Jude York: “I Wrote A Song About Hope That People Across the Gender and Sexuality Spectrum Can Relate to.”

Eurovision: Australia Decides returns in 2022. It’s the nation’s chance to review and choose a song and artist to send to the bigger, more international Eurovision Song Contest set to take place this year in Turin, Italy. Hailing from Toowoomba, west of Brisbane in QLD, Jude York was introduced by SBS in the first wave of artists revealed for Australia Decides. A breath of fresh enthusiasm, Jude won’t have to travel too far to compete on the Gold Coast, but he speaks to us about embracing your weirdness and what it means to be a queer artist in 2022.

Jude, you’re currently staying on the Gold Coast… have you scoped out the Convention Centre?

Not so far, but I was at the Australia Decides 2020, so I feel like I know what the vibe will unless there are any huge changes.

What was your reaction when you found out your song will be included in Australia Decides?

I think my mind was just kind of blown. I had known that I had been shortlisted for a week or two, but I was just desperately trying not to get my hopes up. And then, I got the call and they were happy to move forward with this song as one of the ten songs. I was just dancing around my bedroom–it was a dream!

I wanted to just post about it immediately and call all my friends, but I was like, yeah. I had to be quite secretive, so it was really hard!

We scrolled back through your Instagram and learn you’re still so very new. of so many ideas which I haven’t been able to execute… so I was eventually like ‘YOLO, it’s 2021 we’ve had a hell of year, and I really just want to do this thing for me and for nobody else’. So I made an Instagram and that was the very start of it.

Slowly it’s started to pick up some steam and momentum, on TikTok… I basically created it to post some of the songs I’m passionate about, and to connect with people who might be interested in those songs. And the response has been awesome, especially since the announcement for Eurovision, oh my God!

What’s I Won’t Need to Dream about?

Hope. It’s a very genuine expression of wanting to believe that things will get better Billy Stonecipher and I wrote the song that we needed to hear that day–a song that reminded us that we shouldn’t give up on these ridiculously big dreams we both have. As cliché and as Disney as it sounds, they can actually come true.

I Won’t Need to Dream essentially means that I believe one day my dreams will come true and I won’t need to be constantly looking ahead because I will be in the moment I’ve been waiting for. And I think that’s a message we need to hear in the year of lockdowns that we’ve had.

How did that work with you in Brisbane and Billy in Atlanta?

My publisher set up a writing session with us. And it was the third or fourth song that we’d written together. We’re pretty regular collaborators now. We were really inspired by these old fashioned songs of the 30s and 40s which had simplistic lyrics, akin to Somewhere Over The Rainbow or Dream by the Pied Pipers.

I remember showing Dream to Billy and just being like, this is my ultimate comfort song. It is immediately uplifting and makes me feel like everything is going to be okay. And we’re like, damn, we have to write this.

A few months later the submissions for Eurovision: Australia Decides were open and thought this song has the potential to be applicable for that competition and here we are!

What does it sound like?

It’s a piano ballad at its core, with a really uplifting twist and I think it just is genuine to my own experiences. Even though I have huge faith that no matter how it goes, it will be authentic on stage.

You’ll always perform it whenever you do a live gig anyway.

Absolutely. It will be my moment sitting on a stool and connecting it to the crowd.

Have you prepared yourself for the prospect of going to Turin?

Yes, oh man… that it is the ‘dream!’ I have it on my list of things to do next year, regardless of what happens, I either want to explicitly go see Eurovision or just go to Europe next year, assuming that it will be a possibility. I don’t know if I’m fully prepared for that reality yet, but man is that an exciting prospect. Oh my God!

Have you always been a Eurovision fan?

Yeah, I think to a lot of Australian kids growing up it was just something that was on the TV. With Australia getting accepted into it, I feel then it became much more of a tradition in my family to watch it. It’s all very surreal that I’m sort of being welcomed into this world.

The Eurovision audience are quite passionate about building a relationship with song writers, its performers, its dancers, anyone. You’re part of this family now. What did you think of Måneskin’s song?

Oh my gosh, so good. I would love to write a song like that. It was really awesome.

What do you think of the artists who have been announced for Australia Decides, and those in previous years?

