Fifteen years have passed since Guy Sebastian burst onto the Australian music scene.
It was 2003, when the South Australian with the afro hairstyle won the first series of Australian idol.
His current tour, Then & Now, is a mix of new songs that he has written and a look back at his career and his catalogue of 10 albums, and he is taking it mostly to regional centres over the next two months.
That will include a Tamworth gig on June 30.
“I’ve never really done a greatest hits tour, not that it’s that, but I guess it sort of is,” Sebastian said, while contemplating the upcoming tour when we had a chat to him.
“I’m going back and playing stuff from as far back as my first album, which has been an interesting process and one that has brought back some memories.”
Of course those memories go back to the first series of Australian Idol.
But, about six months prior to the audition, the aspiring singer had first tried to break into the music scene, when he travelled to Melbourne and knocked on the doors of record labels.
Having dropped out of uni, where he was studying medical radiation, the singer was playing in bands while working at a service station and a warehouse to save money a record a demo.
But after catching the train to Melbourne with the demo in his pocket, he failed to secure a deal with a record label.
“The response I got the whole time was you don’t have the look, you’re odd looking, it was always you don’t have the look,” Sebastian said.
“They said you need to lose weight, it wasn't anyone trying to be nasty, they just knew what the current climate of the industry was.”
Sebastian kept all the rejection letters in a drawer, and all of them had a familiar theme: We love your voice, but you don’t have the look.
While he went home to South Australia disappointed, thinking his future in music would have to be as a producer or a songwriter, his time would soon come.
Just months later, in May 2003, the 21-year-old auditioned for Idol, and his success smashed through the concerns held by the record labels, as viewers voted on which singer they liked best each week.
That saw Sebastian take out the first series, and record his first single Angels Brought Me Here, which had sale figures of four times platinum. It was the highest selling single for the decade in Australia.
“I have to say, there’s a lot of criticisers of reality TV, but Idol was really part of the process of bringing things back to it being about the talent,” Sebastian said.
“You had people like myself and others who weren’t traditional looking pop stars and suddenly we were allowed to shine based on our talent.
“I’m in these auditions looking around, going ‘that person is so much better looking than me and they can move, they’ve got the whole thing’. So in my mind, I thought the definition of success was image based, and I that my image was the thing that was always going to be my downfall.
“But suddenly I’m on stage performing acapella and it didn’t matter what you looked like. If you sucked as a singer, you suddenly became unattractive if you sung out of tune on stage not backed by anything and not auto-tuned.
“It was definitely a moment in my life, where it turned my whole life around and gave me an opportunity to do what I do,” he said.
Sebastian has gone on to become the only Australian male artist in history to achieve six number one singles and two number one albums. To date, he has had 42 platinum-certified releases, sold more than 3.7 million singles and albums, and that first single, Angels Brought Me Here, still holds the record for the fastest selling single in ARIA chart history.
Sebastian is no stranger to Tamworth, most recently appearing on stage at the grand final of Toyota Star Maker at last year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival, while he has also played several gigs at Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre.
“I love Tamworth, it’s such a great space,” Sebastian said. “I think it’s our South By Southwest, it’s our Austin, it’s the heartbeat of regional Australia.
“If I’m doing a regional tour and skipped what is the heart of regional music, it would be a crime,” he said.
The tour kicks off this weekend in Wollongong, while tickets have gone on sale for the Tamworth concert at entertainmentvenues.com.au.