One of the nicest guys in Australian pop/soul collaborated with one of the nicest guys in Australian dance music. The results have been delicious.
“I guess fate brought us together for Like A Version,” says Guy Sebastian. “I did the vocals for Paces’ track Desert, with a formant filter on the voice to make it sound bigger, lower, more soulful. I listen to heaps of indie-electronica playlists that inspire my production, which included Mikey’s [Perry, aka Paces] tracks. I try to write songs that are easy to understand, emotional, bit of guts to them, but I always try to push myself when it comes to production.”
His voice remained unedited and beautifully piercing for their live radio rendition of LDRU & Paige IV’s Keeping Score. Guy Sebastian on triple j… Did he cop shit for it? “The media can pay too much attention to the negative voice. On The Today Show this morning they said, ‘We’ve heard you had some hipster haters when you got into the Hottest 100…’ ‘Nah, not really.’”
During our phone call, Sebastian is chilling in his studio at home, editing vocals, getting stems ready for a producer in Germany. I’m chilling on my back porch watching wallabies engage in fights and mating rituals down the paddock. Though not quite as intimate as such rituals, his upcoming tour is a preview for his upcoming June release Conscious – cheekily dubbed ‘Sub-Conscious’ – bringing his personal studio atmosphere to the stage, laying out his stripped-back and matured talent in smaller venues such as Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory.
“I’m really happy touring in Australia, especially these smaller shows coming up,” he says with boyish excitement. “Would I love to, on an ambitious level, go overseas and gig all the time? Of course, but I just never want to be in a position where I don’t put my kids first. We’re not like Brangelina with seven nannies helping us. We just want to be a loving, normal family, where Dad’s not a rolling stone. It’s a tough juggle.”
Integrity can often be at stake in the music industry, though Sebastian seems to have survived with a strong foundation in family, in himself, and an actual foundation he and his wife Jules started together.
“I disagree with the whole ‘Nice Guys Finish Last’ thing,” he says. “I’m more, Velvet Glove, Iron Fist. I’ve had to overcome certain demons, but you don’t have to be an arsehole. I’ve seen people come and go. I remember some band at the Arias for their one-hit wonder, laying into me on the red carpet publicly, racial slurs, homophobic slurs, on and on. Later, backstage, I’d just won an Aria, and one of them said something derogatory about Jules. I grabbed him and just lost it at him. If they wanted to come to the Arias now, they’d have to buy a ticket.”
“And now you and Iggy Azalea don’t get along?” I ask. “Ha! We’re very different. People don’t see behind the scenes. I don’t like clashing with people, but I didn’t hold back with Iggy. She was acting like a complete douche so I called her on it. You’ve just got to be good to people. Remember who did that first mix for you for free, who let you use their studio no charge, who pushed your stuff on radio, that manager sleeping on the floor sacrificing for you. It can be forgotten once you ‘make it.’ Just treat people with respect and love.”
Sebastian’s longevity is testament to such sentiment, having long progressed from his 2003 Idol win. “No one looks at Matt Corby or Vera Blue as just being contestant winners,” he says. “We need to be inventive, whether it’s triple j Unearthed or a TV talent show. If you’re true to yourself and you’ve got talent, who really cares? You can’t argue with Vera’s voice. Matt’s a freak. Ability speaks for itself.”
Throughout this career spanning 15 years as a public personality, constant fan messages have varied from casual thanks and compliments, to serious requests for help. “You just want to run away from it because you think you can’t do enough. How am I going to help all these people?
The Sebastian Foundation is his and Jules’ answer, an official beacon for positive change for those most vulnerable in Australia. His voice spoke passionately of several initiatives to help sick kids, their families, and those abused in domestic violence. “Please, jump on our website, everything’s there! I play a lot of gigs where I just say, ‘Don’t pay me, pay the foundation.’ But juggling everything, my family, I can’t keep doing that. We need more support.”
Guy loves a chat and we’d already gone overtime, but we managed to squeeze in some discussion of his Malaysian background and his move to Australia before his next interview. “My mum and dad had a fairly tumultuous life. My mum was orphaned early, in quite traumatic circumstances. Dad was in India studying geology. He’s Malaysian with Sri Lankan and Portuguese heritage. Mum’s actually white with blue eyes, but born and raised in India. Dad wanted an Australian upbringing for us, after working here so often. So we moved!
“I’m the luckiest bloke ever. I love this country. I loved growing up in Adelaide. Played a lot of cricket and AFL, although these days when Guy Sebastian is on the field, it’s about whoever can clothesline him and knee him in the head!”