The 2020 P&O Cruises’ ‘Tribute to the King’ cruise will be packed with Elvis lookalikes, but among them is one with 10 years under his belt and a colourful stage experience that could rival that of Sir Tom Jones.
“You name it, I’ve had it,” professional Elvis impersonator Damian Mullin from Melbourne tells Cruise Passenger.
Mr Mullin’s career only kicked off eight years ago when he won the “Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest”. But his passion for the King and his music started in country Victoria when he was eight, as his mother played vintage rock and roll during long drives to and from Melbourne.
The 50-year-old now has a “large and loyal” fanbase and an entire wardrobe of wigs and costumes. Find out how he transforms into Elvis, how people react when he reveals his day job to them, his weirdest performing experience and sneak peeks of the 2020 ‘Tribute to the King’ cruise.
The cruises on Pacific Dawn will depart Sydney May 18 and Brisbane June 16 next year.
1. How did you become an Elvis Presley impersonator?
I was feeling unfulfilled in my job as a manager of a retail furniture outlet and always loved Elvis Presley. I sent recordings of me singing like Elvis to an entertainment agency and it just so happened that they were looking for an Elvis impersonator in Melbourne, they gave me a start and the rest is history!
2. What happens when you tell people what you do?
People are genuinely very interested and they cannot believe that it is what I do for a living, although you hardly call it a job sometimes! They are always very happy to hear about my travel stories and the different people I’ve had the pleasure of performing for.
3. What qualifications do you need to impersonate Elvis – what did you have to learn, and who taught you? Did you study his videos?
You don’t really need any qualifications but you do need to believe in your abilities to sing and perform. In your own way you need to capture something special about Elvis in your act that the audience can relate to – whether it be his look, his moves or his stage presence. I still watch Elvis movies and concerts on occasion to perfect my performance.
4. Is being Elvis at sea the same as being Elvis on land? Are there any special preparations you have to make when performing at sea?
Performing at sea is very special because your audience is generally very relaxed as they are on holidays and want to be entertained. You couldn’t ask for a better crowd!
5. What do your kids think of your job?
My children see the freedom my job has given me and love the extra time I get to spend with them. Their friends are sometimes amused when they see me in full Elvis get up as it’s not quite ‘the normal’ father’s job, but what is normal these days?
6. What’s your favourite Elvis Presley song and why?
This is a very difficult question as I think it comes down to what mood I’m in, but ‘Suspicious Minds’ has always been a favourite. Elvis always looked so cool on stage when performing it.
7. Tell us the weirdest experience you’ve had as an Elvis Presley impersonator?
Early in my career I was coming back from a performance and noticed a big crowd in St. Kilda. We parked the car and got out and a swarm of people came up and started asking for photos. Turns out we had stumbled on a buskers’ festival, so we got our portable PA out of the boot and started performing our routine to all the people passing by. My friend suggested we put down a guitar case and see if we could make some money – one hour later we had made $700. Classic!
8. Tom Jones gets women’s underwear thrown onto the stage. Have you had similar experiences?
You name it, I’ve had it. That’s all I’ll say.
9. What can fans look forward to in the 2020 Tribute cruise?
Fans can expect an epic celebration of wall-to-wall rock and roll! There are some fantastic tribute artists, themed parties, karaoke, trivia, movies, memorabilia and more. But most importantly, it’s the shared LOVE of Elvis Presley and his music that makes these cruises so special. I can’t wait!
10. Who comes to your concerts and what get’s them most excited? What’s the song you are requested most?
I’ve been performing as Elvis for 10 years so I have been very lucky to build a large and loyal fan base who enjoy my portrayal and appreciate all the effort it takes to perform constantly. From the young to the young at heart, most of my followers enjoy my banter and the stronger, more powerful ballads Elvis performed.
I’ve even had 100 year olds out at my shows on a Saturday night. You cannot beat that, how inspiring!
11. Take us through what you have to do to transform into Elvis Presley. You have a wig and glasses, right? What else do you do to make the look?
I can’t give away all my secrets… but I do have a human hair wig that has the same hairline as Elvis and real human hair sideburns. Stage makeup is also important to highlight any significant features to create the illusion of Elvis from the audience’s view.
I will also warm my vocals up and ensure my head is in the right space before heading out in front of an audience.
12. How many Elvis costumes do you have in your collection? Which are your favourites and will fans be treated to any new ones in the near future?
I have approximately 40 costumes with 12 of those being jumpsuits. I always like to bring a fresh look to the stage to keep my performance energised – so keep an eye out for some different colours and combinations at the next P&O Cruises Tribute to the King cruise!