Lilia Jackson 2

Lilia Jackson on stage at Sydney Eisteddfod. Photo: WinkiPoP Media

An interview with Lilia Jackson


Sydney Eisteddfod multi-award winner, Lilia Jackson shared her experience of winning two events in the 2015 festival season. She also reveals how she came to decide on her song choices 'Take the A Train' and 'Chandelier'  and offers her advice for those thinking about entering events in the future. 

What was it like to win the Sydney Eisteddfod Jazz & Blues Singer (16/O) event?

This was my second win in this event in the past 3 years so I think you can see that I love Jazz.

I was thrilled to win this event against some pretty tough opponents. When you sing your heart out in these events it is so rewarding to make a place let alone win! I performed 'Take the A Train' which is a classic Jazz piece by Duke Ellington and it was great to do my interpretation of it.

What was it like to win the Sydney Eisteddfod Contemporary Vocal Performance Event?

This was one of my most rewarding wins at the Sydney Eisteddfod. To do a song as well known as 'Chandelier' by Sia, do my own arrangement on piano and win was very rewarding.

Tell us about your experience as a Finalist in the Sydney Eisteddfod Senior Singer of the Year?

I had entered this event the previous year but was unable to attend due to another commitment so I had no idea of how this event would go.

I knew from the round one heat that the quality of singers in the event was very good. Being selected for the final was an achievement in itself.

Organising the music charts for the final was tough and there was only a short time to rehearse with the band prior to the final.

The atmosphere on the night of the final was great and this made it a special event. All of the finalists performed really well on the night. I was happy with my performance in this event.   

Who/what inspired you to start singing?

At Primary school I was approached by a teacher who suggested that I should think about singing lessons. She arranged for me to meet my singing teacher, Dani Kelleher, and I have been with her since then, over 7 years.

Which other performers do you most like to listen to/watch, and why?

I really can’t say that I listen to one singer or one style of music.

The music that I listen to varies from Jazz to Rock, contemporary to classics.

Some of music that I regularly perform is by Elton John, Eva Cassidy, The Church, Don McLean, The Police, Joni Mitchell, Taylor Swift, Melody Gardot, Katie Noonan and many more.

Tell us a little bit about “Take the A Train”, and why you chose to sing this song.

My singing teacher has always encouraged me to sing Jazz and a guess that has stuck.

“Take the A Train” a piece by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington I had selected to sing for my HSC about 12 months prior to the final exams. Since that point I had been constantly working on it preparing it for that, by performing it at the Eisteddfod it was an opportunity not only to sing but it was also a practice for the exams as any feedback you can get helps.  

Tell us a little bit about “Chandelier”, and why you chose to sing this song.

'Chandelier' is a song by the Australian singer/songwriter Sia. At the time it was within the top 10 charts. They say that a great song is derived from whether you can transform it from its original form into something else. I had found an acoustic version arranged and performed by another Australian artist Katie Noonan (definitely one to check out) of which changed the whole mood of the upbeat pop piece and transformed it to a way that was just so raw to perform and the meaning behind it could be pulled out. For me that rawness in the piece of pure emotion that could emerge, normally hidden behind heavy instrumentation just ticked the box for me and made it so enjoyable to perform.

What did you do to prepare for your performance?

My singing teacher and I had the songs selected at the beginning of the year before the entries had even opened for the Eisteddfod. By doing this I was able to fine tune the piece throughout the year, singing them over and over again, fine tuning and re-arranging melodic phrases to make it different and something that suited my voice instead of being a carbon copy of the original artist as the adjudicators so often ask as overall feedback to make the song your own. On the night it’s a matter of giving it your all, having fun and demonstrating all the months of practicing that went into preparing the piece to the adjudicators, no matter how you go that will always be conveyed. 

What would you tell someone that was thinking about entering the Sydney Eisteddfod?

Just do it. Whether you think you will do well or not it's all about having a go and learning from your own performances and those of the other performers. You'll be amazed by what you see in the high quality of performances and probably take away new ideas that you can try yourself. In regards to songs, have your songs selected months before the events. By doing this you allow yourself plenty of time to practice and work on perfecting the piece ready for adjudication.