Damian Brantley in Legends in Concert

Next week, Legends in Concert returns to Melbourne, a concert which has been dubbed the world's greatest live tribute show direct from Las Vegas. The award-winning production features incredible tribute artists with live vocals, an ensemble cast of singers and dancers with signature choreography, and a live band comprised of top musicians that bring the musical experience to life. 

This week Mich interviewed Damian Brantley, a Michael Jackson tribute performer who returns to Australia for the production, about what it's like impersonating one of the most significant artists in history. Have a read below:

So firstly Damien, welcome back to Australia!! Your performances as Michael Jackson have now earned rave reviews across multiple countries. I wanted to go back and get a bit of the history of this performance and ask when you first knew that Michael Jackson was someone you wanted to impersonate and how you began to morph into this character?
 

Its an absolute pleasure to have this amazing opportunity to come back Melbourne for the third straight year!  The crowds, and more importantly, the culture here in Melbourne is first class, and I can speak for our entire cast when I say we are always extremely grateful to perform for such wonderful people.

 

My first connections to pursue creating a tribute to Michael Jackson actually began my senior year of high school in Las Vegas.  Don’t get me wrong, that is not when my involvement with music and the arts began, but that senior year was definitely the beginning to a long, and successful career in the tribute world.  Ironically I was more focused on basketball at the beginning of that particular school year, but it just happened to be that Michael Jackson would invite Michael Jordan to be a huge part of his music video “JAM.”  I think that the culmination of Jordan, Jackson, basketball, and dancing, all together; sparked a powerful desire to perform similarly to Michael Jackson…this is where my story began.  I would come home after school and practice everyday!  Looking back, I don’t believe that my intentions were to get into a show or something; I just had a great time getting better at perfecting my craft.  Most of my friends, and some of my family had a hard time understanding why I was putting so much effort into this endeavor, but after I was hired to perform on the Las Vegas strip at the Luxor Hotel and Casino, less than one year after I graduated high school, I’m pretty sure that all of the non believers were ready to drink the cool aide now haha.  It all seemed to happen so fast when I look back on it…from that point on, I was always part of a major show on the Las Vegas strip!  Not to sound cliche, but I guess it goes to show that if you work hard enough, just about anything is possible.  I went from practicing in my garage after school, to having Michael Jacksons family come watch my performances on a regular…anything is possible.
 

In impersonating someone, of course you want yourself and your own skills and talents to shine through as well. How true to Michael Jackson do you feel you need to be when you perform and what is the process like in finding that balance? 

 

Hmmmm…with all due respect, what we do is not impersonating; we are tribute artist.  This is a constant cause for confusion, but I’ll do my best to clarify the differences in simple terms.  Impersonators usually recreate one of the artists iconic performances to the “T”…from every movement and mannerism mirroring the actual artists performance.  Impersonators also, for the most part, lip sync.  Its a unique type of performance that you don’t see as much in this day and age, but if you look hard enough, you’ll find some great impersonators out there!  Being a tribute artist involves mastering the artists mannerisms, movements, and singing or playing of an instrument.  What really sets the tribute artist apart is the ability to perform in their own right, as themselves.  Adding yourself to the character you’re portraying adds the extra magic that can only be labeled as soul.  In my personal take on how I portray my tribute to Michael Jackson, I absolutely love creating new moves that I believe he could have implemented within his own show.  Giving the audience a true piece of ourselves within the tribute is the icing on the cake, and its the recipe that takes the performance over the top.  So many of LIC’s tribute acts are incredible performers in their own right as themselves…this only gives these tribute artist more ammunition, and a greater repertoire, to leave the audience members even more dazzled!  So yes, I love to add as much of myself as possible, without detracting from the priority of the performance of course.

 

You’ve said that sounding like OR dancing like Michael Jackson is often not the challenge, its mastering the art of doing both at the same time that can be difficult. Can you tell us a bit about the triumphs and challenges of performing Jackson each day and also about how you manage expectations from Michael Jackson fans, or how you use those expectations to fuel your performance even further perhaps? 

 

Michael Jackson is easily one of the top most difficult tributes, period.  There are definitely days where I wonder how I'm going to muster the energy to get through certain days.  Obviously we do our best to keep conditioned and fine tuned, and sometimes that involves more of a mental game of preparation, than physical.  Since we all take pride in our art form, we are constantly refining ourselves, on our own time.  Practicing vocals in the studio, dancing in the mirror, recording a new dance move over and over, etc…you’ll rarely see an LIC tribute artist bring their act on stage unpolished.  Due to this group mindset, we have a lot of motivation by the other cast members to help keep us on our game.  We think of it as friendly competition…being around the best, brings out the best!  You don’t win championships without a good team effort.
 

Do you have a favourite song from the Michael Jackson canon? Which is your favourite to perform and why? 

 

This is always an easy question, although there are a plethora of incredible Michael Jackson songs to choose from.  The song that drives and drives is “Workin’ Day And Night.”  Man this song really grooves!!  Especially when the song is executed in the live version form.  I guess you could say that its one of those song that you’ll absolutely love to watch and hear, even if you don’t know it…but thats most of Michael Jackson’s music haha…he was the best!!
 

RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS

 

Favourite production you have ever seen? 

 

Hmmm…Although it wasn’t the largest of productions, The Danny Ganz show is by far my most favorite show to date!  The guy was absolutely amazing in all categories!  His passing was a great loss to the entertainment world, and the Las Vegas community.

You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go? 

 

Bora Bora, no question about it!  Anyone who truly knows me, knows that I have an affinity for being absolutely lazy, when the time permits…what place on earth is better than Bora Bora, to just sit in the sun and do absolutely nothing.
 

Dream role to perform? 

 

My dream role would be to have an acting part on a major sitcom… I love acting beyond explanation.  That dream may still come to fruition.

Plays or musicals? 

 

Although I’m a classically trained musician, I would have to pick Plays over Musicals, 10 out of 10 times… again, I love great acting.

What’s next for you after this show? 

 

Its not an easy task but I figured why not get into Olympic Bobsledding!  Haha…just kidding.  I’m planning to launch my YouTube channel at the end of February 2019, that will cross share other fields of professional engagement that I enjoy; such as studio recording, creative writing, and the philosophy of life in general. 

Legends in Concert opens January 10th and runs until January 27th at The Palms at Crown Melbourne. Get your tickets here. 

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