Welcome to Metro.co.uk’s The Big Questions, where we ask the big questions (as well as the smaller ones) and dig deeper this week with Natalie Imbruglia.
The Aussie celebrates 25 years since his debut album Left Of The Middle. Yes,
Breakthrough single Torn peaked at number two in the UK Singles Chart and stayed at number one on the Billboard Airplay Chart for 14 weeks, selling over a million copies in the UK alone. Left Of The Middle, which sold more than seven million copies worldwide.
And while we’ve been tearing up in karaoke clubs and on the cheesy dance floors of local bars for over two decades, Natalie enjoys rediscovering songs she hasn’t sung since the album’s release.
“It goes back to who you were that time ago,” she says Metro.nl on their anniversary tour. “The beauty of a first album is that you only get it once the first time, so you never get one thing back: ‘Oh my god, I’ve got a record deal and I’m going to be a star. [feeling]. Even though I was on a TV show there weren’t any musical expectations, so there was freedom to write songs and explore and it was fun when you put out that first album. It’s nice to see that feeling again.”
Alongside the tour, Natalie (47), who gave birth to her first child, son Max, in October 2019, released the album on a limited edition blue vinyl yesterday and, following her huge success, she agrees with the assumption that she’s had a blast now, after joining Coldplay on stage at their last Wembley gig, reuniting with friends from Neighbors for what was then the final episode, and also taking the top spot from The Masked Singer as Panda.
However, she was mistaken and jokes that she is just “happy” that the 90s are cool again.
What was it like touring with your debut album again?
It’s been such a whirlwind and so exciting, I’m in my element now. [It’s been] such a warm response and yes, buzz.
My voice was also very strong, I had three [shows] Back to back at the end and usually by the third show you get tired but my voice was totally there. It’s just so much fun from start to finish.
Tour takes its toll, I’m sure!
Yeah, and let’s be honest, I’m not a spring chicken, so I didn’t know what was going to happen. Apparently I have quite a bit of energy! I have a great band and I think I’m a rock chick at heart because a lot of the songs on the first album made me realize how much I love rock songs. I think I should bring back songs like One More Addiction.
It’s weird relearning songs you’ve written, it’s not like sitting at home listening to my own music, so it’s nice to remember.
Were there any songs that brought you back to a certain place you were 25 years ago?
To fool myself, the funniest lyrics on Something Better, a B-side we do on set, are about “You just don’t feel anything when the needle goes in”. When you were young I giggled and tried to be tense and dark. [Now] you have a different relationship with yourself, you’re not trying to be exciting or cool because you’re trying to be about something other than who you are. But of course I was a fan of Alanis Morrisette.
Have your feelings about fame evolved over the decades?
I guess it sounds a little strange, but what was a blessing for me was that with a soap opera I had this taste of fame. TV fame makes you more famous on TV, so experience a daily stroll through Chapel St [in Melbourne] and people shout Beth!
As a musician, standing in people’s living rooms is not quite the same as fame. I had this experience of extreme fame and then I went to the UK and became even more famous.
Although I have been running for two years [on Neighbours] in Australia they were back, so you have to ride that wave of fame without working a year; They promote the show, but behind the scenes I tried to get a work permit to be an actress, but I didn’t get one. I was low on money and fame was starting to wane, so I saw how fleeting fame was.
I think the defining moment was when I got on the bus because I couldn’t afford a taxi and I was afraid people would recognize me. Then I started writing songs. I didn’t want to go home with my tail between my legs, I didn’t want to fail. I was a dancer and singer in my childhood and avoided it because I didn’t want to fail. So people did it, I felt like I was going to be mocked for being the eighth, ninth, tenth person to do it from the show?
I was also very meditative before I got my record deal. I think I was $2,000 in debt when I signed the deal, we had lunch at La Familia, and I remember saying, “Oh my god, you’re going to be good.” I think when Torn became famous, I discovered meditation, which really helped me a lot, especially with the second album. I had some tools to deal with it.
It was definitely impostor syndrome, I won’t lie, there was an element of pretending that I needed to make a level and this is such an opportunity that it might never happen again, no matter how I think I will be worthy or not, I have to step forward.
You took six years away from the music industry – do you think you would be doing this tour and releasing this album if you hadn’t taken that time off?
I think it’s sometimes encouraging to move away from something that doesn’t bring you joy. The Come To Life album which ironically didn’t come to life which always tickles me, it drifted away and I had three Coldplay co-writers you like how the hell is that possible? The music was fantastic and I stand by it. I got to a point where I thought the universe didn’t want me to do this. Right or wrong, it’s a brave decision to say, “You know what, there are other things I enjoy.”
It felt like swimming upstream for two long periods. It felt like every decision I made went wrong, I couldn’t find my groove, so the great thing was I was a judge on X Factor Australia, I went to LA and studied acting, I didn’t didn’t get a big Hollywood break – maybe that’s why I went there – but I realized how tough this career was and it made me appreciate the simple act of singing and the gift that it is, so it was a happy thing when I came back to it.
Looks like you’re having a great time now…
One hundred percent. I think as I get older, I really believe that children bring blessings. I think my creativity began to flow because it was a part of my soul that was unfulfilled. Looking back, I definitely think that a large part of my writer’s block had to do with the part of my life that felt out of place. It was great.
I wouldn’t have said yes to Masked Singer five years ago, would have gotten older and said oh my god, imagine what my son thinks of me being a giant panda. I was so excited. They threw all these costumes… I wanted to be a blue panda.
Highlight of my career, loved it. And I was more famous as a panda for two weeks than I had ever been in my entire career.
So you wanted to do more of this type of television? You won’t be short of opportunities in the UK
I’m a bit dysmorphic which I don’t think counts, which is such a shame as I’m a trained dancer. I think the ship may have sailed. I don’t know if I have the stamina for it. It’s a phenomenal show.
I’d like to know the strangest place you’ve heard of Torn…
I can’t think of a strange place but there are people who call me a lot about supermarkets in Australia and it tickles me. I need to be on a playlist at the grocery store.
I never really broke America…but this album, what am I talking about? But I haven’t toured yet and it’s hard to maintain that success in the United States, but when I see videos on social media of people in the United States loving this song, it’s a really nice feeling.
Social media is bringing the revival of songs we loved in the 90s. Nostalgia keeps us going!
Luckily the 90’s are trending, I have a feeling if you stick around long enough you’ll become cool. Like a pair of shoes. If you hold them, polish them… I feel a bit like this pair of shoes right now.