Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Told in the first person, this book covers the life of a young Korean girl who came to Australia for her education and ended up a singing sensation. Eight pages of photographs divide the book into two sections. The first part highlights her life before she reached the grand final of the 2013 season of the X Factor, a television program on Channel Seven. The second part addresses the next stage of her life.
The early part of Dami Im’s life could be the story of many young Asian children. In their homeland education is valued and very competitive, so many children are sent overseas to learn English. Sometimes the mother accompanies the children while the father stays in Asia working in business, making frequent visits. Most of the children are encouraged to play several musical instruments.
Their church becomes a haven for those who come to Australia because this is where people speak the same language, eat the same food, and have the same insecurities (32). Dami describes herself when she first came to our shores as ‘scared and neurotic’ (14), ’introverted’, yet someone who ‘wanted to perform and show off’ (17). Life for her at school was so different from what she had experienced in Korea. ‘It was like stressful paradise’ (35).
For Dami, these characteristics would be deeply imbedded but she had a strong belief that she was given the gifts she possessed for some purpose, not just for her own glory.
Her early years were spent on honing her piano skills, even though she considered learning the piano ‘as a kid job’ (22). She joined the Young Conservatorium as a ten-year-old, won a Yamaha Piano competition and continued playing the violin and flute as well. Competing became a fixture in her life (43).
Her music teacher at university, told her she was not just a pianist but also a communicator (60), something she would always remember. She realised while at university that she had to make a choice ‘for as much as I felt like piano was what I should do, it wasn’t what I wanted to do (47).
She wanted to write and perform her own songs so auditioned for a Master’s in Contemporary Voice at the Queensland Conservatorium. Her early attempts at singing were not good, although she was pitch perfect. It became an obsession to improve her singing voice. This training eventually led to her successful X Factor experience, which nearly didn’t come about. The competition showed her that she had a powerful voice and a big one. However, when she won, her life as she had known it, would change dramatically.
She had done much to promote herself previously but with the win she came under the banner of Sony Recording Studio. Her time with them taught her much, but it also frustrated her. She began to realise that the recording studio had different objectives from her own. Theirs was to sell records, they did not seem to be interested in promoting her music career. She began to question whether her success was even a good idea (168).
About this time, she became an ambassador for Compassion, and this helped to give her some purpose in her life. After all the confusion, frustration, and isolation that the X Factor win brought, she found joy and fulfillment in her work with the charity (182).
While still with Sony, she was approached by SBS to be the Australian entrant in Eurovision where she placed second. She was now known world-wide. Her exposure in Australia also increased with her taking part in TV reality shows such as Dancing with the Stars, and Celebrity Master Chef. When Covid 19 struck, all musicians were impacted but she was able to continue performing solos for locals around Queensland.
Dami had planned to vie for the 2021 Eurovision Contest, but this had been cancelled by the pandemic, then her next attempt was curtailed when she became pregnant. She and husband Noah are now the parents of a little boy. It was during her pregnancy that she began writing this book and it has given her so much insight and understanding about herself and the road she has been on.
Some have queried her writing a memoir at such a young age, but this has been a good time for her to reflect and really think about what she wants to do about her life and career. In a relatively short time, she has had more experiences than most, but one thing that really shines through is that Dami Im has now found her voice and not just on the stage.
It is obvious from reading this book that music isn’t just Dami Im’s job, it is a big part of her identity. Next year, 2023, will be the tenth year of her official solo career and I am sure that we will see her around in the music industry for many years to come. From a shy insecure child who loved to perform, she has carved out a life for herself in the music industry and become much wiser in the process. She is idolised by many around the world, especially her dedicated Dami Army.
By Dami Im