“Everything is frustrating,” Montaigne sings in her Eurovision entry, Technicolour – and it seems to be a case of life imitating art.
SBS made the “difficult” decision not to send an Australian delegation this year, after weighing up Covid safety concerns.
So far, Australia is the only country sending a prerecorded live-on-tape entry, which will be broadcast live at the first semi-final from 5am on Wednesday.
“I honestly thought I was fine about it – I’m constantly checking in with myself,” says Montaigne, whose real name is Jessica Cerro. “Then we had the press conference last week and I took it pretty hard, seeing all the other contestants there in Rotterdam and me streaming from here.
“I had my cathartic moment where I had a big cry. I didn’t see it coming at all, I guess I’d bottled it up.”
In a tearful TikTok she said: “I want to be there so badly. I’m a mess.”
Even if Cerro progresses through tomorrow’s semi-finals, she won’t perform the song live again. At both the final and semi-finals, her performance prerecorded from March will be screened.
She wishes she had the opportunity for another crack. “I think I can sing Technicolour better now than I could in March. Plus, my nerves are far less intense,” she says.
She will still be up and ready to give interviews and wave at the SBS studios at 5am, made up in her colourful outfit. She will bring an entourage including her parents, sister, grandma, aunt, partner and his family.
Her expectation, though, is that she’ll bow out at the semis. The odds are against her: “I’ll have the least flashy stage set and the least scaling – we’ve tried our best, but it’s still a screening and you lose something with that,” she says. “I also had less time to practice my vocals and just get all my shit top notch.”
Not many contestants have the opportunity to enter Eurovision twice in consecutive years with different songs. Don’t Break Me was voted the winner at Australia Decides 2020, before Eurovision was cancelled for the first time in its 64 years. This year, Cerro got to choose her own entry with SBS’s approval (they politely declined a song she wrote about undercover aliens trying to bring down the music industry).
Technicolour is about both solidarity and individuality, Cerro says. “It acknowledges the merits of individuality adding diversity to a group; that if we band together, we’ll have the resilience to get through most things.”
She wrote it mostly, she says, for queer people: “I’m queer, my boyfriend’s queer and most of my friends are.”
Eurovision gives Australians who are not into sport – including her partner – the same feeling of spectacle, identity, competition and rallying together. “He’s bi, creative and a beautiful balance of masculine and feminine,” she says. “Lots of queer people like him hate the toxic masculinity connotations that sport can carry, but love that feeling of positivity, friendly rivalry, expression of love and celebration of difference.”
Last time we spoke, Cerro – a stated introvert – told me that weeding her garden gives her as much pleasure as Eurovision and she says that is “absolutely” still the case. “Gardening is mundane, but it’s consistent and soothing. Eurovision is not soothing! It’s spending half a year on a three-minute performance,” she says, laughing.
Eurovision expert and the co-founder of the Aussievision podcast, Dale Roberts, says it will be the most challenging year yet for Australia, being the sole “live on tape” performance.
“However, Montaigne’s performance is really bloody good and it doesn’t look like we’re Zooming in from the back bedroom,” he says.
“There’s much goodwill from European fans; hopefully that turns into votes and a good result.”
And if she makes it through?
“I’ll flip my lid,” Cerro says. “In a good way!”
• Eurovision’s first semi-final will be broadcast live on SBS from 5am AEST on Wednesday 19 May. The second semi-final airs from 5am on Friday 21 May, ahead of the grand final at 5am on Sunday 23 May. The three finals will be rebroadcast at 8.30pm on Friday 21 May, 8.30pm on Saturday 22 May and 7.30pm on Sunday 23 May respectively.