On her sixth studio album, Delta Goodrem’s diamond-cut voice serves as keyhole to her soul – and these tracks are some of the musician’s most honest sonic diary entries yet. We put some questions to the singer-songwriter, all about new record Bridge Over Troubled Dreams.
You’ve said you weren’t “chasing a specific sound” across this album, and that your writing was focused on the storytelling. However, we can variously hear the spirits of Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, and of course Elton John amongst these tracks. Do you think those touchpoints emerge because of the way these classic artists recorded – live, and often focused on piano, they way you did for this album – that there’s a parallel, even if you weren’t deliberately trying to sound like them?
Firstly, I’m flattered that you say that. I have drawn inspiration from all these great artists, and as you’ve mentioned the parallel of doing the album live and keeping all the instruments live was definitely similar to the formula many years ago, instead of it all being computerized and electronic. We’re in a world where we can listen to all these great artists with so many different avenues to share and listen to music.
I just love feeling the energy in the room of the live players, and feeling the songwriting really come to life, where the lyrics are really shining through the sound.
When I am referring to the sound, I mean there’s probably a tempo or a certain sonic that people are gravitating to in a particular moment. For this album, I wanted to go back to my live, singer-songwriter roots – I wanted to go back to the basics. It was important for me to be my most authentic self with what sort of sound I was making. For me, it was about creating a body of work and letting myself, as the creator of that, be led by where the music was taking me, and where the stories were taking place.
You have used a few different kinds of choirs – the gospel in Keep Climbing, the young voices in Everyone’s Famous and Solid Gold. Do you always think of the human voice in-collective as another instrument in your arsenal, just like strings or piano?
That is a fantastic question. And yes, in my heart, I’ve always been a harmony junkie and that’s something I’ve been very open about. I’m a person that loves voices and harmonies.
Having a kids’ choir on Everyone’s Famous is a direct representation of the innocence of when I was a child, looking to music as some sort of mystery. This song is filled with the sounds of a kids’ choir, representing the innocence of youth and our current era and culture of kids dreaming of being famous.
I do definitely look at the choir overall and how it layers together in a song. I worked with the Trilogy Group Choir who have been a huge part of this album. They are a fantastic choir; truly magical and they bring such depth to the songs.
Technically-speaking, your incredible vocal range is on display all over this record – not just in parts like the octave-swoop upwards in Solid Gold, but even in small choices you’ve made in your melodies. Is challenging your voice in this way something you set out to do when writing, or is it less conscious – just a reflection of your innate predilections when it comes to melody?
I think there was a combination of both. For example, Everyone’s Famous is quite technical, as a singer. It has a lot of chest voice and a lot of support has to go into reaching the high notes – you have to really sweep into the falsettos! Everyone has different areas that they feel vocally comfortable, but overall I enjoy the soar!
It’s about the choices, because every single placement of what you chose in the recording then dictates where you go vocally. It’s important to not underestimate the choices of whether you are going lower, or being breathy, or the different inflections you choose. There’s got to be a balance.
The narrative arc of All Of My Friends is captivating. Do you find it difficult to make yourself vulnerable when writing lyrics of this kind – do you have to keep reminding yourself to strip away metaphor or other kinds of self-protective devices?
I’ve gone through different phases with songwriting where I wanted to protect myself more than other times. And in this moment, I wanted to be conscious of being more literal; that was definitely something I knew I wanted to achieve – being in the moment, and truthful about how I feel. I’ve always been able to find strength and vulnerability and I’ve been pretty open my entire life as an artist. When you’re sharing something’s that’s truthful and you, it’s real.
How do you find yourself relating to the piano now, as an instrument, compared to the way you felt about it say 18 years ago when you released Innocent Eyes? Do you think of your relationship with your instrument as something like an evolving friendship, or is it simply a tool?
I look at the piano as an extension of me, it’s like a friendship – I don’t really look at it as a tool. It’s connected to me as I work, and that doesn’t mean I always like it! [laughs.] It’s intrinsically part of my being. Even though I was 16 when my first song came out, the piano has always been in my life since I was a child. In the song Crash, I share that my dad bought my mother a piano when I was born, and that was how this incredible instrument came into our home, and there’s definitely something very connected and spiritual about the piano for me.
Bridge Over Troubled Dreams by Delta Goodrem is out Friday May 14, including on JB-exclusive white vinyl, via Sony.
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