Tate Sheridan is fortunate that Elton always rings twice. Back in 2012, while still a music student at Canberra's Australian National University, he inadvertently hung up on the pop icon.
"There was no caller ID, it was about one in the morning and I was tired, ready to go to bed. He says, 'Hello, is this Tate?' I say, 'Yeah, who's this?' He says, 'Hi, it's Elton John.' I heard that and hung up straight away," the 27-year-old tells the Age.
"My mates from music school knew I was a huge fan so I thought, you know, someone's playing a prank. It was my extreme good fortune that the same number rang straight back. You know those scenes in movies where someone drops the phone? I couldn't believe it was real." But it was real: Elton had heard some of Tate's music and wanted to meet up.
Sheridan is now the supporting act on the epic local leg of Sir Elton's final Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour: 22 dates across outdoor venues stretching to next March. The two have maintained a relationship over the years, fostered by their music mania.
Tate, who first opened for the rock veteran when he was 23 years old (on Elton’s 2015 Down Under tour), jokes:
"It's difficult at times because he's so busy and he has so many friends, and a lot of his friends are famous people so I'm in the minority there.
"But music's bonded us. If there's an amazing new record out I'll write to him and say, 'Check this out', and he'll send me back lists of what he's listening to. Our heads are encyclopaedias of music, so any time we've been together in person it's hard to split us up, there's lots of free-flowing conversation."
There are also valuable words of guidance from the 72-year-old.
"There's always a massive line of celebrities backstage. Mel Gibson. He walked past going, 'Hey, just saying hi to the Rocket Man.'"
For a piano-enamoured kid raised in Port Macquarie, with parents he describes as "not musical at all," John's interest in his pop success is a validation of sorts over the stuffiness of his formal jazz training.