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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos


Read our interview with the Australian Idol contestant below!

Image: Supplied.

With the grand final only days away, we said goodbye to three contestants on Australian Idol this week. Anya Hynninen, Ben Sheehy and Amali Dimond have come to the end of their Idol journey, but it's just the start for their budding music careers. We caught up with Sheehy to chat about his Idol journey and what the future holds.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ben Sheehy was the standout for night one of auditions. Sheehy waltzed in with a breezy attitude before belting out a magnetic performance of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love and won not just the judges hearts, but Australia's. His incredible range and vocal tone was so unexpected and created one of those epic Idol moments. A drawing factor of the Idol franchise is the idea of turning everyday people into global superstars. Sheehy earned four yes verdicts from the judges and continued on to top fifty.

During bootcamp week, the chorus line challenge saw Sheehy sing Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball, bringing all the growling vocals Cyrus is known for. He then joined forces with Jessica Clennett, Sam Jeacle, Angus Holmes and Kristie Roberts to form the group 'Go Rogue.' They planned to perform Aretha Franklin's Respect, but pulled a last minute change due to Holmes being unfamilar with the iconic song. Instead they take to the stage with Katy Perry's Roar. Only Sheehy and Roberts progress to the next round, with the song choice proving to be detrimental to the rest of the group.

Sheehy earned his place in the top twenty four following his performance of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son, and backed it up by tackling Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin foe his top twenty four performance. “I don’t know if Australia is ready for rock god Ben Sheehy, but I’m coming to get ya,” he says. He's every bit the rock star woth his leather jacked and mic on a lead. It’s a hard song to sing, but he crushed it. Judge Kyle Sandilands said “it was sick," also commenting, “For a moment I thought I was teleported back to some weird club in Germany back a decade ago.” Judge Meghan Trainor loves his power pose, and Shark was taken on a journey. Judge Harru Connick Jr. comments on how comfortable he seemed on stage, and speaks of how Led Zeppelin frontmen Tony Thompson and Robert Plant have different approaches to performing Immigrant Song. It's cleat that Sheehy was a breath of fresh air in the competition, and deserved his spot in the top twelve.

“The judges think they know Ben Sheehy but they’ve got no idea, I’m gonna keep them on their toes,” Sheehy says as we entered the live shows. He’s singing Bon Jovi’s Blaze Of Glory. Yes, it’s still a rock song, but it’s vocally more solid. There’s less booming high notes and vocals that lean towards screeching (I say that in the most admirable way possible, it’s hard to do successfully!), instead it’s more melody-based. Again, he delivered a compelling and incredible performance, and his vocal tone is insane. There’s truly no one like him within Australia’s music scene, someone so mysterious who can hit these rock God notes. He’d often lift his arm and do movements that resembled Queen’s Freddie Mercury, and just looked at home on stage. "I want you to know that you’re a fricking rock star.” says judge Amy Shark. She goes on to suggest he may be more suited as the frontman of a band. Connick Jr. reminds the nation of the importance of voting for your favourite contestant, which proved fruitless since Sheehy ended up in the bottom four. He wasn't send home though, and we got to see him perform for a second time that week when he sang Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep - Mountain High.

For 'Judges Choice' week, Sheehy was presented with Aerosmith’s Dream On, Måneskin’s cover of Beggin’, Jimmy Barnes’ Working Class Man and JET’s Are You Gonna Be My Girl. He opts to perform Beggin’ due to its commercial success so he can prove that rock music does have its place within the industry, and the competition. He starts training, both vocally and physically, to crush this performance. Again, he delivers. It’s always a breath of fresh air when Sheehy steps on stage, he interacted with the audience, used the stage and sounded great. Connick Jr. thinks Sheehy is one of those artists who doesn’t need to move around, and would prefer he stand still, which is a fair comment. Sheehy says “Megan chose Beggin’” and he got it right. “He’s a star man,” says Trainor, she saw her brother and family jumping along the side of the stage and I think Sheehy has successfully proved he deserved to stay in the competition. But then you went and got it wrong again Australia, and Sheehy ended up in the bottom four for a second time. He gave a spirited performance of The Rolling Stones' Gimmie Shelter. He's taken on Connick Jr.'s advice to stand still, and has also used the brief moment on stage to show off his range, tone and texture. But ultimately, Sheehy stayed in the competition to fight another day.

