Aussies to vote for nation’s Eurovision star

NO pressure Australia, but this time you get a say on who represents us at Eurovision in Tel Aviv this year.

On Saturday night the ten finalists will perform live on Australia Decides, with the winner selected on the night.

They are Tania Doko (of Bachelor Girl), singer/songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke, indie band Sheppard, Voice winner Alfie Arcuri, crooner Mark Vincent, Killing Heidi singer and solo artist Ella Hooper, electric soul duo Electric Fields, 16-year-old Leea Nanos, pop singer Aydan and drag performer Courtney Act.

Results will be calculated from a 50 per cent split of votes from an industry jury panel and the public phone votes.

Performers (rear, left to right) Michael Ross, Aydan Calafiore, Alfie Arcuri, Tania Doko, George Sheppard, Emma Sheppard and Amy Sheppard, (front, left to right) Zaachariaha Fielding, Leea Nanos and Ella Hooper will compete for the chance to represent Australia at the Eurovision Song Contest. Picture: AAP/Darren England
Performers (rear, left to right) Michael Ross, Aydan Calafiore, Alfie Arcuri, Tania Doko, George Sheppard, Emma Sheppard and Amy Sheppard, (front, left to right) Zaachariaha Fielding, Leea Nanos and Ella Hooper will compete for the chance to represent Australia at the Eurovision Song Contest. Picture: AAP/Darren England

Previously, Australian Eurovision representatives including Guy Sebastian, Dami Im and Jessica Mauboy had been selected behind the scenes, now the process has been opened up to the public - from the initial sourcing of songs through a website to the TV voting process.

"It's a very open competition," Creative Director Paul Clarke says. "For instance, Electric Fields are something Europe has never seen. I hope Australia considers what will play well at Eurovision. I'm fascinated to see which way Australia goes."

Dami Im welcomed home after Eurovision: Dami Im put on a show for her old school John Paul College in Daisy Hill this morning.

In the four years Australia since has defied geography and competed at Eurovision, Miller-Heidke has popped up on wishlists as a potential performer, mainly for her Eurovision-friendly mix of pop and opera.

However she admits she had to be convinced to take part in a music competition, after previously writing a song (Australian Idol) slamming the very same thing.

"It was something I had to consider quite carefully. I've never been in any TV contest, I've even written that song about it. I feel quite vulnerable. Ranking music is such a subjective thing, to me that's a scary prospect. Ultimately I love Eurovision so much, I love the idea of writing a song to that brief, that crazy, camp, fabulous, over the top brief, so ultimately I gave into the temptation."

Kate Miller-Heidke. Picture: Supplied
Kate Miller-Heidke. Picture: Supplied

Her song Zero Gravity is a bespoke Eurovision creation written with partner Kiel Nuttall.

"It's a brief I've wanted to write to for a long time, I never gave myself permission. All my career I've been trying to bring the worlds of pop and opera closer together, I feel with Zero Gravity I've succeeded to a greater degree than I have before.

"Eurovision actually gives permission for the artists to be quite experimental and quite ridiculous. I love those performances that make me laugh with surprise and delight. They're not songs that are tailor made for radio, they're tailor made for this crazy theatrical event, which is why I love it."

After the end of Bachelor Girl, Doko relocated to Sweden, where she is now married with a child and works as an in-demand songwriter.

She's written for Eurovision winner Mans Zemerlow and worked with a string of producers who have had Eurovision hits - she originally entered four of her songs for consideration for other Australian acts to sing at Eurovision.

Tania Doko (left) Ella Hooper (centre) and Alfie Arcuri (right) are shooting for their chance to represent Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest. Picture: AAP/Darren England
Tania Doko (left) Ella Hooper (centre) and Alfie Arcuri (right) are shooting for their chance to represent Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest. Picture: AAP/Darren England

Clarke rang her and asked if she'd like to sing one herself.

"Tania is an Olympic pop singer," Clarke said. "Any of the songs she entered could have been in the competition. She knows this is a great way to reconnect with Australian audiences, but also bring she's learned from working in Sweden. She knows Eurovision from the ground up."

It all happened so fast that Doko, who reformed Bachelor Girl last year, was the last on board for Australia Decides.

"It's all happened so fast I haven't had time to second-guess it," Doko says. "I understand Eurovision, I'm not scared of it, some big stars have come out of it. I've had a giggle at it like everyone else. it's a colourful event. I've got nothing to lose. I've just got to not stuff it up."

Her song Piece of Me was originally written five years ago, but has since been tweaked by Doko and cut down to three minutes for Eurovision from the original four and a half minutes.

"It was close to being recorded by J-Lo. Baz Luhrmann was looking at it for The Get Down too. This song has had many incarnations and lives, it was written five years ago. It's the gift that keeps on giving. It's never found the right home. Maybe I was always the one that was supposed to release it. There is some synchronicity in it. It's a chance to finally release the song, associate it with a great, global brand. I never thought I'd be singing it, but you never know what's around the corner."

Like Doko, Ella Hooper is coming off the back of reforming her former band - in Hooper's case, Killing Heidi.

Both women say getting the band back together has made them unexpectedly match fit for Eurovision, even though both never knew it was on the horizon.

"Who wouldn't want Eurovision on their CV?," Hooper says. "I want to keep doing things that surprise myself and this is one of them. It's something I never thought I'd do. As with everything I've been doing the last few years, I never thought I'd get Killing Heidi back together, I never thought I'd be competing to be in Eurovision. It ticks my 'Never thought I …' list."

"But I don't think I would have said yes to this without reforming Killing Heidi. It's been wonderful to open up my mind and heart again to Killing Heidi, it's made me realise I am quite a strong performer, I can step into those shoes successfully and connect with material in a way that's entertaining and outgoing. So what else can I do with that? Killing Heidi wasn't meant to go on forever and ride it into the sunset. That probably won't be the case. So what can I do with this new found love of performance and then this came along."

Unusually for a songwriter, Hooper's Eurovision song Data Dust came from an external source, up-and-coming writer Alice Chance.

"She writes for orchestras and choirs, which is a very male dominated industry, and she's a real young gun. She's not your average singer-songwriter trying to crack the pop market, yet she's written this great pop rock song. That's intriguing, it's just one woman alone who got the song to the Eurovision people who got it to me and turns out she's a fan of me which is a beautiful synchronicity. I love being able to support her and promote her work, potentially on a global scale."

Clarke says each artist has been rehearsing heavily for the past week and will perform in front of a live audience on the Gold Coast, as well as being beamed live on TV.

"My job when I'm with each artist is to make sure they win," he says. "I have to make their performance and their song as strong as it can possibly be and put them on stage with something Europe will really respond to.

"We're doing our best to put them all on the stage and celebrate pop music. Australia is known for AC/DC and Divinyls, but we're also known for Men at Work and Olivia and Kylie and Savage Garden, Australia's always punched above its weight in pop. I hope people see this as a great new institution."

WATCH Eurovision - Australia Decides, SBS, Saturday, 8.30pm