2014 may well prove to be a watershed year in the career of Jessica Mauboy.
If performing on the stage to represent Australia at Eurovision in Denmark wasn’t big enough, she followed that up just a couple of months later with an appearance at the Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. She did her nation proud on both occasions.
She’s followed all that up with her hot new recently-released single ‘Can I Get A Moment?’ and will soon drop a repackage of her third album ‘Beautiful’.
It’s been quite the whirlwind and, in our brand new chat with Jess, she reveals to us that she hasn’t really had the chance to process all the incredible career highlights that have come her way throughout the past 12 months.
“I haven’t really thought about anything I’ve done,” she admits. “From Eurovision to Comm Games, to releasing all those songs from the ‘Beautiful’ album. And it’s already been a year that the album’s been out.”
The 12 month anniversary of ‘Beautiful’ will be celebrated by the release of ‘The Platinum Edition’, on which punters will score a handful of new songs, including her brand new chart smash ‘Can I Get A Moment?’. Jess tells us that the new single feels like the beginning of the next chapter in her career.
“It feels a little bit more like a coming of age or something that I’ve just grown into. Now I finally have that opportunity to just say ‘this is definitely the movement now’. So for me, ‘Can I Get A Moment?’ has been that.
“And it’s not that the sound’s now all of a sudden grown up, it’s always been there and it’s been wanting to come out for quite some time. After doing ‘The Sapphires’, I got that real buzz to do that James Brown, bit of Tina, bit of country thing. So it’s just been a case of experimenting and I think I’ve finally found that right mixture.”
This has been a year full of incredible career achievements for Jess. It kicked off with a smash hit (‘Never Be The Same’) and a subsequent platinum accreditation, but it really kicked into a higher gear when she appeared on stage as part of the second semi-final at Eurovision in Denmark. Despite appearances to the contrary, she tells us she was a bundle of nerves leading up to the event.
“I remember the first time I got the call, I was just gobsmacked. I was quite speechless and nervous already,” Jess admits. “It was two months away and so it was all about trying to get it right. So my thought train immediately went running on what I was going to wear, how I was going to present myself and just being natural.
“It was definitely a lot of work leading up to it, but performing… it just felt like I wasn’t working. It felt like that’s where I was meant to be… on such a world class stage, rocking out a song I wrote. And it felt so good.
“The words in my head were, ‘don’t fall, sing the song properly, sing the melody, remember the lyrics and sing to the crowd… make sure you invest in them’. And that’s all I could think of. I was singing into the barrel of a camera, but also hoping to reach out.
“I really felt like I’d just come into my own body for the first time. I made sure that that performance felt like it would be the first and the last performance I ever gave.”
No sooner had she graced the stage of Eurovision than Jessica was thrust into the international spotlight again, this time as part of the Closing Ceremony for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
“There was really no processing anything at that point,” she admits. “I was trying to be a sponge and soak everything in as much as I could, then release it on stage. And I think that’s how I was working, from going to Eurovision to then travelling to Scotland to perform… it was really releasing all those emotions again.”
After the whirlwind year, Jessica has just released her new single, ‘Can I Get A Moment?’. It debuted at No.5 on this weekend’s ARIA charts, giving the singer her first top five single since 2013’s ‘Pop A Bottle (Fill Me Up)’ and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, only the fifth of her career. She divulges how the song came about.
“‘Can I Get A Moment?’ was definitely a moment, because I travelled to the US for a week just to do the writing trip and work with people I’d never worked with before. It was given to me by Tony Dixon and Babyface… incredible songwriters who are writing with the best of them at the moment. They were just so down to earth and, I guess, surprised by me and my work ethic.
“I’d stay back ‘til the early hours of the morning just to really take the time to make sure the song was right, to getting up early in the morning to finish the song and putting a few more hours into it. It was really great to be with people who actually love and live every day through music. It felt like a reunion with music and it was refreshing to think that I was back in the game again.”
The song feels like another giant step in the right direction for Jess and, perhaps, even a new beginning.
“Yeah. I’m finding different tones and different areas of the vocal that I didn’t think that I could push,” she admits. “To me, ‘Can I Get A Moment?’ is definitely living in its own character, its own moment. It’s a special one too, because it feels like I’m bringing back old school. Some of those legendary soul singers that lived through the rhythm of a guitar or just wailing. Or improvising. That’s what ‘Can I Get A Moment?’ feels like to me. It’s real. And when I hit those ‘yeah-yeah-eh-yeahs’, I do it differently every time.”
