Don't underestimate Delta Goodrem

By Lydia Jenkin

Australian songbird Delta Goodrem talks to Lydia Jenkin about travelling, sharing her wisdom and coping with life's ups and downs.

Keith Urban, Delta Goodrem, Joel Madden and Seal judging Australia reality show The Voice. Photo / Supplied
Keith Urban, Delta Goodrem, Joel Madden and Seal judging Australia reality show The Voice. Photo / Supplied

As she sits on the hotel suite couch, sipping a cup of tea, still made-up from the morning's television appearances, Australia's sweetheart Delta Goodrem appears smaller, younger and more girl-next-door than you might expect, given her usually statuesque and confident appearance in photos or on screen.

The 28-year-old has the same vibrant blue eyes and waves of blond hair, but she comes off less like a pop diva and more like a chatty friend.

She's in New Zealand for a hectic few days of promotion for her new album, Child of the Universe, and a performance on New Zealand's Got Talent, but despite the whirl of activity, she's the kind of girl who dishes out smiles and hugs without hesitation - a true professional.

Perhaps that's not surprising given Goodrem has been performing and recording since she was a child. She was appearing in TV ads and programmes by the age of 7, and at 17 she became a household name in Australia, starring in popular soap Neighbours as shy schoolgirl and aspiring singer Nina Tucker.

Her first hit single Born To Try debuted on Neighbours, and quickly became a number 1 single on the Australian charts, followed by Lost Without You; her first album, Innocent Eyes, stayed in the number 1 spot for 29 weeks, breaking records and becoming the top-selling album in Australia in 2003. Her next two albums were equally successful, giving her eight Number 1 singles and three Number 1 albums so far in her home country. Australians love her.

Unsurprisingly, her fourth album, Child of the Universe, has been much anticipated, particularly given there was a four-year gap where Goodrem didn't release any new songs.

But she didn't quit, or have a nervous breakdown - she's just been busy.

Busy touring her last album internationally, performing with Michael Bolton and Andrea Bocelli, appearing as a judge and mentor on the Australian version of TV show The Voice, but also trying to grab some time for herself, too.

"I've grown up with everybody, in public, and I embrace it and I wouldn't change it for the world, but there are moments in between records where I say, 'okay, I need to stop now, and I need to go and be a woman of the world for a while, explore and travel, and grow up like a normal person too'."

So she headed off all over the globe, visiting exotic locales like Brazil, Mexico, Bali, and Nashville.

"I have travelled by myself before, but specifically in this chapter, it was a lot more about 'I'm going to go to Nashville by myself and just have some time for me, and do some songwriting, have a bit more anonymity'. I could just pick up my guitar and go to a local bar or venue and just get up and sing. It's good to have that, because then I get to come home and do my own arenas and have big stadiums of people, which is great, but I like to have a balance."

She picked up the guitar in Nashville and wrote songs on it for the first time, enjoying the experimentation and discovery of a new instrument; but she still wrote much of the album on the piano at home in Los Angeles.

"I love being on tour, living like a gypsy, but my house is my sanctuary, it's where I wrote most of the album, in my piano room. It has a lovely high ceiling, and it's just all windows, it's beautiful, it's very inspiring, which is important."

That's not to say she doesn't still think of Australia as home - it's where her brother and parents are, and she has, in fact, spent much of 2012 there, working on The Voice.

Though Goodrem did things the old-fashioned way, you might say - back when reality TV singing competitions were not yet heard of - she seems universally positive about the show and its ability to nurture young talent. It seems to be less about lifting her own profile, and more about giving back to the industry.

"I think the thing is, [as judges and mentors] we're all on the show because we've sold a lot of records and been in the industry a while, and we have the capability to share our words of wisdom and what we've learned.

"So I appreciate that we've all been chosen because we all have technical minds, and we share the passion of wanting to help other musicians, and want to find people who have a soulful connection [in their voice] rather than just finding acrobats."

During the show she came in for a bit of criticism about being "style over substance", being bland, and making odd decisions. But though the criticism was hurtful, Goodrem isn't one to take it to heart.

"That particular moment when a bit of a storm came in, it was always gonna happen. I didn't feel it was justified, it was a bit left-field, I was just trying to do the best I could, but I've been in storms before, and they always pass, and then it's a sunny day again. And it was a wonderful experience, it was such a time of growth for me."

It inspired a track on the new album too - Knocked Down - about knowing your own mind, and getting up again. "I think it's another single" she smiles, "and I think people relate to that feeling of being knocked out, or knocked back, and there's a message in that of 'don't ever underestimate me'."

It's a theme that runs through the whole album, overcoming challenges, finding strength, finding new happiness, finding peace - and Goodrem doesn't deny these songs are often inspired by her personal life, as all her songs have been. "Maybe with the first album people just didn't know who I was talking about, and I was definitely talking about people. Not Me Not I, Predictable, or Will You Fall For Me - I wrote that for a guy and gave that to him as a birthday present," she laughs. "With Mistaken Identity, I was going through my own health struggles [Goodrem was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer in 2003, but after taking time off for treatment, it was announced she was in remission] and I wrote very openly about that. This one is the same, it's about going through the trials and tribulations of life, I went through a break-up, and I went through falling in love again, I went through discoveries about life and death.

There's a lot on there. So I think I've always been quite honest in my songs and I always will be."

Many will know who she's talking about this time - her break-up with Brian McFadden of Westlife, who she'd been with for six years, was well-publicised, and she made no secret of her following relationship with fellow pop star Nick Jonas either. Though she'd rather not talk about relationships, she's happy for her songs to speak for her, like vulnerable ballad I'm Not Ready.

"I'm so proud of I'm Not Ready, because there's nothing negative in that, it's a beautiful song, just a beautiful moment of truth, you know - I'm not ready to say goodbye, but I know I have to, and I know I'll never really be ready, so I just have to do it".

It's not a break-up album though, more about moving on, with an equal number of upbeat, self-empowered songs of triumph. "I'm very positive, I don't want to put out that message of being down and out, I like to be 'okay, that hurt, and now I'm getting up, so let's talk about getting up' because life is too short not to.

"That's how I like to look at it."

Who: Australian songbird Delta Goodrem
What: New album Child of the Universe
Where and when: She will be performing during the last semi-final on New Zealand's Got Talent this Sunday night at 7.30pm, on TV One, and hopes to return to New Zealand for live shows next year.
Past albums: Innocent Eyes (2003), Mistaken Identity (2004), Delta (2007)

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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