Delta Goodrem

When Delta Goodrem released her first-ever studio album Innocent Eyes 20 years ago, less than 12 months after debuting the role of Nina Tucker in the popular soap opera Neighbours, she instantly captured the hearts of her native Australia and fans from across the pond. Her blend of adult contemporary and pop rock was a breath of fresh air and an exciting start for what has become a two-decade career. Still, 20 years on, Innocent Eyes is Australia’s highest-selling album of the 2000s and best-selling debut in Australian history, remaining at the top spot for a whopping 29 weeks, and is the only album to spawn five consecutive No. 1 singles.

Living up to her new-found title as a record-breaking musician was no struggle for Goodrem, however. In the years that followed, she racked up four more chart-topping hits, sold millions of albums, and won countless awards from around the globe. Between 2012 to 2020, Goodrem served as a coach on The Voice Australia, lending her skills and knowledge to contestants. Outside of music, Goodrem has continued to act, performing as Grizabella in Cats and starring as Olivia Newton-John in the icon’s biopic. 

Today, Goodrem has a lot to celebrate. Not only is she honoring the 20th anniversary of the album that started her musical journey with a tour across Europe and Australia, but she is also welcoming a new chapter as an independent artist. Following 2021’s relatively stripped-back Bridge Over Troubled Dreams, the 38-year-old powerhouse is picking up the pace with her current single, the ‘80s-inspired belter “Back to Your Heart,” which is setting the tone for her forthcoming album, which she’ll release via her own label, ATLED Records.

During an in-person interview with the Aussie superstar, Goodrem spills the tea surrounding her new music, her plans for the rest of the year, more acting roles, and the tour she’s currently embarking on.

Photo: press

Your latest single “Back To Your Heart” is your first single released as an independent artist under your own label. How does it feel to be your own boss?

It’s amazing! It was a natural evolution. I had already been creatively coming up with our own Christmas special and we’d already been producing so much since when covid happened and you had to become so efficient at home. I’ve been in the industry my whole entire life since I was a teenager, I signed with Sony when I was 14 and I just kind of thought that the landscape had changed so much that it felt like the right moment to do something different and that has led me to be here. I think that that’s really special in itself doing something different again. During that time, I started to see that there were still people holding my music in their hearts, and I was like, “Oh, wow, this is incredible!” Because we’ve been doing these live concerts from home but being here again with people taking this song in, it’s just wild. It’s really great.

Was going down the independent route something you had been thinking about in the back of your head?

It wasn’t really a conscious decision where I said to myself, “This is where I’m headed.” It was more of a natural evolution. It was just that I’ve been with Sony for 22 years and I think that as we were all talking, the world is so different where it’s just about building a community that wanna be with you. And I think that I just kind of recognized that we were moving at a really fast pace, and the people around me, my core group was so passionate and we believe in bringing music and connecting and I kind of just felt like it was starting ATLED records. We had already started ATLED Productions and we’re producing our fourth Christmas special this year. We’re in talks about lots of different projects that are happening, documentaries, blah, blah blah. I was like, “Well, why aren’t we doing this in music?” I’d always been the captain of my own ship. I love the Sony team still and I’ll continue to work with them, but for right this minute, I needed to just do what I do and do something different.

How have you felt about the reception of the song?

I woke up this morning and it’s number 20 on the UK airplay chart. I’m dying and just so excited and completely grateful. It feels very organic, you know? I love the song, I love playing it live. I wrote the song for it to be played live. And to be doing it all with a great team is amazing. We are just doing it from the heart. There’s no other thought process except, we believe in the music, the message behind it, and bringing people together in shows and doing the live concerts. That’s it.

Talking of shows, you toured with the Backstreet Boys last year across North America. How was that whole experience?

It was the best thing! They are amazing.

I can’t imagine going on a tour with them would be boring.

Not at all! It was actually a really life-changing moment, to tell you the honest truth. Again, it was recognizing that the world had changed. We were playing to 20,000 people minimum a night and then we’d wake up in the middle of somewhere and we were all sleeping on the bus and all I saw was people in euphoria just wanting to be able to have a great time. Everyone just wanted to sing along. I was like, this is my passion. Live shows are my passion! My highlight was Howie wearing my merch shirt though. I was like, “There’s a Backstreet Boy on stage wearing my merch!” He had he’d been so kind, and on my last show, they’d made a big thing of it and it was just so great. It got me back into the real pop music that I love.

That was something I had noticed you expressing in other interviews, explaining that the tour influenced you to make more uplifting music. “Back To Your Heart” takes a lot of inspiration from the divas from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Can we expect more of that sound with the music that’s on its way?

Yes! I think you go through different stages and the last album, it was just before the pandemic happened and I’d had a reset with going through the paralysis and had gone back to the piano and really wanted to just be the writer. If that album hadn’t happened, I would never have gotten to this one. I got out so much of my personal thoughts of “Where am I in life right now?” “How do I feel about this journey?” And then I was like, cool. I wrote a book. The book is the bigger version of the album. It’s not a life book but it’s a CD booklet that is in a book form. With this one, I just wanna have fun. The music is my passion and I love that. Belinda Carlisle, Tina Turner, Celine Dion, I love all the big divas singers. And I was like, “You know what? The big hair’s coming out! And I’m singing my ass off!” [laughs].

So this is all definitely leading up to another album soon?

I think being a creative, I’ve always enjoyed the body of work. I like it being a cohesive body of work, so, I’m gonna finish the album over Christmas time and it’ll be ready for the start of next year.

