Montaigne: “I have a very lovely life outside of Eurovision!”

A visibly elated Montaigne, in character with blue hair and clown make-up, won Eurovision – Australia Decides 2020 in February. 

In the shadow of the omnipresent coronavirus, performing her song Don’t Break Me on the Eurovision stage in Rotterdam has become unfeasible. However, in addition to deciding to send her to the contest in 2021, Australian broadcaster SBS will broadcast Eurovision 2020: Big Night In! – a local opportunity that will give Montaigne’s alter ego, 24-year old Jess Cerro, the chance to honour her song as if we were all there in the Ahoy and this whole pandemic thing never happened. 

ESCBubble wanted to check in and see how she’s been spending her quarantine. 

📸 CAIN COOPER

How has your life changed in the three months since you won Australia Decides?
I’ve gotten more attention over the last three months, which has been good and bad. I like attention  – we all do, and specific to me, it’s nice to have a big audience for your music. I also have the strong desire to feel in control and people’s attention is not something you can control when you’re in Eurovision. That’s been an interesting, tricky dynamic for me to live through! 

I often feel like I know who I am and am confident in that, however sometimes I feel brittle and find it difficult not to feel overwhelmed by all the input into my performative and personal identity I’ve received. I do focus on the positives and think about how grateful I am for the opportunity and how lucky I am to have it – only a handful of people in the world ever get to have it!

It feels weird doesn’t it… to have a platform to share your music globally to then have it ripped away through events beyond your control? Did COVID-19 break you?
Haha, initially I felt pretty shattered but I think it was so out of my control that I came to accept circumstances very quickly. By the time the cancellation was announced it became very clear that that was the healthiest solution for everyone and I was content with that. 

At the end of the day perspective wins out for me – I have a very lovely life outside of Eurovision! If I hadn’t won Australia Decides, I would have gone back to that lovely life and there would have been other things. That knowledge is what gives me courage to do Eurovision.

What’s the Eurovision audience response to the cancellation been like for you?
It’s been neither here nor there for me – I think I get rather dissociative about these kinds of things (I am taking y’all deep into my psyche), I find it difficult to have a sense of people’s emotions through the internet. Sometimes it can all blur into one, unless someone says something that stands out. I stay off the social media if I can, I don’t feel very good when I spend too much time on it.

See how the public responded to Don’t Break Me.

Tell us how you and SBS will honour Don’t Break Me.
SBS is putting on a show called Eurovision 2020: Big Night In! where I’ll perform Don’t Break Me as it was supposed to be in the semi-final!

Will you update the blue clown look? Will you have dancers?
It will update the blue clown look. There will be no dancers.

The Eurovision Home Concerts and #hugforesc2020 have allowed you to remain connected to the Eurovision family – are all this year’s artists super-tight BFF’s now?
Heheh. As I’ve said, I dissociate on the internet, I try to stay off, and I’m an anxious introvert. I’m not particularly good at making quick BFFs, but everyone does seem very nice and big-hearted and ready to love the fans, which is really lovely. 

The Arts have been hit pretty hard, early on with Australia’s social distancing rules. What else did you lose and what have you been doing to keep active?
I lost quite a few well-paid gigs. Keeping active… I sing at home lots, do little warm-ups, try to write something creative (I really have to push, inspiration doesn’t flow), I keep up my habit of journalling, record the odd voice memo here or there, there have also been some Instagram live performances I’ve done, though again, don’t particularly thrive in that space so have had to keep them to a minimum.

We hear a bit of St. Vincent and Florence And The Machine in your work. Are they fair comparisons?
Yeah for sure! I love the both of their music very much and they’ve definitely come up as references when producing music before. 

A peek at your Instagram stories suggests you’ve been spending your quarantine writing next year’s song. Is that true?
I’m definitely not working that hard, haha! For me, writing for something with as commercial an aesthetic as Eurovision does needs collaborators. I’m trying to link up with some people through Zoom but it’s a bit tricky. Part of the magic of creation comes from the spontaneity of physical contact, and you don’t really get that on Zoom!

Thanks Jess! Pity we don’t get to hang out with each other in Rotterdam this year… however take care, stay safe and stay home!! 🙂

Eurovision 2020: Big Night In will premiere this Saturday 16th May at 7:30pm (AEST, 11:30am CET). The broadcast will be hosted by SBS commentators Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey, and feature special guest appearances from big names across the globe.

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