“It was a little unfortunate that Kate came 9th last year in Tel Aviv,” producer Paul Clarke admits.
“We were always really cognisant that we were taking an operatic song to Europe. I don’t think that’s what they look for from Australia. They look for innovation, power and passion.
“They associate us with very good singers like Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy and Dami Im. Isaiah came fourth in the jury.
“So we just really wanted to push into a commercial place, but also a place where we could bring a Triple J audience into Eurovision a bit more.”
So after Kate Miller-Heidke’s 2019 entry at Eurovision this year’s acts in Eurovision: Australia Decides include Jaguar Jonze, Montaigne and Didirri. They join seasoned performers such as Vanessa Amorosi and Casey Donovan. Saturday’s event on the Gold Coast also includes iOTA, Mitch Tambo, Jack Vidgen, Jordan-Ravi and Diana Rouvas.
“We talked to just about everybody in the music industry.”
Producers Blink TV and SBS received some 600 songs for consideration from established artists, emerging songwriters and even wanna-bes. Some of the 10 acts are the result of producers finding an act to match a submission.
“You come down to about 20 songs. It was the same as last year. 20 songs where you say ‘That’s our power ballad, that’s our up tempo, and that’s our musical classic.’ You cast the songs around some of those big tent pegs in the ground. It’s a really exciting process but trying to connect artists with songs takes quite a while. We talked to just about everybody in the music industry this year,” Clarke explains.
“It’s who’s available, who’s not doing a tour? We’re really proud of the the list of people we’ve got, but when you think about it, there is quite a bit of diversity. Jaguar Jonze is nearly punk and they are a 5 piece band on stage. Casey Donovan’s piece could be from Frozen. It’s a beautiful musical song and to me, it sounded like a classic that Celine Dion might sing.”
Winning Eurovision entails all kinds of strategy on top of a killer song. Before they can take on Europe, acts have to win over the Australian audience -both public vote and jury.
“There’s a certain set of requirements to win the Australian audience,” says Clarke.
“For instance, you have to look at how are we going to win Australia for Mitch Tambo, how would you do that? And how would you do it for Europe? So it’s part of the thinking for the process.
“Mitch is like the Bo Diddley of the didgeridoo. He’s incredible. He’s only been singing in English for six months. It’s quite an arresting performance and something that Europeans could really be moved by.”
“To me, it’s harder to pick the winner”
But Clarke loves all his acts in equal measure and Saturday night is an open field.
“I think this year will be next level. To me, it’s harder to pick the winner. There are four or five songs that could win and I feel like we’ve got an awful lot of depth in the songwriting” he says.
“There’s a couple of newbies that have just coming via the website, which we’ve used. The person that wrote Casey Donovan’s song has just never had a moment in the sun before – a legally blind young singer songwriter.
“There’s quite a bit of danger on the stage.”
“Ands we’ve gone overboard on the props! Last year, we had Kate Miller-Heidke and Courtney Act in very big moments. This year, we’ve spread it between all the artists, but there’s five or six very difficult prop manoeuvres, and there’s quite a bit of danger on the stage. It’s a little bit different from what you would normally see from Eurovision. We want to be a little bit irreverent, a bit dangerous and we want to show off our vocalists.”
Voting opens on the SBS website from 1am Saturday AEDT (rehearsal videos will be available) while the evening broadcast is Live in all states.
“Last year it was fascinating because Kate was well ahead when we came in on Saturday morning. Electric Fields were coming second, and Sheppard were coming third. And that’s pretty much the way it ended up.”
Saturday night also features guest performers Kate Miller-Heidke, Måns Zelmerlöw, Dami Im & Jordan Anthony while Mr. Eurovision, retiring exec Jon Ola Sand, will be in the house.
“I wish they could all win.”
Clarke plans to make this a very tough fight.
“I wish they could all win. I won’t feel good on Saturday, though. The great thing about it is everyone is getting on very much. They’re getting on better than my own children!”
Saturday on SBS:
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