Interview with EP and host Kelly Clarkson, EP/showrunner Audrey Morrissey, EP Ben Silverman, EP Anders Lenhoff and EP Christer Björkman of “American Song Contest” on NBC by Suzanne 3/14/22
This was a press conference for the upcoming show, “American Song Contest”. I was just one of many journalists in attendance This sounds like a fun show. It begins Monday, 3/21 on NBC! There are 54 contestants total – one from each state or territory. They compete each week until they narrow it down. You can vote online between the airing of the episode on Monday, and Wednesday. Each of the contestants are professional working musicians, not newbies or amateurs. Based on “Eurovision,” each group performs their original song. So, unlike, say, “The Voice,” they’re being judged more for their performing and songwriting talent than they are for their singing and playing.
Kelly Clarkson was very enthusiastic on Zoom. I’m told that she’s often this way. I don’t watch her show, and I haven’t seen her on anything else, so I’ll have to take their word for it. She certainly loves to talk! I can see why she has a talk show.
Along with Kelly, who’s both co-host and executive producer, were the executive producers and showrunner Audrey Morrissey. Two of the EPs, Lenhoff and Björkman, were involved with Eurovision, the European music contest that “American Song Contest” is based on.
It was very interesting to learn about this new show, which is different from all of the other singing contests on TV, such as “American Idol,” “The Voice,” “America’s Got Talent,” etc.
The show is the brainchild of EP Ben Silverman, who’s been working for “over 25 years” to try to get the Eurovision rights to make an American version. Eurovision was “not only the first, it’s the most ambitious and unique.” He’s understandably “thrilled” to be finally putting it all together for NBC. He hopes the audience will tune it because it’s live, they have great hosts in Snoop and Kelly and “It’s filled with regional passion and state by state brilliance. And I think you are going to be amazed to see some professionals, some amateurs, all different kinds of genres of music.”
Kelly is looking forward to the world seeing the diversity they have on the show because she knows there are different types of music all over the U.S., including in her home state of Texas. She really hopes that the show helps heal the country because it’s so “divided” right now “because people have their preconceived notions of who is from where. And that’s just not true anymore, especially in such a digital age and the Internet age. We are all very similar more than not. But, also, we do represent different cultures, which is going to be cool.”
You may wonder if larger states like Texas will get more votes than the smaller ones, but Silverman explained that, just like in Eurovision, every state has equal voting power. Kelly believes that people will vote for the artists that like the best – not just the ones in their home state. Kelly had worked with Snoop Dog before on “The Voice” and proclaimed that they worked really well together. “the thing I loved most about him is that he really took his time listening and kind of taking it in, like, each performance.” So she’s very excited to be hosting with him. She pointed out that they both represent vastly different types of music as well as areas of the country.
Producer Morrissey explained that they put out the word to all of professional people they knew, in “a really vast network of A&R scouts, managers, booking agents” from other music shows like “The Voice” and “Songland.” She had to make it show that this show is not like “American Idol” or the other shows. It’s for professional musicians. “This is for the artists, the person who is committed to ‘This is what I’m doing in my life, and I’ve been grinding it and working it on the road for years. I’m kind of a known entity. A&R scouts know about me. Maybe I am about to be signed, or I already have been signed, or I’ve turned down deals because I want to go it alone.'” In the future, they hope to have a mechanism similar to Eurovision, where each state has its own contest and the winner of each contest goes to their show.
Kelly and the other producers are really excited to show us that their show will have the “really over the top costumes and production stage values that” Eurovision has. Silverman noted, “It’s unbelievable, our sets, the spectacle, the costume design, the lighting design, all of the production value.” He cited the finale as being very similar to the type they do on the original Eurovision.
They don’t think that the more famous artists like Jewel will necessarily have an edge over the lesser-known artists in the competition. Each one has to prove themselves in the competition, famous or not. It’s also a great venue for any of the artists to showcase a new song.
Monday, 3/20 I’ll be watching the show and interviewing some of the contestants afterwards, live, so stay tuned!
American Song Contest
Mondays on NBC (8-10 p.m. ET); Series Premiere: March 21
America’s biggest live entertainment event has arrived! Based on the worldwide phenomenon “Eurovision Song Contest,” organized for 65 years by the European Broadcasting Union and watched by 200 million viewers annually, this amazing musical spectacular combines the competitive spirit of rooting for your favorite sports team with the joy of watching a beloved singing performance.
In the U.S. version of the international megahit, “American Song Contest” will feature live original musical performances, representing all 50 states, five U.S. territories and our nation’s capital, competing to win the country’s vote for the best hit song. The 56 artists span a wide range of performers – from undiscovered talent, up-and-coming new artists, and rising stars to established and legendary icons. An incredible solo artist, duo, group or band will represent each location and perform a new original song, celebrating the depth and variety of different styles and genres across America.
Hosted by Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson, the eight-week live competition consists of three rounds as the artists compete in a series of Qualifying Rounds, followed by the Semi-Finals and the ultimate Grand Final where one state or territory will emerge victorious.
