No longer waiting for tomorrow | Gianluca Bezzina

His infectious smile and harmless brand of strummy pop won over hearts and minds all across the continent, but is former Eurovision hopeful Gianluca Bezzina ready to embrace a musical career? We try to get behind the singing doctor’s ever-present smile.

Will Gianluca Bezzina follow in the footsteps of fellow Eurovision hopeful Ira Losco by continuing to be an active musician in his own right?
Will Gianluca Bezzina follow in the footsteps of fellow Eurovision hopeful Ira Losco by continuing to be an active musician in his own right?

There's a reason why everyone assumes Gianluca Bezzina is a nice guy. The reason is refreshingly simple: it's because he is. The former Eurovision hopeful - scoring 8th place at the pan-continental song contest last May with 'Tomorrow' (the best result Malta has had in years) doesn't appear to have a formula for his always-smiling, always-beaming demeanour.

It's a feature of his public persona that hasn't gone ignored. In fact, you could argue that it endeared the entire European continent to him ("I even got feedback from Venenzuela!" he enthuses). Apart from his disarming charm, his 'story' is such a perfect blend of goodwill and overachievement that you'd be forgiven for assuming that it amounts to nothing more than a calculated PR fantasy.

In fact, the 23-year-old doctor-turned-singer has been the butt of a few jokes ever since he was catapulted to national - and, for a brief while during the Eurovision ruckus, international - attention. But it's telling that even those who make fun of him can't help but do so with a light touch.

Here's The Guardian, live-blogging during the Eurovision Song Contest on 18 May in Malmo, Sweden: 'This singer is ridiculously endearing. He's so happy. He's so happy that he looks like he might actually start crying. It's like he's cut his mouth open, and then eaten an entire packet of salt and vinegar crisps, but he can't stop smiling because he doesn't want to look rude in front of whoever bought him the crisps.'

And though there was plenty of love for Gianluca from Malta (he received a hero's welcome upon his return from Malmo), there was no shortage of well-intentioned jokes about the singer on our shores too.

During a local stand-up comedy act, a performer - who, as it turns out, was a former classmate of Gianluca's - lamented about how the too-good-to-be-true singer has done 'an intense disservice' to average Joes on the island by raising the bar far too high.

"If you are going to be that handsome, you can't also be a talented singer, a doctor AND a wholesome Christian lad. It's like he was assembled by an international consortium of grandmothers trying to create the perfect boyfriend."

Being a good sport, Gianluca laughs heartily when I quote this back to him.

"Well look... the aspects of myself that people will pick up on will naturally be the things that I project about myself on stage and through the media. My friends and family obviously get to see other sides of me, not all of which may be positive," Gianluca tells me.

"I was lucky enough to just be accepted for the way I am. If I weren't, it would probably have created a whole mess inside my head. The thing is that I went into this Eurovision thing just to have fun, and I never predicted I would win the Malta Song for Europe contest, let alone score the result I did in Malmo. So, assuming that it wouldn't really go anywhere, I just resolved to be myself all throughout... and luckily, people seemed to like that..."

I don't for a second question his authenticity when he sits down at our offices for a chat about his recent, high-profile gigs and - perhaps more importantly - his debut full-length album, Waiting for Tomorrow. I don't question it because his shyness is more than evident and couldn't be put on. The trademark - and easy-to-make-fun-of - perpetual smile is present and accounted for throughout most of our conversation, and he speaks quietly, through visibly clenched facial muscles.

It's almost shocking that someone who's just performed alongside Joseph Calleja, Zucchero and Riccardo Cocciante (to say nothing of his venture into the overblown and, arguably, over-watched, spectacle of loud kitsch that is Eurovision) appears so introverted when encountered face to face.

(But then again, isn't that so often the case?)

When I ask him to recount the experience of his participation in the Joseph Calleja and Friends concert on 1 August, I implore him to not just tell me that it was "great".

"I would say it was definitely the highlight of my career - even more so than Eurovision. Apart from the fact that it was just so much fun, I'm really grateful to have been given the opportunity to perform with Joseph Calleja. I know it's a cliché to say this, but I found him to be really down to earth, which put me at ease, so that I just had fun during the concert..."

Being given the opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of Riccardo Cocciante and Zucchero was another plus for Gianluca, "and it helped me feel like I'm now more of a part of this world".

That Gianluca makes a distinction between two 'worlds' - that of the music industry and, one can assume, a less glamorous reality, is significant. I ask him whether it's fair to assume that most of his musical pedigree grew out of his still ongoing involvement with Youth Fellowship - the Church organisation which he still remains very much a part of.

How does he reconcile his spiritual musical endeavours with more industry-related ones - more in focus now that he's launching an album?

"The funny thing is that people often tell me these two things don't go hand-in-hand. 'How can you play with Youth Fellowship and then perform in a bar?' they'd say. But in reality, it's not that big a deal, unless the genre of music you play is dramatically different..."

Fair enough. It's not like Gianluca plays hardcore black metal. In fact, the 11-track Waiting for Tomorrow - written by Gianluca's bandmates Boris Cezek and Dean Muscat (who also serve as the singer's managers) - is a fusion of 60s pop, swing and soul, which Gianluca describes as having a "Michael Buble kind of feel".

"It's a style I'm very much comfortable with, and I'm very happy to be on the same page as Boris and Dean when it comes to musical direction."

He gives me the impression that the transition to a more commercial side of his music wasn't that much of a transition at all.

"Actually, I've been juggling both these worlds for a while, since I've also been front man for my band, Funk Initiative, for a while."

Ultimately, the difference between Gianluca at Youth Fellowship and Gianluca the local pop star boils down to how he approaches the music at each instance.

"Playing with Youth Fellowship is only different insofar as your main concern is the message that the music delivers, rather than the music itself. It's basically the same as prayer. It means that you're not meant to fuss about the technical side of things. But it can also be challenging. For example, if we're doing a new song, I sometimes tend to get lost in trying to get it right, so that I end up missing the point of the exercise..."

Neither does Gianluca censor his religious side during 'secular' performances.

"One advantage to being more visible is that I have a chance to express certain values I may have to a wider audience. I'm not the kind of guy to go ramming the Bible down people's throats, and I don't agree with being overbearing about these things. But if a fan comes up to me after a concert to discuss how faith influences my music, for example, I'd be very happy to speak about it."