If you want to know all about Ricki-Lee’s personal life, you could always just ask her. Or follow her on Facebook or Twitter. Or buy NW. Or… you get the idea. But Fear And Freedom, the brand new album from the Aussie pop diva, was made to tell you about something other than how many kilos she’s lost, or what being divorced in your 20s is like.
Fear And Freedom, although admittedly is intensely autobiographical, chronicles something else entirely: an until-now overlooked genuine musical talent and savvy businesswoman, all wrapped up in a pop package extraordinaire.
You see, this is Ricki-Lee Inc. – and Fear And Freedom is the CEO’s new mission statement.
“The public don’t realize Ricki-Lee is a true musician, confident and comfortable to get behind the microphone in any situation, with an insightful comment about all aspects of the creation process,” says Scott Horscroft, Vice President, A&R Labels, over at her brand new label EMI.
“Ricki-Lee is not a celebrity that can sing. She is a celebrity because she is one of Australia’s most hard working professionals, and is involved in every part of the creative process… and can sing like HELL!!”
“Lots of people don’t know that I write my own songs,” says Ricki-Lee. “They think that people give me songs and I just sing them. But before I was even signed to EMI I made this album. I went away and I spent my own money and got on a plane. I had no pressure, no opinions, no one telling me what kind of album to make. No one telling me what direction I should go in, or who to work with.”
Having not released an album since 2007’s Gold certified Brand New Day, and dumping the following album made with her last label, Ricki-Lee found herself lost – creatively and personally. Uninspired and disenchanted with the music industry, she took a step back from her pop career, only to re-emerge a stronger person – and in love.
“All of a sudden I found myself writing again. Everything I was writing was a shift in my sound, it was positive, uplifting, inspired, empowered. I had fallen in love again… I went into making this album with a defined idea before I had even stepped into the studio – and up until now I had never had a clear cut idea of who I was as an artist.”
Having undergone a shift both musically and personally, Ricki-Lee got down to business – approaching this ‘coming of age’ album almost as one would a debut. It was a chance to re-define who Ricki-Lee was as an artist, as a songwriter – and as a businesswoman.
“Through relinquishing control when I was undergoing a tough personal time, I ended up not being able to talk for myself or think for myself – I was like a puppet. I was being controlled… Decisions were being made and singles were being released and I was the one who was copping [the criticism].”
“I’m not proud of that time. When I walked away from it, it inspired me again to say you know what? I have things to say and I have ideas and I’m not going to let anyone else tell me how it’s going to be.”
Through that strength, Ricki-Lee decided that Fear And Freedom would be exactly the album she wanted to make – and there would be no limit to the dream of how big it could possibly be.
“The dream was massive. Beyonce, Lady Gaga and even Pink – I was looking at all the songs that inspired me, and the writers and producers that had worked on those songs, and I reached out to them… it was a big risk for me to reach out to some of the biggest writers and producers in the world, but it worked.”
“I had gained this courage, and I wasn’t scared. You have to make friends with the worst thing that could happen – if they said no, that’s fine. But so many of them came back and said yes, and it was exciting.”
With this newfound sense of success, it was the business of Ricki-Lee that needed an overhaul next. Taking control of her career with a new manager and a new label allowed her to excel at a little known talent of Ricki-Lee, the mini-mogul: the creative control of EVERYTHING.
“There are a lot of singers out there – and then there are artists. I see myself as an artist. I co-produce things, I’m adding things, taking things out – I know what I want, and I know what I want to hear. I enjoy that creative process… with everything. If I’m not happy with something, it doesn’t move forward. I know these songs so well; I know every sound, instrument, sound effect, vocal. I know them inside out.”
“[From choreography to styling, to writing and production] it’s my name, my brand and my image. If you’re not driving that, it’s somebody else’s vision.”
“When you come to Ricki-Lee with an idea then it better be good,” says Glenn Dickie, the A&R Manager instrumental in signing Ricki-Lee to EMI. “One of the hard things about working with Ricki-Lee is that she’s often right. She’s so in tune with her career and what she wants.”
“Ricki-Lee is the real deal. Raining Diamonds was the stand out, and we heard it as a hit single… I was personally more excited about this project than I had been about anything since I signed JET.”
This is a pop star with not just a soaring vocal, but also undeniable songwriting talent, a savvy business mind and a healthy dose of control over her own career projection.
It’s all there waiting to be uncovered – all you have to do is ask a question or two about the music.
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