Roshani Priddis has possibly the most amazing voice you have ever heard. Add to that an enticing life story and a passion for living life to its fullest, Focus just had to find out more about this shining star …
You have an amazing story. Can you briefly tell us a bit about your background?
I was born in Sri Lanka, and I was adopted out to an Australian family at six weeks of age. My Australian mum and dad had tried having kids for many years, when they finally had my older brother, Justin, naturally. However they still wanted to adopt internationally, as adopting within Australia was really tough; it is to this day. Adopting internationally is equally as hard, and Mum and Dad had to go through many tough and sometimes heartbreaking experiences to finally be able to adopt a baby, and the thousands of dollars spent on legal fees etc. were astronomical.
Mum and Dad were not rich people; they were hard working, working class people who just wanted to give a disadvantaged child a chance. I think they are amazing for that. They flew all the way to Sri Lanka to get me; they actually flew over, not knowing if they would even be bringing back a child, as there were still finalisations to be made with the Sri Lankan government. They were just hoping. But luckily for us, it all worked out. I grew up in Tamworth and found my baby steps in music growing up in the Country Music Capital.
60 minutes produced a story on your return to Sri Lanka; how was that experience?
Returning to Sri Lanka for the first time in 28 years, and with a full film crew in tow was surreal. I was going to meet my Lankan mum for the first time, and I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that this story was amazing, the way in which it had all unfolded and that it needed to be told. I thought it might give other adoptees hope of finding their families also.
I met not only my mother, but a brother and sister and their respective four kids, an aunty and uncle and their son – and some other extended family also. It completely blew my mind to have such a huge family, after spending 28 years not even knowing if my mother was still alive. It completely filled my heart with joy. I was wondering if we would “get along”, or if it would feel awkward of strange, but straight away upon the very first embrace it was like years of separation came crashing down and we picked up right where we left off … It was truly amazing.
What do you love most about performing?
Performing and making music is how I connect to the world. It is the pure joy that comes from performing that I love so much.
Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
It varies, really. In the past I have awoken from a dream with an entire song in my head, and I jump out of bed and run to my guitar or piano to catch it before it fades. Sometimes it’s just sitting quietly, and out of that still place comes inspiration. Sometimes it is something that has happened, some life experience that causes deep emotion, and the catharsis is to tell it, or reconcile it all through my music. For me, inspiration is in everything.
Do you work as a professional performer?
Absolutely. My definition of a professional performer is someone who makes a living off performing or making music; I am proud to say that is what I do.
Did you have any professional training, or have you learnt on your feet?
Both. I studied briefly at the Australian Institute Of Music, before I got an offer to work in China on a music contract in a bar for four months straight. As a 19 year old and adventure calling, I promptly left my music degree and moved to China. I have learnt on my feet from then on.
How would you describe your style and approach to music?
I love that quote by Louis Armstrong: “There is two kinds of music, the good, and the bad; I play the good kind”. I don’t necessarily subscribe to any one genre; I think the definition of “good” music is music from the heart and soul. It’s got to have “feel”. I don’t subscribe to any trends either; I just write and create things that sound “right” to my ears, and then hopefully that translates to my audience.
Who do you admire as a singer, and why?
I’d probably need an entire page to list all the singers who have inspired me throughout the years; there are many. But I guess the top three are: Whitney Houston, because I heard her when I was five years old singing I Will Always Love You. It was from that moment forward I wanted to be a singer. Bonnie Raiit: she was the first blues singer I ever heard and saw live; that concert hooked me into the blues forever. And from there I went on to discover Etta James, Koko Taylor, Big Mama Thornton, Nina Simone … and the list goes on. Oh, and Tracy Chapman – songwriting wise, she has inspired me greatly.
Given the chance to perform with anyone of your choice, who would it be?
Well, you know what, since finding my Lankan family, I’ve also learnt a lot about my history. I have learnt that my father was a singer and a drummer, and he used to hand make traditional Sri Lankan drums. He and my mother would sing together at all the village get togethers. He passed away three years ago, I never got to meet him, but my family assure me I am like him in many ways. Maybe we’ll have a jam in heaven one day.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience performing on X Factor?
X Factor was a hoot. I snagged a free trip to London, and I performed an original song.
There is a great back story about how you stuck to your guns, to be able to sing your own song. Can you tell us about that?
The producers of X Factor asked me to audition, and I said I would audition on the proviso I could sing my own song, as I knew Chris Isaak and James Blunt were judges, both internationally acclaimed singer-songwriters. Initially they said I could not sing my original, so I declined the audition – only to be contacted one week before the live auditions at the Entertainment Centre in Sydney to say that the X Factor “headquarters” had approved my request. Someone was looking out for me, that’s for sure.
What happened after you performed the song?
I performed my first single, Paid In Ink. The judges Guy Sebastian and Chris Isaak became slightly adversarial. I had no idea how much of a stir it would create. Guy wanted the song to be “remixed” by a DJ to be more commercial. Chris thought the song was great in its pure form and to leave it how it is. I agree with both judges on that one.
How long was it at Number 1?
Paid In Ink remained at Number 1 for the next three weeks; this utterly blew my mind.
Where has that journey taken you? Are you recording more songs, and has the X Factor experience opened doors for you?
Since X Factor I have had a #1 album, Death, Love & Life, which I released on the back of my 60 Mins Australia episode. My partner and I sold our house, bought a Toyota Hiace Van and decked it out, so we could live out of it full-time. We have been touring the album since its release last year. We have been unconventional in our touring, however, and have been busking and street performing, instead of booking shows in venues. It’s been working marvellously.
When people hear your music on the street, unexpectedly most of the time, they really “hear” you. The interactions we have with people are so authentic and beautiful, and people’s support is directly represented in the fact that we have been able to do this for almost two years now. I love the energy of street performing.
Best advice you have been given?
That the purpose of life is joy, the basis of life is freedom and the result of your life is expansion. Quote by: “Abraham & Esther Hicks”.
Where can people find out more?
What are your plans for the future?
To continue to live happily ever after.
Photos by Michael Cuffe Photography.