A lot’s happened in the world of Aussie pop starlet Jessica Mauboy since we last touched base with her in October last year.
There was the repackage of her album ‘Beautiful’ to capitalise on the success of her single ‘Can I Get A Moment?’ and the busy pre-Christmas period and a new single from it to kick off the new year.
Then she went overseas to begin work on the material which will ultimately form her forthcoming fourth studio album.
So from a nondescript shopping centre carpark in the northern suburbs of Perth, we hopped on the phone to Ms Mauboy to chat about her transition in sound, plans for the album and, naturally, the current single, ‘This Ain’t Love’. She begins by explaining how the latter came to be.
“I had the opportunity to go over to the UK and spend some time there travelling and working with people I’ve never worked with before,” Jess reveals. “So it was nice to get out of my comfort zone, travel on my own and, I guess, represent myself in such a basic environment… myself, music and other people who enjoy writing music as well.
“The record label assigned me some really cool, funky people to write with. And writing this song came about on a pretty magic day. I remember I was working with Carl Ryden and David Sneddon, who’ve worked with everyone in the music biz.
“Basically I went in with an idea of wanting to take it back old school and do a bit of drum and bass and vocals to top it off. And out came ‘This Ain’t Love’. It was kind of one of those days where I had this vision of a song in my mind and all I had to do was stand in front of the mic and explain it in the mic, so that’s what I did. It was really magical. It happened really quickly.”
“You know what? I wanted the rhythm to really take off. It’s that ‘Snap’ kinda vibe. That Culture Beat, Real McCoy, La Bouche… these massive vocals on such a simplistic rhythm and drum beat. And that’s what I wanted. I wanted something that was just out of my comfort zone.
“Mind you, I was singing an octave lower than what you hear today, so you can imagine I was singing it quite baritone in that lower key and all of a sudden, I got out of rehearsals, put it up an octave and it was a dream.”
Mind you, given that higher octave, Jess admits that ‘This Ain’t Love’ is more than a little challenging to perform live.
“Yeah. And I think that’s the creative side that burst through. It was something that was out of my comfort zone. It was something that I didn’t think was possible until I got into the booth and I was like, ‘alright… my mind’s playing games with me, let’s see how this is going to sound in this key’.
“But as soon as I hit that top note and that rasp came out, I thought, ‘this is it. This is the song. This is what I was born to do and what I’m meant to be creating’. It was purely how I wanted to drive my music and I got to do that.
‘This Ain’t Love’ marks the latest step in a continuing musical evolution for Ms Mauboy, whose career began off the back of the ‘Idol’ competition with an urban number featuring guest vocals by Flo Rida.
“It was pretty much a stepping stone in the industry that allowed me to be respected,” she says of ‘Running Back’.
“My second single ‘Burn’ was electro-pop and that was a twist. It’s always good to go back and forth all the time and just have fun. And I think if you’re having fun, people see and feel that from you as well.
“I guess personally, in my mind it’s not a new, fresh sound. It’s something that I’ve always had in the back of my mind to be able to produce and share in terms of my world of music. But for my fans, definitely.
“The reaction has been phenomenal, so I can’t be happier with what everyone’s saying about it. The compliments that are coming out are amazing.
“I guess my music has been evolving every single time. I think as an artist, you always have to grow, inspire yourself and go with your gut feeling. You’ve always got to experiment and that’s what I’ve been doing. I think my body of work has really proven that.”
Her body of work continues to expand and impress, but it’s been seven years since she last hit the No.1 spot, with ‘Burn’. Though she’s been a constant visitor to the Aussie top ten – and she’s come close on a few occasions, we ask Jess what she believes it’s going to take to get back to that top spot.
“I have no idea these days,” she admits. “Music is music. Artists are always bangin’ out music and it keeps moving. You just have to keep moving with it and move with it quickly. There’s no holding back.
“There’s no um-ing and ah-ing these days, you’ve just got to move with it and I think if you have a team that allows you to do that, you have to roll with it… you can’t hold back.”
And things are moving ahead with what will become Jess’ fourth album. As she mentioned during her appearance on ‘The X Factor’ recently, the plan is to release the new album in February next year. She tells us what we should expect.
“I’ve been given the opportunity to make the record on my own and when you give me that opportunity, it takes a little bit longer, so I just want to get it right. I want to have fun with it and really take my fans on another journey and have something that they can also can feel proud of.
“The sound of it will be a melting pot of everything, from a little bit of upbeat to the mid-tempo stuff. I love my ballads, I love writing soulful and heartbreaking songs, as well as very pop and upbeat colourful songs, like ‘This Ain’t Love’. ‘This Ain’t Love’ is a bit of a mixture of both, so I guess I could say that it’s one of the songs that’s at the heart of this next record and will form the base of it.
“I’ve been working in Sydney, working with some really cool friends of mine including my musical director Darryl Beaton. We just have fun on the road, up in the air while we’re flying or at hotels… we make music, we make rhythms and we make melodies.
“But I guess my next trip will be back to the UK, just finishing up on some stuff I’ve already written. Just finalising the songs and getting the album ready for February. It’s coming around really quickly.”
And she’ll head to the UK knowing that she enjoys the unequivocal support of her label, Sony.
“It’s been a dream. The relationship that I have with a really well respected company… I feel very much a part of the family and I’ve always felt supported by them from day one, you know. It’s been nice to build the body of work together, the team… It takes a team to make things happen and I have one of the best, so I feel very proud.
“All I want to do is make great music and have people celebrate with me.”
Jessica Mauboy’s single ‘This Ain’t Love’ is available now.
Her new album is due in February, presumably with a single release or two prior.