Natalie Imbruglia On Fame, Beauty and The Music World
The 90s belonged to Natalie Imbruglia, a Sydney-born actress and singer who played Beth Brennan in the Australian soap opera Neighbours and then promptly went on to become a chart-topping pop singer.
When she left the soap to relocate to London in 1994, she tried her luck at singing but never anticipated the success that would follow the debut of her first album, Left Of The Middle, in 1997. With her worldwide hit single Torn, Natalie got a taste of stardom and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
After four years of not stepping into a recording studio, she has now released Male. Her latest album features songs written by male artists she admires, including The Cure, Bryan Ferry, Neil Young and Cat Stevens. The aim with this album was to pick songs that resonated with her personal experiences.
woman with drive recently spoke to her about life, music and her new skincare range.
What music did you grow up listening to as a teenager?
I first discovered music through my parent’s record collection. They had everything from The Carpenters to The Beatles and the Mamas and Papas. Once I had a chance to discover music on my own, I felt a deeper connection to it. Bands like The Cure really did it for me. Not in the dress sense, but I loved the way Robert Smith would write about something really dark yet the music was so feel-good and light. The combination of those two things was a unique and big influence on me.
Why did it take so long for you to go back into the studio to make an album? Did you ever think you would do it again?
I have always had a love hate relationship with the music industry. But I like performing and singing, and I love an audience so that was my driving factor. I love songwriting but it is much more challenging for me. I find being on stage quite natural. My ambition is not chart-driven these days. I just want to sing and perform. I am happy doing that.
Why title the new album Male?
It is a thought-provoking title, but funny in the sense that it has started more conversations than ever. I do think I have a lot of masculine qualities in my personality and it is nice to embrace that.
Are you more comfortable being in the spotlight as an artist these days than when you started out in the 90s?
The longer you have been around in an industry, the less you feel you have to prove yourself. I do not have that pressure on me anymore although I certainly felt that when I started out. I do not think I would have felt as comfortable making this album back then as I have now. I am in a good place and age certainly gives you perspective, and hindsight is a wonderful thing.
What do you take away from the success you experienced with Torn?
Sometimes I cannot even really remember what happened when fame hit. It was a crazy time where one song did well all around the world and won awards, and a part of me was terrified about the whole thing. I would often wonder how I got there and at other times, I felt it was the best time of my life. I feel super blessed to have had that experience in my life. I do not regret it, and I do not try to relive it. That might sound surprising to people but I do not want to write another Torn. I am really happy in my life and I am grateful I am able to be creative. It is a hard industry and since downloads and streaming, you have to really love what you do to be a part of it.
Would you ever relocate back to Australia?
At the moment I do not want to come home and live in Australia full time. I want to find a piece of heaven that is mine, though. I do not own a home in Australia but when I get a chance to start looking, I will do it. For now it is on the backburner.
Can you remember your first music crush?
It was Elvis Presley. He was my first serious crush, so I blame him for me falling for pretty boys. Those eyelashes were amazing.
What did your four-year marriage to Daniel Johns [Silverchair] teach you about relationships?
I have been married and divorced, and have no regrets about it. It was an incredible time in my life. It is certainly something I would do again, but if you asked me that a few years ago, I would have given a different response. Commitments are difficult. You have to be in it for the long haul and understand that nothing worthwhile is easy. My parents are still together but they are from a different generation. I think it is harder for us now. Some of the stuff my parents went through raising four children might break up some modern couples. Men and women can walk away a little too easily these days. Women tend to be more independent and do not need men to support them. Men do not have to go out and provide, they can stay at home. I think it is good to be conscious of what you are giving up as sometimes you can give up too soon. Women overthink love. I do not think men do.
Are you looking for love?
I would move to Siberia for love, just do not tell my record company that! I do not have any ties but ideally I would like to be in Australia or England. If I met the right guy I can make a home anywhere. Being in the public eye sometimes means guys will not approach you. I do not think I am intimidating and I tend to approach guys too, but when the right one comes along it will all be easier than trying to work it out on paper.
You are good friends with Richard Branson. What has he taught you about how to live life?
Richard Branson is wealthy but not wasteful. He invited me to Necker Island a few times and I have become close with his family and wife. He is the kind of guy who loves adventure. I learned how he handles fame by hanging out with him. He is smart and likeable. He taught me the importance of a holiday – he likes his to be about tennis, beach Olympics and kite surfing.
What was it like meeting Bono from U2?
I met Bono at the Grammys when Left of the Middle was nominated. He is incredibly down to earth. He is a crusader for big causes and is a rock star yet still finds time to always ask about my family. He knows the importance of balance within the band and getting everybody to be of equal earning and stature. He is self-deprecating and mocks himself and can be an egomaniac sometimes, but he can see the funny side of that as well.
You have developed your own line of anti-ageing skincare, Illuka? How did that come about?
It is important to take care of your skin so when the opportunity came up to work on a skincare range, I was really interested in using high quality, naturally sourced ingredients. I grew up by the sea and il-lu-ka is an indigenous word for “by the sea”. The products are not expensive and they are beautiful to use. From kakadu plum to chamomile extract and manuka honey, the key was to go luxe without the price.
Image credit: Pierre Toussaint
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