Dami Im was born in South Korea and moved to Australia at the age of nine. She won The X Factor Australia in 2013, has since had platinum recording sales, and her latest album, Classic Carpenters, reached top spot on the iTunes charts last week. Im, 27, is Australia’s representative at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Its semi-finals start on May 10 and the grand final is on May 14. She chatted to me about her Eurovision preparations, her coming tour and her struggles with fame.
Congratulations on representing Australia in Eurovision. What do the preparations involve?
It’s a big honour for me and I want to do well. I’ve got my song all ready, Sound of Silence, and so I’m going to sing and perform this for the rest of the world in Sweden. So a lot of preparations are going into that … It is a big stage, massive viewership, so I want it to be as grand and amazing as possible.
What does it mean to you to represent Australia?
It’s a huge honour … I feel like I’ve become an Olympian or something and people expect a lot from me … I want to do well and let Europe know that Australia is great. So that’s why … I’ve got to just really work hard.
What would it mean to you if you won?
It would mean that I could bring Eurovision to Australia. That’s just my little fantasy … To beam out of those 40-something countries, that would just blow the roof. It would be the biggest thing that has ever happened. Going to Eurovision is already the biggest that has ever happened to me, so winning … would just make me go nuts.
Have you had any advice from Guy Sebastian, who competed last year?
Yes. He is amazing. He told me that it will be the best thing that I have ever done in my life. It’s something that he never forgets. Even in his tours, he always talks about it. And he said, “It’s like The Hunger Games of music.” That has a lot of meaning in it, I think. The Hunger Games is about killing people, but this one is about glitters and looking amazing and having fun. But still, it’s a competition and everybody is very serious about it, so I take it seriously.
Tell me about your new album.
This album is something that I’ve been working on since last year. I love the music of the Carpenters. When you hear those songs, most people would go, “Oh, I’ve heard that before, I know that song.” But they would sort of not know where they heard it from or who the singer is. So I thought, “Well, people have forgotten these amazing songs, so I need to bring them back.” Recording and rearranging these to suit me, it was the most enjoyable thing to do, just playing the piano and recording. It was a very natural, organic process. I get to sing these amazing, timeless songs on my album and I’m so happy with it.
What should people expect from your upcoming tour?
The tour starts from July and goes until December. It’s the first national and regional tour that I’m doing since winning The X Factor. So I’ll be performing all the songs from this Carpenters album, as well as all my other singles and hits, and of course the Eurovision song, Sound of Silence … I’m just looking forward to being able to meet all the fans that are all over the country. You don’t always get to see them in the capital cities. So I’m doing all the little venues; the regional ones too.
What was it like to be on such a big show like The X Factor?
It was a lot of work and very intense. So much happened, and so many changes happened around me, like I never thought I would get recognised by strangers.
You never envisaged or hoped for that for the future?
No. Even when I decided to audition, my aim was to be on TV maybe one or two times to help me with my music get more venues and whatever. But it went so well and it really affected my lifestyle in a big way. So I’m lucky that I did it and that people voted for me.
What has been the biggest change in your life since winning The X Factor?
Everything – that I’m sitting here, eating this beautiful food with you and this date. Also, just travelling. A lot of travelling, being away from my hubby, Noah. That’s a big change.
How does Noah cope with it all?
Of course he misses me and stuff, but he is very proud of me. He tries to join me at weekends whenever he can. He is very excited about this whole thing and Eurovision. He is very passionate about this, as much as I am.
What’s it like to be recognised everywhere you go?
At the beginning, when it first happened, it was a bit tough because I’m such a private person. After about a month or so, I was like, “I don’t like this”, because I’m quite an introverted person, compared with a lot of other celebrities. And then now, after three years, I feel like people get to know me because of my music. So I appreciate it, but I also need to open up to strangers because, even if I don’t know them, they know me. After three years of practising doing that, it’s a bit easier.
Has it been a struggle to be a public figure when you are such a private person?
Yes, because I like to hang out with a small group of friends, just having coffee and go to their houses and whatever. Like two or three friends, it’s enough. But now, I get to do both. I just have to turn it on, I guess.
You used to be a gospel singer in Korea. How did that experience help you with your career today?
That experience is what really helps me keep grounded even today, because those were the days I performed for five kids at a small church event, or sometimes I would sing for many thousands. But now I get to sing for a lot of people, like 200 million for Eurovision. But to me it doesn’t matter whether I’m performing for five, 10 or 10,000, 200 million people, because it’s just the same. It’s about performing the best I can and trying to move people’s hearts with the music. So experience has really helped me.
What are your ambitions after Eurovision?
Just keep going. After Eurovision I would have got more exposure outside Australia. I want to explore how far I can go there, even America, Asia, Europe – like all over the world. I like to sing, like trying new things and I had never expected or I couldn’t have guessed how far I would come. So now I just go, “Well, I’d better try to see how far this will take me.”
WE WENT TO Hunter and Barrel, Cockle Bay Wharf
WE ATE mixed olives; hunter’s platter with assorted cured meats; coal roasted chicken with lemon and rosemary; salmon with fresh herb sauce; chopped green salad.
WE DRANK lemon, lime and bitters and sparkling mineral water.
KATE WORE Lover dress