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Sheldon Riley's surprising Eurovision confession: 'Outrageous amount of debt'

EXCLUSIVE: Sheldon Riley opens up about how the Eurovision Song Contest changed his life.

In 2022, Sheldon Riley finally achieved his life-long goal of performing at the Eurovision Song Contest.

The former X Factor, Voice and America’s Got Talent contestant became the seventh artist to represent Australia at the international competition, wowing viewers around the world with his self-written track, Not the Same.

Sheldon Riley.
Sheldon Riley represented Australia at the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest. Photo: Getty

“For me, Eurovision has always been the big dream. It's always the number one thing I wanted to do,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle, one year on from ticking off the bucket list item.

“Forever I was told it was never going to happen, mainly I think because I'm an independent artist and Eurovision costs a lot of money. Like, a lot, a lot, a lot of money, and they only help out so much.”

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Sheldon reveals the competition left him “with a very, very outrageous amount of debt”, however, he’s “so happy” he was given the opportunity after working his entire life to reach that stage in his career.

He adds that the platform has since allowed him to create the music he’s always wanted to create, including his new single Insane.

“I've always wanted to create cinematic music, orchestral music, songs that even with the vocals taken off they’re just musical masterpieces,” he details. “But working with real strings and working with real music, it’s expensive and it's not easy to come by and to create. Especially in Australia, it's not easy to produce.

“So I've written music and I've released stuff that I've loved and I've written, but I've never, ever been happy with the sound… It really wasn't until Eurovision that I've really started to be able to make the money to create what I want to make and be the person that I've wanted to be.”

On his new single 'Insane'

Not only is Sheldon’s new single recorded with a live orchestra, but he also spent over 30 hours designing and constructing an outfit made from over 36 metres of human hair.

“I feel like [Insane] is the first song that I can really look at and be like, s**t, we have come a really long way from having absolutely nothing to creating music that's not cheap,” he remarks. “It cost a fortune, but we did it because that's what I want to do, and I love it.”

The 2022 Masked Singer runner-up adds that he originally planned for Insane to be his Eurovision entry last year.

“It’s what I pushed for, it’s what I really wanted,” he reveals. “The way it's performed, the video, the hair, everything, that was what it was going to be.

“When I did the Insane music video, I was so adamant that it needed to be filmed in one take. I wanted to perform it the exact same way that it would have been if it was on the stage, just a single light and that was it.”

However, Sheldon explains that Not The Same was finished when he submitted options to SBS for his entry while Insane was “just a song to guitar”.

“I mean, SBS, they’re not saying yes to anything unless it's finished, so there was no real forethought of what it could become or what it was going to be,” he says. “Which I understand, it makes sense. I mean, it's a very big deal, it’s a song that could potentially represent the country, so I understand that. But yeah, this was supposed to be the Eurovision one in my head.

“It's big, it gives Eurovision vibes, but I don’t know, part of me is kind of glad it wasn't the Eurovision song because it's so freaking hard to sing and Not The Same was already hard enough.”

Sheldon Riley performing at Eurovision last year.
Sheldon admits he wanted to perform 'Insane' at Eurovision instead of 'Not the Same'. Photo: Getty

'I think it's time'

Sheldon shares that Insane will be a part of his upcoming debut album, which he hopes to release at the end of the year.

“The album is a touring album, it’s an immersive experience,” he describes. “I want the whole thing to play from the top of the album to the end.

“It's eight songs, three instrumentals that will kind of segue different things. I’m going to have dancers and smoke and fire and water and all this different stuff. I want the whole thing to feel like a Cirque De Soleil performance

“I want to tour, I think it's time. I want to go through Europe, I want to do Eurovision again. Throwing the big guns out there,” he laughs. “I love to compete, I think that's pretty clear now, so I'd love to do that again.”

Stream Sheldon Riley’s new single, Insane, on all streaming platforms here.

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