radionotes podcast episodes

Laura Imbruglia is multi-talented, focused and frankly more of what the music industry needs. Music output wise – from their It Makes a Crunchy Noice EP (2013) to their latest Scared Of You album – they can write Pop as well shred a guitar to. That first release had backing vocals of Jodi Phillis (Solo, The Clouds, Roger Loves Betty) no less, while their latest has such a broad sound (so much to discover within) of styles. On their 2019 release it has been Produced with Nick Huggins and a National tour in May to showcase the power of the new cuts live.

There have been three Singles released from it ‘Tricks’, ‘Diptych’ and ‘The Creeps’ with recently ‘Carry You Around’ released as one to.

As well as the music, they’re the brain behind the Amateur Hour – which proves that variety can still work on TV, if networks just gave it a go – with interviews, skits and live music performance. A popular part of the show was that of the Gender Reversed Guitar Shop (Season 2, Episode 1) and issues related covered during the conversation here. Also, insight to another hat they wear as spinner of discs and perfect tune to close a night with.

Imbruglia was kind enough to give some time on a Friday night while radionotes was in Melbourne, Australia – before doing a DJ set – to share a few words, this is that chat….

To listen, click the green ‘play’ triangle… [note: may take few seconds to load] 

(Transcript of Laura Imbruglia chat below, check to delivery in audio)

PHOTO IMAGE CREDIT: Kira Puru – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr

SHOW NOTES: Laura Imbruglia episode

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In The Box:

FEATURE GUEST: Laura Imbruglia

…remove myself from Melbourne so that I could just get it done


Well one discovery, that has come across my desk that I’ve been re-visiting over the last few week – June Low.

Four piece from Brisbane, Queensland (Australia) who describe as “…an eclectic mix of dark roots, indie-pop and rock”. Apart from eclectic being a favourite word of mine, the mix of the rest in refreshing.

Would hope to have a chat with June Low in the future, but for now their latest is The Letter (Bandcamp)

Next episode guest: Tilman Robinson (composer, sound designer, performer)

More details on playpodcast here, thanks to Matt from them.

[Radio Production – notes: Imbruglia chat takes most of the episode and suggested tune to play The Creeps and/or Carry You Around from Scared of You – LP ]


Theme/Music: Martin Kennedy and All India Radio   

Web-design/tech: Steve Davis

Voice: Tammy Weller  

You can make direct contact with the podcast – on the Contact Page


For direct quotes check to audio, first version of transcript by Courtney C at REV

John Murch: Laura, welcome to radionotes.

Laura Imbruglia: Thanks for having me.

John Murch: We’re going to have a chat. The impetus, I guess, for the podcast is for musicians to talk about life and lows in life to talk about music. Do you have a sense of family as you were growing up?

Laura Imbruglia: Did I? Yeah, I did. I don’t see my family much anymore, because we’re all spread around the country and the world. We had a lot of beautiful dinners together, and my dad’s Italian. So when I think of like communal family stuff, fun, and exciting memories from both sides of the family. Mum’s family is from country New South Wales. So every time we went to Granny’s house there’d be a baked dinner every single night and porridge every morning. I’ve got really vivid memories from both grandparents… meals.

John Murch: Did that give a sense of your engagement, not necessarily in the kitchen but in terms of preparing meals for others?

Laura Imbruglia: I reckon sometimes that stuff plays into your subconscious and affects the way that you treat people as a host or something. It’s not something I think about really. It’s something I notice when I go to other people’s family houses, or if I live with someone else, and they’re a terrible host I’m like, “Oh, wow. That’s really weird to me.”

John Murch: Do you jump in?

Laura Imbruglia: You don’t really noticed it, I guess, unless you’re with a partner and their friends come to visit and you compare how they do things versus how you do things. I’m mainly talking from years ago, but it’s interesting, or if you go to someone’s house for Christmas that’s not your own, and you see how everything works there, and it’s different. Yeah. I notice things like that. I’m getting better at thinking about why it is that I feel that way instead of just being like, “That’s sh**,” or, “That’s weird.” I’m like, “Why do I think that? Oh, because I raised this certain way, and that’s all I’ve known.”

