Being under the intense media spotlight is a unique way to live. Life experiences become amplified and are put on display for the public to see. From divorce to battles with her previous record label, Ricki-Lee has been through a lot in the past few years. “I lost all of my desire to be an artist because I was completely drained and turned my back on music and walked away and did something else,” she says candidly. Even with the added scrutiny she doesn’t believe her pain is any more significant than that of a regular person. “Regardless of whether people know about my business or not we’re all human and you can’t flick off that switch and not feel emotion like everybody else.” The Ricki-Lee we found was upbeat and determined to move on from her tumultuous past.
“For me all of that pain and all of those obstacles I had to overcome make these moments so much sweeter. I’m so happy to be back on track and in control of my career.” As the title would suggest her latest album Fear & Freedom, which came out this past Friday, is all about positivity as she sheds the troubles of the past. “There’s nothing down and out about this album and it’s very personal as well. It’s the most honest I’ve allowed myself to be when recording an album. I didn’t censor myself, there was no filter. I just thought ‘fuck it that’s it’. I made the album I wanted to make.” After having a couple of days off she will be hitting the road to promote the album and perform the new material live. “It’s like the calm before the storm,” the singer exclaims. Five years since releasing Brand New Day, the new album has a lot of hysteria attached to it. “I don’t think I’ll be able to get a breath. It’ll be crazy from now until the end of the year.”
As part of the tour she will be performing at Billboard on September 5, a night she is pumped about. “It’s a big show, there’s a lot of people on stage and we all have such an amazing time. Our goal is to blow the roof off every place that we play. My show is like a big party, I think by the time people leave they will be as exhausted as I am.” Despite her star status the Australian Idol alum is surprisingly candid when discussing her past. Releasing her debut album at 18, she admits to being unprepared. “When you’re 18 you don’t really know what kind of artist you are. There was a kind of naive quality to some of the lyrics I was writing.”
During the recording of second album Brand New Day her then-recent marriage was starting to crack. Feeling trapped and too afraid to express her feelings her music took on an escapist quality. “None of it was reality, none of it was actually my life. I was almost panting this picture of what I wanted love to be like.” By the time of proposed third album Hear No, See No, Speak No she was divorced and at odds with her record label and management. With those elements combined the songwriting took on a darker tone. “That album was really raw. I was at the lowest of the lows that I’ve ever been at in my life. Those songs were quite dark and quite heavy.” Based on the final results and disappointing performance of the lead singles she made the choice to abandon the album. “There were a couple of singles that came out that didn’t do much because they weren’t the best songs on the record. I completely didn’t agree with the songs they chose to release.” The turmoil in her personal life at the time conflicted with her bubbly persona. “All of that creative energy and all my inspiration to write was sucked out of me.”
Without the motivation to record she was able to parlay her pop star status into TV and stage roles. “I got to clear my head and I got to focus my energy on something else and it was great to get my head out of music for a little bit. Over that time that desire to write and perform came back.” A reenergised Ricki-Lee was then ready to get back to what she loved, recording Fear & Freedom. “I went over to the States and spent five months over there writing and recording this album with a whole bunch of writers and producers. I just made the record I wanted to make and I think I made a killer fucking pop record,” she says emphatically. “This album is the most genuine reflection of me because it’s the first time I’ve known myself this much and this well.”
BY ANDREW 'HAZARD' HICKEY
Ricki-Lee [AUS] plays Billboard The Venue on Wednesday September 5.Fear & Freedom is out now on EMI records.