The Road to Freedom

Ricki-Lee has just announced that her new album will be titled Fear and Freedom and will be released on August 17. Given the success of the singles Raining Diamonds and Do it Like That, this will be album to look out for. OUTinPerth caught up with Ricki-Lee during a recent whirlwind promotional trip to Perth.

How has it been making this album?

It’s been a year and a half in the making, I started making it in January last year, and previous to that, I had made an album and decided not to release it. So 2007 was my last album. And I’ve been through a lot of things and I’ve changed a lot and I’ve evolved as a woman and an artist, and even as a singer my voice sounds different. As you get older and your voice changes – so many things change. So I’m really looking forward to the release of this album, more so than any other album.

When the first single Raining Diamonds came out, it was quite striking, and something really different. It was a step up.    

That’s what I’m excited about people hearing. With this album, every single song on the album, is – and could be – and will be – a single. There’s no rubbish on there, it hasn’t been just slapped together. This has been a very well thought out, well produced, well written and well rounded album.

I know you went to New York to do the initial recordings. Have you done the recording in one chunk or gone back and forth? 

I try to do all the recording when I write the songs. In New York and L.A. I did the bulk of the recordings, but then there were songs I had to go back and re-record because my voice might have been tired because I was recording so much, or the studio setup I was writing in was not necessarily a top notch vocal recording studio. Sometimes the quality of the recordings weren’t that great so we would come back and record them in Sydney. I try and do it all at the one time, because, I don’t really love recording to be honest, I’d much prefer being on stage performing, but then also when you are writing a song and it’s new and it’s fresh, there’s something about the intensity and the delivery of a vocal and the intent behind it, that you can’t always replicate when it comes to re-recording it.

What’s it going to sound like?

It’s just a fucking great album! You know it’s just great pop songs. On an emotional level there’s a lot of depth and a lot of substance to these songs but in saying that, songs like Raining Diamonds has depth and a real story to it, but is also a really good pop song on the surface that you want to sing along to, and you want to dance to, and it gets stuck in your head. The production is great – it’s uplifting and it’s anthemic and that’s what all the songs are like: you can take them at surface value of just being great songs to the ear and you can also go a bit deeper and listen to what they are all about. I think there are two types of music listeners. I’m the kind of person who listens for a melody and a beat that going to make me feel something. I don’t even listen to lyrics until I like the song.

Prior to this you recorded and album that you chose not to release. What will happen to that album? Will we ever hear it or will it become one of the great lost albums?

No it will be heard eventually. I still have all the songs. Now is not the time, because it is very representative of that time in my life where it was a very dark period for me. It’s a very raw album. Because I went through a very nasty break up from a seven year relationship and threw myself in the studio to cope. And my healing process was recorded on paper and on recordings: You know all of those stages; first you’re angry; then you’re bitter and then you’re a bit lost and lonely and then you’re wondering, ‘how am I going to recover from this? I can’t see how things can ever be better.’ And then you start to get better and then you think, ‘You know what, I’m fine without you, I don’t need you!’ So there were all of those stages reflected in that album but I am in a very different phase in my life and you move on.

But the thing that happened was, I was going through a difficult period and I’m a very hands on artist in my career very in control, and very involved in the business side of things and the production and the whole process, in a way, in a bid to relieve the pressure on myself, I relinquished some of that control to the record company and you know what they say, ‘give them and inch and they’ll take a mile’ – I all of a sudden became a puppet and had no control, no say, nothing.  And then the bad decisions were made and I had to cop them. That’s not a very easy thing to take when you’re a very involved and proud artist and I just didn’t like the decisions that were made and I didn’t agree with them; or the singles that were chosen and they didn’t do well.

Isn’t it quite a big decision to make to put the brakes on that?

The thing was, yes album was great, but I wasn’t going to let them make any more bad decisions…by that point, I was sick and tired of being told what to do; and how to do it; and what to think; and what to say; and what to think; and how to act because I am not that person. And I had completely lost my drive. I wasn’t driven anymore and I wasn’t passionate about it and that’s not a person who should be promoting a record… so I just said, I’m not happy for it to be released, I’m not into it. You can release it without me but I’m not going out and promoting it.

The songs weren’t finished and they were saying they wanted to release them: and I think they are amazing songs but I wasn’t ready for them to be released with an album with my name on it. So I dug my stilettos in and I said no to that, and I was over music and done with it. I didn’t want to do it anymore because I wasn’t enjoying being a puppet and being controlled. And that was when I took a little hiatus and did TV and a radio show for a little while.