For 'Heroes and Tributes' week, Sheehy reveals he attended a music school which fostered his love for rock music, so he’s dedicating his performance of Wolfmother’s Joke and The Thief to that school. And straight out of the ballpark, he’s killing it. His vocals are insane and it was one of his best, if not his best, performances on the Idol stage. He’s Interacting with the audience and cameras, whilst standing more resolute in his movements (following Connick Jr.’s feedback the previous week) and commanding everyone’s attention. He looks so comfortable on stage, and when Connick Jr. suggests he should bring a guitar on stage and “crack that son of a gun”, I’m all for a rockstar moment. Shark feels lucky to get her own show from Sheehy each week, and Trainor loves him not only as a performer but as a person. This time you got it right Australia, so big round of applause for you because Sheehy made it through and avoided the bottom four.

For the semi-finals, we’re shown a montage of young children dancing along to Sheehy's previous performance as he shuns Sandilands’ previous comment that rock is dead. He’s singing The Rolling Stones’ (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction and is planning to get the audience pumped by joining them in the crowd. I was very much hoping he would do an epic stage dive, but instead he opted for a more calm route by walking down into the crowd. Once again, Sheehy has delivered an effortless performance that oozed with his personality. He even tossed the mic stand aside in a rock 'n' roll moment. Shark loved it, but wished it was a different arrangement. Connick Jr. agrees and also comments his styling tonight feels like a very natural progression for him. “You may be the guy to revive rock music,” Sandilands says in a 180 from his previous comments, adding “you may be able to do what JET did for it.”

Each contestant got one last chance to perform on Monday nights elimination episode, with Sheehy singing Joe Crocker’s My Baby Wrote Me A Letter. His vocals are once again out of this world. He is so different to anyone in the competition, and anyone at the forefront of the Australian music industry. Shark calls him weird in an endearing way, saying she herself isn’t the best vocalist but she has ‘other weird things,’ which prompts Connick Jr. to poke her iconic bun. Connick Jr. offers him an idea for his album, saying it should be full of recordings of his “last notes.” He adds, “I’d call that son of a gun Ben’s High Notes.” Unfortunately, Sheehy's Idol journey came to an end as Royston Sagigi-Baira, Phoebe Stewart and Josh Hannan progressed to the grand final.

Congratulations on getting so far in Australian Idol and all you've achieved on the show. It has been so great watching every week.

Yeah, I appreciate it. I appreciate all the articles too.

Oh gosh, so you've seen me fan-girl over your performances [laughS].

I know. I love the one where you said, "we need to have words Australia."

How good! I think it's been pretty obvious that you've been one of my favorite this whole time. I've tried to not be too biased or I've tried not to really put out there who my favourites are. But then I was just like, 'you guys need to start voting'. So I had to, I had to let them know. But let's go back to the beginning for a minute, can you tell me a bit about what drew you to wanting to audition for Australian Idol?

Well, I've been studying music. I was doing a Bachelor of Music, but it was composition for the creative industry, like music for film and TV. So I hadn't been singing like at all, hadn't been gigging or anything like this. My partner and I were watching, I think I we were watching Better Homes and Gardens one night. It came on and Nicole said to me, 'oh, why don't you audition?' I said, 'oh, yeah, why not?' It just drew me there and I was like, you know, I haven't sung for a while, but surely if you've sung before you can do it again.

Exactly, muscle memory. I back it just, just casually watching Better Homes and Gardens and then taking over Australia. I love that. Obviously you brought some rock and roll to a mainstream media program, which was super great. Even if Kyle [Sandilands] did say rock is dead. I know I said it many times, but I'm family against that comment [laughs]. There's so many incredible local rock acts absolutely killing it. What do you hope that your involvement in the competition as a rock artist has on the genres presence in Australia?

I think rock is pretty prevalent in the mainstream. You've got groups like Gang Of Youths for instance who are amazing. I just hope that more people listen to rock and listen to me, I guess, my music. But I guess it's also just whatever music you're into, I don't think that Australian Idols or people should be restricted by what music they want. They could play any music on Idol. It's mainly just about if you are an authentic person, then they enjoy your performances no matter what kind of music you're playing.

I definitely agree. Also throughout the competition you found your style and developed as an artist. What was that journey like for you? Kind of bringing all those elements together with the performance, styling and all of that fun stuff.

Yeah, it was like crazy fun. I think for me it's really great to like build the confidence over time of singing again and getting in touch with like who I am and also having all the amazing resources of Australian Idol. To do that like sort of wardrobe and the staging, so much work goes into it behind the scenes. But the team is like the best team on TV I reckon. In like getting the performances together. So that's been like something I couldn't have imagined would happen, or I wouldn't be able to do by myself. m-hmm.

What's been your favourite moment throughout your whole time in the competition?

I really enjoyed my top twenty four performance. I feel like that was a moment where I felt completely comfortable and confident and like, you know, doesn't matter what happens. I gave that my best, you know, I gave that everything.

