Jenny Hewett chatted to the Aussie popstar and The X-Factor judge during a recent appearance at the Australia Day event at Dubai’s Zero Gravity.
This is your first time in Dubai, what’s on your bucket list?
Mainly take some photos. I’ve always wanted to get here and do some photography and see the city. We want to go on that ski slope, it looks pretty awesome. I’ve just come from Park City in Utah and we were skiing there, so it’s going to be hard to beat that.
Best gig you’ve ever played?
I’ve been so lucky and I’ve just had ‘Battle Scars’ [with Lupe Fiasco] go platinum in the US. Some of the most exciting are those US TV moments; so Letterman, Conan and Jimmy Fallon. Going over there and playing with a full band and seeing the impact that had on a song was pretty awesome.
Who else would you like to collaborate with?
Drake is on fire at the moment. I wrote another song with Eminem in mind. I kind of just shoot for the stars now.
How do you approach them?
With ‘Battle Scars’ I wrote the song and demo’ed it and sent it to Lupe, and it was right at the height of his album Lasers, and I thought, ‘I probably won’t get him, but I may as well ask’. He came back two days later saying ‘I love the song, I’ll do it’. Everything he wrote for his rap just nailed me, I was almost in tears. He doesn’t just rap about being in a club or shaking your booty, he raps about a lot of deep stuff, politically.
Why did you get into music?
Sam Cooke was in my dad’s tape collection and I heard ‘I was born by a river’ [he sings], ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ and I was only six years old and I thought ‘what is that?!’ I immediately fell in love with soul music.
What’s the most un-Australian thing you’ve ever done?
I live in LA on and off, and as a little escape I’ve joined the Hollywood Cricket Club, but it couldn’t be any more different from the way we play cricket in Australia. It’s an all-day affair and in Australia at half time you might have a sausage sizzle or some oranges. My whole team in LA, every single one of them is Indian. So at lunch time they have catered curry. They wheel out those big silver trays and I’m honestly nearly vomiting every time I go back to find leg.
Speaking of curry, you were born in Malaysia, can you make roti canai?
I can’t make it, it’s such an art. The best food is Malay, it’s the perfect combination of Indian and Chinese.
What do you think about criticism of talent shows?
I think it’s valid at times. I’m not going to say it’s unnecessary, everything needs to be cross-examined. You can be a brilliant musician or good songwriter, but if you’re a jerk, no one wants to champion you. It’s about being a good person because you are, not because you’re trying to be, but because you care about people. That to me is the most important thing. It’s not just a business.
‘Battle Scars’ by Guy Sebastian and Lupe Fiasco is available now from iTunes.com.