At just 16 years of age, she’s the youngest competitor in SBS’s national selection show Eurovision: Australia Decides. But what she lacks in age Leea Nanos makes up for in talent. The girl-next-door has a stunning voice and knows how to write a song. So much so that Australia’s Head of Delegation for Eurovision Paul Clarke handpicked her to sing her track “Set Me Free” — despite the fact she had only submitted the song, and not herself, for the competition. She recently caught up with us for a quick chat about her song, Eurovision and what it’s been like getting to know some of Australia’s biggest stars.
When did you start writing the song? What’s it about?
I wrote the song when I was 15, so nearly two years ago now. Originally it was about a boy I liked but it has evolved into a song with a lot more meaning for me. It’s about empowerment and not letting people walk all over you and learning to stand up for yourself.
Loving your music video. It seems like you did it on a budget, but it still looks fab. What’s the vibe you wanted to create?
Thanks for loving the video and you are right we didn’t have a big budget for it. I don’t have a label or anything so we were trying to do something that would portray the message of the song. I wanted it to be really strong and a little bit fierce and that was the vibe we were going for. It’s funny because I’m not really fierce at all — I’m quite soft and quirky but that song brings out my inner toughness!
You submitted the song to Eurovision: Australia Decides, but Paul Clarke the HOD decided to let you sing the song yourself. How did you feel when you heard the news? Had you thought about singing it yourself or did he suggest it first?
I was totally shocked when Paul called me and asked me to sing it. I had submitted it and I had heard that the committee loved the song and that they were trying to match it with one of the artists and I couldn’t even believe that was happening, so when I got told that I was going to be singing it myself it was a total, total surprise. Of course I was over the moon but then I started to realise exactly what I was going to do.
How does it feel competing against some of the biggest stars on the Australian music scene?
I still have a hard time believing that I am going to be sharing the stage with nine of Australia’s best and most established artists… it’s very surreal and not something I can really think about without getting emotional. I’ve tried out for lots of things and have had so many people say ‘no’ to me, I could not have known that the biggest ‘yes’ of my life was coming.
Have you had time to get to know any of the other artists?
I’ve been getting to know all of them. We did a promo day a few weeks ago so I started getting to know a few of them at that and we have been here a few days so we are all starting to get to know each other and hang out. The other contestants have been incredible to me — so supportive and kind. Kate told me yesterday at breakfast that she thought I was really talented and had a big future and I got such a shock, I couldn’t believe she was talking about me. And Sheppard said that I was their biggest competition in one of their interviews which was incredible. Alfie is a beautiful guy and has also been really lovely to me.
You’re the youngest competitor. Is that an advantage or a handicap?
I don’t think being the youngest is a handicap — it’s Eurovision so I really want to believe that people will vote on the performance and the song and nobody really cares about age, gender, race etc… I love singing ‘Set Me Free’ and I just want to give a strong performance and do my best on the night.
Can you give us any clues about your stage performance?
I’m excited about the staging and my performance. I had a wonderful lady from Brisbane help me with my outfit and I love it…. The only clue I can give is get ready for me to tell you a story.
Which artists have you looked up to in developing your music career?
I really love R&B and soul so there have been so many artists who have influenced my music. Lately I have been loving Dua Lipa and the Weekend but there are just so many great artists out there.
How are you staying calm ahead of Saturday?
Trying to stay calm is the hardest part but I am just trying to relax a bit, eat really good food and just trying to enjoy every moment. You never ever know in life how long something is going to last so I just want to make sure I enjoy every moment of my Eurovision experience and make memories for life!
Thank you to Leea and good luck in the competition! Y’all: If you’re loving Leea be sure to vote for her on Saturday night. SBS. Eurovision: Australia Decides.
You can hear us discussing Leea from 25:12 below
…and from 0:57 below.