It’s June 2023. Nemo Mettler has gone through a time when life presented itself like a major hurricane, but now Nemo is in a Swiss writing camp to create Eurovision songs. For others.
At least – that’s the plan. But on day one, Nemo is paired with Teya, who has just participated for Austria with Who the hell is Edgar?
Nemo asks: ‘Who are we actually writing for?’
Teya answers: ‘For you, of course.’

Nemo spends the rest of the day getting used to that idea, suddenly sees enormous cheerfulness and freedom emerging and writes in a huge flurry on day two The code. In that song, the reflection of the hurricane from Nemo’s life is present and especially the jubilation it brought about – and months later The code is chosen as the Swiss entry and many more months later, the song and artist enter the festival as one of the hot favorites.

O’s and 1’s
Nemo sings about ‘the code‘. It reminds one of a secret code, something that needs to be deciphered. But for Nemo, discovering what lies behind the code is about something much larger: about what society imposes on them as a genderqueer person in terms of limited choices. You have to be zero or one – computer language for one or the other. In other words: binary. In other words: male or female. Nemo beautifully expresses it in the bridge of their song: ‘Somewhere between the 0’s and 1’s, that’s where I found my kingdom come’.

What’s nice about this song about non-binary identity is that both the melody and the lyrics are not apologetic, not accusatory, but simply euphoric. And a line like ‘Like ammonites, I just gave it some time’ is of course a brilliant, promising way to describe this life-changing search. By the way: how often are ammonites (fossil remains of a special squid from antiquity) mentioned in a Eurovision song?

‘This story is my truth’ – another core sentence from The code. Nemo: ‘When I wrote the song I immediately knew it was very personal, and vulnerable, but also completely, completely correct.’
What does that truth refer to exactly, and also that correctness, and the ‘I went to hell and back’, and the ammonite time? Well, in order to know more about that, we need to outline Nemo’s artist life story a bit.

3 and 13
Nemo is born to parents who manage a ‘think tank’ (BrainStore, now a global enterprise for fresh ideas, ‘we make magic happen’) and starts violin lessons at three years old, later adding piano and drum lessons. Ten years later comes Nemo’s first theater role: in the musical Ich war noch niemals in New York, about the songs of the Austrian Eurovision winner of 1966, Udo Jürgens.

At fifteen, Nemo timidly steps onto the stage of Switzerland’s got talent and says hi, and : ‘I am Nemo.’
‘Oh, like the fish?’ asks the presenter, who naturally thinks of the film Finding Nemo, the one with the clownfish – but Nemo explains: ‘No, my parents named me after the Latin word “Nemo”, which means “nobody”. That might sound a bit negative, but their reasoning was: “If you are nobody, you can become anything.”’
And then Nemo starts to rap and gets four times a ‘Yes!’.

At sixteen, Nemo participates in Bounce Cypher, a Swiss event with eighty rappers bringing their best punchlines live for seven hours. With braces and bouncing energy, Nemo spits the Swiss German version of these lines: ‘Different stages are about to happen for me – because I’m about to walk through different doors.’ And: ‘I’m more than ready – but first I still need to grow some pubic hair.’
The other rappers are completely delighted by the fast, cheeky Nemo, which is clearly visible in the last ten seconds of the clip of the event, that then goes viral [see aside].

18 and beyond
What follows in the years after: an EP, cheekily called Nemo’s clownfish, a hit, Ke bock, [see aside], another hit, Du [see earlier aside] and in the spring of 2018 no less than four Swiss Music Awards. So what then seems obvious is a fame that keeps unfolding wider. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, Nemo just moves towards calmness and introspection. In other words: the time of the ammonites begins.

Burning down
Nemo visits the United States and moves to Berlin. They are especially thinking a lot about themselves and searching for the truth. That truth – about their non-binary identity – is thus laid open in The code in June 2023. The song is sent to the Swiss broadcaster, but it is not yet clear what will happen with it. However, in November 2023 there is another song, This body, about the discomfort with one’s own body and the shame of being genderqueer, with for example this bitter statement: ‘If this body were a house, I would burn it down.’

And just before the release of This body there is a sleepless night, which results in a phone call to mom to ask her for advice and then an important Instagram post, where Nemo writes, among other things:
‘I haven’t opened up about it publicly, but some of you already know:     
I don’t identify as a man or a woman.    
I’m just Nemo.     
I love thinking of gender as a galaxy, picturing myself as a little star, floating somewhere within.
This is just one step on a long journey, and I still have much to discover and learn about myself. I’d love to take you all along on this path.

Not so serious
And that’s exactly what Nemo does a few months later with The code, when by then is chosen as the Swiss festival entry. The code is a song that, unlike This body, is not sad and searching, but rather jubilant and humorous. That fits with what Nemo said in an interview as a seventeen-year-old: ‘A certain seriousness is naturally quite important. But we live in such a small country, and sometimes we need to not take ourselves so seriously.’

From that attitude also comes the humorous video with which Nemo’s Eurovision participation is announced in February 2024. In it, broadcasting executives sit opposite Nemo at a table and ask curiously: ‘Okay, what’s it going to be with that song of yours? Rap, musical, disco, or maybe opera?’
Nemo answers: ‘Yes.’
And from there also the cinematic, joyful clip that was made for The code, and even the unique way Nemo and a friend from earlier traveled to Malmö: hitchhiking.

Back to June 2023, to the creation of The code. About those days in the writing camp, Nemo says: ‘Once I got used to the idea that we could write a Eurovision song for myself, it felt like I was in a playground where I could try anything. When we listened to The code at the end of the second day, we thought: what the fuck have we made? This is crazy. At that moment I knew: if I ever go to Eurovision, it will be with this song.’
And friend Teya, who was on the Eurovision stage herself last year, who encouraged Nemo to participate and, although she didn’t co-write The code, was a witness to its creation, noted at the announcement on her Instagram: ‘I’ve never been looking forward a release this much. And this includes my own Eurovision song.’

Copyright photo: Corinne Cummings/EBU