Australia Decides 2022: Interview with Sheldon Riley talking Eurovision and Australia Decides
Sheldon Riley has been announced by the Australian broadcaster, SBS, as one of the second set of artists competing at 'Eurovision - Australia Decides' 2022 in the Gold Coast.
The singer songwriter has blown away TV audiences in Australia and the US on ‘The Voice' and on ‘America’s Got Talent’ with his powerful and emotive performances and avant-garde aesthetic and is now set to blow us all away on the Australia Decides stage!
We spoke to Sheldon about his love for Eurovision and his plans for 'Australia Decides' 2022, with exclusive reveals about his song and staging!
Ready to hit the 'Australia Decides' stage
Sheldon Riley is an artist who is extremely humble with being given the opportunity to compete at ‘Eurovision - Australia Decides’ and have the opportunity to hopefully represent his country on the world stage!
He is ready to take on the 'Australia Decides' challenge and is comfortable with being a queer artist and having Filipino heritage:
“I'm just so excited that I'm even considered to even do this, if that makes any sense. I mean, for such a long time, I thought that you know, it was these things, whether it was my queerness or my [Filipino] heritage or whatever, it was that those were the things that would set me back. But you know, these are things that I’m now celebrated for every day and I'm so blessed.”
When Sheldon found out he was selected for 'Australia Decides' 2022, the young artist was more excited that the Australian Eurovision national final would go ahead, given the Covid pandemic practically decimated the live entertainment industry across Australia the last couple years:
"I think I was a just little bit more excited when I found out that it was coming back… I was ecstatic and then when we had the discussion like, “Sheldon yeah we would like to have you”. I was like arghhhhh!! It’s been such a long time waiting and anyone who knows me, its not been a very big secret. This has been the biggest dream of mine since forever, I was ecstatic I don’t really know how else to explain it."
Sneak peak details on Sheldon's 'Australia Decides' entry
It has been a very busy year for Sheldon. In November 2020 he released his first original self- penned single ‘More Than I’ and has gone on to release more singles he co-wrote, ’Left Broken’, where for the music video he wears an exquisite mask by Lance V. Moore, and as recently as October this year he released the very emotive song, ’Again’.
Sheldon revealed that he wrote his song for Australia Decides 2022:
"This song that I've just written. Well, I've written it a while back now but the song that I wrote that I'm going to be performing in Australia Decides is the most proud have ever been of a song in my life. It just it feels like everything I've ever wanted to release. It almost makes up for all of the negotiating I have had to do with you know, my team or my partner, my manager like the producers, like I'm always changing little things to make sure that it's appropriate for lots of different audiences and this song, because it's Eurovision, I'm like, I just I want it to be me and I don't want to have to change anything to fit someone else or fit the year even fit, you know, Eurovision I want to write and I’m really excited about it.”
When it comes to the staging for his entry at Australia Decides Sheldon is going for big and epic:
“It’s going to be pretty massive hey! It’s going to be a really big show. I am so excited for the whole show.
"I'm just really proud of it. I can’t give too much away… but I will tell you it’s very dark, its orchestral, it’s musically very inspired by Billie Eilish and the James Bond themed songs like from 'Goldfinger' to 'Skyfall'. It’s got that oomph but then it has this really beautiful tie-in mixture I have been really inspired by Barbara Pravi from France. She really shaped the way in my mind you can just be you. And release music you really want to release and I remember speaking to one of the directors of Australia Decides, I was like does it need to be a bit more "Bond-y", does it need to be a bit more bigger, does it need to be more like ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’. And they are like you do you, and I'm like finally!"
When it comes to the visual aspect of his performance Sheldon revealed that his is already excited currently working with a designer on the details:
"It's really exciting. And visually, I'm just so proud. I haven't even done it yet. And I'm so proud of what it's going to be and musically it just all ties in. Yeah, I'm wearing a mask...."
"It's stunning. Everything is beautiful. But there's a big surprise. And so all I can say is just be prepared because it's very, very personal. And it builds like crazy. And just don't blink, because there's a massive, massive ending. Yeah, I'm excited.”