What’s it been like doing The Voice?

It’s been good, I mean we were only there for three episodes and no one I knew it was going to be such a phenomenon. I mean I had watched the American series and just loved it but you never know how something like that will translate. And you actually wonder how it’s going to go: like the X factor when it was first launched and it bombed…and then they bought it back and it went great. Same with the Voice, you never know if it will cut through and it did. I credit the producers and the people who went out and harvested the talent.

The frustrating thing with Idol and I love Idol because it gave me my break, but as the series went on it wasn’t the top 12, there were 4 people who were amazing singers and the rest were like ‘ you’re OK’ and it didn’t make for a good show. The reason the Voice is so great is that every single singer is an amazing singer and that’s what everyone is tuning in for.

When did you first start performing?

I’ve got this poem that my Pop wrote when I was probably 2 or 3 years old. He passed away about 10 years ago and my Nan gave me the handwritten poem and I put it on my blog. It’s exactly me. From a really young age, I loved entertaining people and I loved attention and I put on shows and in the poem it says ‘if you clap, she’ll give you more’. It’s a really nice snapshot.

I’ve always loved performing. I was kind of shy as a teenager, but as a kid I loved it. I remember I would catch the bus, I was living with my Nan and Pop, and on the way home was an old peoples’ home and I would stop every day and I would perform Somewhere Over the Rainbow and I always sang it – everyday for them, and they would clap and cheer. Then I’d get home and I’d put on the video clips which I’d recorded on the weekend and I’d do the dance moves and practice the choreography and nail every note.

Where did the idea for your new video for Do It Like That come from?

Well the two guys I wrote it with, who I also wrote Can’t Touch It with in NY, I hadn’t seen since we’d written Can’t Touch It. They are hilarious and have typical heavy Jersey accents and they are just crazy New York guys. They love a party and are so fun. And I had just got in at about lunchtime and they said let’s have lunch, so we ordered in, then we were sitting in and catching up and listening to music and then one of them said ‘I feel like a drink, let’s have a drink’. So he poured some rum shots and we listened to more music and then I heard the thump, thump, thumpety thump of Do It Like That and I thought, this is the one we have to write to…and the reason the song is a bit suggestive, and that the lyrics are a bit naughty, is because we were a bit pissed, and we were saying things that we wouldn’t normally say, you’d be a little but more careful. We weren’t playing it safe with that song.

‘One taste of my apple pie will satisfy your appetite,

You like it when I do it like that, you want me when I do it like that,

You gotta have it when I do it like that’.

It’s very sexual and it’s about driving someone crazy and it being tantalising and dangling the carrot and being like ‘you want it…well’. And it was just fun. And that’s very much my personality, it’s a bit naughty and I’m quite inappropriate at times. I like pushing the boundaries and not being safe. I’m not a super nice safe Taylor Swift type. I am a bit naughty, I am a bit cheeky, I am a bit tongue in cheek and I do take the piss out of myself.

So I wanted the video to reflect the personality of the lyric and, me as a person. Also one of the things I have also been working on over the last year has been choreography – I’ve been working with a choreographer, who is actually from Perth, Marco Pansic, and we’ve been working together and I just really made sure that we worked very closely to ensure the choreography reflected that  personality of the song, and it does but then I had to find a Director and I came up with a concept of what I wanted the video to be and I just wanted it to be about a party, it’s just a party track…there’s no deep thought about it – it’s just have some fun, I want to party tonight, it’s sexy, suggestive.

I saw a comment you made lately that you love to be surrounded by gay men: all the gay men in my office are wondering what it will take to be one of those men?

Yes – I’m very attracted to gay men…I don’t know what it is, maybe I feel like in a previous life I was a gay man. I really relate to who they are and what they had to go through to become comfortable in their own shoes. It’s like, ‘This is who I am’. It’s like they embrace who they are and don’t apologise for it: and I find it very endearing, and I find it very inspiring, and I find it really motivating because that the kind of person I am.

I am just who I am take it or leave it; like me or don’t like me. I like opinionated fun loving, opinionated people who are just who they are and don’t try to be someone they are not. And most of my friends are gay men who are exactly like that.

Ricki-Lee’s album will be released in August

Graeme Watson

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