This summer, we are running a series of feature articles that is slightly different to the norm. We think this is the perfect time for you (and us!) to find out more about the ESCXTRA team! Twice a week we’ll meet two of our team members. What is our personal Eurovision story? Why did we want to be a part of this website? What are our favourite Eurovision songs of all-time? How can you get in touch with us on social media? Read on to find out!
Hello! I’m Brent, you might remember me as the emotional Australian who cried in a Dami Im rehearsal in 2016, or the guy who freaked out when Demy sang ‘I Anixi’ next to me in Kyiv. As I said, I’m Australian, living in Melbourne and always win the “Who’s traveled furthest” award from the XTRA team. Other than Eurovision I work in theatre, where I work as a producer, box office and everything in between. If I’m not working I’m likely to be cooking or tending to my growing succulent collection. Oh and singing. Always singing.
If you‘d like to, you‘re welcome to follow me;
Your first Eurovision memory?
It is a memory that is burned into my brain, I would say wonderfully, others may disagree. But as a teenager, I had the fabled TV in my bedroom, and SBS the Australian ESC broadcaster would usually have a film on a Saturday night that would spark a teenage boys interest. BUT NOT THIS SATURDAY. How wrong could I have been? I was given the full glory of Deen’s “In the Disco” and the typical Schlager fan in me was awoken. Much to everyone around me’s dismay.
Your Eurovision Journey?
Well, after the crash course in Eurovision that Deen provided, I watched almost every year. I distinctly remember some of the first songs I ever downloaded were Eurovision songs. They then were on every CD I made for nearly the next 4 years. Special credit on those CD’s goes to Wigwam, Tornero and Let Me Try (as they were called by my friends).
You may have read on Eurovision.tv that I took over a school assembly once and made it my own version of Eurovision. Well, I say me but it was me heavily influencing the Drama club at my high school. There were a lot of people who didn’t quite understand what was happening, but we were having lots of fun. Me and one of my best friends were the hosts, complete with what in retrospect was a very offensive “European Accent.” Let’s hope that the video footage of that remains dead and buried!
From there I started to get older and had the ability to drink as I watched the competition. Drinking and “Live Tweeting” (Australia not being quite live) and realising I wasn’t the only diehard out there was a wonderful feeling. It had always been a dream of mine to go to a Eurovision and it always felt like such an unachievable dream. Then in 2013 two of my good friends ended up in Malmo and were sending me lots of jealousy making photos and I realised it could be in reach.
2014 was a big turning point for Australia in the competition and you may remember we had an interval act with Jessica Mauboy. Now what you probably don’t remember is the Live Cross to Australia on the rooftop of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. Harbour Bridge Behind us on the left Opera house on the right, I was awake at 3am to be a part of that screaming crowd of fans. While we were waiting they live streamed us the 2nd Semifinal (something I had never been exposed to) and me with my group of friends stood in hushed silence as we watched Conchita rise like the phoenix she was and still is. I had never heard the arena react like that, even remembering it now gives me goosebumps. I turned to my friends and said “She is going to win this and when she does we are going to Austria.”
Oh boy now I’m tearing up again writing this. Just gonna grab a tissue.
So Conchita wins and we begin to plan heading to Vienna. Then the unthinkable is announced. Australia will not only be performing again, but this time COMPETING (more tears). It was as if all of my dreams had finally come true. We were so welcomed and accepted in Vienna that it was hard not to get addicted, my favourite memory was being surrounded by a group of Portuguese in Euroclub and then have them chant (while holding hands and jumping around me in a circle) “Australi! Australi!” Who would have thought 3 years later some of those guys would be people I consider some of my best friends in the world. From there I met XTRA Alum Liam Clark and my XTRA Journey Started. It is with pride I say that I have been to every Eurovision that Australia has competed in – including Juniors.
Junior Eurovision followed in Bulgaria and I started my XTRA journey from there. It was a whirl seeing things from another side, even if for Junior Eurovision. I loved meeting the talented kids and other members of the team like the lovely Matteo who showed me the ropes.
