Hartlepool Eurovision entrant Michael Rice believes contest 'could be the antidote to Brexit'
Hartlepool Eurovision Song Contest hopeful Michael Rice has said the show could replace X Factor in the public's hearts and minds.
Michael also described this year's show as a "turning point", adding that he hoped it could be the antidote to Brexit - despite the UK not winning in 22 years or entering the top 10 in a decade.
The 21-year-old former McDonald's worker and busker rose to fame after winning the singing show All Together Now last year.
He predicted Eurovision could fill the void left by X Factor.
The ITV show has been hit by falling ratings and Simon Cowell is planning a revamp, said to include an all-star edition with former contestants.
Michael, a former pupil at the town's St Aidan's Primary School and Dyke House School, said: "This year is going to be the turning point for the UK.
"With Brexit and everything that is going on, we need to focus on the song and the UK really getting behind the Eurovision artist. It's the biggest competition in the world.
"Especially now X Factor is not coming back, this is the only show that can involve song-writing and musicians.
"It can get really good songs in the next few years. And get Eurovision back at the top.
"Everyone is going on about this Brexit. I'm only 21, so I don't know anything about politics. It's not about politics. It's about having the right song."
Rice successfully made his way through the new selection process for British acts, winning the public vote on the BBC's Eurovision: You Decide programme and the right to compete in Tel Aviv in May.
He also admitted to being starstruck after discovering The Only Way Is Essex star Megan McKenna is a fan.
He said: "Megan McKenna follows me, and Sam Daly. Some really big people follow me, so it's really nice.
"I've been working on loads of new music and to find out about Megan McKenna being a fan. I'm a big fan of Megan McKenna's own music - the country music she does.
"It's just crazy that people are following me. I've never reached out to her (to collaborate) because she's a celebrity she's not going to (reply). Even though she follows me she's not going to know who I am. So I've never reached out to her.
"She probably won't even see my message with all the messages she gets."
Rice has also taken advice from last year's pick, SuRie, whose performance was interrupted by a stage invader who snatched the microphone during her performance of the song Storm.
"She's given me loads of advice about the lead-up to Eurovision," he said.
"How mad it's going to be in Tel Aviv, the press and fans. She wanted to make sure I'm ready and in the zone."
The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest is due to be held in Israel between May 14 and 18 after the 2018 contest was won by Israel entry Netta with her song Toy.