“I have got noth­ing to hide”

A lot has changed for Guy Se­bas­tian in the 15 years since he was crowned Aus­tralian Idol. But as the singer tells Stel­lar, he never lost faith in the things that mat­tered to him

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy STEVEN CHEE Styling KELLY HUME In­ter­view CAMERON ADAMS

A lot has changed in the 15 years since Guy Se­bas­tian was crowned the first Aus­tralian Idol. The singer opens up to Stel­lar about go­ing through a tough cou­ple of years – in­clud­ing a bit­ter le­gal bat­tle and los­ing loved ones – and how it has all brought him closer to wife Jules.

Back in 2003, Guy Se­bas­tian was a peppy, un­known 22-year-old from Ade­laide, a young man with a wild shock of hair and deep love of mu­sic who found him­self at the white-hot cen­tre of what was at the time the coun­try’s most talked-about new TV show.

And when Se­bas­tian took out Aus­tralian Idol’s first-ever win in front of 3.3 mil­lion view­ers that Novem­ber, he was also some­thing of an anom­aly. He didn’t look, let alone act, like the big male chart-top­pers of the mo­ment – the Justin Tim­ber­lakes and Eminems of the world. He had a girl­friend of sev­eral years, Jules Egan, who he met while they were singing at church. And he was a de­vout Christian, who wore both his faith and his heart on his sleeve.

More than 15 years later, the Guy Se­bas­tian who sits down to talk with Stel­lar long ago firmed up his place as not just the O.G. (orig­i­nal gang­ster) of mu­si­cal re­al­ity TV in Aus­tralia, but also as one of our most widely liked and pop­u­lar singers. Now 37, he has nu­mer­ous hit al­bums and sin­gles to his credit. He’s lent his sur­name to a char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion. He has per­formed at Euro­vi­sion and won four ARIAs. He mar­ried Jules, and they had two sons. He’s also not the same reg­u­lar church­goer he once was.

Dur­ing his Idol years, Se­bas­tian’s faith be­came a topic of na­tional dis­cus­sion. And while he hasn’t ex­actly lost his re­li­gion in the past decade, he’s cer­tainly ques­tioned it. “I grew up heav­ily in­volved in church,” Se­bas­tian tells Stel­lar. “There’s quite a few things that didn’t sit well with me. Most peo­ple of faith, once they step away from it and have hu­man con­tact from out­side, re­alise that life’s a lot more com­plex than just black-and-white state­ments. I’d love my kids to go to church, but I don’t want them to live in a bub­ble.

“I should prob­a­bly go to church – I feel this sense of peace when I go. But I don’t want to go to a church that has a cor­po­rate struc­ture or a busi­ness slant to it. There’s enough of that in my life.

“When you come through some­thing in the pub­lic eye, peo­ple want you to be their poster boy. You end up be­ing la­belled as things you know aren’t who you are. I’d get tagged with Fam­ily First; I’d never met any­one from there, maybe I have, but I didn’t know. I was get­ting as­so­ci­ated with weird things that didn’t sit well with me.”

Still, Se­bas­tian is loyal – at least un­til things start, well, not sit­ting well with him. Aside from Jules, one of the long­est and most im­por­tant re­la­tion­ships he had for many years was with man­ager Ti­tus Day – the men were also friends whose fam­i­lies had grown up to­gether. But in late 2017, the two parted ways. What was at first de­scribed as am­i­ca­ble quickly turned bit­ter, and is now in the Fed­eral Court.

Se­bas­tian is claim­ing more than $200,000 in what he says are un­paid com­mis­sions over en­dorse­ment deals (in­clud­ing a sun­screen com­pany) and per­for­mance fees. Day is counter-su­ing. The two have also had per­sonal emails aired in the me­dia, full of barbs to each other, with the case fod­der for me­dia cov­er­age due to his fame.

“It hasn’t been an easy cou­ple of years. We’ve had a lot all at once to deal with”

“It’s a mas­sive shame,” Se­bas­tian says of the bat­tle. “I have never been in court; I’ve never had any le­gal thing ever. I have emo­tion­ally dis­con­nected from it now, which is re­ally healthy. I was in a pretty dark place.”

