Read our interview with the Australian Idol contestant below!
Australian Idol recently wrapped up its return season! Having made it all the way to the top three, Phoebe Stewart took out second place and it's just the start of her budding music career. We caught up with Stewart to chat about her Idol journey and what the future holds.
On the final episode of auditions, Stewart was the first to enter the judging room. The school student was visibly nervous as she gets ready to chase her dreams. Her self-proclaimed 'bias' mother states, “I just think she has the most emotive tone that just melts you when you hear it.” And hey, mama knows best. Stewart took on One and Only by Adele, and her mum was correct. She has an emotive tone and maturity that extends beyond her 15 years. All she needed was boost of confidence and she would be a formidable force. She had great control and a great range, but most of all picked a song that truly showcased her voice. “You’re a genius for that” remarked Trainor before comparing her to a young Adele. The judges lapped up the performance, feeling hopeful for Stewart’s future, and she scores her place in the top fifty.
During bootcamp, the singer was paired with Maya Weiss, Royston Sagigi-Baira, Sharin Attamimi and Montana Lara, where they formed the group '5 Soul.’ They tackled Jess Glynn’s I’ll Be There, working wonderfully together to deliver a moving performance where each contestants performance felt organic. No one overpowered anyone else, and it was just a wholesome performance that saw each contestant progress to the next round. Stewart sang Selena Gomez’s Lose You To Love Me, with her full and emotive vocal tone luring you in and wowing the judges. It was no doubt that she would make it through to the top twenty four.
Here, Stewart lets us know she has renamed her rooster Kevin, who apparently gets his way and makes weird noises, to Kyle, as a homage to the Idol judge. She was feeling some nerves for her top twenty four performance, but they all dissipate when show time rolls around. Performing Florence + The Machine’s You’ve Got The Love, Stewart seemed like a seasoned performer. Her control and the depth of her voice was resounding and she just owned the stage. “Phoebe Stewart, that’s a name people are gonna remember,” says Sandilands. Trainor can’t even string a sentence together, so instead gives Stewart the coveted touchdown and fast tracks her straight to the top twelve.
For her first performance in the top twelve, Stewart took on Labrinth’s Beneath Your Beautiful, and was there any doubt in our minds that she killed it? Of course she did. Emulating Florence Welch in her flowing gown, her full vocals filled the Idol auditorium, accompanied by the house band and a string trio. Stewart never puts a foot wrong, her song choices are always on point and her vocals never fault. She effortlessly moved between her middle register and falsetto, and had a mesmerising stage presence. You could barely hear Connick Jr. give his feedback over the crowds cheers. I was impressed, the judges were impressed, and I have no doubt you were impressed. The judges decided to use their save on Stewart, meaning the singer had earned her place in the top ten.
The following week, the singer was feeling like she has something to prove to Australia. It's judges choice week and she was fairly disappointed with the choices of ABBA’s Dancing Queen, Rachel Platten’s Fight Song, The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows and Lauren Daigle’s You Say. She chooses Dancing Queen and decides to turn it into a ballad. She sounds incredible, her vocals are faultless and she holds so much power. The staging and styling was phenomenal and by far the best performance of the night. But I would’ve loved to see her perform an upbeat song or arrangement. “We might as well fast forward and crown you queen of Idol now,” says Sandilands. Both Trainor and Shark stood throughout the performance, and praised her during their feedback.
For 'heroes and tributes' week, Stewart dedicated her performance to her late grandfather who inspired her to follow a musical path. She chose Lauren Daigle’s You See, delivering another powerful performance. Stewart never misses a note and consistently provides great performances. The stage was shrouded in smoke as she made her way across it, surrounded by a choir of back up singers. She has an international sound with her booming tone and impeccable delivery. “I lost my marbles”, Trainor said, raving of the performance. Connick Jr. loved seeing footage of Stewart and her grandfather and the insight it gave into where she picked up the technical side of her musicality. Unfortunately, Australia didn't whip their phones out to vote and Stewart ended up in the bottom four for the first time in the competition. She sung The Weeknd's Call Out My Name, and were some slight nerves but she still delivered those powerhouse vocals. She was fired up and channeling it into her performance. Sandilands, Trainor and Shark all gave her a standing ovation. "I'm gonna be screaming your name forever," says Trainor. Shark says tonight might be a bit awkward, sharing "Meghan actually said to me if Phoebe goes, then I go." But thankfully, Stewart made it through to the semi-final.
For her final performances before the grand final, Stewart took on Birdy’s version of People Help The People and Freya Ridings’ Lost Without You. During rehearsals for People Help The People, she was struggling to memorise the lyrics, but in the performance she nailed it. It was a perfect song choice. For Lost Without You, Stewart was going head-to-head with Ben Sheehy for a place in the grand final. It was another flawless performance from the singer, and the judges loved every second. She commented Idol has been the best experience she’s ever had and has learnt so much throughout the competition. Host Scott Tweedie the announced Stewart was making her way to the grand final.
