One of the major event casualties of 2020 was the highly anticipated annual spectacular, Eurovision. But eager fans – and newly minted ones – will experience all the colour, pop, sometimes absurd and almost always fabulous phenomenon that is the Eurovision Song Contest in May from host nation, The Netherlands.
Having won SBS’s Eurovision – Australia Decides contest in February last year, Montaigne represents the nation with her epic, triumphal performance of ‘Technicolour’ which she co-wrote with David Hammer. While she can’t be live on stage in Rotterdam, her performance is still designed to stun, thrill and excite when it screens on SBS, as the Contest has done since 1983. She spoke to The Guide about the song, the enormity of Eurovision and togetherness in a divided world.
‘Technicolour’ is an epic pop song. What did you and David Hammer want to achieve with the song?
We wrote it specifically for Eurovision, and when the song finally arose, when we landed on it, it was such a relief. Dave’s studio was based across the road from my home [in Sydney] so we did a lot of work together by virtue of that convenience. The song really started in my room though. I started out with a guitar and I wrote the first verse before I flicked it to Dave because I thought it had a good vibe. We fleshed it out, and transformed it into this empowerment theme. That’s how we wanted people to feel when they listen to it, like they’re powerful and full of energy, and able to have fun and not take themselves too seriously.
Prior to your participation in the 2020 contest, what was your knowledge of and interest in Eurovision?
I’ve always been aware of Eurovision. My family and I would watch it together when I was a teenager, and I went to university for a bit where they had Eurovision parties, so it’s always been around in my life. When it rolls around, I’m always aware of it in my [social] circles and in my periphery. My interest in it was always as a form of entertainment media, like this big performance and spectacle. I never thought I would be in it, you know. When I was asked to participate in Australia Decides for the second time I thought, “I’m ready to do something like this,” and the rest is history. I’m very proud, and happy, that I got to do it.
Was Eurovision a dream of yours?
I never doubted that it would be great, but my career dream as an artist wasn’t to be on Eurovision. Ultimately, I just want to be able to write and perform music every day of my life. There’s no real event or honour attached to that, I just want to be able to do this full time. When Eurovision came along though, it was like, “fuck yeah,” but I didn’t grow up in Australia thinking of being in Eurovision. It’s Europe, and you know we’ve only been in it for six years – 16-year-old me would not have comprehended that it was possible.
Tell me about your recorded performance.
We did a studio recorded performance. We figured out how we would present the performance without having the same resources as the Rotterdam stage. There’s been all kinds of domestic teams on board who deal with logistics, production and creative [aspects]. The challenge has been figuring out how to scale down the performance without it being reduced in quality. I don’t want to give away too much, but the main influence was early-2000s pop fashion, like Britney Spears.
Which of the other international artists and nations are you most excited to see perform this year?
I’m excited to see [Russian artist] Manizha perform again, I think she’s really incredible. I’m pretty keen to see Go_A again, who are from Ukraine, and also Daði & Gagnamagniðfrom Iceland – they’re probably my favourites.
You’ve explored a lot of pain, trauma and sensitive topics on your last album, Complex. How difficult is it to be vulnerable in your music?
I’m an over-sharer, I guess. I’ve never felt weird about telling things about myself, even if it’s stuff that could be interpreted as shameful or bad. Maybe it’s because I’ve had enough support around me. Talking about that stuff for me was very vulnerable, but at the same time I didn’t want to feel shame about it and I got to a point in my life where I don’t think I did anymore. I wanted to be able to write a song to help other people feel like they’re not alone in the feelings that they might be feeling.
Have you sought professional help and do you believe there’s an importance to be transparent around the reality that working in entertainment is very demanding and there are times when seeking help is the best course of action?
I go to therapy pretty regularly. As Eurovision started to ramp up, it’s been stressful. I do have trauma triggers and I have acute anxiety and panic attacks. Therapy has helped me to understand and to project some meaning on my experiences and the pain that you have. It’s terrifying to not understand why you feel a certain way. [Therapy] doesn’t fix you, but it helps you manage those things better.
The entertainment industry is not all roses, it’s really incredibly hard and draining as an introvert. That’s my truth. I’m sure other people absolutely thrive on the chaos, the late nights and early mornings, parties, gigs and all that stuff. I think it’s important to be transparent about our experiences and to have empathy. Multiple truths can coexist, and feelings can coexist. We have a lot of work to do as a society to try to understand each other better. It starts with government and legislation: with systems and policies rigged towards supporting people.
How does Eurovision demonstrate how we can coexist in all our diversity beyond differences?
What’s awesome is that Eurovision is not afraid of being left-of-centre. Often music follows the pop format, but there’s so many risks taken and so many absurd, strange, intriguing ideas explored on stage. It’s a commercial and popular format, but it tells stories you don’t often hear in pop music. From performance to performance you really get range.
Check out this article for details on when and how to watch, and how to vote:
Stay tuned to the SBS Eurovision website for updates: sbs.com.au/Eurovision
Listen to ‘Technicolour’ here: https://montaigne.lnk.to/Technicolour
Join the conversation #SBSEurovision #ESC2021