When Dami Im walked on to the 'X-Factor' stage to audition in 2013, she promised the judges “awesome singing”.
What she delivered in her performance of 'Hero' by Mariah Carey was much bigger than this. Her quirky personality and incredible voice would go on to earn her the title of winner in that year's competition, even after being eliminated and brought back as a wildcard contestant.
Flash forward three years, where Dami was asked to perform as Australia's entry for the internationally acclaimed Eurovision Song Contest 2016.
“Going on that big stage was huge pressure, representing the country, and I just felt like there were so many people depending on my performance,” Dami says. “It was such a huge experience and I think I learned a lot.”
Her song 'Sound Of Silence' was an undisputed hit, and impressed the world so much that she made it to second place among 24 other finalists. This was a massive feat, because Australia had only been invited for the event in 2015 to commemorate 60 years of Eurovision. Now, just a year after conquering the Song Contest world, Dami is testing new waters and starring as Teen Angel in the Harvest Rain production of 'Grease' in Brisbane.
It's a musical that is practically built into almost everyone's memory... But not Dami's: “I got a lot of surprised looks and then I got made fun of by friends, because I didn't really know much about it until recently,” she confesses. “I've had to break it to people and say 'I don't know what you're talking about'.”
“Apparently everybody except me really knows it quite well and loves it.”
Dami has never been in a musical before either, but she's excited to perform to a whole new audience of people that might not normally be in the crowd at her solo gigs. Her self-confessed lack of musical theatre experience shouldn't be a discouraging thing, however. With a voice strong enough to win 'X-Factor' and travel to Sweden for Eurovision, there's no doubt her likeability goes beyond just her vocal talents.
For those who need reminding, Teen Angel is originally played by Frankie Avalon. He sings 'Beauty School Dropout' to Frenchy when she needs a word of advice about her next move in life. On bringing a bit of Girl Power to the role, Dami says she's super excited: “I thought it was pretty cool! It's not something that's been done before, and it's cool that it's something different,” she says.
“We discussed how we'd make my part really interesting and the Teen Angel as a female version, and trying to make something really special... The thing is, everybody knows the song so well.”
It's important to Dami that her performance isn't the typical Teen Angel stuff. “You don't want to bore people with something that they've seen a million times. I want it to be something that highlights what I can do best, so we're just trying to mould it into something that will be more Dami than a generic song,” she says. “We're going to change it around and put a nice spin to it.”
Joining Dami is Barry Conrad, who starred in Harvest Rain's last arena performance of 'Hairspray'. He's a familiar face from her humble beginnings. “We were in the same category for a while during 'X-Factor', so it's good,” she says. “Musical theatre is like, a different field all together to the pop world.”
“The first thing is, it has to suit my voice and when people come to see me at my shows they expect a certain thing from me. I definitely want to show them what I've got, and to maximise what I can do vocally, without making it too crazy that the song is unrecognisable.”
If her recent success both nationally and internationally is anything to go by, it's safe to assume that Dami and 'Grease' will go together like “rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong”.
“At the moment it's looking pretty good and I'm very excited,” she says. “You never know what could happen if you try something different.”
'Grease - The Arena Experience' Tour Dates
7-9 April – Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre14-15 July – Newcastle Entertainment Centre (no Dami)