Kicking off the grand final alongside fellow top three contestants Royston Sagigi-Baira Stewart and Josh Hannan, the top twelve joined them to perform Ed Sheeran’s Celestial. For her first solo performance of the night, Stewart is performing Cher’s Believe. We’re reminded of the fifteen-year-old we met in Busselton, Western Australia, and trace the journey she’s embarked on. Alongside Sagigi-Baira and Hannan, she visits the KIIS FM studio and jokes around with Sandilands. Later in the episode there's a great edit of Trainor screaming "Phoebeeeeee" and the earth appears to shake, capturing the feel when we hear Stewart sing. Stewarts take on Believe was goosebump inducing. Stripping the song back from its synth-pop 90’s sonics to a more organic soundscape that builds in anticipation, Stewart’s vocals were given the space to shine and showcase her inimitable tone. The staging, production and visuals all perfectly compliment Stewart’s stage presence, delivering what I think was her best performance throughout the competition. Both Trainor and Shark gave a standing ovation, and Sandilands and Connick Jr. are impressed as always. “There’s no one that’s been more constantly impressive,” said Sandilands. Stewart and Sagigi-Baira progress to the top two as Hannan's Idol journey came to an end.
For her top two performance, she performs Elton John's Your Song. Once again, flawless. Speaking of Stewart's performance, Trainor shares, "My husband he sang that song to me on our first date, because he's so brave and you're so much better." She always delivers great stories and moments, I truly hope Trainor returns next season. "I think the last two are fantastic, so thrilled for both of you," said Sandilands, and he's right. Both contestants also received heartfelt messages from those back home, showing the support and love from their respective communities. It's was time to find out who would be crowned this years Australian Idol. The nerves and anticipation are high, and as the top two return to the stage, Stewart takes a tumble down the staircase (a few weeks ago she said she feared doing just that) but handles it like a pro. She cracks jokes about it and thanks everyone for not laughing. Master of suspense Ricki-Lee has us once again on the edge of our seats, taking her time in announcing whether Sagigi-Baira or Stewart have won the competition. Ultimately, Stewart placed second in the competition, an amazing and incredible feat.
First off, congratulations on making the top two on Australian Idol. That's so incredible and amazing. I hope you're super, super proud of yourself.
Yeah. I'm so excited. Thank you so much. It was such a great experience. I'll do it a thousand times again.
I'm sure it was, it was so great watching you all. But let's take it back to the very beginning of this whole journey. What kind of drew you to wanting to audition for Australian Idol?
Well, I would always see The Voice and I would rewatch the past [seasons of] Australian Idol or I'll go and watch American Idol and I'd go, 'I want to do that.' Like, that's such a sick way to enter the music industry and get your name out there. And even though I'm young, I was like I know that's what I want to do. I saw Australian Idol was getting people to audition and I was like, 'I'll just give it a go.' Like you never know what would happen. And this is what happened. So I'm pretty stoked with the outcome.
It was a pretty great outcome I must say. You were one of the two youngest contestants on the show. Being so young, how did you cope with the pressure and everything that comes with being on the show? Because you seemed pretty unstoppable and prepared for anything, at least from a viewers perspective.
Well I didn't feel any younger than anyone else. Like, I don't know, a lot of people say I'm quite mature, but I just love like music. So it just felt right. And like all those people were so accommodating and they were so lovely and supportive and we all just like believed and loved the same things. So it was just natural for all of us and me, especially at a young age. And since I wasn't the only one and I had like two other girls, it was like great. And my mum was there so I felt very safe and supported.
Yeah, that's so lovely. I guess also you're all going through such a specific shared situation as well.
Yeah, we're trauma bonded [laughs]
[Laughs] A few people have said that to me. Obviously you made it all the way to the grand final, the top two. How did you kind of feel making it all that way and knowing that you had so much support from Australia?
I didn't even expect to make it past like top fifty, and to make it this far I was gobsmacked with the fact that people liked me and voted for me and I'd made it this far and I couldn't have asked for a better outcome. I'm so grateful for everyone who voted for me. Like, this is insane.
It's so funny I was sent the audition episodes before they aired so like one day a week I'd like sit down and watch them and I watched the auditions with with my mum and my sister and between the three of us we all picked the top three from the auditions. We should have made bets man [laughs].
Sports bet, you should've got on that [laugh]. That was a thing.
Missed out! It's been 14 years since Australian Idol last aired. How do you think the show can change the trajectory of someone's life and career and how do you think so it's done so for you?
I think it's like you have to have a certain level of confidence to just put yourself out there in such a straight up way and just let the world see you. I love the show because it prepares you. It doesn't prepare you for all the little small in between things, but it shows you what it's like. It gives you like a glimpse of what it's like to be on the big stage where like the end result would be. It makes me so happy to be there. I love just singing, all the other things are just a plus and an add-on and they're great. But just standing on the stage is amazing and it really gives you a whole different point of view on how these shows are made and like being a viewer and being on the show is completely different and it's such a cool thing to see.
