“The Welcome Fire” marks a welcome return for the songstress.

The powerful image on the cover of The Welcome Fire album suggests this is Wendy Matthews most personal and reflective work to date. Painted across the singer’s bare back is a huge burning heart, a Milagro symbol expressing love and passion.

“I’ve got these Mexican Milagro charms all over my house and to me the flaming heart signified the welcome return to the fire of inspiration and creation.” She laughs when I ask if her body art is a permanent tattoo. “No I don’t feel I’ve been through enough life initiation to mark myself like that.”

The Welcome Fire is the first album in which Matthews has been involved in the writing of every track. A new recording deal with Fanfare Records enabled her to draw together an impressive stable of songwriting talent that includes Josh Pyke, Megan Washington and US artist Kim Richey.

“Everybody was really generous with their time and ideas. Because I was doing so much travelling, we would basically try to come up with a song on the day from start to finish.”

Born in Montreal Canada, Matthews left home at 17 to go busking with friends across the US and Mexico. In 1982, while in Los Angeles, she met Little River Band frontman Glen Shorrock who invited her to tour with him. Australia became her new home and she would go on to record seven platinum-plus selling albums and win seven Aria Awards. Her 1993 mega hit The Day You Went Away sold more than 300,000 singles.

The Welcome Fire, her first originals compilation in 12 years, is filled with poignant lyrics and brooding melodies.

“I wanted a record of just me and that took time – the songs are about reflecting. I have a bit of a fascination with my childhood because it seems like such a complete other lifetime ago,” she says.

“The songs are my stories about life and love, positive and negative. The Welcome Fire are songwriting songs, although I’m not even sure what that means.”