“American Song Contest” is executive produced by Propagate’s Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens, alongside Audrey Morrissey, Amanda Zucker, Kyra Thompson and Gregory Lipstone as well as American Song Contest, Inc.’s Anders Lenhoff, Christer Björkman, Peter Settman and Ola Melzig. Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson also serve as executive producers.
The series is produced by Propagate in association with Universal Television Alternative Studio, a division of Universal Studio Group, and American Song Contest, Inc.
Coach, “The Voice”; Executive Producer/Host, “American Song Contest”; Executive Producer/Host, “The Kelly Clarkson Show”
Kelly Clarkson serves as a coach on NBC’s four-time Emmy Award-winning musical competition series “The Voice.” She won the competition in seasons 14, 15 and 17.
Clarkson will serve as host (with Snoop Dogg) on the new NBC musical competition series “American Song Contest” and she’s currently filming season three of “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” which has already been picked up for a fourth season.
An Emmy-winning talk show host, Grammy Award-winning artist and America’s original idol, Clarkson is one of the most popular artists of this era with total worldwide sales of more than 25 million albums and 40 million singles.
Clarkson recently released her critically acclaimed Grammy-nominated eighth studio album, “Meaning of Life,” and in 2020 released her powerful single “I Dare You,” which she recorded with five other artists in six languages
The Texas-born singer-songwriter first came to fame in 2002 as the winner of the inaugural season of “American Idol.” Clarkson’s debut single, “A Moment Like This,” followed and quickly went to #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, ultimately ranking as the year’s best-selling single in the U.S. Further, Clarkson is one of pop’s top singles artists, with 17 singles boasting multi-platinum, platinum and gold certifications around the world, including such global favorites as “Miss Independent” and “Because of You.”
Clarkson has released eight studio albums (“Thankful,” “Breakaway,” “My December,” “All I Ever Wanted,” “Stronger,” “Wrapped in Red,” “Piece By Piece,” “Meaning of Life”), one greatest hits album and two children’s books (New York Times Top 10 bestseller “River Rose and the Magical Lullaby” and the follow-up, “River Rose and the Magical Christmas”).
She is the recipient of an array of awards, including two Daytime Emmy Award in 2020 and 2021 for Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host, three Grammys, four American Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, two Academy of Country Music Awards, two American Country Awards and one Country Music Assn. Award. She is also the first artist to top each of Billboard’s pop, adult contemporary, country and dance charts.
Additionally, Clarkson has hosted the “Billboard Music Awards” for the past three years and she also voices the character of Moxy in “Ugly Dolls” and the character of Delta Dawn in “Trolls World Tour.”
Executive Producer/Host, “American Song Contest”
A multi-platinum artist, actor, philanthropist and entertainment icon, Snoop Dogg has reigned for nearly three decades as an unparalleled force, raising the bar as an award-winning entertainer and globally recognized entrepreneur. Snoop defines entertainment history. He has released 21 studio albums, sold over 40 million albums worldwide, reached No. 1 countless times on Billboard charts internationally and received 20 Grammy nominations.
A California native, Snoop has also appeared in numerous films, such as “Dolemite Is My Name,” “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” “The Addams Family,” “Beach Bum,” “Starsky & Hutch,” “Soul Plane” and the Oscar-winning drama “Training Day,” among others. He has also produced several TV shows and films, including Vice’s “Reincarnated,” “Mac & Dean Go to High School” and “Hood of Horror” through his production company, Snoopadelic Films. He made his mark in television when he garnered an Emmy Award nomination as executive producer for the hit VH1 show “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner.” Snoop was also the executive producer of the Netflix show “Coach Snoop,” “GGN: Double G News,” MTV’s “Mary + Jane” and the TNT game show “Joker’s Wild,” which he also hosted.
Most recently, Snoop has hosted and produced several projects through his Snoopadelic films, including two Peacock originals – “2021 and Done” alongside Kevin Hart, a hilarious retrospective on the year that began with so much promise; and “Olympic Highlights with Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg,” recapping the Olympics’ most impressive delays of athleticism and the moments that didn’t go as planned.
Executive Producer, “The Voice”; Executive Producer, “American Song Contest”
Audrey Morrissey is an executive producer and the creative force behind NBC’s all-live music competition series “American Song Contest” as well as four-time Emmy Award-winning music competition series “The Voice.”
A veteran of MTV, she spent nine years at the network in their music and specials division working on high-profile music series and annual event specials, such as “Unplugged,” VMAs and MTV Movie Awards.
After several years in New York, she was sent to Los Angeles to build the West Coast production department for both MTV and VH1.
Morrissey then joined Jimmy Iovine and Doug Morris as the Head of Television for their online music venture, Farmclub.com, and met her future partner, Ivan Dudynsky, with whom she started Live Animals Productions.
