A day older, a day wiser, a day much more popular. On Nov. 22, Moama’s favourite son Isaiah Firebrace, newly 17, was basking in the glow of his big win on the grand final of X Factor: Next Generation the night before. Operating on just a few hours’ sleep (“It wasn’t hard to fall asleep since I was so exhausted, but I did have to turn the phone off since it was going crazy,” he tells WHO), Firebrace sounds both ecstatic and exhausted.
“I had no hunches whatsoever that I would end up winning,” Firebrace says. “Some of the other contestants kept saying it: you’re going to get it. You’re going to get it. But I just couldn’t get my hopes up. I just thought: whatever happens, happens.”
In the middle of his interview with WHO, Firebrace pulls away from the fun to bray “Hi! Thank you so much … thank you” to somebody in the distance. Was it an adoring fan? No—and yes. Explains Firebrace, “That was just Charli XCX saying hello.”
Firebrace’s powerful voice—so heartfelt it moved even tough judge Iggy Azalea to tears—was a key, well, X Factor, as was with his simpatico relationship with mentor and judge Adam Lambert (“we never argued, which was so special”). Could the fact he was raised in a family of 12 children have given him an advantage?
“I don’t really know what you mean,” replies Firebrace with a laugh. “I’ve been singing since I was three, and my family was always supportive. But also, I’m the only one that can really sing in my family, anyway!”
Firebrace’s next stop is the Nov. 23 ARIA Awards, where he will get a chance to reunite with Jessica Mauboy, who duetted with him during his run on X Factor: Next Generation. “I’m mostly excited to see Jessica sing again. We had so much fun and she gave me great advice: always speak up for what I want, have fun, enjoy the ride. Because it can get crazy.”
Firebrace is now reading the release of his debut album (featuring re-recordings of his covers from the season) on Dec. 9, but is already looking towards what comes next—namely, touring the nation (“that sounds so exciting”) and working a proper solo album all his own.
And, of course, going home a returning champion. He has already tried the Isaiah’s Dream, a tropical-style smoothie named in his honour—“It’s delicious”—but is not as keen on biting in to the Isaiah Wagyu Burger, which a local pub christened in his honour to support their “good friend” during the competition.
“I haven’t tried the burger, and I don’t think I will,” says Firebrace. “Because I’m a vegetarian now!”
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