Natalie Imbruglia on “Torn” and Her New Album “Firebird” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Natalie Imbruglia on “Torn” and Her New Album “Firebird”

The Beauty of Age and Wisdom

Oct 19, 2021 Bookmark and Share

Natalie Imbruglia knows everything is transient. To put it another way, she says, “I just don’t give a shit anymore.” The “Torn” singer, who became globally famous for her voice and beauty in the ’90s, has seen the ways of the world and she’s not really impressed anymore. That also means she’s not captivated or led by any of it either. As a young person, Imbruglia was more affected by the possibilities and the promises of celebrity. But she learned quickly that they don’t satisfy or fulfill. She turned to meditation to help. She remembers wanting the attention from everyone around her knowing that she’d landed a role on an important Australian sitcom as a young person. Then, two weeks later, she’d flipped, wanting anonymity, hiding her face behind books in taxicabs. Today, Imbruglia is like a needle, weaving through different patches of life, one day living in the bustling city, the next inhaling a deep sea breeze. All of these elements comprise Imbruglia’s latest LP release, Firebird, which she released in September.

“I’m proud of myself for how I handled it,” Imbruglia says of her history with fame. “There was a lot of pressure to be thrown into that situation. But I chose to be in the industry. I once said I wanted to be a hairdresser through the week and a star on the weekends. I brought it on myself.”

Imbruglia is thoughtful, forthcoming. She’s herself, an amalgam of unimaginable heights and nuanced lows. Whereas others might have broken under the attention she received as a 22-year-old in the ’90s when “Torn” was a massive worldwide hit, she survived. It was her first hit single on her first LP release. Suddenly she was the object of affection of executives and love-sick teenagers around the world. Her “pixie” haircut became a phenomenon. But it wasn’t all bad, of course. The fame afforded her the chance to shine a light on what she believed in. It introduced her to new people, opportunities. Meditation helped to solidify her perspective.

“I think it was survival,” Imbruglia says. “I was under so much pressure. It gave me the tools and things to remind myself that I’m connected to everyone. It stopped me from having panic attacks.”

It’s hard to imagine simply how many times Imbruglia’s phone must have rang on a single day. Faxes, early emails, knocks on the door, letters upon letters. Imbruglia says, on top of it all, she’s a high-strung person. You can’t just overnight become a laid-back person, she says. So, you do the best you can.

“When I was younger,” she says, “I was probably doing a lot more filtering during interviews. To make sure I didn’t reveal too much. But I just don’t care. That’s the beauty of age and wisdom. It’s nice to be comfortable with yourself and to share and for that not to be something to be frightened of.”

For her newest LP, Imbruglia had to overcome a great deal of writer’s block. Truly, she couldn’t compose a line or even sing a note. Some might hypothesize it was her brain intentionally blocking her from entering the public eye again. Others might say it was the result of her recent attempts with IVF and trying to become a parent, which Imbruglia achieved successfully (she now has a two-year-old son). But whatever the reason, the artist got past the blockage and has created an excellent album. It’s rich with sticky hooks, bright vocals, insight, and pace.

“I have a love-hate relationship with success,” she says. “I definitely love my anonymity, so I always struggle a bit with that. There have been times I have self-sabotaged. But I also think some people just work harder than me. An album a year was not something I was ever going for; because of that I have to start from the beginning sometimes. I’m not career-oriented to that degree. I like to live in-between.”

Getting older is a funny thing. It sucks in many ways. But it’s better than the alternative, we hope. For Imbruglia, it’s no different. She loves accruing the wisdom that years offer. She’s an observer, at heart. So, more time on earth means more chance for observation, which delights her. Now that she isn’t the apple of every pop music fan’s eye, she has a chance to live a more normal life. She can find love, embrace a family. But Imbruglia was smart, from the early days she told herself beauty is fleeting.

“I had so much attention on the way I looked from a very young age,” she says. “But I had the forethought not to rely too heavily on something that is transient. I was pretty savvy, pretty switched-on.”

For her new album, Imbruglia left the city and went to a more pastoral environment, from the bustling Notting Hill area of West London to the more chill countryside of Oxford. Later, she traveled to Nashville, Tennessee for a 10-day songwriting trip that was both hit and miss. She was trying to find her voice, her direction for the record. She had a breakthrough when she wrote the song, “When You Love Too Much.” She began celebrating her independence, her own two feet. Her road less traveled. Imbruglia feels comfortable on her own now. She’s fine unplugged, especially even a pandemic.

“If you just surrender and let things fall apart,” she says, “something beautiful can be born out of that. But you have to have the courage to let go.”

She recognizes that we’re all taught to be strong, to keep a stiff upper lip. But that’s not always the best or even fastest way to solve a problem, or to get to the proverbial other side. Instead, it’s okay to sometimes go lie down, let go, and have a feeling consume you, instead of trying to fight it back like an impossible cloud of wasps. Imbruglia had been “running, running, running” for so long. But a deep breath from her own lungs has given her the chance to sing again.

“I feel happy,” she says. “I’m happier the less I plan. The only plan I really have now is to try and tour this record and not take three years to write the next one! I’d like to stay in the energy that I am where I’m in the flow of creativity.”

Imbruglia says she feels more like a director these days than anything else. Makes sense, she’s played so many roles already. Why not wield the metaphorical baton?

“I think more than anything,” Imbruglia says, “I realize my gift was more as a communicator. The delivery of that emotion. That gave me confidence as a songwriter.” She adds, “I love how music can bring people together. I love how it can paradigm shift you from one feeling into another.”

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