“It’s such an incredible feeling that people still give a shit” Vanessa Amorosi candidly admits as she reflects on the huge response to her recent comeback. As we sit in the lobby of her Brisbane hotel reflecting on the highs and lows of her career, she prepares to head to soundcheck for her show with Jon Stevens at The Tivoli. “I’m really excited to finally play in Brisbane again tonight, it’s been way too long!”. And she’s right because it’s been eight years since she released ‘Amazing’ and since she moved over to Los Angeles to re-find herself again. It’s a move that she didn’t expect would see her escaping the industry for so long but it was one that was much needed. Within that time she found her voice again and got re-acquainted with her love for rock and soul music which was hidden by all the pop music she was releasing. But don’t get it mis-construed because she still loves the pop music she’s released, she’s just found a new way to deliver them vocally. “I learnt to not hold back with my vocals and to embrace my full register”. After learning these important lessons, Amorosi has returned to Australia to celebrate the release of her new single ‘Heavy Lies The Head’ and to play some special comeback shows to her supportive and long standing fans.
I recently chatted to Vanessa Amorosi about why she always held back from using her full vocal ability, how she rediscovered her soul through rock and gospel music thanks to the help from Dave Stewart and found out what has been the most surprising thing she’s learnt about herself from playing her comeback shows. Check out the chat HERE;
TB: ’Heavy Lies The Head’ is bold return to music for you and hears you embracing a heavier rock and soul sound. So while you were away what drew you back to these roots?
VA: It’s always been embedded in me but to be honest it’s all about having something to write about and having that message and fire re-lit again. It took a long time doing other types of music for me to be passionate again about THIS, which is essentially what I do. I feel like I have evolved as a songwriter and I’m not so nervous about being really direct with lyrics. And I’m not so nervous in actually using my range and my vocals because before it was always like “I should sit around in this sweet pocket as this is the radio sound”. But this time around I haven’t done any of that. I’ve just sang the way the song was written.
TB: Looking back at your discography, when you reflect on tracks like ’19 Turning Point’, ‘Kiss Your Mama’ and even the foundations of ‘This is Who I Am’, they had quite a rock presence. Do you feel like that side of you was always there and trying to find a way to release itself?
VA: I love that you know ’19 Turning Point’ and ‘Kiss Your Mama’! In the very beginning when I started I was actually in a rock band. And I was doing covers of artists like Primus, Tool and Regurgitator which is completely different to what I was doing at night time as a top 40 singer. So when management came on board, i was writing band material and I was writing pop material at the same time. I remember the discussion being, “it doesn’t make sense coming from the way you look for you to be a rock singer”. But to be honest it didn’t make total sense for me to be a pop singer either. I was super young, my voice sounded heaps older than I actually was and I was a country chick. And I know even at one point we were discussing if I should write a country record as maybe that would make more sense because of the way I looked and where I came from. But it was a last minute turn around where we decided that we had some magic in these pop songs and to go with that. ‘Have A Look’ is essentially a rock-pop song but it became a lot easier to do the dance-pop thing.
It was a really strange time in my life because my music was released at the same time as Britney Spears came out and it was really about image and look as well as having the “hit” song that she had. I didn’t really fit into that category so I just had to make do with my vocals being the centrepiece and hoping that the songs were enough to carry the rest of me that wasn’t really squeaky clean like her. But definitely over the years I’ve gravitated towards rock music because that will always be who I am. I love dark, more minor melodies as they are my genetics as a writer. But I really do enjoy when I can get a song that is super positive which is in a major key that doesn’t make me want to vomit *laughs*. There’s a really fine line between good, uplifting and positive music and the cheesy happy sound.
TB: After you relocated to Los Angeles you started working with Dave Stewart from The Eurythmics who really helped you re-find yourself artistically. So what was it about him that really captured the essence of who Vanessa Amorosi is as an artist?
VA: He just took the boundaries off me. He was like “why do you have that weird philosophy on how that has to be done?”. He just opened my eyes to a different way of writing music and helped me embrace who I am as an artist because a lot of the time I thought it would be too full on if I was to unleash what I do. The great thing was that whilst I was over there I got to do a lot of gospel music out of churches which was a really tough time because you can’t go in there saying “I’m a pop singer from Australia” because you’re singing against people who are fucking mind blowing. So to stand next to them, you better hope you’ve fucking got some game that day because you will be out the next if you don’t. I think being in that pressured environment really helped me understand what I can deliver and to respect that because I used to always think “Oh yeah, I can do that but I won’t”. So I think that was another great thing about America because I realised if you can do it then you should do it.
TB: Exactly, you shouldn’t ever hold back!
