FIRST AUSTRALIAN IDOL WINNER AND
PLATINUM SELLING SUPERSTAR DOWN UNDER
SETS HIS SIGHTS ON THE U.S. WITH
‘WHO’S THAT GIRL’ (FEATURING HIP-HOP STAR EVE),
ALREADY ONE OF THE BEST SELLING SINGLES IN
AUSTRALIAN MUSIC HISTORY
Since Winning the ‘Idol’ Crown in 2003, the R&B/Pop
Singer/Songwriter—Now In His Second Season as
a Judge On the Australian Reality Show X-Factor—Has Written,
Recorded or Toured with Numerous American Artists,
Including Jordin Sparks, Lionel Richie, Brian McKnight,
Robin Thicke, John Mayer and the Legendary M.G.’s
The same week that this year’s “American Idol” finalists Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina were battling it out for the title, Guy Sebastian—one of the world’s most successful Idol winners, who took the first “Australian Idol” crown in 2003—was in Los Angeles collaborating with various songwriters and working on material for an upcoming EP that will mark his official U.S. debut.
Though the multi-talented, R&B/pop singer-songwriter (www.guysebastian.com.au) is essentially starting from square one Stateside, all signs are pointing to a loving embrace by American pop fans. Two of his platinum selling Australian releases, The Memphis Album (2007) and Like It Like That (2009), are already up on iTunes and “Who’s That Girl,” his infectious song featuring lady hip-hop star Eve, is currently being promoted in various radio formats: Top 40, Hot AC and Rhythmic AC.
The track is already a huge sensation in Sebastian’s homeland, where it was the second highest selling Australian artist single of 2010, selling four times platinum; it also reached #1 on the New Zealand singles chart.
While many American Idol winners struggle to build and maintain large fan bases, Sebastian’s popularity back home has grown over the past eight years due to great songs, bold stylistic choices and wildly successful tours featuring legendary American musicians like the M.G.’s (Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn and Steve Potts, who played on The Memphis Album) and Lionel Richie.
His journey began with “Angels Brought Me Here,” his “winners’ song” on Idol which ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) named as the highest selling song of the 2000s; it also reached #1 in four Asian countries and New Zealand. Bookending that success is “Who’s that Girl,” Sebastian’s fifth single to reach #1 helping him become the first Australian male artist in history to achieve five #1 singles.
While U.S. audiences gear up for the American debut of Simon Cowell’s highly-anticipated “X-Factor” talent competition this fall, Sebastian will be appearing for the second season as a judge on the Australian version. The show is unique from Idol in that the judges—which in Australia, include pop star Natalie Imbruglia—help mentor competitors in multiple categories.
While Sebastian is still keeping under wraps the names of the top songwriters and producers he is working with on his U.S. debut, he is excited that one of the tracks he recently recorded was a four-on-the-floor dance floor version of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long,” done as a duet with the artist and produced by RedOne, the two-time Grammy Award winning producer who helped shape the sound of Lady GaGa and has also worked with current “American Idol” judge Jennifer Lopez.
Richie told the Daily Telegraph that he handpicked Sebastian to support him on his Spring 2011 Australian and New Zealand tour. The track, which the two recorded to raise money for Australian and New Zealand flood and earthquake relief, has already charted in those countries.
While “Who’s That Girl” and the upcoming EP will be the first taste most Americans are getting of Sebastian’s music, the singer already has a rich creative history with numerous legends and contemporary music stars from the U.S. In addition to Richie and the M.G.’s, Sebastian wrote songs with Robin Thicke and Brian McKnight on his R&B oriented second album Beautiful Life, which featured a duet with American singer Mya (“Forever With You”). His most recent studio recording Like It Like That has three songs featuring John Mayer on guitar and backing vocals, as well as the platinum selling single “Art of Love,” a duet with 2007 “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks.
“I believe that the reason that I still have a successful career in Australia so many years after Idol is because I am persistent, hardworking and lucky—and being lucky could never happen without the first two,” says Sebastian. “I feel like I am a different singer now than when I was on Idol, and a lot of that is due to having the opportunity to work with so many incredible artists both in Australia and America. When I signed my first record deal, I could sing but I didn’t have the control or confidence that I have now after so many years of performing. If it’s possible, I think I’ve fallen more in love with music during that time. Out of that confidence came this drive to keep challenging myself. I’m pretty chill by nature and don’t think I was as ambitious when I was younger as I am now.”
Sebastian adds that the reason he vibes so naturally with American artists of different generations is that while he is considered a pop star by virtue of his notoriety from “Australian Idol” and many chart successes, he considers himself a blues, gospel and R&B singer at the core. “Those are my true loves, and what I was raised on,” he says. “I loved Sam Cooke and especially his early work with The Soul Stirrers. I grew up listening to Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and other great vocalists who inspired my passion to sing. When I look at what I want to do with my career from this point, I have such an expansive love of music, I don’t want to confine it to any one thing. What’s cool about pop radio these days is that you have everything from Lady GaGa and Adele to Tao Cruz, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. In the end, everything comes down to a great song. When I write, I ask myself, ‘how would this sound just with me and a guitar’?
“Starting from scratch in America after playing stadiums in Australia is an exciting challenge for me,” Sebastian continues. “I bring a unique history with me, but it’s the quality of songs and the way I perform them that will determine my level of success in the States.”
He complements the places in the world he has conquered musically with those he has influenced via an impressive slate of charity work and commitments to important causes. Sebastian has served as an ambassador for the Ronald McDonald House Charities and is currently an ambassador as well for the Australian Red Cross and Golden Stave, the Australian music and entertainment industry’s charity fundraising organization. In addition, Sebastian is an ambassador for World Vision Australia, and in 2005 traveled to Uganda to film a World Vision documentary “An Idol in Africa” for a network TV special.
He has continued his work with the organization, supporting the Child Rescue and the 40 Hour Famine programs and is also involved in the Make Poverty History coalition. In 2008, he was presented with the Extreme Inspiration Award at the Dolly Teen Choice Awards for his continuing support of World Vision. Currently, he is strongly committed to the Sony Foundation, which raises funds to help young Australians facing homelessness, severe illness, disability and isolation. Sebastian has performed on behalf of the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service, Legacy (an organization which supports the families of deceased veterans) and the Royal Children’s Hospital.
“It sounds like a lot to be involved in, but all of my charitable activity is simply an extension of the activities I did growing up in the Pentecostal Assemblies of God church,” says Sebastian. “It’s a natural byproduct of growing up in the church system with a great family and loving parents who taught me early on the importance of the Biblical principle ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ That’s something I live by. As much as I have enjoyed the accolades I have received from the music industry, I am most proud of being able to use that success as a platform to help so many people in need. Those experiences provide much needed perspective. When you’re on tour, you can get caught up in so many silly frustrations. But when you have walked through dangerous territories with child soldiers in Uganda as they seek refuge in big cities, everything else seems pretty small. I’m grateful for those humbling experiences because they inspire me to never lose sight of the things that matter most.”