Image for Interview: Courtney Act And Bielfield Join Forces

Interview: Courtney Act AndBielfield Join Forces

​Courtney Act, launched by Australian Idol in 2003, turned into an icon on RuPaul’s Drag Race, was back in town for Mardi Gras and to launch her duet single with Bielfield, Dance Again. We had both of them on the line to talk about it.

SAME SAME: What was the best thing about working with Bielfield?

COURTNEY ACT: I heard him perform at Mardi Gras a while back and he’s really talented and he said “OK, wanna write a song?” So we went into the studio. He had a real knack for getting a really great performance out of me vocally. Have you seen him doing opera on YouTube? Opera is intimidating – he’s a phenomenon! And then I saw him do a Rhiannon track on The Morning Show, or Sunrise, or whatever, and I went like holy shit! He’s beautiful and amazing. It was so cool to have him pull a different kind of performance out of me.

What was the best thing about working with Courtney?

BIELFIELD: The energy. She has a lot of energy, and I have a lot of energy. And not everyone in the music industry has that much energy. You’d actually be rather surprised how low-energy most people in the industry are! Courtney’s so high energy and it was cool to have someone match me [laughs].

You both bring different things to the table. What surprising things did Bielfield come up with?

COURTNEY: Not only did we write the song together but he actually worked on the production of the track. Like I thought there’d be a producer who’d go “yeah, I like that sound” or “no, try a different beat”. But he actually could get in there, you know, clicking buttons and making magic. That was pretty cool.

What were the surprising things from Courtney?

BIELFIELD: Lyrically she had a lot, a lot, to offer. She also knows a lot about her instrument. She does a lot of cabaret now. And the vocals she put on the track throughout it are good! She has a lot of on-the-spot creativity and ideas. I didn’t know what to expect, quite frankly. You have no idea what it’s going to be like when you actually start working with somebody and I was very impressed.

It was a different type of project for you both – did you have any doubts you could pull it off?

COURTNEY: Yeah! I did a lot of dancing on my record Kaleidoscope but that wasn’t so, well, it was probably more fun than anything. A lot of the work I do is solo and getting to collaborate with somebody, and no disrespect to drag queens, but with someone who’s not a drag queen, Kyle [Bielfield] kind of brought a different sort of mindset which was fun. And he’s American and living here in Australia and I’m Australian and living in America and there was this sort of international bond going on which was cool.

BIELFIELD: Yeah, yeah, I had self-doubts. I think there’s always a level of self-doubt in songwriting quite frankly. Sometimes you really do go into the studio and what you write is just really awful. You try to stick with it and it’s just unfixable, just bad [laughs]. Thankfully, we didn’t go down any dead ends on this. We didn’t have time. Courtney was going back to LA and I wasn’t going to be in LA for the foreseeable future and we knew either we got this song up to scratch quickly or we didn’t have a song. So for me it was this journey of how do I make something good out of exactly what I have so I don’t have to get Courtney back in. When we got really close to the end Courtney was like “shall I do some more?” or “should I re-do the vocals?” and I was like “no thanks!” [laughs] “I worked so hard on that! No, no, no, don’t touch my work!” [laughs]

Will we ever see Courtney & Bielfield’s Drag Race, maybe on Foxtel?

COURTNEY: [laughs] Well, I think Ru would need to be consulted on that but I’d love to see a Drag Race like that on Foxtel! There’s so much amazing drag talent in Australia. When I first started I never thought I’d get the amazing opportunities I have. It’s amazing when you’re passionate about something, and you just keep doing it, it’s amazing to see what can unfold. Like who’d’ve thought like 10 years ago that drag queens would be flying all around the world doing shows at Prides and pubs and theatres? Bianca del Rio is selling out like 6000 seats in London! It’s epic! I love that drag is celebrated so much and just seen as a fun radical form of self-expression.

Given CGI these days would you consider a duet between Courtney and your alter-ego Shane Jenek?

COURTNEY: You know what? It’s funny you mention that ‘cos it was on my list of things to do on my last record and I didn’t get the chance to do it. You know, you write all these songs but really you’re beholden to whatever happens creatively on the day and it never happened. I did write a song once with Jeremy Brennan that was a duet between Shane and Courtney but it never got to see the light of day. It’s definitely something I‘d love to do. The only Courtney and Shane thing I’ve ever done was a photo shoot for Time Out New York, an Autumn fashion spread I did once. It’s a funny thing, people’s reactions to Shane and Courtney in the one scene. I think it’d be really cool. And as Shane I’d get to sing [she lowers her pitch] down the octave as well.

What’s the essential difference in the mindset between Shane and Courtney?

COURTNEY: I actually think we’re two ends of the same stick.

To use a phrase.

COURTNEY: Yeah! The biggest difference is less about my mindset and the mindset of the outside world and how everybody else reacts. ’Cos one is a boy and one is a girl; one is all this colour and sparkle and wigs and heels and the other, well, not so much. I find different people react differently and that often informs how I react. But I think essentially Shane and Courtney are the same person! We just have different careers.​

And has Bielfield ever done drag . . . and would you?

BIElFIELD: A really good question! I’m not against doing drag, it’s just never been in my realm of thought. I did do what they call a skirt role once in an opera, which is where I played a female role on stage but I was singing as a tenor. So it wasn’t like pretending to be female. But, you know, I just did Messiah and Handel wore wigs! I played a woman on stage in a production called Curlew River which Benjamin Britten wrote and that was interesting but it was so, so sad. The tragedy in it was so strong I still feel like I don’t know what it’s like to play drag which is anything but tragic!

The single Dance Again is now available through Sony.

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