This week Melbourne's own Tanzer (aka Hayley Tanzer) will be auditioning for a place at Eurovision 2022 in Turin, but it won't be for Australia.
The performer is auditioning as part of San Marino's national selection show to represent the micro-state in May.
Ahead of her audition this week, we spoke to Tanzer to find out more about she ended up in Valentina's backyard.
Hi Hayley, thanks for joining us. You obviously have a huge passion for our favourite song contest, what has been your personal Eurovision journey?
I moved to Italy as a child after my dad got a job in Rome, which is where I saw Eurovision for the first time. By the time I returned to Australia as a 6ft tall, painfully weird and unpopular teenager with a funny accent - the contest was a source of comfort and inspiration for me - because Eurovision felt like a safe space to be joyfully strange. This private dream world of campery ended up manifesting into my real life - I’m now a full-time performer who makes music, art and music videos, and I try to instil that feeling of escapism, play and magic into everything I do. And everything I do also happens to look and feel like a Eurovision entry. What a coincidence!
As I developed more of an interest in arranging and creating my own music, I became even nerdier about revisiting old Eurovision contests. Particularly in the pre-internet days when there were language restrictions and a compulsory orchestra - the strangest and most wonderful acts would emerge. Like Remedios Amaya’s iconic nul-points entry from 1983 with its funk bass, hypnotic flamenco singing and ominous orchestral backing. THAT is weird heaven to me.
You’ve tried out for ‘Eurovision – Australia Decides’ a few times without making it, has that been tough?
Australia Decides gave a polite no to my submissions for 2019, 2020 and 2022, and honestly I was quite happy just making my art and assuming I’d never get a crack at actual, modern Eurovision. It’s not like I had been trying to enter via other countries prior to this - I’d resigned myself to being an alternate universe Eurovision icon in my own mind - ha! But I got a brief to write a song for a potential Polish entry this year - and started googling national selections out of curiosity. And there was glorious San Marino - the eccentric underdog of Eurovision, beckoning to the eccentric underdog of Australia. Poetry.
You’re over in Rome now, how does it feel to be back there as you prepare to travel to San Marino for your audition?
It's been years since I’ve been here - and ho boy, the feelings came rushing back! Even the smell of wet cobblestones triggered something very deep inside, that kind of childhood wonder that I absolutely want to conjure in my Eurovision entry. I also hear Maneskin blaring from a shop or car radio several times a day.
And we hear there may be a connection to the one and only Valentina Monetta for your stay in San Marino?
Yes! Being a Eurovision fan, I knew that Valentina had her spare room on AirBnB - so I looked up her house, clicked it with my mouse… and I’ll be in her backyard in three days! It’s an honour.
There was quite a bit of coverage about you auditioning for ‘Una Voce per San Marino' – what has the reception been like from fans?
It felt a bit weird when I first announced my audition on social media - especially as there’s a chance I’ll get knocked out on day one - who announces an audition? But people who follow my work know how much of an actual Eurovision tragic I am - and there’s the fact I sing three minute pop bangers with key changes dressed as a disco cowgirl.
Eurovision is an incredible opportunity for any singer - but for me it is literally THE dream! And whether I win or not - this is the story of a sparkly queer girl who actually, truly loves Eurovision, who turned her actual life into a shimmering spectacle as a result, returning to her childhood home to try out for her childhood dream - and I think that’s what has captured the imagination of people in Australia. The support and messages I get every day are really just incredible. I feel very lucky and very supported. I’ve also become an unexpected authority on San Marino - I’ve lost count of how many Australians I’ve educated about this beautiful, secret country.
What can we expect from your Eurovision entry, ie song, staging, outfit?
I’m presenting two songs to San Marino, so the final brief depends on which song they go for (if I make it through!) But I daresay there’ll be a shred of reflective fabric involved. One song is a magical sci-fi heartbreak epic, the other a soaring tri-lingual romantic opus.
What was it like working with Angus Leslie and Lord Fascinator on your Eurovision song?
A pleasure as always - they both worked with me on my previous singles 'Deep Fried Disco' and 'Tango', and it’s wonderful to create with people who share your musical language and aren’t scared of being a bit weird.
Do you think your experience from performing (on bass guitar) with Ella Hooper at Australia Decides will be helpful?
Oh of course! You should have seen me on the Australia Decides set in 2019 - I was captivated by the whole behind the scenes process! The staging, the rehearsals, the chats backstage between production and the artists - it was a dream come true learning about how a Eurovision show actually comes together. I was peak nerd. And - I got to be the first person to walk on stage for the first song for the first Australian national final. Which was my own private nerdy accomplishment.
What has the reception been like in San Marino or from the organisers themselves, have they been good to work with?
We haven’t met yet but they were wonderful when fielding my 50 stressed out phone calls from Australia trying to decipher how I was going to enter and get there in time. Ha!
So, what will be the process for you following your audition?
There is a semi-final and final for the Emerging category, then nine finalists go head to head with nine established Italian artists chosen by the Sammarinese TV network. My personal process? Trying to make as much gorgeous art and as many fabulous memories as possible while I have this insane opportunity. And hopefully secure a lucrative sponsorship with a Prosecco brand.
Finally, how can people show their support for you as you undertake your Eurovision journey?
I’ve been posting alternately deranged and delusional updates to Instagram @tanzertanzertanzer every day - I even cried on a yoga mat the other night. On camera. What have I become?
(Editor note: readers go follow that Instagram account immediately!)
Thank you for joining us and from the whole Aussievision team, we wish you all the best of luck in San Marino!
Thank you so much!
Tanzer will audition in 'Una Voce per San Marino' on Tuesday 11 January in San Marino's national selection show.