Marcia Hines is an Australian music industry legend. She’s enjoyed a career spanning more than four decades in Australia, has been a popular star of both stage and screen and has even been honoured as a member of the Order of Australia for her services to the entertainment industry.
Beyond all that, of course, is Marcia’s extraordinary back catalogue. She’s released a slew of popular albums since her debut ‘Marcia Shines’ 40 years ago, the most recent of which is ‘Amazing’, to be released next Friday.
Staggeringly it’s 20 years since Marcia’s last album of originals, so with such a momentous occasion upon us, we asked Australia’s Queen of Soul what’s taken her so long to gift us another.
“What is it they say, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’,” Marcia begins. “In the interim there’s all this stuff that goes on. We’re continually trying to think of something that’s going to be good to do and something that the general public’s going to dig.
“But with ‘Amazing’, I thought it was time to reinvent. Time to do some originals. So I sat down with some very talented guys and we wrote this album.”
Though it’s 20 years since Marcia’s last collection of originals – 1994’s ‘Right Here And Now’ – Marcia’s been incredibly proud of her body of work since, which has included a dance album, a disco album and a reimagining of Carole King’s classic LP ‘Tapestry’.
“Everything I’ve recorded I’ve dug. I wouldn’t have put it out if I didn’t dig it,” Marcia reveals. “Recording is such an interesting art form because it’s so honest. You’ve got nowhere to hide and nobody’s applauding either. You’re just standing in the studio butt naked singing and you do it until you get it right.
“You might sing one song 20 times and you still don’t get it right, so you have to revisit it the next day. Or there might be a line in the song that you just don’t feel like you’re selling properly, so you have to wrap your head around it. It’s a very honest art form.”
Given that Marcia has co-penned every song on her new album ‘Amazing’, audiences should expect to get to know their favourite diva a little more intimately.
“I just wanted to show some more of myself,” Marcia explains. “Like in the movie ‘Cocoon’, someone says, ‘how do you guys have sex?’ and the man says, ‘we show ourselves’. I think that’s just a beautiful analogy. You’ve got to show who you are. I’ve been here for 60 years and it’s important that I’ve grown as a person and I show some of myself as an artist.
“The guys and I sat here in my apartment in Sydney and we wrote the album. We’d write from ten ’til six each day, then we’d talk about how they saw things as men. And then we started talking about how guys see things different to how girls see things. Then we got really intimate about love affairs and how people see love.”
And that the songs are all originals and clearly mean so much to her gives Marcia full licence to deliver them in any way she sees fit.
“If you sing a song that’s been popular, people kinda know the relative melody of it so you can’t play with it too much. But with my songs, I can interpret them in any way I like. I sang what I believed to be right in all of the stories that make up the album and it’s very heartfelt.
“It’s beautifully cathartic, because we’re like memory banks of emotions and it’s not until something touches you that you realise you’ve put everything away into emotional storage. And then when you call on your memory bank, all these feelings just come flooding out. It’s a beautiful process,” she says.
Songwriting isn’t something we’ve seen Marcia do much of in the past, but she tells us there’s a good reason why.
“I’ve written songs on a couple of my albums, but I had great writers writing for me,” she explains. “I had Jimmy Webb. I had Diane Warren. How do you say to them, ‘no thanks’? You don’t. You just grab the song and run.
“So when you’ve got great people around the world writing for you, you just have to sit back and say that my job is to interpret, so that’s what I did. Don’t get me wrong, if a good song comes knocking on my door by Quincy Jones, Pharrell Williams or somebody like that, I’m not going to say no. Are you crazy!?”
‘Amazing’ is purposefully diverse. It affords Marcia the chance to explore different ranges in her voice, while remaining true to herself as an artist. Industry stalwart Diesel features on ‘Equals Three’, but it’s an unlikely collaboration with actor Russell Crowe on ‘Remedy’ that seems to have everyone talking.
“I’d already worked with Russell on his album ‘My Hand, My Heart’ and I sang a song with him called ‘Testify’,” Marcia reveals. “Everybody was mentioning all of these overseas artists and it just didn’t ring true to me and then one morning I thought, ‘let me just Google the song I did with Russell and see if this could be right’. I did and by a couple of bars in, I knew, ‘yes, Russell’.
“So I got in touch with him and said that I had a song I’d love him to record with me. He said, ‘okay send it to me and I’ll tell you what I think’ and I sent it to him and he said ‘yes’. So that’s how Russell and I are singing together.
“I believe in collaboration and this is a great collaboration. Russell loves music, I love Russell and I love what he brought to this song, because the banter wasn’t written for the album. That just happened organically in the studio, which is the best way for things to happen.”
Something else happening (albeit later) this year is the ‘Amazing’ national tour. Though Marcia remains coy on the details for it at this stage, she’s a little more forthcoming with details of a new play entitled ‘Velvet’ in which she’s set to star.
“It’s based loosely on ‘Studio 54’ with a guy coming in from the country, all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and me kinda guiding him on the straight and narrow. But I do not do a very good job of it,” she hints.
“We go into rehearsals for that in August, so what we’re hoping is with that we can take it worldwide and perhaps do the Edinburgh Festival and things like that overseas. It’s another version of my work. It’s a theatrical piece and I love theatre.
“The music is fantastic to perform. It’s just the bomb. It’s a happy time in a happy place, so you’ll be seeing these great big smiles coming across these relatively straight and serious people. That’s what you want.”
Until ‘Velvet’ hits stages later this year, however, those great big smiles will be brought about by ‘Amazing’. And while the album may be all new, it contains the kind of styles Marcia’s been singing for some four decades.
Though she may have been off our radars for a number of years, Marcia’s back. With honest, original, heartfelt material. And with something worthy to say.
“It’s all relative, I suppose. I don’t know, but I’m in it for the long run – as you know.”
Marcia’s new album ‘Amazing’ is released both digitally and physically on Friday April 04.
The single ‘Amazing’ and remixes are available digitally now.