music / ‘Wings of the Morning’, Michael Dooley, North Belconnen Uniting Church, Melba. November 18. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.
WHEN Dami Im steps on to The Playhouse stage to perform songs made famous by Karen and Richard Carpenter, she’ll be more than just a singer-songwriter – she’ll be a national symbol.
For the Seoul-born musician and runner up in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest speaks volumes for multicultural Australia and the richness of its component cultures.
Her touring show, where she plays and sings with her band, will feature songs from her fourth album “Classic Carpenters”, such as “Yesterday Once More”, “Close To You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”, as well as her own hits and her 2016 Eurovision song, “Sound of Silence”.
I catch up with Dami during an all-too-rare sojourn at home in Logan City, Brisbane, for which she is cultural ambassador and where she lives with her husband Noah Kim. Fortunately, she tells “CityNews,” he travels with her all the time, including to Stockholm – “that helped a lot”.
Dami’s enormous success on “The X Factor Australia” is not a case of an untutored star rising to the top. Far from it.
“My mum went to a prestigious singing school in Korea and holds a degree in music,” she says.
It was in piano that Dami was formally trained from age five. Emigrating with her family to Queensland at age nine, she began studying piano and violin at the Young Conservatorium of Music program at age 11. She was a national finalist in the Yamaha Youth Piano Competition, graduated from the University of Queensland with a first in music, then did a masters of arts degree in contemporary voice at Griffith University. Obviously, a classical career beckoned.
But there was always a secret musical life for Dami. Besotted with that Korean music phenomenon K-Pop, she taught herself that style in her bedroom when mum wasn’t watching and “learnt all the moves”.
She ventured into gospel singing at Christian youth camps, too. As well, she says: “I used to go to karaoke when I was young and when Koreans go to a karaoke room it’s serious, you go there just to sing.”
This, I tell her, coincides with opera singer Sumi Jo’s assertion that karaoke lies at the basis of the international success of Korean singers. “That’s fine with me if Sumi Jo says so”, she says. She and her mum are huge fans of the Korean-born superstar.
From an early age, a singing career was her dream.
“But it’s no easy thing to achieve, so when the opportunity to be in ‘X Factor’ came up I jumped at it,” Dami says.
“I was terrified, but I thought, I’ll give it a go.”
She went on to win the fifth season of “The X Factor Australia”, which in turn led to a recording contract and four studio albums, one of which, “Dami Im”, went to platinum sales. She co-wrote eight songs on her third album, “Heart Beats”.
And, as everyone knows, these successes culminated in her appearance as Australia’s representative for Eurovision this year.
“I was representing the country and it was the first year we had to go in the semi-finals,” she says in reference to the fact that Guy Sebastian was fast-tracked into the finals in 2015, so the adrenalin was rushing. “But once I got the votes to go into the grand final I felt a bit more relaxed.”
Used to huge performance arenas as she is, Dami craves more intimacy as she embarks on a 35-city tour including Canberra, with her Carpenters show.
“Big venues are exciting, but so is me playing the piano with a live band,” she says.
“I like performing in smaller places…when the audience’s eyes are on me, I feel as if I’m talking to them.”
And the future? Apart from more of her current success, it’s to “keep being an artist and musician – and to keep writing songs. I just want to explore more and see what I can do,” she says.
“Yesterday Once More: Classic Carpenters”, The Playhouse, July 16. Bookings to canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.