We chat with Julia Zemiro ahead of RocKwiz Live
When you stop and consider everything that typically goes into a tour, it actually seems like a pretty tough gig. Imagine if, for your work, you had to ride around regional Australia with, say, Greg from marketing or Susan from accounts, living in each others’ pockets. It’d be miserable. The only way it’d work is if you got on with them famously.
Fortunately, RocKwiz host Julia Zemiro has found that kind of connection with her fellow cast and crew. “We’re now a family. It’s been 12 years since we all met up. I mean, a lot of them knew each other already, but to me, those boys in that band and Brian and the producers, they’re like my brothers and uncles now.”
Zemiro is set to embark on a huge 29-date tour, bringing RocKwiz to a bunch of regional cities, including Shepparton and Bendigo. But before she heads off, she’ll be hosting RocKwiz Live: Another Really, Really Good Friday at Hamer Hall – an Easter extravaganza boasting more music, more comedy and more variety than ever before, with special guests on board, too. Joining Zemiro will be Kate Ceberano, Mick Thomas, Kylie Auldist, Hailey Cramer and comedians David O'Doherty and Anne Edmonds.
As Zemiro explains, the RocKwiz team will be in their element when they return to the stage. “We’re all theatre creatures. Before RocKwiz made it to TV, everyone had done live work as musicians. Brian had done live work in terms of stand-up and working at The Last Laugh. I had done improv and Theatre Sports. That was our world, so when we get back on stage with no cameras and being able to do what we want, you know, swear and muck around, it’s great.”
And as Zemiro explains, that’s an environment in which she flourishes. “I think I’m at my best when I can improvise within a structure,” she muses. “What the RocKwiz producers created was a beginning, a middle and an end. In between, I can do what I want, given the circumstances of each different contestant. Every single show by its nature will be new and will be different because I’ve got four different people I’ve never met before and two musicians.”
Of course, when you’re plucking participants from the crowd, anything can happen. When pressed to name a contestant who has gone down in RocKwiz legend, Zemiro recalls the events of a classic episode. “When we had Jimmy Barnes on, Michael Gudinski was there and wanted to be on the show. He might have been slightly intoxicated, I’m not sure,” she adds cheekily. “But he was there next to Jimmy and I don’t think he realised how much Jimmy knew, in terms of trivia. If you watch the episode, Michael can’t get a word in. He’s just giggly and so excited. He’s known Jimmy for a hundred years and sitting next to him like he’s a fan, can’t get a single answer right or get a word in because Jimmy knows it all.”
Between hosting RocKwiz and, of course, co-hosting SBS’ coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest, Zemiro has rubbed shoulders with more than a few creative types over the years. It’s an incredible perk that’s proved personally rewarding for Zemiro, too. “Until I started doing RocKwiz, I had never stood that close backstage to performers and seen how they work. I’ve gained an incredible appreciation for the highs and the lows of what musicians do, the hard yards, how they’ve all got jobs on the side, how they keep doing it to create what they have to create,” she explains.
“It’s all in the service of entertaining us, all in the service of us being able to buy this material. And anyone who loves music knows that music gets you through the good times and the bad times. Music has a power that is immeasurable.”
RocKwiz has delivered music to our living rooms now for over a decade. On the subject of a brand new series, Zemiro remains cautiously optimistic. “All I know is, probably not this year, maybe next year. So you’ve got a probably in there and a maybe,” she says. “But again the face of funding is changing, the face of TV is changing. There’s a lot of change going on. Maybe we’re part of that change. We still think we’re making some of the best shows we’ve ever made.”
By Nick Mason