The following article was produced in partnership with IWC Schaffhausen.
Guy Sebastian needs no introduction.
The Malaysia-born singer-songwriter has won seven ARIA awards including Best Pop Release and Best Live Act, released ten top ten albums, is the only male artist in Australian chart history to achieve six number-one singles, and has appeared on a number of television shows, most recently in his role as coach on The Voice Australia.
After nearly 20 years in the public’s eye, Sebastian’s music and work can be recognised across the generations from Baby Boomers all the way to Gen Z. “I always knew I wanted to sing, I just never in a thousand years thought it would be to the capacity of what I do now,” he tells DMARGE.
“I don’t know whether it was because I didn’t dream big or whatever, I just grew up in a fairly small city in the suburbs and I just thought it would be a hobby and I would always have this burning desire to make it a job.”
When he was 19 years old, he took a gamble. After doing some minor touring with a local band in Adelaide, he took a chance to make music his full-time job. “I sort of had a little bit of a taste of what it would actually be like to make it my day job and one day I decided to jump in with both feet and I quit university to the dismay of my parents,” he says. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I remember really trying hard for a while without that much success and then suddenly this tv show came along and some friends of mine said there’s this new show, it’s called Idol and you should try out for it.”
At first, he was sceptical. “I don’t know, I was immediately a little bit pessimistic,” he says. “I thought it’s probably not for me and there’s no way I would win.”
Thankfully, curiosity got the better of him and before long, he would go on to be the first-ever winner of music talent show Australian Idol in 2003. “All of a sudden I found myself in this position where I had this amazing springboard that I could capitalise on and make it my day job,” he says.
That was 18 years ago now. But it still taught him some of his best lessons. Sebastian now knows an artist can never please everybody, but it was a lesson he admits he may have had to learn a little faster than most.
“In the creative industry, sometimes that quick success can be a curse,” he says. “On one hand you’re so grateful for the opportunity and the ability to get your music to the masses … but then there’s this strange hill you’ve got to climb to prove yourself.”
“I used to be a little bit limited by a time frame,” he admits. He also learned that it’s important for a creative to know when to put their foot down. “Respect was a very big thing that my parents had passed on so I had to find the fine line of being nice and being a good steward of my gift,” he says. As he’s gotten older, he’s become more at peace with the process of writing music.
“I think the creative process has evolved for me probably as I’ve grown up and matured and got a bit more confidence to speak up for things that I think are important.”
Now, he has a strictly non-limiting approach. “I don’t really go into any project with a vision I want it to sound like because I’ve done it for long enough now to know that by the time the projects are released it would have changed maybe four times,” he says with a laugh. “Nowadays I just literally say to myself, ‘just write what comes out during inspired moments.'”
Today, the father of two, who’s had just shy of two decades in the limelight, is patient with his music. “Every time I’m driving, I’m constantly hearing melodies and I’m constantly hearing ideas and yes, most of them are rubbish but you’ll think they’re a great idea at the time,” he says.
“Recently I had this realisation that this isn’t something that I really think about but just happens. If you think you can just turn on inspiration, it just doesn’t happen.” Writing music, he says, is really just a numbers game.
“When you finally get to that period when you’re ready to write, you’ll have a thousand ideas that you’ve narrowed down to 40,” he concedes. “It’s just the lifestyle of a creative person.”
Although no longer pressed for time, Sebastian relies on only the best to tell it every day. He wears the IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43, a watch he says falls very much in line with his values.
His introduction to the Swiss luxury watchmaker came via a generous gesture from a friend. “I always loved the brand and my first ever IWC was a gift from a friend, a very generous gift, and it was a Portofino. I just fell in love with the elegance of it.”
No wonder, then, that such an iconic artist wears such an iconic watch like the Big Pilot.
Discover the IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43 collection here.