Guy Sebastian could be called Australia’s most successful male artist. He’s the only one to have had six No.1 singles and two No.1 albums. Next week the singer embarks on his first Australian tour of arenas, playing six concerts across the month. The 33-year-old chatted to me about what’s in store on the Madness tour, singing for Oprah and his dreams of playing cricket for Australia.
What can people expect from your tour?
Well, it’s my first arena tour, so I’m obviously going to have to step up the production, which is what I’m excited about. I think the most exciting thing for me is the new album is quite a dynamic album. It just lends itself to be played live. I just can’t wait to play the new songs … and then re-invent some of the old ones and to connect with my fans on stage.
What is the writing process when you’re putting together an album?
It’s kind of different all the time. For example, Battle Scars, I was in my car. The melody just popped into my head. I wrote Linger in about eight minutes. But some songs will take weeks to write. I’ll generally always get melody first and then I’ll go in and try and think of a title and lyrics generally come last.
Why is that?
Some people are great lyricists, but they’re terrible at melody. But I could do melodies till the cows come home. As far as melodies go, I could probably write 100 songs in a day – with no words of course – just because I love melody. But who wants to hear a song with no words? That’s the tough part: picking out something that hasn’t been said in that way before and is emotive and thought-provoking. I feel like songwriting is getting harder and harder because things have been said in so many ways.
What song are you most proud of?
Maybe Battle Scars. Battle Scars sold a million and half in America and I never did any promo. Lupe [Fiasco] and I basically never really sat down and did an interview or anything. It was pretty much just on its own legs. That’s what I enjoyed most about it; it’s that it was just a song that carried itself. I think a good song will do that.
Do you have any songs you aren’t so proud of?
There are lyrics that I wrote back in the day where I would just write, sometimes without thinking. There are certain lyrics, like I rhymed “KFC with GFC” in a song. That’s such a bad vibe! [Laughs] Yeah, there are certain things I look back and I’m like, “Oh, I can’t believe I said that.” But that’s the beauty of it. As an artist you’re constantly learning and your fans are growing with you during that process. It’s pretty cool.
What is your biggest career highlight?
There have been a few pretty awesome moments. I loved performing with Lupe on Letterman, and Jimmy Fallon was cool. But when Oprah was here, she got me to sing at one of her events. She saw me perform, then afterwards we get this phone call saying “Oprah really loved that – she’s wondering if we can play at her wrap party, just for her and her staff”… She was just on stage like dancing with her arm around me. That was pretty awesome. And I wrote a song for the Pope and the Pope thanked me and that was so weird.
Why is it weird?
Like I’m from Adelaide. I wasn’t the sort of person that grew up going, “Oh, I want to be a famous person.” I actually wanted to be a cricket player. I wanted to play cricket for Australia. That was actually my dream. But music was always something I wanted to do. I never thought I could do it because I was bit of an odd-looking bloke. I was sort of this little fat apple-head kid. I was really confident but I just didn’t think I was supposed to be photographed on an album cover or on TV or on a magazine or something. But everything just happened.
Who do you look up to and admire?
I’d say that I look up to people who remain focused on what they do and don’t change, … someone like Clarkey [Michael Clarke]. They didn’t get into a position of authority and abuse it or they didn’t become a singer or a sportsman and get a bit of notoriety and suddenly turn into an absolute knob. They’re generally the people I look up to.
What would be your biggest advice to someone starting out in the industry?
Just work ethic. In music, it’s really a numbers game. You might have a hit, but you’ve just got to keep going. In music, it is all about the song. That’s your language. That’s your hammer. That’s your tool and that is literally the way you communicate to people. I always say: never forget the power of a song. A song can change your life, but it can also change the lives of other people.
If you could work with anyone, who would it be?
I’d love to duet with Adele. Her voice is crazy.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I don’t know. Just still singing, but I’ll probably take a little bit more of a producer-writer role. I want to develop other artists as well.
What would you be doing if you never went down the path you did?
My dream would have been to play cricket for Australia. But in reality, I probably would have done what I did at uni: I studied medical radiation at uni and I specialised in radiotherapy. So that was pretty different to music. …So yeah, I probably would have been a radiotherapist.
WE WENT TO Coogee Pavilion, Coogee Beach.
WE ATE Sashimi platter, mini lobster rolls and poached chicken salad.
WE DRANK a lemon lime and bitters and a Corona.
GUY WORE Witchery Man and Grenson shoes.
I WORE a SABA top and Dion Lee skirt.