UNITED KINGDOM – Eurovision star Sam Ryder had a brush with royalty when he unexpectedly met Kate Middleton at Buckingham Palace after his performance at the “Party at the Palace” concert for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. The 32-year-old musician rose to fame in 2020 for his cover songs on TikTok amid lockdown in the U.K.
“I had been in the palace doing an interview, so I’d met a lot of the staff that works there,” Ryder tells PEOPLE about his royal meet-up backstage. “The staff at Buckingham Palace are amazing. They are so quintessentially British in their comedy. Like sort of going ‘Welcome to the big house, mate!’ and stuff like that. They just make it so amazing.”
“We were fist-bumping and saying ‘hello,’ then one of them said, ‘Have you ever met a member of the royal family before?'” continues Ryder. “I said, ‘No.’ And they said, ‘Do you want to change that right now?'”
Seconds later Ryder was standing face-to-face with Kate in the middle of Buckingham Palace — something he never dreamed possible while uploading his hit “Space Man” to TikTok in his garden shed two years ago.
“I said ‘hello’ to Kate, and she was asking about the performance,” says Ryder, who claimed second place at the Eurovision Song Contest in May with his uplifting, self-penned song, close behind winners Ukraine.
“She is so kind and said that the royal family had all been supporting me for a while and all throughout Eurovision,” adds Ryder. “Then Princess Beatrice came over and had a chat with us too. She was just so lovely and encouraging and supporting. And just generous with her kindness,” Ryder continues.
“She was just saying that they all appreciated the way that the team had handled the Eurovision journey, and that meant so much to all of us. What I gather is a lot of the members of the royal family had seen Eurovision and were supporting my song from home, which means a lot. It was incredible, and it was so inspiring to get the encouragement from the royal family because they stand for such similar themes that Eurovision celebrates as well, like unity, togetherness, and solidarity,” adds Ryder. “And that coming together of people in a world that seems to find ways of disconnecting us at any given time.”
The royal mom of three also joked with the performer about his outfit.
“I was wearing my stage suit and I and Kate were joking that someone would have to hoover up [vacuum] a few of my stones the next morning because they’d probably be falling off as I was walking around,” Ryder tells PEOPLE about meeting Kate while wearing the sparkly Union Jack jumpsuit for his performance.
The BBC estimates that around 13.4 million Brits tuned into the Platinum Jubilee Concert on Saturday, along with millions more watching around the world via the Internet.
The concert outside Buckingham Palace featured epic performances from stars including Alicia Keys, Duran Duran, and Rod Stewart, yet it was Queen Elizabeth, 96, who stole the star-studded show with a humorous sketch of her having tea with Paddington Bear – even pulling a marmalade sandwich from her handbag!
Along with Kate and Beatrice, the show was eagerly enjoyed by Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis, and Prince William from the royal box, plus Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
“I met all kinds of absolute legends that night,” says Ryder about the concert, which took place in front of a crowd of 22,000 invited guests and thousands more lining The Mall in central London. “I met Alicia Keys, I met Nile Rodgers, Rod Stewart… and then we went to the Palace!
“There wasn’t a cooler view in the house, and we got to experience it firsthand. It was just incredible,” he continues about his performance.
“A couple of days before we had a rehearsal, so you get to kind of pace out the stage and get a feel for what it would be like. Obviously, no one is there. The road is blocked off so not many people can see it.”
“But you can still see right down The Mall and lots of tents and people that are camping out,” adds Ryder. “And this is about five days prior to the event! There were people camping on The Mall to get a good spot!”
It was at this moment that Ryder realized he had a minor performance issue – and arrived at an inspired solution.
“The Jubilee stage was massive and during the first rehearsal, I finished the song, and I was out of breath. I couldn’t breathe!” he reveals. “So, before I left the stage, I paced out its dimensions. I’m waking like a madman trying to figure out how long the stage is so that I can recreate it when I went home in my garden.”
“So that’s what I did. I paced it out, then set up a mic stand the exact distance I would be traveling,” he says. “The next day I was just in my garden rehearsing and doing star jumps, just to get my cardio up a bit.
“I was basically just walking around my garden pretending I was outside Buckingham Palace!”