Natalie Imbruglia: Torn no longer

After a tough few years, Natalie Imbruglia has found the right songs again. Her new album is the proof, she tells James McNair

Natalie Imbruglia was 16 when she began playing the surfer girl Beth Brennan in
Neighbours. Fourteen years on - and seven years after the hit "Torn" established her as a pop star - we're meeting at her PR's London offices.

Natalie Imbruglia was 16 when she began playing the surfer girl Beth Brennan in Neighbours. Fourteen years on - and seven years after the hit "Torn" established her as a pop star - we're meeting at her PR's London offices.

Imbruglia's beauty - huge blue eyes, full lips and perfect, L'Oréal-nourished skin - is striking. Beside her is a Balenciaga handbag, a gift from her husband Daniel Johns, the singer and guitarist with the Australian rock band Silverchair.

Imbruglia left Neighbours more than a decade ago, and she won't be taking part in the Aussie soap's upcoming 20th anniversary celebrations, although she was asked. "I'll always be grateful to the show for launching my career," she says, "but I wouldn't want to revisit that time."

In any case, commitments would make it very tricky. Visit her website at www.natalie-imbruglia.co.uk, and you'll see a digital clock ticking off the time to the release of her third album, Counting Down the Days - three years in the making and subject to various false starts and hurdles. The single "Shiver" is already a hit and Nat is doing the promotional rounds.

Problem one in making the album was the material. The band she played Australia's Rumba Festival with in 2002 "rocked out a bit", and - although that was fun - her less than raucous voice was drowned out at times. "The record company wasn't feeling what we'd written; they thought it had too many heavy guitars," she says. "Most of it got scrapped."

Then, when Imbruglia began passing on songs that became hits for others, she acquired a reputation for being difficult. "It wasn't that I didn't know they were hits, more that I knew they weren't right for me," she says. "I have to value the sentiment of a song. If that makes me a control freak, I'll live with that."

One song that made it was "Shiver". With Shep Solomon, it was written by Eg White, who wrote "Leave Right Now" for Will Young. On Counting Down..., she has also worked with the writer/producers Ash Howes and Martin Harrington; the Blur producer Ben Hillier; and with her husband, who donated the Beatles-esque "Satisfied".

She met Johns at a Silverchair gig in London in 1999. After dating, splitting, reuniting and then marrying on 31 December 2003, they are now living on opposite sides of the globe - an arrangement that seems to suit them. "I see it as a good thing that we have so much space," Imbruglia says. "I can sense when Dan needs to go off and do his thing. When we're apart and he tells me he's come up with songs, I'm pleased because that's the person I fell in love with. If I felt I was taking that away from him, I'd be the first to put him on a plane and say, 'Time for a writing trip.'"

Still, it's not surprising that a major theme on Counting Down... is that great pop stalwart, longing. Imbruglia thinks that her new album might have been less potent if she and Johns were together all the time: "Getting too happy and writing shit songs scares a lot of songwriters."

And she seems uncomfortable when quizzed about her efforts to learn the guitar. "I gave it a go, and I was terrible," she says. "You feel this pressure that people will take you more seriously if you play guitar, but I've decided I'm a singer and that's enough."

Natalie Jane Imbruglia was born in Campsie, Sydney in 1975. In her early teens, she attended McDonald College, a performing-arts school in Sydney. Emerging as something of an all-rounder, she got an agent and began doing TV advert work. At 16, she won a part in Neighbours and left home to live in Melbourne. This was when her love affair with music began; by day she acted on Ramsay Street, at night she was singing Joni Mitchell and Shawn Colvin.

Disappointed by the scripts and weary of compulsory bikini days, she quit Neighbours in 1994 and moved to London. After partying "a lot", she turned again to music. Her 1997 debut album Left of the Middle reached No 5, sold 6.5 million copies and stayed in the UK chart for 81 weeks. Since then it's been something of a struggle, with poor sales of her 2001 album White Lilies Island, so the six-figure endorsement deal Imbruglia signed with L'Oréal in 2002 must have cheered her up no end.

What with that other Neighbours star turned pop princess Kylie now working her Showgirl tour, costing £5m to stage, you feel for Imbruglia when she says that booking venues for her own tour is a tough call. "If I don't get to tour this year, I'll go mad," she says. "But the record company tells me it depends on how well the album does. I know my music probably isn't going to matter to the public after I die, but that doesn't mean I don't have something to offer."

'Counting Down the Days' is out on Monday on Brightside Recordings

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories
comedy

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?