We do feel it’s our duty to ask, however, that given the track does feel like a new beginning, why Jessica and her Sony team decided to include it on a repackage of ‘Beautiful’ and not use it to launch a new album project.
“I would have loved to have done a whole new record, but it’s just not finished yet,” Jess tells us. “I’ve been busy, but I really want to get the next record right and ‘Can I Get A Moment?’ is just a little taste of what is to come. I think that’s why I wanted to go this way. This is what’s coming and this is the direction I want to go in. And with this repackage, I’ve now got time to finish the new album.”
In speaking to us affectionately and incredibly candidly, Jess was almost about to let slip when we might expect her fourth studio album to make it to stores.
“I was!” she exclaims. “I couldn’t… I’m sorry!” We push further… “Personally, I think I’ll have it mid-year. I’ve got half of it ready, so I’m just waiting on the other half.”
In the meantime, however, fans will have to make do with the five new songs included on the repackaged ‘Platinum Edition’ of ‘Beautiful’. Jess tells us about two of her personal favourites on the new release.
“‘Palace’ in particular is a song that I feel very connected to,” she reveals. “It has that kind of KC & The Sunshine Band feel to it. But obviously, really slowed down and mid-tempo. ‘Give It Up’ is one of my top ten favourite songs.” (She proceeds to sing the chorus) “But that horn… I’m a big fan of that whole brass section. I love the sound of real instruments really piercing through. And that’s what inspired me with ‘Palace’.
“It’s a beautiful relationship song. Rather than saying, ‘I love you’ or ‘put your arms around me’, basically the lyrics are, (she sings) ‘Your arms are my throne, your heart is a palace, put your hands all over me, baby that’s all I need, your arms are my throne, your heart is a palace’. So it’s for anyone who’s been in that place where this someone or this something makes you feel like you’re home. And this home is your palace. It’s a smart one, this song. Very simple, but smart.”
“‘Nothing To Lose’ I got to write with the incredible DNA boys David and Anthony. The song… wasn’t a struggle, but there was a bit of um and ah about it. It was back and forth lyrically in terms of would I actually say that or not. This song is definitely a message to me saying that I’ve got nothing to lose. When it comes to making a choice whether or not to do something, I’m going to try it anyway and I’m going to challenge myself to do it because I’ve got nothing to lose. It’s a challenge song.”
Despite the new songs, however, not all of Jess’ fans are happy with the repackage for another reason; the glaring absence of both her Eurovision song ‘Sea Of Flags’ and her Commonwealth Games reworking of ‘I Believe (Anything Is Possible)’. She explains their exclusion.
“I’ve been getting that question a lot. It’s a funny one,” she says. “I feel that those songs had their own moments – a bit like ‘Gotcha’. ‘Sea Of Flags’ and ‘I Believe’ had their own moments and had their time, but they’re still selling well and people are still buying them. But I wanted them to be set aside.”
As mentioned previously, Jess is hopeful that the repackage of ‘Beautiful’ and the inclusion of the new songs will give her audience an indication of the musical styles she’ll be chasing on future releases. Not only that, but Jess reveals she’s really starting to raise the bar high with her choice of songwriters.
“I got the chance to write with Ne-Yo before I left the US,” she reveals. “There’s something really special there. He’s a great guy. So professional, so intelligent and he knows where he wants to be and I love that. It’s so solid. He has a base that he just works off. He works when he wants to work. It was really cool to get in the studio with him.”
As for artists who Jess would like to work with… she’s settling for no less than royalty. Purple royalty.
“I would love to get in the studio with Prince and sing to him and know his thoughts about what I could possibly do or where we could possibly swing it. He would be fun to work with and he’d be someone I could gain a lot of musical knowledge from. And just listen to him.”
Jessica still clearly has big dreams for the future… big name writers, big new sounds, big new career mountains to conquer. And that’s saying something, given that in the past two years alone, the girl from Darwin has; starred in a feature film, toured the country, released an album and ten singles, mentored on both ‘The Voice’ and ‘The X Factor’, been invited onto the ‘Ellen’ show and represented Australia at both Eurovision and the Commonwealth Games. All this at the tender age of 25.
But even though Jessica Mauboy has realised so many dreams already, we can’t wait to see which she’ll tick off next.
Jessica’s new single ‘Can I Get A Moment?’ is available now.
The ‘Beautiful : Platinum Edition’ repackage hits stores on Friday November 21.