John Murch: How long did it take for you to get in touch with the emotions and actually thinking them through for you?

Laura Imbruglia: Probably way too long. Yeah, I think I’m very self-centered a lot of the time, and I don’t … Or I just don’t think things through like why this equals this. I’m just kind of like, “This is how I feel, and this is the way it is.” I’m trying to get better at breaking things down. And that’s another good thing about songwriting is it makes you do that kind of thinking, because you’re kind of indulging analysis of situations, which I don’t normally give myself the time to.

John Murch: Is there, are there songs that will no longer be in the repertoire that will never, never see the light of day again in your own collection?

Laura Imbruglia: Because I didn’t do the same analysis?

John Murch: At the time possibly not, and now thinking completely differently that you don’t feel as comfortable with their narrative.

Laura Imbruglia: I think whenever you’re doing songwriting that is the only time I give myself to do that kind of thinking. I don’t do meditating or any of that kind of just brain time. No, the only reason I stop playing songs is if I just, I mean, now embarrassed of the lyrics or just think I’ve got better songs to write.

John Murch: You took a little bit of a hiatus in terms of playing music. Firstly, was it a conscious decision, and secondly how did it feel not playing music to then get back into it?

Laura Imbruglia: Yes, it was a conscious decision. I really, I always aim high and expect to get back what I put in or more than I put in. I put in a lot. I don’t really do things in half measures. And, yeah, playing music as a solo artist with a backing band is really expensive, because you’re paying for everything. It’s not like you split cost with a band. It’s just really financially draining. And if you drain all your finances and then you turn up to a show and no one’s there, it’s disheartening. Or if you release an album and no one writes about it. Or you just don’t feel like it’s been given enough attention for how much time and heart went into it.

Laura Imbruglia: I’ve done that three times, and I needed to step away and not feel bitter or jaded. So that’s why I started doing the TV show, to give myself a different creative project that I couldn’t have any expectations for, because I had no idea because I had no idea what I was doing, so there was a strong chance I was going to fail just because I wasn’t equipped.

John Murch: Can you talk me through that putting the heart on the line to then go through what you’ve just explained?

Laura Imbruglia: I think any musician or any creative just wants people to … You’re not just doing it for yourself. I don’t think so anyway. I think, well, I can’t speak for other people, but I need a response. That’s part of the reason I do it is I want people to like it, people outside my friends and family who are biased. I think you take it personally. If there’s not a strong response, or if there’s a negative response you take it personally and think that you’re terrible instead of thinking people don’t get it.

John Murch: How do you deal with that?

Laura Imbruglia: Well, you take five years off. You just get older and wiser as well. Like I used to care when I was a lot younger, really care about Triple J, because you need Triple J support.

John Murch: This is the National Youth Broadcaster in Australia.

Laura Imbruglia: Yes. So not relevant to me anymore. But when I was younger, that’s what everyone’s aiming for is to be on high rotation on Triple J, at which point you become an artist that can live off music in Australia. If you’re at that level of success, not just one song high rotation, but if they get behind you, then you have a fan base everywhere, because they’re in every nook and cranny of Australia kids are listening to them. You’re playing decent shows and you’re selling records. But if you don’t have that support, then it’s just so much harder. We’re lucky we have community radio.

John Murch: Can we tough on the gender equity? Because the Amateur Hour did a fantastic collaboration with Jen Cloher, a number of other musicians. We’re recording this at the end of June 2018. How are you feeling about equality in the Australian musician scene at this stage?

Laura Imbruglia: I just actually participated in a study about this just this week. It’s a massive problem, and I didn’t actually realize it was or believed that it was. I remember when I was doing promo for my last album five years ago someone asked me about it, because there had been a furore at the time, because the hottest 100 didn’t have large female count. So a girl interviewing asked me about it, and I was like, “If you harp on about that stuff, you just make an us-versus-them mentality. It’s not productive. It’s just a ratio thing. There’s less women making music, so there’s going to be less women on the hottest 100.” That was my ignorant view at the time or naïve view.