As Se­bas­tian sees it, “Artists – we’re re­ally not good with money… I’ve got noth­ing to hide. That’s a nice place to be.”

But even in his bleak­est mo­ments, Se­bas­tian al­ways had his fam­ily – Jules and sons Hud­son, seven and Archer, five – to bring him com­fort and sup­port. Even to­day, his face still be­comes aglow when he talks about Jules. “In the last six months we’ve be­come closer than ever. It hasn’t been an easy cou­ple of years, be­tween the le­gal stuff, build­ing our house has been stress­ful, rais­ing kids, los­ing loved ones, and Jules’s par­ents have had some health prob­lems. We’ve had a lot all at once to deal with. That’s part of get­ting older. Life just throws stuff at you and you re­alise you’ve got each other and that’s the most im­por­tant thing.”

One of Se­bas­tian’s new songs, ‘Be­liever’, is about his wife – a stylist and blog­ger who hosts the Tea With Jules YouTube chan­nel and runs The Se­bas­tian Foun­da­tion with him. “Peo­ple see so much con­fi­dence in a cou­ple that’s in the pub­lic eye, but some­times you’re so lost,” he says. “As an artist, I feel lost at times. Jules has that jug­gling act of try­ing to be the best mum she can be but still hav­ing a ca­reer. I have to re­mind her only she puts those pres­sures on her­self.

“I had some re­la­tion­ships be­fore Jules. We split up for about a year. I had some re­la­tion­ships in that year that were re­ally strange, that al­most made me run back to Jules with my tail be­tween my legs. Apart from that, Jules is my main source of in­spi­ra­tion when it comes

to writ­ing about romance. We re­alise we’ve got so much his­tory.”

The pair has nearly fin­ished build­ing their mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar dream house – or “fortress”, if you be­lieve the an­gry neigh­bour who un­loaded to the me­dia – in Syd­ney. It con­tains a record­ing stu­dio for Se­bas­tian, so he can work on mu­sic at all hours. “I grew up in Ade­laide in an $80,000 house around the cor­ner from the bod­ies in the bar­rel, lit­er­ally,” he says. “We have to show our kids they’re so lucky to live in a house like this. Even to have a house with a pool. As a kid, I dreamt of hav­ing a pool. We’re try­ing to in­stil into our kids to be grate­ful and not take things for granted. The kids are the most im­por­tant job; ev­ery­thing else we do sup­ports that.”

Se­bas­tian never re­ally turned his back on the kinds of TV shows that brought him fame, ei­ther. In 2010, he joined The X Fac­tor as a judge, a seat he would fill on and off un­til 2016. His ABC doc­u­men­tary Don’t Stop The Mu­sic fol­lowed Se­bas­tian as he aimed to help dis­ad­van­taged kids with the art form. And now, in his lat­est ven­ture, he has a new job as a coach on Nine Net­work’s The Voice.

Al­ready, he has learnt the hard way that the ‘c’ word is not only tol­er­ated but de­manded in the role. That word? Coach. “I’ve messed up a few times,” he ad­mits. “I said the ‘j’ word, judge, which is banned. But I like that. I haven’t got a judgey per­son­al­ity. I’d much rather be a coach, it’s a nicer word. The show is about giv­ing power to the artists – and they’re not con­tes­tants, they’re artists. You can’t call them con­tes­tants; we’re not a

game show. It gives it so much more dig­nity. I’m good with it now.”

His final year on The X Fac­tor was not a happy one for Se­bas­tian. Look­ing back on the gig, where he worked along­side Adam Lam­bert and Aus­tralian rap­per Iggy Aza­lea, he says that “it was just child­ish, with all the bick­er­ing. You had guest judges who weren’t in­vested – and the au­di­ences aren’t stupid, they can see that.” He ad­mits re­ports of toxic be­hav­iour from Aza­lea weren’t ex­ag­ger­ated. “Iggy wouldn’t rock up. And when she did, she’d just roll her eyes. I hated it. I re­ally strug­gled that year.”

