Kylie Minogue is coming to the Yorkshire coast next August, to play at Scarborough's Open Air Theatre.
Here she talks about her new album, Golden, and the forthcoming live dates.
“Now that I've been to Nashville,” Kylie Minogue says with audible affection, “I understand. It's like some sort of musical ley-line...”
Golden, Kylie's fourteenth studio album, is the result of an intensive working trip to the home of Country music, a city whose influence lingered on long after the pop legend and her team returned to London to finish the record: “We definitely brought a bit of Nashville back with us,” she states.
The album is a vibrant hybrid, blending Kylie's familiar pop-dance sound with an unmistakeable Tennessee twang. It was Jamie Nelson, Kylie's long-serving A&R man, who first came up with the concept of incorporating “a Country element” into Kylie's tried-and-trusted style. That idea sat there for a little while, with Minogue and her team initially unsure about how to bring it to life.
Then, when Grammy-winning songwriter Amy Wadge's publisher suggested Kylie should come over to collaborate in Nashville, a city Kylie had previously never visited, something clicked. “You know when you're so excited about something,” she recalls, “that you repeat it an octave higher and double the decibels? I was like that. 'Nashville?! Yes! Of course I would!'. I hoped it would help the album to reveal itself. I thought 'If I don't get it in Nashville, I'm not going to get it anywhere.'”
Kylie's Nashville trip involved working alongside two key writers, both with homes in the city. One was British-born songwriter Steve McEwan (whose credits include huge Country hits for Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney and Carrie Underwood), and the other was the aforementioned Amy Wadge, another Brit (best known for her mega-selling work with Ed Sheeran). It was then a truly international project: Golden was mainly created with African-German producer Sky Adams and a list of contributors including Jesse Frasure, Eg White, Jon Green, Biff Stannard, Samuel Dixon, Danny Shah and Lindsay Rimes, and there's a duet with English singer Jack Savoretti.
However, the album's agenda-setting lead single Dancing was, significantly, first demoed with Nathan Chapman, the man who guided Taylor Swift's transition from Country starlet to Pop megastar. If anyone knows how to mix those two genres, Chapman does. “Nathan was the only actual Nashvillean I worked with. He's got a huge studio in his house, which is probably due to his success with Taylor... there’s plenty of platinum discs of her, and others on his walls.”
There's something of the spirit of Peggy Lee's Is That All There Is?, of Dylan Thomas' Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, even of Liza Minnelli's Cabaret about Dancing, a song which not only opens the album but sets out its stall, providing a microcosm of what is to come. “You've got the lyrical edge, that Country feel, mixed with some sampling of the voice and electronic elements, so it does what it says on the label. And I love that it's called 'Dancing', it's immediately accessible and seemingly so obvious, but there’s depth within the song.”
The experience of simply being in Nashville was an overwhelming one, before Kylie had even arrived. “Once I knew I was going to Nashville, people talked about the place with such enthusiasm. They said without doubt I would love it and, I would come back with songs. They were sending lists of restaurants, coffee shops and bars. It really was a beautiful and genuine response and it felt like I was about to have a life changing experience and in a way, I did.”
The reality came as something of a surprise, when she found a far more modern metropolis than the vintage one she'd envisaged. “I thought it would be like New Orleans: little houses and bars, with music spilling out onto the street. It reminded me more of Melbourne: apartment blocks going up everywhere! The main strip, Broadway, where the honky tonk bars are, that’s where the street was filled with music and it was just amazing.”
Mainly, Minogue remembers the heat and humidity. “It was 100 degrees. It was like it was raining with no rain.” She also relished the chance to wander around unrecognised, visit a few venerable music bars and soak in the atmosphere. “I didn't get to the Grand Ole Opry or the music museums but I managed to go to a couple of the institutions there like The Bluebird Cafe and The Listening Room, and just by being there, through some kind of osmosis, you get this rejuvenated respect for The Song, and the writing of The Song. There's no hoo-hah around it. There's a singer-songwriter there, talking about the song and singing the song, to an audience who are there to listen. Although, I have to confess I was guilty of starting to clap too soon during a long pause at the end of one of the songs. The guy made a bit of a joke out of it and got a laugh from it, but I thought 'Of all people in the audience, no...'”
It's probably no coincidence, therefore, that every track on Golden is a Kylie co-write, making it arguably her most personal album to date. “The end of 2016 was not a good time for me,” she says, referring to well-documented personal upheavals, “so when I started working on the album in 2017, it was, in many ways, a great escape. Making this album was a kind of saviour.
"I’d been through some turmoil and was quite fragile when I started work on it, but being able to express myself in the studio made quick work of regaining my sense of self. Writing about various aspects of my life, the highs and lows, with a real sense of knowing and of truth. And irony. And joy!”
Kylie Minogue will, it's scarcely believable, turn 50 this year. This looming milestone is partly behind the album's title, and title track. “I had this line that I wanted to use: 'We're not young, we're not old, we're golden' because I'm asked so often about being my age in this industry.
"This year, I'll be 50. And I get it, I get the interest, but I don't know how to answer it. And that line, for my personal satisfaction, says it as succinctly as possible. We can’t be anyone else, we can’t be younger or older than we are, we can only be ourselves. We're golden. And the album title, Golden, reflects all of this. I liked the idea of everyone being golden, shining in their own way. The sun shines in daylight, the moon shines in darkness. Wherever we are in life, we are still golden.”
Kylie is looking forward to the challenge of incorporating the Golden material into her live shows. “Mixing these songs in with my existing catalogue is going to be fun. And it could be fun to do some of those songs with just a guitar. It'll make my acoustic set interesting...”