Laura Imbruglia: And now that I work in the music industry, outside of being a musician, I work for Music Victoria, which is the peak body for music in Victoria and advocacy body. Part of what we do is we have a diversity policy, a gender diversity policy. We need to make sure that anyone performing at any event we put on or any panel we put on, they have to adhere to a 40-40-20 split and so does our board. So that means no less than 40% women, 40% men, and with 20% left unallocated. So it can go to either gender or gender nonconforming.

Laura Imbruglia: And once you start telling the numbers, and we do things like count the numbers of nominees for the awards. You just start realizing how few women are being represented and being put forward. The reason that there’s less women playing music is because they’re not visible. And it’s probably that much harder for people to imagine themselves in that space when they’re such a minority. It’s a scarier prospect when there’s less women in music and in positions in power in music as well, not just on stages, but in the music industry.

Laura Imbruglia: When you look at the power 50 that they put together every year, it’s just mainly white dudes. It’s not because women are less clever or less powerful or less important in the cogs. But the guys rise to the top and get given the opportunities. And there’s also a massive pay gap issue as well. So that’s my answer to that one.

John Murch: But you mention a report, though. Was there other factors in that report that came to mind?

Laura Imbruglia: It’s not a report. it’s a study being put together by an academic. She’s asking a bunch of people the same four questions. She’s going to let me know when it’s assembled. It’ll be interesting to see. It’s definitely a thing that I’ve become really, really aware of. And you can’t unsee it. This is in some of the lyrics of the new album as well. I have never in the past written about political things or, well, it’s personal. But I don’t normally write about things other than matters of the heart. And, yeah, I’ve just become a total bleeding heart feminist in the last year or so. And, yeah, you can’t unsee it once you see the male dominance across everything. It’s just really hurtful.

John Murch: Laura, you say that it’s in the album in some part. How now that you have seen it, so in the last year or so, how can music through the lyrics that you’re now putting in provide change?

Laura Imbruglia: Well, I don’t know if it will, but it’s just something I need to get off my chest, which is the same as anything else that I would write about. It’s like if something’s on my mind, and it’s bothering me, I usually work it through in song. I made a point with one of the songs to really try and put it in a way that it hopefully makes the listener think and is not necessarily on the attack because I think going on the attack isn’t an effective way to have that discussion. We had some pretty healthy debates between me and the producer, Nick. They could have been taken as lighthearted lyrics in this particular song.

Laura Imbruglia: And they were always placeholders. It was down to the wire. I was writing the lyrics in the studio just trying to … I’d sing them to him, and he’s like, “Oh, I don’t know. I really miss that line you had before.” I had to really fight for it, because he thought that I was overthinking it and maybe impacting the song negatively. So we agreed to sleep on it and I would write all night and address it the next day. And I came in, and I was like, “The fact is I don’t want to make … It’s not a joke, what I’m singing about, and I don’t want to sing those lyrics. So this is what I want to sing. This is what I’ve worked on all night, and I’m happy with them. So I hope you like them as well.”

Laura Imbruglia: And he completely turned around on it. And, yeah. Now I’m really happy with the song. The song is called Give Boys Pink Toys. That’s just the chorus kind of. It’s not like a whole song about giving pink toys to boys. It’s just like don’t discourage boys from being sensitive, or don’t teach them that everything female is lesser and yuck.

John Murch: Every year you put on a Country show, isn’t it?

Laura Imbruglia: Yes. It’s a country drag show where guys dress as country women, and women dress as country men, and everyone performing is encouraged to do so and the audience as well. And guys sing songs made famous by country women and vice versa. And then we donate the money to a different charity each year. And it’s fun. It’s fun to choose songs that have really masculine lyrics and flip them and vice versa.

