyes. No matter where we finish on the scoreboard, the narrative has been changed. The fact we’re in the running to take the glass microphone is amazing! Many of us just wanted the UK to do well this year, being in the running to win means that the partnership with TAP Music has been a massive success, and I hope they stick around for a while!’ – Kris

Sam’s backstage at his second rehearsal | Credit: EBU / Andres Putting

Phoenix contributors Alice, AJ, Sophie, Liz and Nana Ama along with myself (Liv) have also expressed thoughts…

What Does It Mean To See Sam Being So Positive In The Run Up To Eurovision?

‘It means EVERYTHING – we have had incredibly lovely people represent us in the past but this is certainly the first time where I’ve been a UK Eurofan and our representative has spoken so openly about the stigma attached to Eurovision and the UK. His humbleness, positivity and infectious personality is a breath of fresh air and I think his attitude towards the contest is a win in itself’ – Alice

‘His attitude is great, just what we needed from the U.K. representative this year. It’s really reassuring that he’s so positive and isn’t bogged down about the results or the UK’s reputation at the contest’ – AJ

‘It is absolutely brilliant. Not only is it advice you can apply to Eurovision, you can apply it to your daily life!’ – Sophie

‘It makes me so happy! I am so happy to see him so happy as his joy is infectious. I wish we could keep him forever’ – Nana Ama

‘He’s the best ambassador that we have had in many years, purely due to his straight-up nature & not letting anything but positivity shine on him during Eurovision. He’s helped to change perceptions, even if that change is small for no. He is exactly what we needed, especially after 2021. Sam gets it, he knows what he’s talking about and has been the voice that so many of us UK fans have been hoping for’ – Liv

‘Sam Ryder has probably been the best ambassador for the UK I’ve ever seen. He has come into the contest with such a beautiful positive attitude that has transcended all the way throughout and into the hearts of the people. His wisdom and his eloquence has been a breath of fresh air and exactly the outlook and more a UK representative should have during the Eurovision period. His goal was to change attitudes and I think he’s well on his way to achieving that and I am beaming with pride’ – Liz

How Do You Feel About The UK & The Positive Reception They’ve Received This Year?

‘It’s quite overwhelming in all honestly – we’re not used to it! Although it’s been amazing to see I don’t think it adds any pressure to us and to Sam – I think no matter where we place on the scoreboard TaP, BBC and the UK team have sent a competitive entry with an incredible, authentic artist and that is a victory despite how many points we get. I hope this can now give us a blueprint to continue into future Eurovision’s to come’ – Alice

‘It feels strange but making the most of this reception! The last time I can remember a U.K. song being so well received was 2009, but even then it was more of an expectation that the song would inevitably do well. Whereas now there seems to be a lot of fans, including those outside the U.K., that genuinely like our song this year and want it to do well!’ – AJ

‘It’s surreal, but I’m trying not to get carried away! I am just hoping and praying for a decent result that sees the UK fully on the up at the Eurovision Song Contest. Good luck Sam!’ – Sophie

‘I still cannot believe it! It’s the first time that a lot of people like our entry. It’s a strange but good feeling. I just want points at the end of the day but this is a bonus!’ – Nana Ama

‘It’s bizarre in such a good way. To see actual hype from people outside of the UK over our entry means so much more than anyone will ever know. Could we win it? I’m trying to keep my expectations low but it’s getting harder not to give in to the hype each day. the fact we’re even having this conversation is insane – the UK entry being a potential winner in the year of 2022? Genuinely an amazing change & one I hope to see continue’ – Liv

‘It’s insane to me and has actually taken a lot to sink in. To go from zeros across the board to a favourite to win is the glow up I don’t think anyone anticipated. I am a little cautious admittedly of being too hopeful but I want to remain as positive as possible. This is as exciting as it gets in Eurovision and I’m so happy and so pleased. This is almost a dream come true’ – Liz

Overall, What Can We Learn From Sam Ryder?

To be positive – Sam’s positivity is one of the main things we can take away from him this Eurovision season. His optimism, his energy and his lack of acknowledgement of any negativity that comes his way is something we can all learn from. Replying to those casual viewers who think the contest is just a “political joke” can be an entertaining pastime for fans, but also a side of media we maybe shouldn’t engage in. We can’t change the minds of people who have been so set in their beliefs over Eurovision, but we can use our own platforms to spread the joy of the contest, and shed a positive light on it, as Sam has done with his platform at Eurovision this year.

To have hope – For many UK fans, expectations for 2022 were low. Coming off 0 points in 2021 wasn’t ideal, to say the least, and it made many wonder where the UK go from here. The idea that a year later, the United Kingdom could be referred to as a ‘potential winner’ was just a dream at that point, and something no one would’ve expected. With Sam’s constant promo tour, the overall positivity coming from the BBC and the elevation he, the BBC and TaP have given to ‘Space Man’ in each and every performance, UK fans have finally been given the opportunity to hope for a left-hand side result and a potential top 3 at best.

To not listen to those who think it’s “political” – As mentioned earlier on, we cant change the minds of those who think it’s political, and the only way to do so is by sending strong entries that do garner points in the televote and jury. Sam doesn’t feed into this narrative, even stating he refuses to buy into the ‘Brexit narrative’, and that’s something many casual viewers should learn too. Truth is, Europeans don’t sit there on a Saturday evening and think ‘we won’t vote for the UK, they voted to leave the EU!’ – they have their own political goings-on to worry about, and a vote that happened in another country 6 years ago doesn’t plague them. Norway aren’t in the EU either, and often does well in the contest – Switzerland and Iceland were also strong favourites last year too, politics has nothing to do with it whatsoever when it comes to voting for the UK.

To support our entry & artists – Finally, Sam has spoken highly of Eurovision, and has said that if the attitude surrounding the contest becomes positive, then people will start getting behind the act. There is no better example of this than Sam himself. Since his announcement of the artist, the words he’s said in interviews, the engagement with fans and the overall general thoughts he has around the contest and its current nature in the UK have all sparked interest with fans even beyond the United Kingdom, and giving him a huge wave of support that many haven’t seen for UK artists beyond the border in a competitive aspect. Sam has shown how integral it is to get behind your artist and give them the drive to push more and more towards getting the best result possible for your country.

The BBC has created a documentary on Sam’s journey to Eurovision, which you can watch below

Sam Ryder may only be the UK’s entry for 2022, but his work this year in striving for better for the UK has given so many hope that they haven’t been able to experience before if they were born after, or were too young to remember the last UK win in 1997. His legacy for the country in Eurovision will hopefully continue for years to come and become the basis for all future artists and BBC entries for years to come. How well Sam will do right now is unknown – he performs 22nd in the final, which often is a great place to perform (Italy performed in a close 24th in 2021), but whatever the result he has given UK fans something to be extremely proud of, which is all they can ask of right now. It’s clear to see from the aforementioned fan comments how much this means to those in the UK, and hopefully will be a change needed going forward in the contest for the nation.

What do you think of the UK this year? Let us know in the comments!

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