Tina Arena on the fragmented industry, future plans, and what being dropped from Sony taught her
From her incredible backlog of hits, including the 10x times platinum ‘Don’t Ask’ (1994) and the multi-platinum ‘In Deep’ (1997), to her recent collaborations with acts like The Veronicas and Danni Minogue, to releasing her own fragrance (‘Renaissance’), Tina Arena’s 40-year career is nothing short of remarkable.
Set to deliver a keynote at BIGSOUND in September during her extensive national ‘Innocence to Understanding Tour’, Tina shows no signs of stopping.
To celebrate, Tina chats about her next album release, what she learned from the experience of Sony Music cancelling her contract, and what she hopes we take away from her highly-anticipated BIGSOUND keynote.
When asked about your career in a 60 minutes interview, you said “it’s a shit-fight”. Outside of just being your hilariously Australian and candid self, what did you mean?
(Laughs). Yes I have said that. I guess trying to evolve with all the changes: label mergers, piracy, changing technologies, format changes: vinyl, cassettes, CD, MP3, streaming, the changing face of media, we used to do promo on 5 TV stations, now there are 200 TV channels, thousands of blogs and websites, reality TV shows, media is so fragmented. It’s just a minefield… Exciting times but things are moving so rapidly and sometimes I wish it could just be simpler and more about the music.
You’ve done many career-spanning interviews surrounding the release of ‘Greatest Hits & Interpretations’. What’s one question you wish you were asked and why?
Wow, that itself is an interesting question. I don’t think there is anything off limits with me, I’ll answer anything that I’m asked, people wont always agree with my answers but there’s no smoke and mirrors with me, so I think I’ve been asked almost everything!! I don’t get asked about song-writing very often journos just focus on “the vocals” and “the voice”. I’ve written and co-written virtually all my work since ‘Chains’.
What is your favourite re-recording on ‘Greatest Hits & Interpretations’ and why?
Honestly, it sounds cliche but I really like all of them. I was very surprised with Morgan Evan’s interpretation of If I Didn’t Love You, I love Kate Miller-Heidke’s version of Heaven Help My Heart – it gave me a new appreciation for that song, I love what Dannii Minogue did with Sorrento Moon and the Jessica Mauboy and Veronica’s moment on Chains was very special.
In ‘99 Sony Music Australia cancelled your recording contract. I bring this up because some of life’s most trying times lead to the greatest lessons. What did that experience teach you?
It taught me that music taste is subjective and that’s OK. People have different perspectives on what is commercially viable and that’s OK too… It taught me to be strong and when one door closes another opens. It taught me (again) that the music industry can be brutal and you need to be tough!
You’ve released a second greatest hits studio album, you have a local tour coming up, and you’re a keynote speaker at BIGSOUND in September. What will follow? What’s the next project?
The next project is still a secret. There is a major project next year but I can’t speak about it yet. After BIGSOUND and the September tour, which will be my last live shows here for some time, I have a French language album coming out which I’m very excited about.
The local and international industry could certainly take many cues from your career, what are you hoping to impart during your keynote at BIGSOUND?
I’m hoping to share my perspective succinctly, hoping people can take away some learnings from my experiences and hoping to learn a few things myself from some of the other amazing speakers.
You’ve mentioned in the past you’re interested in doing diplomatic work. Do you have an area in particular you’d like to focus on?
I’m interested in cultural exchanges, the fight for equality, and fairer distribution of wealth, child protection, protecting the arts – so much really.
Tina Arena’s national tour kicks off on September 6 in Brisbane and finishes up on October 6 in Burswood. See here for ticketing and event info.
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.