John Murch: What’s been one of the faves that you’ve had a chance, you yourself, Laura, to perform onstage? So what male song have you been able to belt out during these sessions that you’ve enjoyed?

Laura Imbruglia: I really like Glen Campbell songs, but they’re not particularly masculine. They’re just Galveston. Actually, he’s got a song called Country Boy, which is like disco country, and it’s really good. That was fun. I try and do an Aboriginal country song each year, because I really love Aboriginal country music, and a lot of people don’t know about it. More people know about it than they did when I first got into it, because Buried Country is a book and record series that this guy, Clinton Walker, has made over the last few years where he documents Aboriginal country music.

Laura Imbruglia: But there’s been a bit of a backlash against him, because he recently did one that focused just on the women of Aboriginal country music. But he didn’t interview them or clear their stories. Whereas with the Buried Country books, he went out and interviewed, spent years talking with these men. With the women he just did brief synopses based on what he thought he knew about them and didn’t … Yeah. So a lot of Aboriginal country music, I don’t know heaps about it, but if you want to learn about it, the Buried Country Series is a good place to start. And there’s also a DVD that you can get from the national archives that will teach you all about it.

John Murch: What is the kernel of the new album from Laura Imbruglia? What’s the main thing that’s coming through on this new record?

Laura Imbruglia: I think this one there’s a lot of restlessness. It covers discomfort in various forms. It’s going to be called Scared of You. There’s a lot of themes covered throughout the album, but that can be applied, that Scared of You theme can be applied to various different things in the context of the songs.

John Murch: You mention the word discomfort. Is that an age thing, a time of your life thing, or is there some more external/internal factors to that?

Laura Imbruglia: I reckon it’s a bit of both. It’s definitely an age thing. I’m 35. I’m getting to the age where I’m wondering, “Should I be having kids? Should I have set up a career a bit earlier and not spent so much time and energy and money on music and creative pursuits?” Yeah, so there’s a bit of that.

John Murch: When did music enter the life of Laura?

Laura Imbruglia: Music? Oh, since I can remember. Earliest memories driving around listening to The Carpenters with my family, watching the musical, Annie, backyard kind of concerts with my sisters singing Whitney Houston songs, stuff like that.

John Murch: Did you get a sense at a very young age that music would be a pursuit? Or was it just a recreation?

Laura Imbruglia: I think I always wanted to entertain. So whether it was music or comedy or some kind of performing where you get a response, an immediate response.

John Murch: Where was the point that you decided that music would be the thing?

Laura Imbruglia: When I finished high school I moved to Sydney, and I got an acting agent, because I had done really well at acting in high school. And I had done really average in music. So they were my two electives. I was just playing guitar and writing songs for fun, but I truly thought that I had a career as an actor or a comedian, and that was what was in my future. I got an acting agent, and they were just sending me to orange juice commercials. Or I thought at the time that I need an audience, I can’t actually act for a camera, because you don’t get a response and you don’t know … You have no sense of whether you’re doing a good job or it’s hitting the mark.

Laura Imbruglia: And at the same time I did play my first gigs and got a really great response and started getting more gigs, got a manager, and everything just was a lot easier on the musical front. So I just dropped acting at that point and focused on music. First gig was in Newcastle. My older sister, Carla, her friend’s brother set it up. And it was in an RSL club or something. I played with this guy called Ryan Jordan, and he played a few of his own songs, which were really good. And he also did a Smith’s cover and a Johnny Cash cover.

Laura Imbruglia: And for some reason that night is really just sticks in my memory really clearly. I’m still in touch with that guy that I played my first gig with, and I ended up getting into the Smiths. I had these weird things happening where I had heard the week before the Smith song, “There is a Light and it Never Goes Out. And they didn’t back announce it. They just played it. And I was like, “What is this song? These lyrics are amazing.” And then the week later I played my first gig, and Ryan covered that song.