Does it ever get nerve-wracking putting out new music?

I’m always gonna have butterflies just because I love it and care. But I’m more just excited to enjoy being creative with it and enjoy singing it, playing it, and hearing people sing it back to me.

Tomorrow you are kicking off the European tour in Glasgow. How are you feeling? I know that this will be the first time you will have ever performed in some of these cities. 

Yeah. There’s an emotional quality to that, that’s like, I can’t believe it’s been that long, but also that dreams don’t have an expiry date. We’re here now, life is for the here and now as the song says, and this is obviously meant to be the moment that we do the live shows there. It’s obviously the start of a great new chapter too.

While welcoming a new era, you are also celebrating the 20th anniversary of Innocent Eyes. You achieved so much in just that one album campaign. What are some standout moments?

It was a lifetime in one year, it definitely was. I kind of reflect back on it and I’ll treasure that moment for all its complexities and its extremism of the week it going number one in Australia and debuting in the UK at number two behind Beyonce and then the same week, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was very extreme. It changed my trajectory dramatically. It was a unique journey to come back into the world after that. But that’s just a part of my story. I look at it as that’s just being a human. I’m loving what I get to do in life, and working all these years and now doing something exciting again, it feels like I’m starting again. But also there are still people who have kept me in their heart of music. I love getting to sing the songs again.

You broke and set so many records during that one era and had so much going on regarding your personal life. Was it a lot to take in all at once?

I don’t know if I fully could have taken in what was happening at that time. The album stayed number one for seven and a half months!

That’s unheard of now!

You can’t wrap your head around that, but what you can do is kind of treasure that. It’s all moments in life. I don’t live in that one moment, but I treasure it. I really honor that culturally in a moment in time, that that album had a lightning and a bottle moment and I got to write that as just an innocent teenager who was looking at the world with wonder and curious to what it is. I’m always a curious person, wonderous about life and that album reflected that at a really young age. I’ve had so many different chapters since that record, but what a special moment that people still have it and they talk about it and want to hear those songs. I guess I still get surprised when people are like, “Oh, I love this song!” I don’t think I could’ve taken that moment in because obviously, it changed a little bit more into an adult dealing with your health at 18 and then making interesting decisions after it. And then having my teenage years after it and then growing into myself and becoming who I always was in my heart later in life.

Many musicians I speak to who carved out a career at a similar time to yourself describe that period as a “golden era.” Are you glad you found your initial success before the digital age?

I am. What’s interesting about the new era is that I’ve had a unique trajectory. It hasn’t exactly been traditional. There’s been a lot of stopping and starting which was out of my hands. But I guess I never hold on to what it was. I love nostalgia! Get the ‘80s and ‘90s music on, and I’m the happiest person in the world. That was an amazing time when you would have an album and everybody was collectively united. I loved going to the CD store, seeing what number one was, and looking through the booklet. I loved passionately learning about the artist and connecting to that artist that I loved. I took them in as a part of my life soundtrack. I think there is still that in the world. People still have those artists and I believe in that connection between me and the people who are with me. With my music, I want it to be a part of your life as meaning to something. I think that era reflected that. I think there was a joint-like community. I do think that that still exists. It’s just a different form, you know? But do I miss some of the longer lunches and the little bit more of a fancy hotel room they would put you in as a teenager [laughs]. But, it was a moment in time, you know?

I feel like certain promo was crucial back then too, like certain TV shows.

Getting Top of the Pops for an Australian was major! When I got to do that, that is a moment in my mind that can go back to. I can physically remember sitting, they put the piano with the audience around the piano. It was my first time playing and I had opted to not have the band version. I just wanted a piano. I’m pretty sure it was a piano-guitar version. I just remember taking in the moment and sitting down before we were about to play live and looking at the people and I was still getting called Nina a lot from Neighbours.  It was the most amazing thing. There was something very special about that time that made it feel like there was an aspiration to it. I still believe that if you’re in the public eye, it’s a responsibility. I’m a big believer in that.

You mentioned Nina, do you have plans to return to acting anytime soon?

Well, actually funny you ask Fabio, I had a Netflix movie that they just announced today. It comes out on September 28th. It’s called Love Is In The Air and it’s a romantic comedy. 

Are there any particular roles or genres you want to take on next in the acting field?

I mean, I’ve got a couple of projects coming up in the next couple of months. I love feel-good movies. I think that’s a part of my ethos. But of course, I’m always open to whatever’s a good story in regards to when it comes to acting, whenever you read something that either touches, inspires, or makes you cry or is interesting. I am a sucker for a romcom and that’s what this next movie is. It’s very green and blue. I’m a seaplane pilot.

Amazing, I cannot wait to see that! And lastly, what are your plans for the rest of the year? It seems you have a lot in the pipeline. Will we have another single before the end of the year?

Yes, we will. So I have this European tour. We land in Australia and go straight into the Innocent Eyes 20th anniversary tour, which I’m so looking forward to. We’re playing the album from top to bottom.

Are you going to be playing it in order?

Yes. It was funny, when I went to kind of move them around and change them in the show, I realized that the nostalgia part also is when you play the CD from top to bottom. It triggered me in the car and I was like, “Yeah, that’s gotta be from start to finish.” That’s coming together really beautifully. After that tour, I go straight into the Christmas special, so I’ll be booking people and trying to find the amazing artists that will be with us this year. With “Back To Your Heart” taking its moment, ‘m kind of just enjoying letting the song take flight. But there is a lot of new music and I wanna get out there as soon as possible.