Aussies artists vie for ARIA Awards 

Being an aspiring hip-hop artist in high school was no easy task for Matt Colwell, aka 360, because he was teased and bullied by his peers.

''I started rapping when I was 14. I got bullied for rapping because that wasn't cool back then. Everyone was like, 'You just want to be black, you f---ing try-hard', and all this shit,'' he says of growing up in suburban Melbourne.

''But I kept at it, I kept going. I went into some battle competitions when I was 15 and 16.

''I released my first album [What You See Is What You Get], which didn't do very well, and then after that, I was like, 'F--- this, I'm going all-out. I'm going to make this my whole career now. I'm really going to go for it.''

Five years later, he leads the list of nominated artists at the ARIA Awards, with six nominations ahead of the ceremony at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on November 29.

''For me, it feels like the perfect timing to come through and do what I've done,'' the 26-year-old says. ''I made more of a less-traditional hip-hop album and more of a pop album.

''[If] I won all the awards, I'd be over the moon, then I'd lose my mind. But, to be honest with you, and I'm not being humble here, I actually think Gotye's going to clean up.

''I'm aiming for just two awards, and they're the two awards where I'm not nominated with Gotye. That's urban and breakthrough artist.''

Gotye, better known to his friends as Wally De Backer, was travelling between gigs in Berlin and Copenhagen when he chatted with Fairfax last week.

He feels a little as if he's having a second run at the ARIAs this year based on the same material.

''It does feel a bit that way, it seems a bit odd,'' he says.

''Especially because we haven't spent that much time in Australia - we've been touring overseas so much and will have just gotten home after 3½ months for the ARIAs.

''It's been a long stretch … maybe I can lie down on the red carpet,'' he adds, with a laugh.

While he blitzed the ARIAs last year for the smash single Somebody That I Used to Know, it is only this year that his full-length album Making Mirrors, on which the song appears, has been nominated.

De Backer, who keeps his ARIA trophies on the corner of his desk, says his greatest reward in the past year has been developing his live show to the point where he feels comfortable - and excited - on stage.

''One of the biggest challenges has been translating it from doing a studio project to doing it live, and that's been the most heartening for me because I've worked for so many years on trying to make that make sense,'' he says.

Another multiple ARIA Award winner, Missy Higgins, is back this year, receiving multiple accolades for her album The Ol' Razzle Dazzle, including album of the year, best adult contemporary album and best female artist.

''It feels amazing, actually,'' Higgins says. ''You spend a lot of time trying to tell yourself these things don't matter, and ultimately they don't. You make music for yourself and for your fans.

''But it is a really lovely feeling, too, to see that recognition from your peers and people in the industry. It's always a nice little fluffing up of the ego, I guess,'' she adds, with a chuckle. ''It's nice seeing there are so many genres represented at the ARIAs because there's so much great music around at the moment.''

While Higgins admits to nerves on the red carpet, she enjoys the awards themselves and mingling with other peers from the industry.

It seems the ARIAs do hold a special place in the lives of artists, even those who are too cool for school.

''I've always watched it and I've always loved it, to be honest with you,'' Colwell says of the awards. For him, the event will be a dream come true. He made it a goal to be there.

''Before the last album, I wrote down 10 goals that I wanted to do,'' he says. ''If you genuinely believe they're going to happen … the universe makes it happen. It sounds crazy, but it's actually true.''

Since then, he has ticked off every item from his list, including a top-five chart position, being in Triple J's Hottest 100 and playing at the Falls Festival. There's only one thing left on his list - win more than one ARIA.

smh.com.au

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