Things are dif­fer­ent on The Voice. He says work­ing with Delta Goodrem, Boy Ge­orge and Kelly Row­land has been a breeze by com­par­i­son. “Ev­ery­one gen­uinely likes each other. We go in hard with the pitch­ing, but there’s no nark­i­ness. The other coaches prob­a­bly don’t have much to com­pare it to, but for me it’s such a pos­i­tive, nur­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment. We didn’t have to sit through woe­ful or em­bar­rass­ing au­di­tions. I re­ally liked that. It’s defi­nitely a dif­fer­ent DNA to The X Fac­tor.”

Se­bas­tian knows the power of re­al­ity TV from both sides of the stage. “I’m in the same boat as the artists we’re try­ing to find on The Voice: I’m still try­ing to sell tick­ets and get my songs played on the ra­dio. I was for­tu­nate with the last sin­gle [‘Be­fore I Go’] to get ra­dio air­play. But I’ve had times when I couldn’t get any­thing played on the ra­dio. It’s a re­ally up-and-down in­dus­try. You want to take any op­por­tu­nity you can, but it has to be the right one. You have to have some level of fore­sight and self-worth.

“The Voice is a no brainer, it’s so great for the coaches, you’re so re­spected on the show. They don’t limit what we can choose for our artists. The X Fac­tor was start­ing to scru­ti­nise who we could per­son­ally choose; that was hard for me to stom­ach. The Voice says

you have to be­lieve in who you take through. That’s re­fresh­ing to hear.”

Se­bas­tian would like to re­lease an al­bum at some point this year, and later this month will be re­leas­ing a new sin­gle called ‘Choir’. The ti­tle may in­di­cate a call­back to his early, pre-Idol days as a wor­ship singer, but there are a few other lay­ers at work. On the sur­face, it sounds like a party jam. But the song is ac­tu­ally a trib­ute to friend and band­mate Luke Liang, who took his life last Au­gust.

“I sat down and wrote this sad bal­lad, bawl­ing my eyes out and I thought, ‘Luke wouldn’t want this. If I’m go­ing to write some­thing to rep­re­sent how I feel about him, it has to be joy­ous,’” says Se­bas­tian. “The song is about [how] he’s not singing alone any­more, he’s up there singing with a choir, we’re down here singing with him and let­ting his legacy shine on. I think about Luke so much. It’s weird. I go on his In­sta­gram. You can see the last thing he posted; ev­ery­thing’s cap­tured now. You can see where it ends. It was a pretty hard thing to go through. It’s go­ing to be hard to sing ‘Choir’ for the first time; I’m just go­ing to have to block it out.”

Se­bas­tian says Liang’s sud­den pass­ing has meant he’s check­ing in on his friends more reg­u­larly. “It re­ally hit us hard. It’s an­other re­minder to talk, and that’s in the lyrics. I know Luke wouldn’t have wanted me to write some soppy bal­lad about him, he wasn’t that sort of bloke. And that’s what I want for my fu­neral. I’ve al­ready told Jules. I don’t want ‘An­gel’ by Sarah McLach­lan play­ing, I want Par­lia­ment-Funkadelic played by a live funk band with horns. I want it to be a cel­e­bra­tion!”

The Voice pre­mieres 7pm, Sun­day May 19, on the Nine Net­work.

Life­line: 13 11 14

GUY WEARS Bally coat, top, pants and sneak­ers, bally. com.au; (op­po­site) COS jacket and pants, cos­stores.com/au; Scotch & Soda T-shirt, scotch-soda.com.au; his own shoes

GUY WEARS Paul Smith jacket, waist­coat, shirt and pants, paul­smith.com/au; Veja sneak­ers, veja-store.com

GUY WEARS (above right) Scotch & Soda knit, scotch-soda.com.au; La­coste pants, la­coste. com.au; his own shoes

(from top) Guy Se­bas­tian in his 2003 au­di­tion for Aus­tralian Idol; with fel­low coach Kelly Row­land on this year’s The Voice; at home with his wife Jules and sons Hud­son (left) and Archer at Christ­mas last year.

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