I love that, it was such a good one. It has been about fourteen years since Australian Idol last aired. How do you think that the show can change the trajectory of someone's life and career, and how do you think it's done so for you?

I think that Australian Idol is like a music industry boot camp. Such a short amount of time, and really prepares you for every little thing that you might experience as an artist. Most of us are still like, I'm still an up-and-comer, you know? I haven't got any music out, don't really perform as much. Now on Idol, it's given me the impetus to perform heaps and write Music and do all that. So, you know, anyone who wants to go on Idol, just do it. I think it'll really show you what the industry is like, it can get pretty intense. You have to have ways of sort of coping with that. But for me, you know, the top twelve - it's like a family. I haven't encountered any of them to be competitive, no divas or anything on the show [laughs]. Like they're all amazing people.

Yeah, that's so lovely. Makes it a much nicer experience for you all. Had you made it through to the grand Final, what song would you have wanted to end with?

The dream performance, I I was thinking Dream On [by Aerosmith] because it's one of those like impossible songs. Like, especially the last couple of notes. And also I really wanted to do, I was talking to the music team about doing Grace by Jeff Buckley and probably just some Led Zeppelin to sort of close it. Like audition with Led Zeppelin, close with Led Zeppelin.

That would've been an epic full-circle moment. You should just record the covers and upload them anyway! What do you think has been the best piece of advice that you got throughout the competition? Be that from one of the judges, someone on production, a fellow contestant even?

I think it was just like be your authentic self. I feel like for a few weeks the comments were sort of like, 'do this or change this.' But then I think everyone just realised that you can't really change me. I'm just Ben. Ben is Ben, you know? My partner said the other night, 'Ben is Ben and that's his superpower.' I think that you just had to let me be me.

Exactly, and I mean, it worked for you. The first two weeks you were in the bottom four, but you made it to the semi-final. But I put those first two weeks down to Australia not realising that they have to vote. I think so many people are just like, 'oh, someone else will vote' and they don't vote, and then no one ends up voting.

I know. You go through like the full grieving process when you're in the bottom floor and you just get to acceptance and then they say, 'oh no, you're still through'. And it happened like twice for me. Very stressful. But I can't imagine for like Phoebe [Stewart] and Amali [Dimond] when that happened there, that was a crazy episode.

Yeah, especially being so young as well. But at the same time, we got to see you perform an extra two times then most contestants, so there's the silver lining.

That's true [laughs].

It has been such a pleasure to watch you all grow and find your confidence on stage throughout the whole production. How do you think being on Idol has prepared you moving forward in your career? Because obviously it's quite like a specific experience and like you said, almost serves as a bootcamp into the music industry.

I think it's prepared me so well, like for any performance now I know there's not gonna be like a judges panel and I know that there won't be like a voting process at a gig or something to like keep me on stage. People can boo but you know, you can drown it out. So I think I'm pretty like prepared for anything now.

Now this might be the harder question to answer, but who would you love to see take out the title of Australian Idol?

You know, everybody's asked me this today and I'll give you the same answer [laughs]. I think all of them deserve to win the number one position. That's such a hard question, they're all amazing singers. From the moment that I heard them, I remember hearing Royston [Sagigi-Baira] at the Gold Coast auditions, and I knew that he would be at the Grand Final. But I can't pick, I won't say one contestant. I think they all should

What would your advice be to someone wanting to audition for the show next year?

I'd say take the leap of faith. If you really want to do it, it's such a great experience. And if you're really serious about singing and that's what you want to do. You want to sing all the time, you want to be an artist and you want to be on the ARIA charts, then that's pretty much what it's like.

We're at the end of this interview, but what is next for the Rock God Ben Sheehy? Are you planning on releasing some original music, maybe some shows?

I don't have any music right now, but I'm furiously writing. You can keep up to date on my socials of things that I'm planning @bensheehymusic on Instagram and on TikTok.

We'll be sure to keep up to date with that and hopefully hear some original music soon. I remember Amy [Shark] had said you'd be a great frontman. Do you think you're going to maybe go into more of a band route or stay solo?

Yeah, I'm gonna put together a band and hopefully, do things like in Brisbane and Queensland. It'll be good.

Well, thank you so much for your time today. It was great chatting with you.

Thank you. You've always written great articles about me. I really appreciate it. It's great, ever since I saw it from the audition [recap article] I was like, 'oh Jesus, standout'. You know, like you said I was a standout so that was really great. It gave me a lot of validation. I appreciate it

I'm glad, I'm glad you've enjoyed it. It's been so fun writing them and I think I'm going to miss it a bit after the grand final.

Watch the grand final of Australian Idol on Channel 7 Sunday night at 7:00pm AEDT. Stream it on 7 Plus.


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