Dannii Minogue is not having a comeback. Yes, the 46-year-old Melbourne singer, fashion designer and actor will soon join British boy band legends Take That on their Australian tour. Oh, and she’s also just dropped her first solo material since 2010, but she insists this is no big deal.
“I hate the word comeback,” Dannii says. “It sounds like pressure. I haven’t done my solo music for a while, but I feel like we’re just rolling out stuff that I’ve been working on.”
If she’s been quiet on the music front these past seven years, that’s partly because she’s finally discovered the concept of work-life balance. Much of this, she says, is down to becoming a mother.
After the birth of her son Ethan in 2010, Dannii moved back to Melbourne to be close to family. While she has still found time to launch her own petite clothing range for Target, she says parenting has forced her to focus on one thing at a time.
“I used to be 100 per cent married to my job. My parents spent years telling me I was working too hard and I wouldn’t listen. Becoming a mum, it clicked. I love music, but I definitely want it to be in a place where I keep that love for it and it doesn’t become a drain on family life – because then the passion for it will go.”
Her child-friendly approach to music-making means spending more time in the studio and less time on the promo circuit. You can’t really blame her, when stepping back into the limelight tends to bring a renewed surge of interest in her love life – something she has learned can be toxic to relationships and damaging to her family.
A series of high-profile romances, beginning with her brief marriage to Julian McMahon in 1994, has been tabloid catnip. It still tends to be the hook on which most of her headlines are hung, whether it’s her current relationship with music producer Adrian Newman or her co-parenting arrangements with Ethan’s father, British male model Kris Smith (the couple separated in 2012).
Today, our chat is all about the music. Well, mostly. Dannii plays it down, but the forthcoming Take That tour is a big deal. While she has enjoyed a fantastically successful music career in Europe, this is her first national Australian tour. It’s also the first time Take That has toured here in more than 20 years. Make no mistake, the ’90s are back.
Dannii says she’s not immune to a bit of nostalgia herself. After all, the 1990s was the decade in which she made the transition from child starlet to fully fledged disco queen.
Raised in Melbourne’s leagy Surrey Hills, she joined the Young Talent Time team in 1982, after making her TV debut at 7. Given her son is that age now, I wonder if she looks back differently on her early start in the business.
“I’m glad that I grew up in that show because it taught me so many different things,” Dannii says. “You rehearse hard and be ready for the show when it goes live. I guess it’s an old-fashioned approach to work. A lot of kids today are learning that it isn’t enough to just want something. It’s the ones who get up off their arse and turn up for rehearsal every single day – that’s how you make it happen.”
- Dannii Minogue and Take That
- Rod Laver Arena, November 15
- Tickets from ticketek.com.au
Would she encourage Ethan to follow in her footsteps? “I was never encouraged by my parents,” she says. “I nagged them. He’s not the sort of kid who wants to get up and perform all the time. I can’t imagine him wanting to do it. If you’re an entertainer, it’s got to be something that’s in you; you’ve got to really, really want to do it.”
In many ways, Dannii’s career template was established by her time at YTT. By making her own costumes, she discovered a talent for fashion that has been borne out in her work as a designer. She honed a knack for entertainment TV that came in handy for stints on Australia’s Got Talent and The X Factor. But it was – and is – her gift for music she keeps coming back to.
Leaving YTT after six years, Dannii chased an acting career before following sister Kylie into the pop charts with her eponymous 1990 debut album. It was a reasonable success, but there was a sense that she was trying to shake her past as a child performer. Like many before her, she fled the country.
“When I moved to London, I had a little bubble of breathing space where I could feel like I was hitting a reset button. There are not many people who have been able to start out as young as I did and keep going. To do that, you have to take pauses, to be able to refresh.”
The result of one of these pauses was a side-step into dance music. A remix of All I Wanna Do, taken from her third LP Girl, was the first in a baker’s dozen of No.1s on the British dance chart. She remains that chart’s best performing artist.
Music critics have traditionally been a bit sniffy about pop and dance music. Pop isn’t serious music (a la Radiohead), or so the story goes. But the fact Dannii and Take That can fill stadiums two decades on suggests that, for many of us, pop music is anything but disposable.
“It’s something Kylie and I have talked about a lot,” Dannii says. “We were starting to do pop music in Australia at a time when it was really rock dominated. People said pop wasn’t going to last. It was the same with dance music. I think, in one way, the artists who were called disposable are the ones who wanted so badly to prove them wrong. They put on the fight to go, ‘nup, not putting up with this.’ Sometimes it’s those comments made about you that spur you on.”
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