What was more fun was being in Stockholm where everything went from about 5 to 11 out of 10. Thankfully I had Matteo, Simon and Peter there from the team to help me out and Liam, who had become a fast friend in the time between Vienna and Stockholm to help me too. I never in my wildest dreams imagined being in the press centre action in the thick of things as we were and so close with the artists. I think it only spurred me on more. It was also fantastic to develop the friendships I’d started in Bulgaria. There I was back again in Malta, running a little more of a one man band operation bringing you all the latest JESC stuff. I had #EDWow’s help at the end of the week but I was finally more comfortable and confident in what I was doing, also I got to interview Jedward which was just ridiculously fun!
That brings us to Kyiv, where I had the most amazing time. Building on the friendships and confidence I developed over the last few years it was great to be able to get so many people over to the stream for you all and do the red carpet, even make some real friends with the artist (which I honestly thought would never ever happen). Honestly, I hope the ride never ends!
Why is Eurovision special to you?
For so long it felt like it was something I had discovered and was a secret (however poorly I kept it with my teenage mixed CDs). It is everything I enjoy in life: drama, theatricality, kitsch, music, fireworks, key changes and fast costume changes. I don’t know about you guys, but I often feel like music can help shape personality (or at least strongly reflect) and for me, that is what Eurovision does, it’s eclectic and fun and I would love to have such words describe me.
Crack out the tissues again everyone -EMOTION ALERT-
Eurovision has become even more special for two reasons.
Reason 1. I can’t describe the feeling of loving something so very much but having no direct connection to it. I would have to support my favourite song, or generally a country that maybe I had friends in. The whole experience changed for me when Australia got involved. However you might feel about this involvement, I put it to you like I do my friends. “Do you like me? I’m glad you do, because this makes me happy. If you can like Australia’s participation for that one reason alone it is enough. Like it for that awkward teenage boy who only ever wanted to support his own country in something he loves so much, who now finally has the chance to see his dreams become reality.” (the guilt usually works)
Reason 2. This is only a reason that I have discovered since becoming involved with the contest. The people you meet are honestly some of the greatest in the world. Could you have told me I would be living with someone amazing who I met through the competition? Could you have told me I would have amazing friends in England, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Portugal and let’s be honest, most of Europe? And, could you tell me one of my favourite people only speaks a little English but we still have an amazing time together regardless? (His partner and google translate are a big help) Without the competition, I wouldn’t have these people around me who I share such an amazing connection and it is the people you meet that make the experience all the more incredible. I always leave Eurovision with such a full heart. Oh no. I’m crying again.
What attracted you to ESCXTRA?
I’m going to be honest, before the 2015 contest I didn’t know much at all about the Euro-verse. It was Liam, who had seen my writing for another website I write for in Australia and said that XTRA was looking for some more contributors – literally changing my life. My first article was about how desperately I enjoyed my first ESC and wanted Australia to compete again. From there I was looking for an excuse to Travel and why not Bulgaria for JESC? From there I met Matteo and then I was hooked.
The team at XTRA is so wonderful, supportive and chill that it’s an absolute pleasure to work for them. I didn’t know we did the livestream until Stockholm and getting introduced to that was addictive. The streamies are so nice and it’s so much fun to get an artist there for you guys, not only because they will remember you and the experience but also us! What you didn’t see from the red carpet was that most of the people we spoke to walked over because they knew us, not because we were yelling! How awesome is that!?
And finally; your top 5 Eurovision songs of all time?
Literally the hardest part of this. It depends on so many things. Mood, Hunger levels… State of inebriation… Anyway, let’s go!
5) Deen – In the Disco (Boznia and Herzegovina 2004)
Obvious choice, my first ever Eurovision Song…
4) Guy Sebastian – Tonight Again (Australia 2015)
Another obvious choice, Australia’s first competing entry…
3) Sofia Vassou – I Anixi (Greece 1991)
Did anyone watch the stream this year? You’ll know where I’m at.
2) Gina G – Ohh Ahh (Just a Little Bit) (United Kingdom 1996)
Go to party anthem, for any occasion. Might have made them play it at a wedding I went to recently and if you look at my phone I made a video every time I heard it at Euroclub this year.
1) Poli Genova – If Love Was a Crime (Bulgaria 2016)
Words can not describe my love of this song.
Stay tuned for the next part in our Meet the ESCXTRA team series. On Tuesday we will meet James! Remember you can share your Eurovision stories with us in the comments section below or via the comments sections on our Facebook page @ESCXTRA. We would love to hear them!