Double threat Montaigne’s journey through football and music

  • Australian singer Montaigne chats football, music and more

  • Father Gus played professionally in Australia and Malaysia

  • Montaigne will perform in Eurovision this week

The odd footballer has tried their hand at music through the years, with wildly varying degrees of success it must be said. But what about a musician with a talent for football? Australian singer Montaigne is one such double threat.

Sydneysider Montaigne – born Jessica Cerro - has been immersed in football her entire life. Her father Gus was a mainstay in Australia’s National Soccer League during the 1990s and also enjoyed a strong career in football-fixated Malaysia, with league title wins and cup finals at the mighty Shah Alam among the highlights. Young Jess looked set to follow a similar road, playing in elite competition in Sydney, but an unexpected break kick-started a musical career and her life journey went down a different path.

This week Montaigne – with trademark nonconformity she is named after a 16th century French philosopher – will compete in Eurovision. Not unlike the World Cup, the famed international song contest is a melting pot of cultural diversity. With a striking background that includes Argentinean, Spanish, Filipino and French, Montaigne certainly brings added flavour to the mix.

Boasting a broad musical catalogue, as rich and colourful as her stage appearances, Montaigne will perform her anthemic track Technicolour which, she says, is about “resilience and the courage that comes from being able to be vulnerable, being able to ask for help, and knowing that in solidarity and togetherness we are stronger as people". spoke with Montaigne about her football heritage, the overlapping influences of music and the round ball game, the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in her homeland and more. How much of an influence was football growing up?

Montaigne: It was a fairly big influence. I was always talking about, watching it, playing or training. My dad had played and coached all his life and that is his passion, his everything. So it is an in-my-blood thing. Football has always been there and I always enjoyed playing it. My experience in a team setting has influenced my psyche a great deal.

Was there a time when playing football was one of your childhood dreams?

It was, absolutely. There was a time when I thought music was absolutely out of the question as a career path. I was pretty good at football, I wasn’t the fittest player, but I was fairly skilful, so I figured I could work on that (laughs). I did pretty well at school and I had thoughts of an Ivy League scholarship combined with football. But then [radio station] Triple J Unearthed crept up and [music] took over.

Did you watch World Cups at home with your family?

I loved watching World Cups with my family growing up. The whole experience and also all the media that comes with it. We went for Australia firstly, but I think my dad’s order after that would definitely be Argentina and maybe Spain.

Did your dad instil anything in you from his football that has helped your music career?

My dad is a very disciplined human being and I think I have carried some of that discipline. I’m good at staying focussed, working within a team, stating my opinion if needed and just having that work ethic in me. I have been instilled with priorities to look after my wellbeing and my body and to make sure that everything is working correctly. At the end of the day, my instrument is my body - as in my voice - and I have to look after that in order to perform well. So I think all those aspects from sport about looking after your physique and other similar stuff has really helped me.

You have previously said you’re not a big fan of art as competition, but what do you like about the fact all these diverse nationalities are all in one environment for Eurovision, not unlike the World Cup?

I don’t mind healthy competition, but I still think art can’t be ranked next to each other. I think artists’ creativity is subjective and you can’t really score arts and points in the same way you can score in football. I don’t mind a bit of healthy competition because it can encourage you to do better, and I like that. Competition also allows people to come together and see each other’s craft and practises, which I think is really cool and there is a lot of merit in that. I have been enjoying the last few weeks, watching everyone’s rehearsals and seeing everyone’s different personalities, and to have these insights and be part of this competition I am grateful.

What are some of the things you are looking forward to in this unique Eurovision experience?

Apart from just being part of it, and being able to say one day ‘I was in Eurovision’, and during a pandemic, it is just crazy. You tend to forget the magnitude of Eurovision and just how much weight it carries in our culture. It is an amazing thing to be part of just by virtue of its prestige and sheer cultural weight.

How do you think the 2023 Women’s World Cup will help the game in Australia and showcase women as role models?

I’m hoping it gets people excited about women’s football because, as we all know, women are sorely underpaid relative to their male counterparts. I understand that part of it is about economy... but I think there are ways to solve that problem. Hosting the Women’s World Cup will help with that because it will help people get excited about the spectacle. Watching it live and having the colour and pandemonium of a World Cup will be beneficial.

2021 Eurovision contestant Montaigne (Image courtesy SBS TV)