There’s always that one person you know who gets really into Eurovision. That person live tweets the epic song contest, talks about its cultural importance and probably throws a party every time. Today, we’re that person.
With the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest 2020 coming up in the Netherlands, Australia is set to pick their delegate in the ‘Australia Decides’ event this weekend. A jury of artists and industry experts will split their vote with the Australian public to decide who will go on to represent our country in May.
We spoke to the two most punk contestants we could think of – art pop auteur Montaigne, who is no stranger to making statements, and Vanessa Amorosi, the badass Aussie icon our parents know and love.
How did you find out you were going to be a contestant for representing Australia at Eurovision?
Montaigne: Well, last year they sent me a song that had already been written. They were like, “Hey, do you want to do it? Do you want to sing this song?” I was like, “Not really.” I really hated the song, and they’re like, “Okay, fine. Maybe next time.” Then, this year they were like, “Hey, do you want to do it? You can write your own song and have cred for the show and blah blah blah.” I was like, “I would be more interested in it if I can do that, and I will only do it if I do write the right song.” Fortunately, I think I did end up writing the right song, so yeah. I was like, “let’s do it.”
Vanessa: Well, I actually approached about wanting to be a part of Eurovision, because not last year, but the year before I was in a writing session with two amazing songwriters, Trevor Muzzy and Aleena Gibson. And in that writing session we had written a song. And by the time we got to the chorus we just all looked at each other and went, “Oh my God, this is, this would be an amazing Eurovision song”. And so that’s what stemmed it all. And then I started looking at what Australia was doing Eurovision wise, and I saw Kate Miller Heidke’s performance. And I was like, “this is incredible. It’s like an art piece”. And that’s where it all stemmed from. It really started from the song.
Have you ever been a fan of Eurovision historically?
Montaigne: We watched it while I was growing up in my household and that was fine. But, once I left the house, which was when I was like 19, I just didn’t really watch TV. It’s not something I got involved in, and I didn’t have the kind of friends or life which had me in that stream. But, I’ve always been aware of it. Every time it happens, it’s a huge thing. When I went to Sydney Uni, there was a party for it. It was a big deal. I think it makes a big cultural impact, like when Conchita Wurst was in it. Did they win it? I can’t remember. So anyway, it’s like a person in drag or like a person that has a beard, but presents as a woman. That was a big deal because, obviously, queer people have worked forever trying to find a place and freedom within mainstream media and all that, and I thought that was a moment of, “oh, here’s an instance where this person is coming to it confidently and with pride, being themselves, and they’ve been rewarded for it.” I don’t know. I’m aware and acknowledge those moments that have cropped up in the mainstream conversation around Eurovision, but I haven’t watched it, haven’t sat down and had a proper watch for a while. But, I do enjoy the bits that I see.
Vanessa: I’ve always enjoyed watching it. It’s only been really recently, the last, maybe the last five years where I’ve really started to get into it, just because of the overall performance. And it’s really becoming songwriters’ Olympics. Great songwriters are coming to the table. And these incredible moments through people’s performances. So I’m actually really loving what’s happening there. And it’s a really huge thing in Europe. They hold all these little competitions within their country, and then they select the winner, and that’s what goes to represent exactly what’s happening right now in Australia now with ‘Australia Decides’.
How do you feel about the other Aussie contestants that you’re up against?
Montaigne: That’s for sure. I didn’t actually know much of the names when it came up. The names that were familiar to me would have been Didirri, Casey Donovan, and Vanessa Amorosi. The rest of them are newcomers, not newcomers like they’re not in the industry, in music but in my life. I didn’t know who was in it, but Didirri, we have an acquaintanceship, which I imagine will develop into a friendship once we spend more time with each other. I mean, I don’t have any particular feelings towards any of the other artists. Obviously, I grew up seeing Casey Donovan do Australian Idol and Vanessa Amorosi have her hits, but I’m not particularly attached in any way, shape or form. But, I’m sure I will become attached as I meet them and find out they’re fabulous people.
Vanessa: t’s a really nice opportunity for me to be able to mix among other artists. And I’m planning on writing some songs and hanging out, and I haven’t really thought too much about the competition. I’ve always been a big fan of Casey Donovan. So I’m really excited to be able to hang out with her. It’s overall a really great experience. And the people running the whole thing, they’ve been really amazing to work with. And so overall it’s been fabulous.
What’s next for you outside of Eurovision?
Montaigne: Emotionally, there is a plan to do another album at some point, but we’re definitely not there. We’re thinking about shows and Eurovision, of course, but it’s putting on shows and putting on another album tour and, yeah, just making money, to be honest at the moment, just making sure there’s enough money there to make an album when that comes back up. Yeah, I think that’s my priority. The priority at the moment is just make life moments as classy as possible and good. Yeah, just hack away at that.
Vanessa: I’ve got about three different roads. And it’s always a dilemma on what road to go. I have a gospel record that I co-produced with Dave Stewart ready to go. I have another record that’s on the side that’s ready to go. I’ve got another record that I want to get done that’s just sitting. So yeah, I feel like there’s so much I want to get done and get out there. And I’m so impatient. I wanna do three roads at one time.
What makes a song Eurovision worthy to you?
Montaigne: Eurovision has a certain style, and the song needs to cater to that style and to the audience in order to speak well of it. But, I also didn’t want to compromise my own style and my own inclinations creatively, and I think I managed to balance them in a way that was satisfactory to me.
Vanessa: I just felt like [my song] was really empowering, and it lent itself to do so much on stage. And it’s a real vocal vehicle, if that makes sense. It’s a song that where you can really go for it vocally. And I think when I look at Eurovision stuff from the past, it’s always about these big epic songs and big vocals. So that’s why all of us were kind of like, “this would probably be amazing”.
EUROVISION – AUSTRALIA DECIDES 2020
Eurovision – Australia Decides 2020 airs live and exclusively on SBS on Saturday 8 February.
Broadcast times across Australia:
NSW/VIC/TAS/ACT 8:30pm – 11:00pm AEDT
QLD 7:30pm – 10:00pm AEST
SA 8:00pm – 10:30pm ACDT
WA 5:30pm – 8:00pm AWST
NT 7:00pm – 9:30pm ACST