Delta Goodrem On Having “The Freedom To Be A Little Eccentric Again”
"At the core of it, my intentions are to empower people. To bring love through song."
When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, like many of us, Delta Goodrem needed a little space to take stock of the new world. “I gave myself the time to just feel it,” the Australian pop luminary says over the phone on an overcast Saturday afternoon, rain just beginning to patter against the windows.
“Just to feel shocked; to feel the gravity of it. I think I was pretty quiet for the first couple of weeks. And then that thing kicked in of, ‘Okay, what do we have to do? How do we process this? What can I do? What part can I do to help in any way?'”
Soon, Goodrem hit upon not one answer, but several. She began streaming concerts from her home, intimate gigs that she named the Bunker Down Sessions. She forged ahead with her work as a judge on the music reality TV staple The Voice, appearing on her 150th episode. She unveiled her non-profit charity, The Delta Goodrem Foundation. And she dropped a new single, ‘Paralyzed’ and announced a string of tour dates to go ahead in 2021.
All of a sudden, Goodrem was the busiest she had perhaps ever been. But if that workload is taking a toll, it doesn’t show. Though several times over the course of our conversation she apologises for being tired, in actual fact, Goodrem sounds the opposite, twice answering questions by carrying a melody on the piano, and at one point trilling the chorus to ‘Paralyzed’.
That energy seems in part to come from Goodrem’s penchant for creative disruption — at one point, she admits to trying to curate tonal chaos her whole life — and in part because the new music she has been releasing from her still unnamed sixth album represents a thrilling and fresh phase in her career.
“I always said, especially going into this new record, I just want people to feel like they’re in my living room again,” Goodrem says. “I want it to feel like when my mates come over and I play the songs on the piano where they originally started, rather than having the different dressings on top. And as fate would have it, we ended up in the living room sooner and a bit more literally than I would have ever expected, by complete chance.”
That stripped back quality to the new work was a conscious, deliberate choice, a reaction to what she calls the dizzying “fantasy” of her last record, Wings of the Wild.
“I felt like after the last record, the “full Planet Goodrem”, with the lion on the cover, I had expressed a certain side of myself. And now I was like, ‘Okay, I just want to go back to the piano.’ It was really conscious. I just wanted to go deeper into the stories.”
As a result of Goodrem’s return to the thrilling basics of the piano, singles such as ‘Keep Climbing’ and ‘Paralyzed’ have a distinct throwback quality. Not only to the music of the ’60s — Goodrem singles out ‘Paralyzed’ as having a Beatles-esque sound mixed into the production — but to the early days of Goodrem’s own career. ‘Keep Climbing’ has the quiet urgency of Innocent Eyes era Delta Goodrem, and she found herself thinking often of the person she once was while writing. “There’s a nod to [my old stuff] sonically speaking in terms of what I was listening to, and getting re-inspired by,” Goodrem explains.
“I needed to kind of go back to what I used to do. I had to give myself the freedom to be a little eccentric again. With some of the other songs on the new record, I definitely allowed myself to change tempos; to not have a structure. And at the same time, to have hopefully enough catchiness for somebody to still grab hold of it. There’s definitely still both sides of the coin.”
If there has been one constant throughout Goodrem’s career, amidst her inventive sonic phases, it is her surplus of care. You can hear that on ‘Born To Try’, you can hear that on the knotted joy of Child of the Universe, and you can see that in the way she treats the musicians she mentors on The Voice. “I care about people,” Goodrem says. “I’m quite ride or die. I’m deeply loyal to people who are good to me, and that can last a long time. I really care about kindness. My intention since I came into music has been the same intention since day one. And I like to hold my own space. Nobody can really sway me. But I’m constantly learning, I’m constantly a student.”
“I’m a little spontaneous. I go with the flow.”
Goodrem fans respond to the care and affection that she shows them in kind. Many of them seem more committed to the musician than ever before. She is a huge part of their lives now — has been for many years. And they show it.
“When it comes to watching my supporters grow up, I could literally cry,” Goodrem says. “That stuff is real. There’s been real connections. There’s real love there. It’s the beautiful thing of growing up with people. I don’t take it lightly. I take it with responsibility and pride.”
That connection is so deep, in fact, that Goodrem often feels that her fanbase is one step ahead of her, forever aware of where she is about to take things, cottoning on to her desires sometimes before she even does so herself. “I feel like my fans who have been with me on this journey know me better than I know myself half the time. I just think, ‘How do they know that; how do they know what I am feeling?'”
Certainly so far, the fans have responded to Goodrem’s new sound with nothing less than adoration. And for good reason — ‘Paralyzed’ is one of the boldest and most open-hearted songs of the musician’s entire career, a triumphant restatement of every one of her skills. It’s the kind of music an artist can only make when they understand their capabilities fully. And that’s precisely where Delta Goodrem is at: a musician in full, thrilling control of their own talent.
“I’m an eccentric piano girl,” she says at one point, laughing lightly. “I’m a little spontaneous. I go with the flow. And I’ve had to navigate all the other sides of the [industry] that have come at me. But at the core of it, my intentions are to empower people. To bring love through song. And to talk through song. And that’s it, you know?”
‘Paralyzed’ and ‘Keep Climbing’ by Delta Goodrem are out now through Sony Music. The Bridge Over Troubled Dreams tour will commence on April 8, 2021 in Brisbane. Tickets are on sale now. For a full list of venues and dates, head here.
Joseph Earp is a staff writer at Junkee. He tweets @Joseph_O_Earp.