"I've been prepping for Eurovision my whole life"
Sheldon has been patiently dreaming for the opportunity to perform on the 'Australia Decides' stage and have a chance to go to Eurovision for years. He revealed that he was meant to compete at ‘Eurovision - Australia Decides 2020’, the year Montaigne won with ‘Don’t Break Me’:
"Things just quite didn’t work out. It was a little bit late and I was flying to the UK. There was a lot happening. So it just didn’t feel like it was the right timing. I didn’t want to rush this process and again its been such long wait."
He has had a lot of experience on two seasons of ‘The Voice’ in Australia and on ‘America’s Got Talent’ in the United States. During his seasons on ‘The Voice’ he was mentored by Boy George and Delta Goodrem. When it comes to what he has learned from these experiences to prepare him for the Australia Decides stage Sheldon shared:
“Be prepared. Nothing can be a quick decision anymore. I mean, on ‘The Voice’ I learned how to be very quick at what I do... I’m a six foot something tall man and a lot of people think I'm very short for some reason... but I'm a very tall man wearing very gender fluid clothing, so I learned very quickly to make things fast, be prepared, because I'm not able to just run off to Zara and pick something up [to wear].
"Also in music, to always just be ready. I find that a lot of artists even myself at times we have... highs and lows and... especially with Eurovision it's taught me a very big lesson that things just pop up and just happen... I feel I'm well seasoned on TV shows now as well. I know how quick paced things are, how things change and, it's I just feel like I'm really prepared for this. Like I know it's not a reality TV show. Even just the rehearsal time like ‘The Voice’ was crazy. We rehearsed and rehearsed like, it was ridiculous.
"You know, I feel like I've been prepping for Eurovision my whole life in that aspect because in Eurovision there's so many rehearsals, and they're... aired to the whole world.
"Yes. It’s not like, you know, ‘The Voice’ or ‘America's Got Talent’, it's public domain, everyone gets to see you rehearse, so just be prepared to be ready. And, be authentic. That’s the number one thing. "
Sheldon's passion for Eurovision
Sheldon has a huge passion for Eurovision. It is not often that artists that compete at Eurovision have a full understanding on what the Contest is, how it works and what is expected from them, but for Sheldon his love for the Contest has him very well prepared.
"Honestly, I can't even say this enough. [The Contest] means everything to me... Eurovision to me is the thing I've always gone back to and these people who I respect these producers, managers, these people I respected … I look at them and I go, you know, Conchita or Netta or Salvador these artists who step up and do what they were born to do so fearlessly and so unapologetically... I've said this, people will actually choose different if you give them the chance to see it."
For Sheldon, Eurovision is a place where artists have the opportunity for artists to showcase just who they are:
"People are going to see me and I can be 1000% of myself, my own artistry, my own everything and be celebrated for it. So I think even as a kid watching it and you know growing up and watching that Eurovision evolves..... Eurovision has gone from something that was very campy and crazy, we still love it for that, and it was very that, but it's evolved into something so much more. This is not just a competition this is an opportunity that is making people into actual legitimate well known artists."
Sheldon is set to perform in ‘John Foreman’s Aussie Pops Orchestra’ in Melbourne from December 30-31 with many singers including Eurovision royalty Dami Im. He will be performing his 'Australia Decides' song in the New Year’s Eve shows, so if you are lucky enough to get to Melbourne you can hear the live premiere of his entry! Tickets are on sale here.
Also you can catch Sheldon Riley performing at ‘Eurovision - Australia Decides 2022’ in the Gold Coast on February 25 to 26 with other amazing Australian artists all vying for the coveted spot to represent Australia at Eurovision 2022 in Turn, Italy. Tickets are available here, also you can watch the Australian Eurovision national final on SBS on February 26.
The full interview is now available on YouTube:
Also check out our latest podcast episode with Dale and Mike to hear snippets from the interview including the latest Eurovision news!
Listen to it on Apple Podcasts here:
And on Spotify here: