Diana Rouvas still remembers the moment she became excited about singing again.
Rouvas is a musical cat with nine lives. At 19 she was supporting Tina Arena at concerts. In 2012, she earned a spot on Channel Nine's musical reality show The Voice. But after the glitter of television dimmed and record deals dried up, she found herself struggling with the motivation to keep going.
She was in a restaurant with two singer friends at a birthday party when they started spontaneously singing. Rouvas remembers it as an incandescent moment.
“When they sung, it was pure joy," she told SBS Voices.
“I had this epiphany. 'This is what you do music for.' To feel it again and be inspired by them is something I will never forget.“
Rouvas said she was afraid to enter The Voice again in 2019, as a 35 year-old in an industry notorious for churning out young starlets. But she is proud of taking a second chance, and going on to become the oldest winner in the history of the show.
“I am a 35 year old woman (in an industry) so focussed on age and women being 20 and then you’re done. I’m really proud to be here now because now I’m a better artist and singer and writer. That’s valuable to what music is, which is an expression of the soul.”
Rouvas who will be a contestant on SBS Eurovision Australia Decides says her time away helped her figure out an identity away from music. Born to a Greek-Australian father, music was in Rouvas’ blood. Her musician parents worked six days weeks to support themselves and she was under no illusions on how difficult the music industry could be.
During her down time, Rouvas worked odd jobs to support herself from warehouse work to teaching music. Challenges with record companies taught her the importance of becoming more business savvy and controlling the trajectory of her career.
“It’s a struggle because for a creative brain, it’s not a pleasurable thing for us. You don’t like sitting down and thinking about percentages. It’s a whole other part of the brain, literally, but you have to become a bit of boss because otherwise you get walked on and time passes and it’s over.”
“I don’t get excited about fame or being rich. My goal is to realise a body of work that I am proud of and that is honest. I want people to resonate with it and it to outlive me. That’s what keeps me going, that's what excites me.”
Her advice for other artists is to follow their calling even when it seems like the chips are not falling your way.
“You get tired! What do I do now? And can I be bothered? But you can’t not do it – the universe just pushes you.”
“Creative people kind of feel like they have no choice. It’s a calling. I don’t think I would be happy (if I wasn't singing). If I’m writing a song, I forget time – it’s an indication you are very present.
"When we cark it – will you remember the guy who turned you down for a record deal or the guy on You Tube who said you were sh**? That’s the last thing you'll be thinking. You’ll be thinking: Was I kind and decent? I had a lot of fun. I laughed a lot. I got to do music for a living.”
Eurovision - Australia Decides will be broadcast live from the Gold Coast on SBS on Saturday, February 8. Follow the hashtags #Eurovision #AusDecides, Facebook: @SBSEurovision, Twitter: @SBSEurovision and Instagram: @sbs_australia. Voting lines open on Friday, February 7 at 8:30pm. Click here on how to vote.