VA: Yeah, just go for it. If that’s your thing and your a loud singer with some chops and range then you should be demonstrating that. On this record that I’m about to release, there are a couple of songs where I’m finally using whistle and bell notes which a lot of people know that Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande can do. So I’ve added that because I have that full whistle register but I haven’t used it in my music before because it’s really loud and I never really felt comfortable doing it. And now I’m obviously using my full bottom register which I never favoured doing but I did do on some songs like ‘Every Time I Close My Eyes’ and ’19 Turning Point’.
TB: It’s been eight years in between releases for you which is quite a long time. So in between this hiatus did you question if you would come back to music at all? Or did you always know you would release again but it was more about re-finding your groove as an artist?
VA: It was a case that I knew I would come back to music when I had the right team around me and when I had music that excited me again which honestly takes a long time. And I wanted to go on that adventure to self improve and to become nervous in a field where I ended up feeling really comfortable in. That was all apart of my mission for this next chapter. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and it took a lot longer than I hoped *laughs*, I thought I would only be a couple of years but no that’s not how it happens.
TB: Now that you’re a mother and a wife, how have you found that your songwriting has changed and evolved?
VA: I feel like it’s made me worry less about being so open. I’ve always been a super personal and private person. I keep a lot of stuff to myself, even with my closest friends but having them in my life has made me go “fuck it, if it’s wrong, it’s wrong”. At least I can wear that now where as before I was so nervous about being so open like that. I think it definitely shows in the new songs because I’m not re-writing stuff or trying to hide things.
TB: Whilst you’ve had some upbeat and euphoric bangers in your discography, you did have some seemingly emotional tracks. So reflecting on your career what would you say has been your most vulnerable moment as an artist?
VA: I was pretty vulnerable during the song ‘Somewhere In The Real World”. I was actually so surprised that I got away with getting that song on the album because it was such a art piece and people don’t usually want art pieces.
TB: That song does have a very cinematic sound to it..
VA: Yes! This new album has a lot of that which I’m really excited to get out there. I’m starting to get really anxious to get it all out into the world. So with this new music it really is about the essential art for me.
TB: You’ve recently been back on the road playing on the Red Hot Summer Tour as well as these exclusive shows with Jon Stevens so what is something you’ve learnt or been reminded about yourself from playing these shows?
VA: That people still embrace me! It’s such an incredible feeling that people still give a shit. Life goes on and people have their own problems going on in the world and to still give a shit about someone after so long is the biggest reward. It’s honestly like, “wow, I have a spot in peoples hearts. This music has captured a moment like a picture”. So it’s incredible to start singing those songs that makes people live back in those times from their childhood or wherever it may have been in their lives. The stage is honestly my home. It was really hard to put it on ice. Creatively I needed to do it but now I’m back on stage I’m like “fuck, how did I not do this for so long?” *laughs*.
TB: Is there a song that has been received crazily in the new live show or one that people have been requesting that you didn’t expect?
VA: There have been a couple that people have requested which have shocked me like ’Amazing’ and ‘My problem Is You’. I also had someone request ‘Tent By The Sea’ which I don’t even remember anymore. There has been some requests that have made me go “shit, yeah I have to actually go listen to that one again”. But definitely when I do my run of headline shows in May I will try to incorporate that stuff into the set.
TB: More than ever before it’s so important for women to support women. You’ve been in the industry since you were 15 years old and have experienced the highs and lows. So what would you say to a young woman who is currently confused with figuring out who she is or is confused by the current political and social state of the world?
VA: I think you just have to be relentless and slightly crazy. And you need to not be afraid to embrace that because your personality and your life is like an art form and not everyone is going to understand that picture so I think you have to be really relentless and clear envisioned and kinda crazy. Don’t hold back and just be authentically you.
TB: Lets play a little game of rapid fire questions where I’m going to ask you some questions that you just need to answer with the first thing that comes to mind.
VA: Oh shit!
TB: Pineapple on pizza is…
VA: Pizza is a crazy carb that you can’t live without and pineapple tastes good on it!
TB: My morning pump up song is…
VA: Surprisingly I don’t really listen to a lot of music at home because I do it fun time so I listen to a lot of talk back stations and reality TV.
TB: If I could have any superpower it would be…
VA: to fly!
TB: The emoji that best describes my new single is…
VA: The one with the tongue out and the eyes going different directions *laughs*
TB: This morning I…
VA: Went to a bunch of radio stations *laughs*
Heavy Lies The Head Australian Tour
Thursday May 9 – Evans Theatre, Penrith
Friday May 10 – Revesby Workers Club, Sydney
Saturday May 11 – Pittwater RSL, Sydney
Thursday May 16 – York On Lilydale, Victoria
Friday May 17 – Chelsea Heights Hotel, Victoria
Saturday May 18 – Doncaster Shoppington Hotel, Victoria
+ More dates to be announced soon