THE secret that gripped a nation was finally revealed earlier today when it was announced that Guy Sebastian would fly the Australian flag at the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna, Austria.
The inaugural Australian Idol winner was introduced by SBS Eurovision hosts Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang, along with SBS’s managing director Michael Ebeid and head of Australia’s Eurovision delegation and Blink TV director Paul Clarke at a press conference held at the Sydney Opera House this morning.
“I’m pumped… you never know what you’re going to get at Eurovision. It’s amazing and I’m stoked to be a part of it.”
He has yet to chose a song but Sebastian said it would be “epic”.
“Either super fun or a big ballad that showcases my voice,” he said.
Sebastian, who has sold over 4.5 million records since his career was launched in 2003, indicated that the final song choice may be a recent song of his that was not released as a single.
Meanwhile, Ebeid delighted that SBS and Australia’s long dedication to Eurovision was finally paying off.
“We are very excited to have secured an opportunity for Australia to be represented at Eurovision,” he said.
“It has been a four year journey to achieve this ambition and I’m so proud that Guy Sebastian will be representing our country to Eurovision’s world audience.
“As an accomplished artist who has achieved global success, Guy’s vocal talents are unrivalled and he has the experience, maturity and strength of character to represent us in this competition.”
Clarke added that Sebastian was an ideal way to showcase a modern Australia.
“He has an individual soul voice that suggests the greats like Stevie Wonder and Al Green, but is distinctively his,” he said.
“He has matured to become a terrific songwriter, and songs like Battle Scars and Linger show his integrity as an artist, and the depth of his talent.”
Sebastian said that he would be able to draw on his experience at 2003’s World Idol competition.
“It wasn’t the greatest experience actually. It was such a whirlwind time,” he said.
“[At that time] I had just won [Australian] Idol in 2003 and was launched straight into this other sort of competition against every other country. I think it was judged a lot more or scrutinised a bit more, whereas Eurovision, it’s all happy and seems like just such a different competition.
“But definitely over the last 12 years I’ve obviously had a bit more experience, I’ve been on some big stages and performed in front of some big audiences so I guess I’ll be drawing on those experiences to hopefully not screw it up.”
Clarke told the media that Sebastian was always the first choice, although artists including Sia, 5 Seconds of Summer and Iggy Azalea were discussed before coming down to a shortlist of six artists.
“There were a number of artists that really let us know we’re interested… [but] when you weighed everything up Guy was by far the strongest,” he said.
Speaking to the Star Observer, Zemiro said that she was personally relieved when she found out about Sebastian.
“We need someone who is mature and authentic,” she said.
“I’m glad that we’ve got someone who knows what competition is and has that experience. If you’ve been through an Idol and you’ve been through World Idol even, you know that element of competition so he’s not going to be phased by it. It’s also not as intense as that though it is a big, big event and you are representing your country and yourself.
“I love that we have a musician representing us. He plays instruments, he’s a songwriter and he’s got an amazing voice. So I think he’s someone that is going to love the opportunity on that big stage rather than be afraid of it.”
Zemiro also agreed that Sebastian and his background was a great way to illustrate a culturally-diverse Australia.
“He’s certainly got a lot of Portuguese in his background so we’re hoping a few votes come in from there, I’ll be making that clear when we get there,” she said.
“I think he’s a great way to represent a modern face of Australia… and more and more this country needs to be making it clear that we’re diverse. I think Jessica Mauboy was a fantastic choice for last year and Guy’s a great one for this year.”
Speaking to the Star Observer last month, Zemiro said that she and SBS had been approached by a varying calibre of artists to sing at Eurovision and while she was not able to officially drop any names, there were some hints.
“Most of the people whose names you saw in the papers, be it Paul Capsis, Kate Miller-Heidke or Anthony Callea, those people would have been approached or made an approach and what’s lovely for us is that for all the amount of interest we had expressed to us, it just proves that people think that it would have been an incredible challenge,” she said.
While there may be some backlash on social media over the choice of Guy Sebastian, another question has emerged: what will Sebastian sing — and wear — at Eurovision.
“I will be doing everything I can to get him into a white suit with sequins and some kind of wind machine,” Zemiro said.
“He’s going to have to grow that hair back cause that wind machine is wasted if you don’t have great locks, but I’ll have to let him make those decisions. I’ll be there to help him with that killer last element whether it be dressing in all white or some giant prop behind him.”
Zemiro also believes that Sebastian can do justice to a variety of different musical genres.
“I think one of the reasons he went to Memphis to record his blues album was because he knew that’s the sort of music that he loves,” she said.
“He also knows that the music he made there — a mixture of blues and soul — isn’t necessarily the sort of music that’s hugely popular in Australia.
“Europe loves soul and they love blues and I think he knows that could work in his favour. But that’s the great thing about Guy in that he can do the more poppy-music but can also cover deeper sorts of styles.”
Zemiro added that Sebastian had a range of choices in how to tackle his stage performance.
“When Lena came out and won it for Germany in 2010, it was just her in a black dress and two back-up singers and that was it. So minimalism can win it along with being completely over the top,” she said.
“I think he’s more on the Lena-side than Lordi, that’s pretty safe to say.”
Eurovision will broadcast both semi-finals and grand final live on May 20, 22 and 24 at 5am (Australian EST) with the regular delayed packages shown later that evening.
Watch Guy Sebastian’s performance of The Sound of Music classic Climb Ev’ry Mountain on Australian Idol 2003: