By Rita Bratovich
Tom Neuwirth is an Austrian singer, composer, fashionista, drag artist and Eurovision song contest winner. You might know him better as Conchita Wurst. These days he tends to float between personas depending on the creative head space he’s in.
“Now [I’m] going back and forth from doing drag with wigs and dramatic dresses to just wearing a jock strap. So this is the full range that I see these days…with the electronic music, it’s definitely more Tom and with the ballads and stuff I would say it’s Conchita, so yeah, there is difference between the things that I do these days.”
Conchita will be coming to Australia to perform a show with Trevor Ashley and Kate Miller-Heidke in February. It’s not her first trip Down Under, though.
She first met Trevor Ashley several years ago when Ashley was touring his show Liza (on an E). Neurwirth had seen Ashley’s performances online and thought he was brilliant. She went to the show, they met “and then came Eurovision, and we were performing in Sydney Opera House and now we’re doing it all over again,” says Conchita.
She and Ashley have become firm friends, sharing similar creative ideals and delivery, although Conchita is quite deferential.
“I would say he’s got the better voice …I’m a huge fan of Trevor and we share the same musical taste, I would say. We really enjoy the big ballads and the belting high notes. He’s capable of that and I try to do my best.”
Ashley, Conchita and Miller-Heidke will perform some of their favourite songs, solo and in ensemble. For Conchita, that includes songs from Disney, Barbra Streisand, and Celine Dion. Last year she recorded an album called From Vienna With Love with a symphonic orchestra.
“It’s basically the soundtrack to my life,” she says.
There will of course be sartorial extravagance, but Conchita isn’t able to share details yet.
“Well, I haven’t decided yet what to wear. I’m sure Trevor is already into it and got his wardrobe down. I don’t know what to wear yet, but it will definitely be something…You know, singing with an orchestra and all that I definitely feel like bringing classic Conchita on stage.”
Neurwirth isn’t always Conchita and feels a need to explore a full range of creative expression. There was a time when he had been doing Conchita for so long he yearned for change and hung up the wig and gowns, but now she’s back.
“ I fell back in love with her again, and I love to be Conchita here and there, but I’m a person I move forward, I never really go back. So, these are all the stations I have in life,” says Neurwirth. “[Conchita] opened so many doors and now I have the artistic freedom to do whatever I want. And this is definitely an empowerment.”
Before he came to Australia for the first time, Neurwirth’s only connection to the country was through gay performers like Trevor Ashley and Courtney Act.
“So you know, in my mind I thought everything is quite open. And with the Mardi Gras, the pictures you send out into the world is quite an open one […] and you love Eurovision and it’s so camp!”
He was surprised to discover that (back then) Australia did not yet recognise same-sex marriage. Over time, he’s come to realise things aren’t always as they seem, and he’s making it one of his goals to effect change through his art.
“We live in times where anything is possible, and I think anything is possible in a positive way and also in a negative way. I think there is a whole movement of a new generation growing up who are very sensitive and very caring about each other, but I think there also is a movement into the past, I would say, and people who don’t want to experience new things and learn about what the world has to offer,” explains Neurwirth.
“I’m very excited about the future and what the future will bring, and there are so many things that I would love to do, and not just music, I would love to do fashion, I would love to do acting or I would love to, you know, come up with a movie or musical theatre show, so many different things are in my head that I would love to try out.”
Sydney: Feb 27, 8pm, State Theatre, Market Street, Sydney: www.ticketmaster.com.au or 1300 723 038
Melbourne: Feb 28, 8pm, Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall artscentremelbourne.com.au or 1300 182 183
For more details on the show go to https://www.starobserver.com.au/news/conchita-wurst-and-trevor-ashley-in-concert/191459