Like most musicians in Australia, Laura Imbruglia has a day job; today she’s found time to be interviewed while at the office where she does admin. Earlier in the week she had to squeeze in more interviews by doing a couple of them on the tram, which was less ideal. “At the end of the second one I had to do a radio ID,” she says. “I lost all anonymity so not only was I the idiot having an interview on the tram, I had to say, ‘Hi, you’re listening to blah blah blah FM and I’m Laura Imbruglia.’ Which is really, really embarrassing.”
She’s also found time for study, coming close to the end of a graphic design course that’s proven useful in her music career. “I thought I might be good at it, but then I remembered pretty early on that I had no visual arts skills. So it’s just made me more self-sufficient for my music stuff; I don’t have to pay people to make my concert posters and my layouts for CDs any more.”
It’s also helped her come up with ideas for unusual ways to add value to her albums, putting extras in for people who pick up the physical versions. Her previous release came with a comic book and the new album, What a Treat, comes with a double-sided jigsaw puzzle. “It’s been good getting a graphic designer’s brain on for thinking of new and interesting ways to package stuff.”
She’s also had to come up with new and interesting ways to raise money. Although Imbruglia received a grant to help with the cost of the album’s recording, she thought of an inventive way to pay for promoting her tour. “I put a thing on Twitter saying, ‘In desperate need of cash: will perform sexual favours for cash. By sexual favours I mean I will sing ‘Let’s Get It On’ to you via Skype.’ I was just joking and then I thought maybe I can actually earn money doing that? I created a Bandcamp product and set a fee for filming myself singing songs for people with a personal dedication. I just put it online to see if anyone would buy them and they sold out really quickly. In fact I probably charged not enough for them for the amount of time it takes me to put them together, but I might make them a permanent merch item and up the price.” You can find these videos on YouTube; watching Laura Imbruglia perform a lively rendition of Blondie’s ‘Call Me’ as a birthday present for someone named Grzegorz is entirely worth your time.
All the hustle and grind is in aid of an album that’s also worth your time, one that contains a lovelorn duet with Ben Salter (‘Limerence’), a psych-rock song about insects (‘Incest’) and a boot-scooting country-rock number about howling at the moon (‘Awoooh!’). That last one features a video for which Imbruglia spent several hours having makeup applied to make her look like she’d stepped straight out of Teen Wolf.
But in spite of completing another album, her third now, Imbruglia doesn’t seem to think much of her achievements. She recently turned 30, the age when many people have the moment where they take stock and wonder why they haven’t travelled the world or finished a novel or had two kids. “I’ve been having that moment for the past five years,” she says, “so it wasn’t like a sudden thing. I regularly have that moment where I go, ‘God, what am I doing? This is not an adult’s life. Where’s my house and car?’ But it’s the musician’s life; it’s pretty hard to have those things. I have been achieving things but they’ve just been musical I guess.”
BY JODY MACGREGOR