Laura Imbruglia: It just felt like all these weird fateful, magical music things were happening for me. I was becoming aware of lyrics when I hadn’t previously thought too much about them, and I was getting into Darren Hanlon and Candle Records bands at the same time, becoming a real student of songwriting and lyrics at that time. And my booking agent, I would harass him every week and be like, “Please get me on gigs supporting bands from Candle.”

John Murch: Which included The Lucksmiths and who else?

Laura Imbruglia: Yeah, The Lucksmiths, Jodi Phillis, The Mabels.

John Murch: What was your first record?

Laura Imbruglia: First one that I bought, it was probably Richard Marx or Rick Price. Richard Marx, I think, or Julian Lennon. I was really into power ballads, like men singing ballads, like love songs.

John Murch: Have you broken down why that was? Do you know what it was doing to you?

Laura Imbruglia: Don’t know. I don’t think there were other young girls listening to that much AOR. I think I just liked singing along. I just liked their voices, and those kind of songs usually have really good middle eights and key changes.

John Murch: And Saltwater, just general stuff like that, really.

Laura Imbruglia: Yeah. Just Saltwater, it was just a tear-jerker, wasn’t it?

John Murch: What’s your take on The Beatles? Beatles, Rolling Stone, where does it sit?

Laura Imbruglia: Well, I like playing this game with people called the good son. You know the movie, The Good Son, starring Elijah Wood and McCaulay Culkin? And the last scene of the movie, they’re both hanging over the edge of the cliff after a bit of a fight. And McCaulay’s an evil child throughout the whole film. The mom has a boy’s hands, like one kid on each hand, and she’s got to let go of one to save the other. And so that’s a game I like to play. She drops McCaulay, because he’s sh**. I like to play that game with bands like that, that you have to pick a side on, Rolling Stones or The Beatles.

Laura Imbruglia: You need to let go of one. You need both hands to save the other. Once you drop, you can only ever hear the songs in your head. You can never hear them again. And I would choose The Beatles. And I think that had a lot less misogynistic lyrics than The Rolling Stones. But I like to play that game, Smiths or The Cure, Bruce Springsteen or-

John Murch: Oh, Smiths or The Cure.

Laura Imbruglia: Yeah, I dropped The Cure.

John Murch: Which album got you through your teens.

Laura Imbruglia: Nirvana. I was a really big nirvana fan, so probably In Utero. But I was obsessed. I would go into book shops and try and find books that had photos that I hadn’t seen before and buy them purely on that, just terrible books, just junk. But if there was a photo I hadn’t seen before, then I would buy it.

John Murch: Where do you write the songs?

Laura Imbruglia: I write them in my bedroom. Although this album I spent three weeks in a songwriting residency in Bundanon near Nowra, New South Wales. I applied to remove myself from Melbourne so that I could just get it done, because it normally takes me six months to write an album when I have a part-time job. The last two jobs I’ve had have been three-day-a-week jobs. And then I would spend two days a week over six months writing an album. And that’s the same way I made armature album when I was making my web series just like clock on for those two days to your creative task, clock off, go do your other job and really compartmentalize your life.

Laura Imbruglia: But I now have a full-time job, and I needed to … and a relationship and no time to do solid writing. So I just decided if I took three weeks away from the job and away from my life, then I would get it done. But as it turned out, I got half the album done there, and then I spent three months in Melbourne finishing it.

John Murch: The editing process of the songwriting, is it heavy, is it soft? Or do you just roll with whatever’s written?

Laura Imbruglia: No, I do a lot of editing. Some songs just write themselves and don’t need editing. But more often than not, process I did with this one, because I knew I only had three weeks to write, I would start writing, pursue an idea for a while. If I liked it, I’d try and get to the point where I had a verse and a chorus. And then I’d be like, “Cool, I’ll come back to that. That’s the beginnings of a good song.” And then I’d move on to the next idea, a verse and a chorus, “Cool, happy with that.” If I got stuck on something, I’d either abandon it or just keep coming back to it over the course of the week.

