Kylie Minogue at 50: You let go of some things... it's a time of assessing
Despite selling 85 million records over a 30-year career, Kylie Minogue says she still has much to learn. Andrew Arthur speaks to her about her new country music sound, her upcoming Irish and British tour and how it feels to be the big 5-0
TURNING 50 is a landmark moment in anyone's life but Kylie Minogue seems in no way troubled at having reached her half-century in May. The evergreen Australian seems incredibly happy with life right now.
We're introduced in a luxurious London hotel suite and it becomes apparent Kylie is down to Earth. Wearing a colourful dress of green, purple and red, she exudes the charm with which she first won hearts playing Charlene Robinson in Australian soap opera, Neighbours.
She admits her recent milestone birthday was a feature during the writing process for her latest record.
"Turning 50 definitely played a part because it was looming. I had a number of my friends who were either there or approaching 50, and this time in life, it feels like you get rid of some unnecessary stuff.
"You let go of some things, you decide to do the things you've been talking about and haven't done. It's a time of assessing, I guess.
"I really felt like I just wanted to be in the moment and grasp the here and now. A lot of the new album talks about different stages in my life, where I was in that moment and perhaps where I might be going."
Appropriately titled Golden, Kylie's 14th album is the first she has released since 1997's Impossible Princess where she has co-written every single song.
She has previously described writing these new songs as "therapy" after a difficult time for her personally. Last year she confirmed her engagement to actor Joshua Sasse was off.
Given the personal subject matter of some of the lyrics, it is unsurprising she has more of a connection to the new songs than some of her previous hits.
"I have had to defend being the singer of songs a lot in my career. Critics say, 'Yeah, but you don't write your own music'.
"But there is more of a personal connection with these new songs. I love writing but equally if a great song comes in, give it to me. There are so many songwriters who are not singers. Writing is their skill and they need someone to sing."
But just how different is the person who penned the lyrics on Impossible Princess to the one today?
She laughs: "Yeah pretty different! I think with Impossible Princess I went from one extreme to another.
"I was going away from the Stock Aitken Waterman factory and it was kind of like a belated teenage rebellion! I wanted to write about the darker side of me. I loved finding a way of trying to be poetic with it. But now I can write about those emotions and keep the pop perspective.
"So quite different, it was a long time ago! A lot of things have changed!"
Golden certainly sees a musical change in direction. It was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, the spiritual home of country music. Kylie's brand of catchy dance pop music is peppered with handclaps, lap steels and even banjo.
Golden became her first album to top the charts in both the UK and Australia since Fever in 2001. She seems to have enjoyed her experimentation, revealing she would like to write a song with Dolly Parton.
Despite its success, she admits she knew not everyone would be totally receptive.
"I was aware of some resistance to it. I don't know if 'worried' is exactly the right word. I was aware of it. And of course it was such an easy headline, 'Kylie's gone Country'.
"So I was just hoping, OK, some people are loving that idea, some people are not so keen. But there's more to the story than that.
"I went looking for a country inspiration and influence. I went to Nashville and had the best time there.
"It's like I'm on the same highway of pop/dance music, I just went to a different lane to try and get a different sound. We definitely wanted to keep it in my world."
Kylie will hit the road again with a tour of the UK and Ireland starting in September. Celebrated for her elaborate stage shows, she teased a little of what her fans expect.
"We're doing a show in two halves for a start, which I'm pretty excited about. Obviously it's the Golden tour so it's going to be a lot of songs from the album, as many hits as I can put in and a couple of surprises.
"It's going to have some scale to it, but I really want to keep the intimacy that a lot of people are relating to in these songs."
Kylie has also celebrated the 30 years since her debut album was released in Britain and Ireland.
She recalls: "It was like my eight-year-old dream had come true. To make a record.
"I didn't know what I was doing. I was just kind of doing what someone told me to do or what I thought was the right thing.
"I had no idea that music would become my life, I thought acting would be my path. Occasionally I will think, 'What would have happened if I had just stayed on acting?'
"I do believe in destiny, which doesn't dismiss intention, hard work and taking chances, but I guess this is my path."
As our conversation comes to an end, Kylie pauses and her voice adopts a more confessional tenor.
"Sometimes I watch sports people talking about the training and the struggle and how much of it is a mental and physical game.
"You don't hear many artists talking about that but there's definitely a similarity. We're all trying to do well and improve.
"Sometimes it's positively dull. But that's to get to the interesting points.
"When you're travelling eight hours to get somewhere for a three-minute performance, it's not the worst thing ever, obviously, but still.
"Maybe more so than ever, I'm inspired about getting to that spot. I don't even know what I mean by that but that moment, that is a moment with performance."
:: Golden is out now. Kylie Minogue plays the 3Arena, Dublin and the SSE Arena, Belfast, on October 7 and 8. Tickets from ticketmaster.ie