It’s a little intimidating. But I mean, I’m so excited. I’m a huge fan of Jaguar Jones and likewise, Isaiah’s song Don’t Come Easy was one of my favourites–it was such a good ballad. I’ve had that on my Spotify playlist since it came out. I was obsessed with Dami Im’s performance when that happened. It was a song that really got me excited about singing ballads and wanting to do that myself.

But I totally related to what you were saying about Eurovision being a welcoming family. Like even since this announcement of me, there have been people from Europe who have these Eurovision dedicated accounts, who started following me and messaging me, and they have said how excited they are to hear the song. That is just so cool considering how far removed from the actual Eurovision Song Contest I am at this point. I’m kind of amazed by the whole process.

On your YouTube channel, you’ve said that you ‘embrace your weirdness’. Explain that concept.

The idea of embracing weirdness is that I want to give 100% to every crazy idea that I have. So when I have an idea for a photoshoot that’s a bit left of centre, it’s not necessary to tame those ideas. And the result has been making songs about very strange scenarios, using unique samples. Writing from the perspective of serial killers, and also love interests and writing from as many different angles as I possibly can. Just not trying to tame the creativity. I want what I do as Jude York to be this explosion of life and 100% in whatever direction I choose.

Do you see similarities between yourself and other queer artists in 2022?

I think one artist that stands out, is someone I’ve started following this year: Jake Wesley Rogers. He is this awesome queer artist, with an Elton John influence: piano ballads, but utterly fabulous! I definitely see myself on the wavelength, maybe not as avant-garde with the fashion, but I just love his honest approach to song writing.

Likewise on a much bigger scale, I think Sam Smith is awesome in their versatility of being able to turn up these amazing upbeat dancey pop tracks, but also having this relatable mellow side. I love the duality so much.

Yes, when they’ve been in Sydney for Mardi Gras, you could just go to Stonewall and strike up a conversation with them. What does it mean to have approachability and queer representation like that?

So important. As a kid, I would have loved to see a lot more queer representation, but also I would have loved it if my family could have seen more queer representation, and more diverse stories where it’s not all just this one narrative that we kept getting fed all that time.

That’s why it is important to embrace your weirdness, because that uniqueness helps create different stories for queer people. For me this story that people will be seeing on Australia Decides is a queer artist who’s written a song about hope that is a ballad, that hopefully people from across the gender and sexuality spectrum can relate to and hopefully that will mean something.

We saw groups like Electric Fields erupt after they were on Australia Decides, what do you hope comes out of your presence in the competition?

I hope that it gets people interested in what I do. I’m just a very honest songwriter, I write about what I’m going through, what I’m excited about and passionate about. My next plan is to have my first single come out because I haven’t had my debut yet. I’ve only been a feature artist, and I think people who like I Won’t Need To Dream will also like the single.

Photo: @kintoshoot

What message would you have for people that may be looking to you for words of wisdom?

Well, I’d be very honoured if anyone was looking to me for words of wisdom. I think one thing that pops into mind is that there’s no one size fits all for queerness, and that even though sometimes it feels like we see a certain type of queerness being represented more than others… you really can be any colour, any size, as any gender, any identity that you want.

I’m a skinny, nerdy, musical theatre nerd from school who got picked on. It’s so great that we have a community of people that don’t fit the mould. Know that I celebrate them and I love them. 

That’s nice. SBS do a really good job of putting forth diverse people. On the night in February, will you be wearing something fabulous? How many cans of hairspray will you go through?

Many cans of hairspray, because my fair is so unwilling to do anything. I’ve been waiting to complain about my hair, don’t get me started! I hope I wear something fabulous, I don’t know though… I’m torn. One part of me really wants to go all out, pay for a stylist, pay for the works! Rock up like it’s the Met Gala. But the other part of me is like, no, keep it relatable, keep it humble. Let people see the authentic me. I think in all honesty, both sides are authentic, so you’ll just have to wait and see.

It’s important to strike a nice little balance.

Literally, it’s my challenge all the time. I want to be different and I want to be memorable, but I don’t want to be alienating, and unfortunately there’s a line there.

Well good luck, you won’t need to dream anymore.

Yes, that’s the hope!

Can Jude York take this dreamy ballad to Turin? You decide. 

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Eurovision – Australia Decides 2022 airs live and exclusively on SBS and SBS On Demand on Saturday 26 February (AEST).

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