Silvie Paladino began singing with a local teacher when she was nine years old. Like all tween-aged extra-curricular activities, it began as a hobby – just something to fill the afternoons. But Paladino soon found that not only did she adore singing, but she was also naturally good at it. By 12, she already had her first regular singing gig as the lead singer of a reception band that performed at weddings, baptisms and other local shindigs. Two years later, Paladino won the Italian Song Festival with songwriter Johnson Peters. But even after experiencing these early successes, Paladino still didn’t consider the idea that her singing had the potential to take her much further.
Before this modern day obsession with fame struck the hearts of five and six-year-olds the world over, the idea of turning singing into a career was an incomprehensible concept to most young girls, Paladino included. Her mum having migrated to Australia from Egypt, her dad from Italy, the content Paladinos didn’t particularly encourage excess. “I come from very humble beginnings. There were no grand expectations on our lives, it was just – we were lucky to be here, living a good life; we never had any luxuries or anything like that. So it sort of didn’t dawn on me that I could even turn singing into a career.” And it wasn’t until she won Channel Ten’s Young Talent Time when she was 14 that the idea of a future in music began to surface. Within the year, Paladino made the decision to drop out of school and put her faith in her voice. “I really had to make the choice whether I was going to sing or whether I was going to stay at school and give it all my energy. I decided not to do that because I didn’t like school very much,” she laughs.
It was a risky move but one that, even early, proved to have paid off. When she was just 18, Paladino was cast as Eponine in the production of Les Misérables. The first of many successful musical theatre roles across her career, Paladino is still hesitant to label herself as an actress. “I’ve certainly learnt how to act over the years,” she eventually admits. “It’s never something that I studied. It was something that I was sort of thrown into with Les Mis, because I was predominantly a singer; that’s what I knew my strength was. And working with the wonderful director Gail Edwards on that, she nurtured me and was so wonderful at explaining it so clearly that I learnt to how to emote through my singing. I’ve sort of learnt the art through working it, you know?”
She must have been doing something right, because her portrayal of Eponine on the 12-month tour earned Paladino a Victorian Green Room Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She went on to bring Eponine back to life on the West End, and then returned to London a couple of years later to tackle the role of Fantine for a two-year run.
Despite performing in many other musicals over the years and earning herself much-coveted acting chops, Paladino’s heart lies primarily with music. Although Paladino includes her first performance of Les Misérables among her career highlights, it sits amongst a modest list of singing accomplishments: winning Young Talent Time, performing the national anthem at the AFL Grand Final in 2005, and singing at Carols by Candlelight each year. And perhaps something to add to the list is last year’s release of her first studio album, On My Own. Paladino doesn’t claim to be a songwriter, and accordingly the album only includes one original, At A Time Like This, which she wrote with John Foreman. “I can’t say I’m a really great songwriter, but I’ve certainly started investigating this art of writing songs. And I’m really proud of the song we wrote for the album. It’s something that I’ll certainly try to do more of,” she adds.
The rest of the album doesn’t follow one genre or one theme; it is an eclectic mix up which reflects the versatility of Paladino’s strengths and preferences. “The reason why the album has all different styles on it is because I feel like that’s a reflection of who I am. I wanted it to be true to me. So I picked songs from musicals because that’s what I do. I picked Italian songs because that’s my background. And I did some more contemporary, and a bit more classical, because I sing all sorts of genres; I couldn’t really pick one.” So it follows that her intimate performance at the Clocktower Centre this weekend, accompanied solely by David Cameron on piano, will be just as encompassing.
BY KATE MCCARTEN