When The Voice judge Guy Sebastian decided to audition for the first season of Australian Idol in 2003, he had no idea just how popular he'd become. Before releasing nine top-10 albums and 25 top-50 singles, the multiple ARIA Award-winner didn't know if a career in music was possible for him.
"I wasn't sure music was an option for me," he told Anh Do when he appeared on Anh's Brush With Fame in 2021. As a teen, he had gone to Melbourne to do the rounds of the record labels and while they loved his incredible voice, they weren't buying into his look.
"I was a weird-looking chubby, half-Asian kid who didn't have the pop star look. I got on the train with all these rejection letters, tail between my legs and thought, I can't change how I look, but I can still be a musician," he recalled.
Just a few months later he saw a call-out for Australian Idol auditions and decided to give it a shot. At his first audition in Adelaide, where he sang a rendition of Stevie Wonder's Ribbon In The Sky, the judges gave similar feedback.
Judges Mark Holden, Marcia Hines and Ian Dickson all praised him, with Marcia particularly impressed with the young singer's voice. However, Dicko echoed some of the rejection Guy had heard earlier in his career, saying: "You look crap, you're going to have to work on that."
However, Guy quickly formed a strong fanbase, beating Shannon Noll to win the competition and going on to record the winning single: Angels Brought Me Here. The single debuted at number one and went on to become the best-selling single of not just the year, but the entire decade.
He now has the most number ones on the ARIA singles chart of any Australian male artist, having earned six in total, and has sold more than five million albums.
But the success of Australian Idol wasn't good for everything or everyone in his life. Guy had been dating his childhood sweetheart Jules Egan since they were in their teens. The couple met when he was just 13 years old, at a church group.
And despite Jules being by his side when he auditioned for Australian Idol, by the time he reached the final, the pair had split. The instant stardom put immense pressure on the couple, and Guy started dating other people, including his future The Voice co-star Delta Goodrem.
But it wasn't long before Guy realised that he'd made a terrible mistake. "I went back, I guess, to Jules because I knew she loved me for who I was," Guy told 60 Minutes. "And so I flew to Adelaide, and I said to her, 'I'm famous now. I could be with supermodels and that, but do you want to get back with me?'"
Luckily for Guy, Jules was happy to have him back and they've been together ever since. The couple, both devout Christians, married in 2008 and have since welcomed two sons: Hudson, 11, and Archie, 9, into the fold.
Inspired by tragedy
But life has not been easy for the couple over recent years. They have both been deeply affected by the loss of people close to them. They were on their honeymoon when they received an urgent message to call home.
Jules's brother, Andrew, had taken his own life. Then in 2019, Guy's bandmate Luke Liang also died by suicide. Guy, 41, shaken deeply by these deaths personally and acutely aware of the mental health issues endured by many young people, launched a program targeting bullying and mental health in schools through his charity, The Sebastian Foundation.
"We need to get into schools," Guy said on a podcast with cricketer Shane Lee. "[Kids] need to talk about mental health and they need to talk about how to tackle issues that they're not equipped to handle."
Bitter legal fight
Guy was also let down by his former manager Titus Day, who was supposed to look after the young star and have his best interests at heart. Day was accused of mishandling the singer's money and was found guilty of taking over $600,000 of Guy's earnings.
"It was a painful fight," Guy revealed on The Kyle And Jackie O Show. "It just went on for so long. I know I've said in the past, I've just been so confused by it all, because it's so hard to imagine that it had to get to that place. It didn't need to."
But just as the family put one court case behind them, another was brewing. In January, NSW Police took out an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) against the couple's elderly neighbour, following a long and heated battle over the construction of their Maroubra property.
The neighbour claimed that the demolition of Sebastian's property to build their new home resulted in damage to his own property and that he could no longer live at the house. This culminated in a physical altercation in January, which led directly to the elderly neighbour's arrest.
Doing what he does best
And now, Guy is back doing what he loves — spending quality time with his family and returning as a coach on The Voice.
"I've been on [judging] panels and in work situations where not everyone gets along or you feel like there's this weird energy and it just doesn't work — I don't enjoy it," he revealed to TV Week this month. "[But] I genuinely look forward to being with these guys!"
Watch The Voice Australia Sunday 7pm, Monday 7.30pm and Tuesday 7.30pm on Channel 7 and 7plus.
Online support is available via Beyond Blue.
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