Since the formation of Live Animals, Morrissey has executive produced award shows, music specials, reality series, music videos and promos. She has executive produced the Emmy Awards, People’s Choice Awards, MTV Movie Awards, CMT Music Awards and, most recently, Teen Choice Awards. She also created and executive produced the NBC series “Songland.”
In addition to her four Emmy wins as executive producer of “The Voice,” Morrissey has five PGA Awards for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television for her work on the show.
Executive Producer, “American Song Contest”
Ben Silverman, the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning media entrepreneur, visionary producer and New York Times best-selling author behind “The Office,” is the Chairman and Co-CEO of Propagate Content, creating and producing all forms of content for distribution across a variety of platforms around the world.
Silverman founded two of the media industry’s most renowned super indies, Electus and Reveille. Silverman founded Reveille in 2002 to exploit international formats by selling them in the United States. Prior to launching Electus, Silverman served as Co-Chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios from 2007-09 where he transformed the business model by connecting advertisers and consumers through content in a more profound way. Through his Electus banner, Silverman took a leadership role in digital content, building the #1 comedy site on the Internet, CollegeHumor.com, and extending projects to multiple platforms, including numerous digital projects and partnerships with Yahoo!, Facebook and YouTube.
Pioneering content at the forefront of the entertainment industry, Silverman has created and executive produced major network, cable and digital platform hits, including Golden Globe and Peabody award-winning shows “The Office,” “Ugly Betty,” “The Biggest Loser” and “The Tudors,” as well as hits such as “Jane the Virgin,” “Marco Polo” and “Flaked” with Will Arnett and Mitch Hurwitz for Netflix, NBC’s transformative TV commerce show “Fashion Star” and “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” on Nat Geo. Silverman has also produced feature films, including “My Boyfriend’s Meds,” “Mansome” and “Hands of Stone,” the biopic of Roberto Duran starring Robert De Niro, Usher and Edgar Ramirez that premiered at Cannes Film Festival.
Silverman’s Propagate has offices in Los Angeles, New York, and Paris. Its recent credits include the critically acclaimed sports doc series “Untold” on Netflix, the US Women’s soccer doc “LFG” that premiered at Tribeca and now streams on HBO Max, the Emmy-nominated “Hillary” that premiered at Sundance and now streams on Hulu, “Notre Dame: Our Lady of Paris” on ABC, the “Go-Big Show” on TBS and the upcoming “American Song Contest” for NBC, as well as the unscripted “Nov. 13: Attack on Paris,” “Haunted” and “Prank Encounters” for Netflix, and “In Search Of” and “Kings of Pain” for History.
On the scripted side, Propagate’s scripted credits include “Shaka Zulu” for Showtime, “Remote” for Comedy Central and “Pinches Momias” for Univision, as well as “Rebelde” streaming on Netflix, “Let’s Be Real” on Fox, “Blood and Treasure” and “Broke” for CBS, and “Charmed” for the CW. Propagate also created and produced the podcast “An Oral History of the Office” for Spotify and the New York Times bestselling book “Welcome to Dunder Mifflin,” based on the podcast. Propagate’s expanding portfolio of companies includes Electus (“You vs. Wild,” “Running Wild With Bear Grylls,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Fashion Star”), Big Breakfast (“Adam Ruins Everything”, “Hot Date”), Notional (“Chopped” franchise), and talent management firms Artists First, Authentic Talent & Literary Management and Select Management.
Executive Producer, “American Song Contest”
Anders Lenhoff is one of the elite TV creatives in Europe with a career-spanning almost three decades having created, produced and/or directed 15 different TV shows that rated above 10% of the population.
In addition to serving as show producer for the Eurovision Song Contest, as well as Melodifestivalen, his other credits include the first ever season of “Expedition: Robinson, Survivor” and international versions of the hit UK panel comedies “QI” and “Have I Got News for You.”
Lenhoff also created and ran “The Commission,” a 12-episode political drama that was nominated for Prix d’Europe. In addition, he produced a highly comedy talk show in Sweden, three annual award shows, directed a long-running Swedish drama series and sketch-comedy series “Reuter & Skoog” and “Hipp Hipp,” the latter of which won a Silver Rose as the best light entertainment in Europe.
Executive Producer, “American Song Contest”
Christer Björkman is a living legend among Eurovision fans.
An avid fan of the competition since early childhood, he dreamed of competing as an artist in the Swedish selection show. In 1992, his dream came through. He entered and won and got to represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest.
However, his true legacy began in 2002 when he was appointed Contest Producer and Creative Director for “Melodifestivalen,” the Swedish selection show for the ESC. At the time, “Melodifestivalen” was a crumbling format in steep decline, but with Björkman at the helm, it quickly turned into one of the biggest TV success stories in the world of television. “Melodifestivalen” has been the biggest entertainment show in Scandinavia for almost two decades.
During Björkman’s reign, Sweden has won the ESC twice, making it the second most successful competing country in history. Björkman is also the most experienced ESC producer ever and consults for broadcasters all over Europe.
Björkman was awarded a Rose d’Or for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2016.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda