With only one day until Eurovision – Australia Decides, Courtney Act had second thoughts about her choreography. Kind of.
“Retrospectively, probably would have done less,” Act said of her stage work. “But it looks fabulous.”
It did. Moments earlier, at dress rehearsals on the Gold Coast, the Australian drag legend’s rendition of Fight For Love ended higher off the stage than (almost) every other performance. The winner of tomorrow’s spectacle will represent the country in Tel Aviv at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, but if the vote was decided on risk factor alone, Act might be a clear favourite.
“I’m excited. I’m going to say the trope: I’m excited-slash-nervous,” Act said about her preparations for Eurovision – Australia Decides, the first time Australians will be able to hand pick the nation’s Eurovision representative. “It’s live, it’s on TV. This is an Australian Idol redemption performance, sixteen years later.”
Standing barefoot with her heels in her hand, Act downplayed the risk of it all.
“There haven’t been any dangerous moments,” she said. “The boys have got my back.”
Preparations haven’t only involved elevated choreography – or shaking off the outcomes of earlier singing competitions. If you’re Aydan Calafiore, the most important thing can be learning to just put faith in your own song.
“This time it’s just me, and it’s just me on stage, doing my thing, and putting myself out there for everyone to see,” he said of his performance.
The 18-year-old earned his stripes with covers on The Voice, which makes his decision to deliver the original tune Dust so monumental.
“I feel like that’s the scariest part, and that’s what took the most preparation – just getting used to the fact this is early days for me, really, singing original music,” he said.
“This is the second original song that I’ve put out, ever, so it’s still a really big deal for me.”
Like Act, Aydan already has already achieved success as a performer, and legions of young fans have followed him from The Voice finals to his more recent R&B-tinged days. I asked if that support has helped in the lead-up to what could be the biggest performance of his career so far. It turns out giving back to those fans has helped, too.
“The fans are what drive me to keep going and keep releasing music, to stay active, stay present, stay always doing things,” he said. He reflected on a moment this week when he had the opportunity to thank one of his biggest fans by surprising her – with a performance of Dust. Of course.
“She comes to all the shows, she gives me gifts and makes things, and she’s just so considerate, so we thought… it’s only little, but little can go a long way,” he said.
Not everyone had the opportunity to discuss their preparations after today’s rehearsal, though. Kate Miller-Heidke, whose song Zero Gravity pushes the classically-trained vocalist to figurative and literal heights, spoke to me in the days before her practice run. Considering the energy conservation needed for her final performance tomorrow night, the earlier interview makes a lot of sense.
“There’s a really high, long note in the song, which I am slightly annoyed that I decided to put in there,” she said.
“But it’s in there now. I’ve got to pull it out of my arse somehow.”
Aside from sanctioned vocal rest, Miller-Heidke’s preparations for the event have been just emotional as they have been technical. The Last Day on Earth vocalist penned the song after the birth of her son, Ernie, and a subsequent “period of losing myself, a period of feeling low.”
“I think a lot of new parents, men and women, go through that after they have a kid,” she said.
“Their entire life seems to evaporate, and it’s hard to know who you are any more.
“This song sort of tries to capture the feeling of transcending that and getting your power back, basically.”
Miller-Heidke, who possesses a powerful operatic register on top of her compelling singing voice, said Zero Gravity gives her an opportunity to express those feelings in a dramatic but relatable way.
“With Zero Gravity I’ve come the closest I’ve ever come to, sort of, being able to incorporate those crazy over-the-top, almost quasi-comical elements of the operatic technique while still remaining true to the emotional messages of the song,” she said.
If there was ever going to be a space where an artist could process those feelings while also delivering a bombastic performance, it would be the Eurovision Song Contest. Luckily, even competitors are celebrating the ability of other artists to express themselves to the nation without interference.
Act reminisced about her stint on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and how that competition differed to the backstage vibe of Eurovision – Australia Decides.
“Drag Race is a competition, and whilst we were all friends on my season of Drag Race, they’re still in there, like pushing buttons and poking things, doing all of that reality TV stuff that makes good television,” she said.
“But we’re not making a reality television show here, we’re making, you know, a Eurovision national selection show.
“It’s actually a relief, it’s so lovely [for] everybody to not have their buttons pushed, to support each other, and to enjoy the process.”
It’s a process you’ll be able to see to completion tomorrow night, at 8.30pm AEDT on SBS.