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Guy Sebastian, the first winner of "Australian Idol," is finally bringing his soul music to the United States. TheCelebrityCafe.com’s Andrea Keiter spoke with Guy about his experiences on "Idol," becoming the newest judge on "The X Factor," and getting the opportunity to work with Jordin Sparks and John Mayer.
TheCelebrityCafe: What are you up to now?
Guy Sebastian: Right now, I’m here [Los Angeles] filming for "The X Factor." I think you guys are going to get it next year in the States. I’m a judge on this show. It’s really weird to go from being judged to being a judge. I’ve got a couple of guests that I’m going to introduce to the contestants. They are going to lose their minds.
TCC: What/who inspired you to audition for "Australian Idol?"
GS: I guess it was a bunch of different things. I was at a friend’s house and a TV commercial came on talking about this show. That was seven and a half years ago, in 2003. It was the first one in Australia; I had no idea what it was. My friend said you should try out and I was like no way. There is no way I’ll win.
TCC: What was your experience like during the course of "Idol?"
GS: It was just weird every week I got through. I think it’s a great platform to build a career on. I’ve since done five albums and it’s just a real honor.
TCC: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
GS: I grew up with a lot of old school soul, like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Donny Hathaway, and Stevie Wonder. When I was young, I had a huge love for the ballads, so I listened to bands like Chicago. Also Boyz II Men, and just amazing singer/songwriters who knew how to write a ballad. In my teens, I listened to a lot of rock like Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses. But the soul aspect kept me in music.
TCC: How does it feel to be bringing your music to the United States?
GS: It feels awesome. I’ve done five albums, so it was time. What I did in Australia for awhile, it just seemed like a natural progression. It’s hard to do that. You build a career in your own territory, then you go somewhere else and you start at rock bottom. I love the challenge, and I’m playing in intimate venues, with like 10-15 people. I don’t get to do that in Australia.
TCC: On your new album, Like It Like That, you got the chance to work with some big names. How did you get the opportunity to work with Jordin Sparks and John Mayer?
GS: The Jordin Sparks thing was really kind of random. I had Jordin in mind when I wrote the song ["Art of Love"], but why bother even asking, she won’t say yes. Then she came back and said yes! She did it because she loves music and if it’s a song you like, you’ll do it. She is a genuine person, a great person, just amazing. I’ve seen her live and her show was great.
The John Mayer connection came through David Ryan Harris, who is a singer/songwriter. He also plays guitar. He played guitar in John’s band and I met John a few times through David. When we were producing the album, David asked and John came in and was so generous. He played guitar solos, was playing with the band. He’s a session player and it was just amazing to watch him in that light. His guitar skills are just insane. He’s an incredible guy, and I feel very lucky.
TCC: What was it like working with each of them? Where you in the studio with them or did you each record your parts separately?
GS: Yeah, I was in the studio with both of them. Jordin and I did a true duet, and it was great to do that. A lot of times you don’t do that nowadays. I just love the vibe when you feed off each other in the studio.
And working with John, he came in for two days straight, morning till night.
TCC: What, if anything, is the overall theme/inspiration for your new album?
GS: I think the theme of it is, for me--and I’ve said this before--I’m not trying to change the world with my music, I’m not trying to make some big political statement. I have my convictions, and I just wanted to make people feel good. I want to move them through a song or just to make them move.
“Like It Like That,” the single, was my biggest song ever. I remember over there [in Australia], at one point I was driving and someone was on their way to work or something and they had the song playing loudly and were singing it at the top of their lungs. That made me extremely happy. It’s a feel good album, just simple soul.
TCC: Do you have any favorite songs on Like It Like That?
GS: Yeah, I love “All to Myself.” And “Bring Yourself.” I love singing that one live. It’s a Sam Cooke-ish type ballad.
TCC: Oftentimes, critics consider an artist to be in a certain genre than the artist does. What do you classify your music as?
GS: It’s pop music really. Soul, R&B, pop. I’m not gonna fight that, I love pop music. I grew up listening to a lot of jazz. You can throw in a bunch of chords that make other musicians fuzzy inside.
TCC: How are your tour dates going? Are you excited to play any specific shows?
GS: All of them. I’m playing in Portland and Seattle. I have only played one show so far, so it will just be interesting to see if those people come back. I’m also going to play with Chicago, and like I said before, I’m a huge fan. I’m gonna lose my mind.
TCC: How did you become a judge on "The X Factor"?
GS: I had just moved to Los Angeles and four days later I got a call. I said no at first. I thought, regardless of money, I didn’t need to do it for the profile. I have been doing music for awhile over there. For me, I had to do it because I loved the show and thought I could be a good judge. But I still said that I can’t do it, my focus is to get my stuff going here in the US. We ended up working around all of the shows and made it so I can do "The X Factor" while touring. It’s been such a fun show. I’m here in L.A. now with my contestants, and I’ve got some guests for them to meet. I can’t say who they are because the show hasn’t aired yet, and the contestants don’t even know yet. But it’s gonna blow their minds.
TCC: What are you doing to prepare for your judging duties?
GS: I don’t think there is really anything you can do. I thought it would be easy but it’s not. TV is weird. And judging is an art. It’s opened my mind because it’s all about manufacturing moments. You want the audience to be moved and to do that you need to know what moves people.
TCC: Final thoughts/comments…
GS: I’m just excited to be here. I’m a very ambitious sort of person, and I’ve been doing this for the past seven to eight years. I did it for a lot longer, but it’s been seven to eight years professionally. I feel so privileged and so honored to be in the music industry. You hear a lot about people who try and never make it. I have so much love and support. There are a few loyal fans who have found me on the Internet and come see me. I hope people do get into it and I just wanted to thank people for their love.