Laura Imbruglia: Once I got back to Melbourne, and I needed to finish them off, then it’s just a longer process of, “What am I trying to say in these lyrics? Sometimes I’m saying several things, and I need to write it out and look at it and see if it makes sense to someone that doesn’t know all the things that have gone into … see if there’s some kind of narrative in there that you can follow. I try to, anyway.

John Murch: You’re actually the brainchild of the Amateur Hour. For those International or maybe from Australia who didn’t get a change to see it, and they can see it online, can you give us that synopsis and idea so we can have a chat regarding what the amateur hour was about and is about and why the passion and focus for?

Laura Imbruglia: It’s a web series that’s a variety show without an audience, without a live audience. Each episode goes for half an hour, and it’s book ended by live music. Usually there’s an emerging band, lesser known, and a more established artist as well to give, expose each person in different ways, give them a chance to make some content that they could use to promote their band or whatever. And then there’s comedy skits. I’d always wanted to do comedy and, yeah, dropped it when I started playing music. And I thought it would be a good opportunity to make comedy again.

Laura Imbruglia: I feel like Australia doesn’t have any good comedy like besides our standup comedians. We’ve got a few good ones. I really like Zoe Combs Marr, and I really like Hannah Gadsby. But we don’t have any good skit shows, like that existed in the 90’s. And we don’t have anything like Broad City or just cool comedy that … Curb Your Enthusiasm, Arrested Development. There’s so many good shows in America. I just wanted to make some good comedy.

John Murch: You also had a pretty good team behind you as well, one of them Laura Jean, who’s just released an album called Devotion as well, which is on high rotation in many circles. What’s the sense of community?

Laura Imbruglia: I didn’t have a budget to make the show, and I’d never made a TV show before. So I just did a call out, posted on my personal Facebook, “Hey, everyone, I’m thinking about making a TV show over the Christmas break. I think I want it to be kind of like a cross between Wayne’s World and Recovery and Saturday Night Live. Doesn’t anyone want to help me? I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m definitely going to do something.” And a whole bunch of people put their hands up, ranging from people that, like a publicist or this …

Laura Imbruglia: And then I put it on my music page, too, and a girl put her hand up who was studying film. She wanted to do the boom. I hadn’t even considered that I would need a boom mic. Pitched to a friend’s friend to film it. He came onboard. It just grew from there. We did a big launch. Everyone donated their time. There were about 50 volunteers that went into the making of it. And all the venues that we filmed in, because there was a different venue for each episode. They just let us in for free to film. And then season two, we raised $50,000. So it went from zero to 50K budget. And that was through government grants and crowd funding. Generous people donated money.

John Murch: So you can still have a look at it as well.

Laura Imbruglia: Yeah.

John Murch: You’re just about to go in and do your DJ set very soon. What’s your go-to, what’s the one you put on that’s pretty much guaranteed that you enjoy putting on that gets the crowd going?

Laura Imbruglia: Return of the Mack is pretty good. I play a decent amount of 90’s hip hop and R&B. I also really love Roxette. But I don’t think anyone else enjoys Roxette. It’s just me. Like whenever I put Roxette on, I have a good time. But not sure the crowd do.

John Murch: So you put on The Joy Ride.

Laura Imbruglia: Yeah.

John Murch: But they don’t respond, do they?

Laura Imbruglia: They’d don’t respond because they’re idiots.

John Murch: Yeah, I know. I had the same experience.

Laura Imbruglia: Yeah. Love Roxette. But Return of the Mack, it starts with this – SINGING. And as soon as it comes on, people are like, “Yeah.” So that’s a good one.

John Murch: End of the night song?

Laura Imbruglia: I’ve been playing Hold On by Wilson Philips. Before that, my previous end of the night song was Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now and sometimes Hey Good Lookin’ by Hank Williams. If I see people that look like they’re going to hook up, I make it really uncomfortable for them by making it blatant.

John Murch: Laura Imbruglia, thank you very much for joining radionotes.

Laura Imbruglia: Thanks for having me.