When Jessica Mauboy set about writing and recording her third studio album, Beautiful, LA-based songwriters and producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis already had the star of Aussie film The Sapphires on their talent radar.
“They’re an incredible team who wrote a lot for Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson and Prince and it was just awesome for them to allow me into their world,” Jessica says. “Jimmy got a pen and paper and said ‘OK, this is how we work, I’m gonna ask you 10 questions and you’re just gonna tell it how it is’ and he asked me my favourite colour, my first love, and he really got into my head and while we were doing that Terry is on the piano obviously listening to the beat of the conversation, where it was going emotionally, and that’s how we got started writing our first song.”
Most of Beautiful was written in Los Angeles but she did team up again with songwriters and producers of her first album Been Waiting, David Musumeci and Anthony Egizi. “And also Adam Reily who I am such a fan of. He taught me a lot in my songwriting, how to keep it real.”
Beautiful provided Mauboy an opportunity to take creative control of her art; the lyrics are from the heart, the vocal tone more natural. “Ahhh… just tone it down I thought. I didn’t want to be too tricky this time, to not have effects and delays. I found an honesty with this album and started to hear my true voice. It’s a whole new journey; a touch of my personal world in terms of everything that’s happened. It has a pop-Euro kind of sound where you can hear everything rather than it being cramped, layered and processed. The stories have always been there, the issue has just been being able to find the time to be in the studio.”
The first single release from Beautiful is the club vibe-inspired To The End Of The Earth co-written by Mauboy, Jaden Michaels, Ryan McMahon and Ben Berger. McMahon, from the Los Angeles-based production house Captain Cuts, says one of the most memorable moments of the recording session was doing vocal ad libs with Mauboy. “After we record all the main vocal parts, we like the singer to improvise on top of the entire song. We pressed ‘record’ and Jessica channelled her inner Whitney Houston and went crazy on the track. Pretty much the entire bridge/breakdown through the end of the song was one take of Jessica improvising – it was incredible. We all looked at each other and laughed because it was so perfect. She was one of the coolest and nicest people we’ve ever worked with and we can’t wait to work together again.”
Mauboy will start the Queensland leg of her national tour – named for the first single released from the album To The End Of The Earth – on 19 November at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and she promises to belt out popular hits including songs from The Sapphires. That film’s demanding production schedule has kept Jessica off the road for the past two years. “I am incredibly pumped to be performing again. I just want to show everyone the back scene of where I come from.”
What’s on Jessica’s playlist?
“I have a variety of genres on my playlist. I love American country music artists like Brooks and Dunn – I have all their albums – and Alan Jackson, who I can’t wait to see this year when he comes over (and I’m going to take my mum too!)”
- Rhythm of the Night – Corona
- Locked Out of Heaven – Bruno Mars
- Dreamlover – Mariah Carey
- Black and White – Michael Jackson
- Cowgirls Don’t Cry – Brooks & Dunn
Who inspires you as a performer?
“John Farnham is definitely someone I look up to. Vocally he just hits every note and he is still doing it so well. I am fascinated by his vocal chords, I just want to hold them…and my uncle and aunties because they could talk my ear off with their storytelling.”
What would be your dream role in an action movie?
“Something in Matrix, like being the girl who flies about doing those mid-air action shots and I’d be in a hot onesy kind of leather suit like Catwoman’s.”
Beautiful, which includes latest single Pop A Bottle is out now.