Why Guy Sebastian's new album is so personal: 'There were moments that were challenging'
One year ago, Guy Sebastian was feeling the pressure.
His song 'Choir' was up for the ARIA Music Award for Song of the Year — the biggest award of the night — but he couldn't fully embrace the moment because he was also hosting the ceremony and performing.
"I was trapped in this whirlwind of nerves, anxiousness," he tells 9Honey Celebrity. "There was so much fear attached to the actual gig and I was just really anxious and wanted to do a good job, and I didn't really get time to process the fact that I was nominated."
He wasn't just nominated. He won both Song of the Year and Best Video.
This year, he's up for two more: Best Video and Best Male Artist for his song 'Standing With You'.
"The ARIAs, for me, has always represented something that's really sacred in this industry," he says. "It's the time when we all unite and come together and so, yeah. I don't take a nomination lightly. It's an amazing thing and something that I'm stoked about because when it doesn't happen — if you go for years without one nomination — it sucks."
READ MORE:ARIA Awards 2019: Guy Sebastian teases Shannon Noll, Anthony Callea and The Veronicas in opening speech
Sebastian has another reason to celebrate. He's just released his ninth studio album, T.R.U.T.H.
"I think T.R.U.T.H. is literally just a collection of songs that timestamp the last few years," he explains. "And I think that's where it differs from every other album. I think a lot of other albums, I sit down to write for the album, whereas most of the songs on this one have been out of real-life things that I've had to process through song and real-life feelings and things where I'm trying to comprehend things.
"It started with a song called 'Before I Go', which was a very emotional fight song for me. It was almost like making sure I don't let labels and things that might've been said or done or whatever define me and put a ceiling on what I can do and where my music can go."
While curating an album is normally a lengthy process, Sebastian says he felt plenty of momentum when writing tracks for T.R.U.T.H.
"Normally I'd write 10 songs before I even get to a place where one of them becomes something I'm going to record for the album, whereas day one, I wrote 'Before I Go', day two, I wrote 'Believer', which is also on the album," he says. "And then in the same week, I wrote, 'In a World' and 'Love on Display'.
"I started off with songs that I really loved and that I ended up making the album and it sort of filled me with a lot of confidence."
This album is deeply personal for the 38-year-old.
"There were obviously moments that were challenging," he says. "Some relationship breakups that happened that were very tough, and surrounded in really gross circumstances, and feelings of betrayal, and so much to process, and then feelings of loss, losing loved ones.
"And then things where I was trying to write songs for myself but also for others who felt isolated and overcome by this whole pandemic. The last two or three years, it's just been so full-on. There's no middle ground."
He and Jules Sebastian, his wife of 22 years and the mother of his two children, Hudson and Archer, have a fire pit in the backyard of their Sydney home where they like to debrief about the day's events.
"It's just kind of our spot where we'll process and talk at the end of the night," he says. "I was thinking back yesterday about all the conversations we've had out there the last couple of years, and there's been some extreme stuff we were trying to process and talk through. Like legal stuff and stuff about people who were sick. It's just that life is so full-on, and on top of that, we've got an eight-year-old and a six-year-old and we're trying to juggle that. It's just been a really full-on time.
"And so I feel like T.R.U.T.H. is all of the truths that I've learned along the way and also realising the power of truth, and all the cliches that we hear about truth are true. That it sets you free, that it comes out in the end, all of those things that we hear about truth. It is a very powerful ally if you're on the right side of it. I've learned that it is the easiest way to live. If you want to keep it easy in life, be truthful and be honest, and life becomes a lot simpler.
Sebastian's biggest learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic is to "prioritise" the simple things that are often taken for granted.
"I haven't seen my parents for a very long time. They're in Adelaide. I haven't seen some loved ones that I'm normally so accustomed to just seeing all the time. My brother IS about to have a baby and I'm very, very close to my family. I would die for my brothers. I love my brothers. I love my family, even now, sitting here, not knowing whether I can travel to go and see my brother's baby," Sebastian says. "There's just such strange things to navigate and I feel like it's taught us what's important in life. I think you even see it on social media.
"I don't know how many of us have actually analysed that but, before COVID-19, social media was kind of really s--ty in the sense that it was just a highlight reel, and look how much more real people are. I feel like people, they don't crave that stuff anymore."
He jokes, "Not that it's stopped me. I'm addicted to buying clothes so it's a bad, bad habit. I wear them for myself in the house. I feel like even when I'm online or whatever on social media, people are not as shallow as they were. I hope it doesn't go back to that. I feel like that's a real positive thing. People have shifted."
Australia first met Sebastian in 2003 when he was 22 years old and auditioning for the first season of Australian Idol, which he would eventually go on to win.
Since then he's made nine albums, released 22 top 20 singles, won a staggering 16 ARIA awards, married his childhood sweetheart and become a father to Hudson, eight, and Archer, six.
Sebastian has worked with the likes of Robin Thicke, John Mayer, Jordin Sparks and Lupe Fiasco, and in 2015, he represented Australia at Eurovision and placed an impressive fifth.
But it hasn't always been smooth sailing. So what would he tell his much younger self — the man about to embark on the most exciting journey of his life?
"I'd say, 'Don't try and please everybody.' I think I've always been very upset if I know that I've done something that has hurt somebody or that it's upset somebody," Sebastian says. "I was just so obsessed with having everyone like me or something, this weird obsession to not upset everyone, and so I would just do things out of character just to not upset anyone, or not speak my mind, or not stand up for myself.
"And I think if I could tell myself, like, 'Dude, people are going to love you and that's normal. People are going to get behind you and support you. A whole lot of people don't really care. And then there are some people that, regardless of what you do, will hate you. And that's just life."
Sebastian says he's done trying to change what other people think about him, instead choosing to place his energy elsewhere.
"Just go through life and be you... and concentrate your energy on the people who are for you," he says. "Because we end up responding to trolls and responding to people and talking about it at night with our partners and like, 'Oh, I can't believe they said this or they said that'.
"There's so much better use of our time when we concentrate that energy on the people who are good for us. And that's something that I wish I learned a little bit earlier. It would have saved me a lot of stress."
So what does the future hold for Guy Sebastian?
"I'd love to be better at golf," he laughs. "Weirdly, the more I practice, the worse I get."
Guy Sebastian will kick off his T.R.U.T.H. national tour between November and December 2021. Tickets are on sale from 16 October through Ticketek & Ticketmaster.
T.R.U.T.H.is out now.
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