On a balmy spring morning at a rooftop bar in the centre of Kyiv, Australia’s two Eurovision hopefuls sat down for a meet and greet.
Isaiah Firebrace takes on the daunting task of attempting to emulate or better Dami Im’s incredible second placing in last year’s contest as he represents Australia with big ballad “Don’t Come Easy”. Meanwhile, Australian-born Anja Nissen is hoping to send Denmark back into the grand final - the Nordic nation failed to advance past the semi-finals in 2015 and 2016 - with another belter, “Where I Am”. Both are among the large crop of youngsters performing this year.
Australia and Denmark have a deep connection, and it was in Copenhagen in 2014 that Australia’s journey to fully fledged Eurovision contender commenced as Jessica Mauboy stepped onstage to perform as an interval act at the world’s largest singing contest.
What does Australia’s representative, Isaiah, and Denmark’s contender, Anja - both are singing under just their first name - think about the craziness that is the Eurovision Song Contest?
“We’ve been helping each other out,” Anja explains. “I don’t feel any competitiveness - there’s a special connection between us."
The similarities of their journeys are obvious. Both were victors on successful Australian singing franchises - Anja won the third season of The Voice Australia as an 18-year-old, while Isaiah took out the 2016 season of Australia’s The X Factor. Both are in agreement about how significant this event is for their fledgling careers.
“[This is] the biggest international stage,” Anja gushes. “[It’s] crucial for our careers.”
Isaiah agrees: “I’m making the most of every opportunity."
Seventeen-year-old Isaiah sought out both Mauboy and Im, and asked for their advice.
“They told me, ‘Don’t worry about where you’re going to place. Just go onstage and sing your heart out,'” he reveals. And that’s what he intends to do.
“[I’m going to] tell a story,” he said of his performance.
And who do they fancy as their biggest threats in the competition?
“Sweden,” Anja says. “It’s a great pop song and he has standout staging.”
Isaiah plumbs for Belgium: “It’s alternative and I really like it.”
Only time will tell which Australian will do better. “If your song wins, I’ll be very happy,” Anja says to Isaiah, who cracks a cheeky smile as a response.
The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast over SBS’s Eurovision weekend - Friday 12 May, Saturday 13 May, and Grand Final Sunday 14 May at 7.30pm on SBS with LIVE early morning broadcasts begin Wednesday 10 May at 5am on SBS.