It’s more than eight years since Paulini Curuenavuli released her last studio album ‘Superwoman’. And though there have been a couple of Young Divas albums and a few single releases dotted throughout the ensuing period, Paulini’s been wanting more. It seems she’s been searching for her definitive sound. And now, on her forthcoming album ‘Come Alive’, she believes she’s finally found it.
In one of her first interviews about the new LP, Paulini tells us about feeling like a pop puppet in the past, the meaning behind her new single ‘Air It All Out’ and what we can expect from the album when it arrives in February.
But she begins by defending the eight year wait.
“It’s kind of scary. I do know why it took me that long, though,” Paulini admits. “I had to go away and figure out who I was in all of this, because I kind of felt that the first two solo albums just weren’t me. They were both very rushed. So I really wanted to take some time and figure out how to come out with my music and really let myself shine instead of just getting a song and singing it because I had to.”
She refers, of course, to the old adage of striking while the iron’s hot, releasing straight off the back of a talent competition to capitalise on the buzz and, potentially, make a quick buck in the process.
“Exactly. And you know, I’m always going to be grateful for that and the experience was amazing, but I never felt comfortable with what I was releasing,” Paulini admits.
“I was always second guessing it and never really confident with the material that I put out. But this one, this is me. Every experience in there is me, it’s what I’ve gone through, or what I’ve interpreted from my point of view with other situations with my friends and family. So it’s a good album. It’s my baby.”
Though ‘Come Alive’ may come after a period in her career which has been sparse in the new music department, Paulini tells us that her post-‘Superwoman’ years have in fact been incredibly busy and enlightening.
“Basically, after ‘Superwoman’, I did a bit of time with the Young Divas,” she says, perhaps not by accident making her time in the band sound more like a jail sentence, “And then straight after that I said I needed to take some time out and I had to leave.
“So I went over to New York for two months for writing sessions with all different writers and producers. I was essentially trying to find my sound.
“I wanted to improve on my songwriting and I wanted to get involved in producing tracks and just giving my two cents in any way it could’ve helped. Because I think if you’re across all of that, then what comes out at the end is ‘you’. It’s not just someone who’s put a track together, given it to you and gone, ‘look here, this is what it’s going to sound like’.
“I actually had control over every area of what I was doing. It’s taken me five years to actually figure out my sound and the distinctiveness I bring amongst every other artists here in Australia. But what I wanted was to bring a sound that was different. So when you would hear my track, you’d know exactly who it was. That’s basically what I’ve been doing.”
There have, however, been a few single releases during that time; ‘Scarless’ and ‘Show Me Your Colours’ and more recently, the dancefloor gems ‘Fireman’ and ‘Heartbreak Is Over’. The latter two in particular, Paulini tells us, was her trying to discover her sound.
“I did a few writing sessions in Germany and they were really into that whole dance/Euro thing, so I thought, ‘okay, let’s release this and see what happens’. Just so long as I had something out there so people knew that I was still recording and writing.
“Most of the songs on the new album were originally written as dance tracks, so it was all around the same time. But at the end of the day, I just kept thinking that it wasn’t me. It’s just not me to release a whole album of dance tracks. Perhaps I could do that later on,” she teases.
And, we suggest, she always has the luxury of popping out some remixes.
“Exactly, right? I totally forgot about that at the time. But I knew it wasn’t the right direction for me, so I said ‘no’ and I set about redirecting this whole thing stylistically. And this is exactly what I’ve come up with.”
The ‘Come Alive’ project is Paulini’s first under her new deal with respected British music label Decca via Ambition Entertainment. She tells us how it came to be.
“It was a little out of nowhere,” she admits. “I played the album to Robert Rigby, who’s the head of Ambition, after I’d arrived back from LA. He had it for about two or three weeks before I got a phone call. He said, ‘I’d really love to help you out with this and get it out there’. And my thoughts were, ‘This is exactly what we need. We needed a distribution deal, the album’s done’.
“A few weeks later, we sat down and made it happen. He’s been absolutely amazing and so supportive. The one thing that’s different about Robert is that he loves music. I think that’s one thing missing now in the industry. You have these guys who are at the top and they don’t love music anymore. It’s all about everything else except the music.
“This guy was just different. And as soon as we agreed to trust and move forward together, I just thought ‘thank god’, because you hardly find people like that now. It’s all about everything else and it’s not what we’re here to do. So basically, that’s how we started working together and then they asked him to become the head of Decca. So now I’m the first artist to be signed to Decca under him, which is awesome.”
The first glimpse into the new project comes in the form of lead single ‘Air It All Out’; a song about letting go of the past and living for today. Co-penned by Paulini during her writing trip to New York, she explains it was cathartic to get her feelings out.
“At the time when I went over there, I was feeling a bit frustrated and a bit depressed about how everything was going,” she admits. “I wanted to release another solo record and it wasn’t looking likely, so it seemed like everything wasn’t going in the right direction.
“That’s when I wrote ‘Air It All Out’. At my lowest times, I’d just get really discouraged, but I did find that little hope inside me that kept me going ‘til now. So it’s basically a song to remind myself – and everyone else who listens to the song and really connects with the lyrics – that we all go through hard times. Not everything’s going to go your way, but you’ve got to find that inner strength from somewhere, pull yourself out of it and keep going.
“The most important thing for me about that song is always letting go. You can’t keep things in. You can’t keep it all bottled up. That just creates more bitterness and anger and depression. So you’ve got to just let it all out and try and move forward with your life.”
As Paulini’s mentioned, ‘Come Alive’ marks a new beginning in her career. Penned over a number of years with a number of different writers and producers, she constantly refers to the new project as being thoroughly “her”.
“‘Come Alive’ is an adult contemporary pop album. It’s songs that I’ve written. My experiences. Everything about ‘me’ is in this album,” she tells us. “Like I said, it’s my baby and it’s something that’s close to my heart. It’s a fun album. It’s different.
“It’s not quite as commercial pop as what you hear on the radio now with a lot of younger artists, but it’s got everything. It’s got a bit of old school, but it’s still very pop, commercial and radio friendly. What I’d like to create now are songs that are going to stay around for a bit.”
And songs perhaps, which may in turn help the singer herself to stay around for a bit. Because although she’s only really been part of the Australian recorded music industry for the past eleven years, Paulini has seen a myriad of changes to the business during that time. And she’s had to adapt. She’s an artist who’s still learning her craft; still pushing herself to do better, to be better. And to be true to herself.
“I’ve learned to trust in what I know and to trust in my decisions and follow my heart, because that’s one thing that I never used to do before,” she admits. “I was always like a puppet. You know when they talk about being a pop puppet? That’s exactly what I was. I was a puppet and all the flashing lights and all the other crappy stuff that comes with it was attractive at the time and now it’s just not. It’s not about that anymore.
“It’s about believing in yourself and trusting in what you’re feeling inside. At the end of the day, you’re always going to be happy with your decision because you believed in what you thought was right.”
Paulini’s single ‘Air It All Out’ and its remixes are available digitally now.
Paulini’s new album ‘Come Alive’ will be released on Friday February 20.