Yeah, for sure. A few of the other contestants have said to me that being on Idol feels like a mini bootcamp for the whole music industry and I love that little analogy.
Yeah, that is exactly it. That's like spot on!
Now I'm going to presume that your favourite moment was the grand final, but what was your favourite moment throughout the whole competition and your journey with the show?
Oh God. I loved all of it. Like every single moment it was my favourite. Like, this is where I feel like my happy place and being in it constantly for two months was just the best feeling. But I loved, I just loved singing every time. Just like getting to rehearse and have the live band. Like that was amazing. I've always wanted a live band and at their talent level to be with me like it was insane and I would do it a thousand times again.
Throughout your time on the show you did lean more into the big kind of power ballad songs. Were you wanting to branch out into different styles and genres, or were you happy to kind of stay within that lane?
I would've loved to have done more, like a couple more maybe upbeat funk songs, but I didn't really get the chance. I love all genres. There's something great about every song that's ever been written and produced. There's just something that is amazing and I love like old soul music. I love funk. I love a bit of rock like blues. Country. I love everything. Like there's good in everything. So yeah, I would've been happy with any song I sung because I can make it my own and just enjoy it.
Yeah, I love that. I think you have quite a versatile voice. I don't know if you know this artist, but her name is Yebba.
I love Yebba!
I could easily see you singing her collaboration with Mark Ronson, Don't Leave Me Lonely. I think you'd kill that, and it's obviously more of a dance mid-tempo track. So I can't wait to see what you follow post Idols.
Do you know the movie The Sapphires?
I sure do.
Do you know the songs that they like cover and like all those kind of upbeat songs? I love that. I love that type of stuff. Like I'd love to do that with all the trumpets and saxophones.
That'd be epic, I would love to see that. What do you think was the best piece of advice that you received throughout the competition? Be that from a judge, fellow contestant, someone on the production team or a guest performer.
It's really random and I know it's only like a small little thing. It's like, not big, but definitely one thing all the crew and the producers told me was just to keep smiling. Just to smile. Like no matter what's happening, obviously in certain circumstances don't, but smile. Like it makes other people smile. It makes you sing better even. Like smiling can make your voice happier. I just think that's a good little piece of advice. Not just for singing, but like everyday life. Just smile.
That's great advice. Being the top two, you did get to sing every week and do every performance that was planned. Earlier you said you would've liked to do some different styles, but were there any songs that you would've like particularly loved to have done during your time on the show?
Um, I would've loved to done a funk song with trumpets. I of course pushed for that. And even a song like [Nina Simone's] Feeling Good Fairly Good, but Anya [Hynninen] did that. I would've loved to do that, like make it a really big version. But I was pretty happy with all my choices. There were a couple of songs that I was a bit like, 'ahhhhh, I maybe wouldn't have chosen them,' but like it is what it is.
Oh yeah, I remember you weren't too keen on the judges choices.
I was in the audience for the first top twelve live show and then the Grand final and you were so good at both. I actually got goosebumps when you performed Believe by Cher. The song choices were always great. You touched on it a little bit earlier, but how do you think that Idol has prepared you for your career moving forward? Because obviously like we've said it is quite a full on production with gruelling schedule.
I think if you go on a show like this, don't have tunnel vision and go, 'that's how your whole music career's gonna go.; You have to be open to people giving you ideas and you have to be open to trying new things and you have to back yourself. You have to be confident in what you believe and confident in your like self and know what you want to do and not let too many people push you around. And I think, I know I'm only 15, but I think getting that put into my mindset and having this experience has really helped me have better confidence. I think confidence is another big thing. You have to have to like really succeed. Like you can get it over time, and sometimes you just have it, but I think that you can work on it and once you've got your confidence down, everything else will kind of come in because you just gotta believe in yourself and know that what you are saying and what you're doing is the right thing for you and you're never gonna please everyone. So as long as you can please yourself and feel like you are making a tiny difference in some way, I think that's what matters the most.
I love that. My next question was going to be what advice would you give to someone wanting to audition, but I feel like you've perfectly hit that there .
[Laughs] Yeah, just be confident and trust yourself and do what you love.
We're at the end of the interview, but what is next for you? Any any original music in the pipeline, or maybe some live shows? I remember back in Australian Idol's original run the top twelve would go on tour together. I don't think that will happen though [laughs].
[Laughs] Amali [Dimond} and I were talking about this and were like, 'why can't we go on tour? I just wanna do it.' It would be so fun. I don't know really what they did in the old ones, but like imagine we just like get a big bus and we just tour around Australia. Oh that would be so fun. I've written songs before and I'm like gonna keep writing and hopefully get into a studio because I've only ever been to the studio once and that was to record the winner single and I loved it. So hopefully I can go back in and do some of my own stuff and maybe do some covers and I've got a few little gigs and stuff happening and I'm really excited about that. So, hopefully my name will be out there a bit more.
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