After releasing three singles this year, “Raining Diamonds,” “Do It Like That” and “Crazy,” Ricki-Lee Coulter is ready to unleash her latest studio album, Fear & Freedom, which is out on Aug. 17. We sat down with the singer last week at EMI Music’s headquarters for an interview, but it was more like a girly catch-up session with the lovely and chatty Ricki-Lee! For the duration of our chat, Ricki-Lee was an open book and talked about how all the things she’s had to overcome in the past few years — a public divorce and toxic family and friends, to name a couple — have inspired her to make Fear & Freedom a record for herself and no one else.
Do you think it helps to play a character in music videos, as opposed to just being yourself all the time? Maybe there is more focus?
Oh definitely, we all have facets of our personality that come out in whatever mood you might be in. On a Saturday night you might pop on a heel and wear some red lipstick and a little party dress and all of a sudden you’re this sexy minx. Whereas all day, every day, during the week you might work in an office and be really plain and boring and the weekend is your time to shine. I have so many outrageous friends and I find inspiration in that. I do have so many different parts of my personality, you know, when I’m at home I’m walking around the house in my undies and Ugg boots or pyjamas, or really relaxed and completely at home casual. And every day I like to wear jeans, jeans and singlets and jackets, but then I also like being a bit outrageous and wearing bright and big shoulder details and super high heels. Then on the red carpet I can play with different looks — I can be feminine and girly or I can be super sexy, or I can be really glamorous, or I can be a bit rock chick and you play with all those different parts of your personality and in videos I get to do that and on sets of photos shoots and also when I perform on stage you play up those different kinds of personalities and I get a lot of opportunity to do that.
More from Ricki-Lee when you keep reading.
We come across so many red carpet photos at work and are sometimes like, ‘Why did they decide to put that on? It’s so crazy and out there.’ But then where else do you get an opportunity to do that? You can’t just wear it down the street, unless you’re Lady Gaga or someone like that.
Like I said I’ve just got so many outrageous friends that so do not care about what people think of them, and that fearlessness, once you sort of catch that it’s actually really fun. When you don’t care what people think when you walk down the street, it’s an amazingly freeing feeling. Like I’ve got things in my wardrobe that you kind of shy away from wearing during the day, but then you have times where you’re like, why not wear it during the day? I’ve got it, it’s there, and it’s amazing, so why not wear it? So I end up walking around with this crazy spike ended shoulder thing in the day. I really enjoy embracing fashion and doing different things with hair and makeup and really committing to it! And I think more people need to embrace it every day.
Do you think this attitude or philosophy is something that comes through with your new album? As you were making it did you sort of push aside what you thought people may think and just do it for yourself?
Yes, that’s what the title is all about. Fear & Freedom is being fearless and being free to be whoever you want to be; not letting the worry of what other people might think hold you back from doing something. The worst thing you can do is try and please everyone else because you’re never going to be able to please everyone else, so as long as you are happy and as long as you please yourself, and you’re happy and feel good about whatever it is that you’re doing, that is all that you need to worry about.
I guess it’s like when they say, ‘How can you expect someone to love you, if you can’t love yourself,’ that kind of thing . . .
Yes, definitely. Even when you do love who you are and love yourself, there is always going to be someone out there who thinks you’re an idiot, or completely disagrees with what you think or what you love or the choices that you make and you have to be at peace with that. And the album is all about this stuff. I have spent such a large portion of my life trying to make other people happy, and sometimes you don’t realise at the time, but you’re actually preventing yourself from being happy because you’re trying to make someone else happy. That’s not good or healthy and it’s not good for you. I think you need to be surrounded by people that, when you make them happy, you’re also happy.
Is it hard to surround yourself with the right people? I know you’ve put so much of yourself and your effort into this album, and moving forward how do you filter out people?
It’s really hard. Three or four years ago I had to do a massive flush out of all of the toxic people in my life. Sometimes they’re the people that are closest to you, and they’re poison, and it’s really hard because you don’t want to seem ungrateful for the times that they’ve been there and things that they’ve done for you, but if they’re not going to change the things that are so poisonous and all of the negativity that they bring to your life, then it weighs you down and you can’t live your life like that, otherwise you just stay in this rut. I was in a rut for a long time and I think it started way back in 2008 when I realised that the guy that I married actually was not good for me. I should’ve listened to that part of my inner voice saying to me that it doesn’t feel right.
But I was scared, so I went through with it and I got married, and six months later I realised, ‘What the hell have I gotten myself into? I’ve made a real big mistake here,’ and I had to man up and make a huge decision that didn’t come lightly because I was going to hurt someone in making that decision. But I knew that in order for me to be happy in my life I had to make this decision and walk away from this relationship that I’d been in for seven years. I think I was lucky that I’d realised early enough, and that was like the first part for me of getting rid of toxic people. There were relationships with family members that were nothing but negative and I had to turn my back on my closest family members for two or three years. I didn’t talk to my mum for two years because she was bringing nothing but negative to my life. But then she actually went away and worked on those things herself and came back, and she’s a completely different person now, and we’re closer than ever. Everyone deserves to be happy; you shouldn’t have to spend your life miserable.
It feels like you’ve achieved so much with this album. What do you think this signifies for the future direction of your music and career?
It’s really encouraging for me because this is the first time I’ve allowed myself to be fearless and free in what I’ve been writing. I have not filtered myself and I don’t censor myself when I write or when I do interviews. I don’t hold back; I’m just completely honest and I think that is what people are liking about it. I’m making music that I love and being completely honest in my lyrics when I write them. That’s what people relate to, and I think that is what people are connecting with, and that is encouraging for me next time around, because I know that what is what people want to hear. So I think next time I’ll push even further. I may have gained more experience and more strength and more courage to be a bit more bold again next time.
You’re a great presence on social media, whether you’re sharing fun photos or interacting with fans. But do you find that with what you share you have to ever censor yourself? What’s too private?
My relationship I don’t flaunt all over Twitter and Facebook. [Ricki-Lee is dating Richard Harrison, a personal trainer.] Everything else is completely fine. I’ll post a nice picture every now and then, but I think having that topic off limits is a piece of me that I get to keep to myself. And I’m so candid about our relationship. If you listen to the songs on my album, my relationship isn’t off limits.
Well I guess if it’s a part of your life, you draw inspiration from it.
Yes, it’s one of the biggest inspirations on this album, and there are songs that are reminiscing about the first night that we met, reminiscing about that new and almost jungle-like passion when you first meet someone. There are really raunchy songs on my album and that’s so much fun. But the only thing I really hold back on in terms of social media is images of my relationship. You have about 140 characters to write a tweet, so I’m not about to try and explain my relationship or talk about it.
What music are you listening to right now?
Oh gosh, I really love Justin Bieber at the moment and I never thought that I would say that, but I’ve caught the bug! I just really like his music. I’m not like the teenage girls that are obsessed with him, I just really like his music. So “As Long As You Love Me” is one of my favourite songs at the moment. And Rita Ora is so cool and so fresh, and again she just seems like a chick that doesn’t care, she just has fun and says what she thinks and I love that! [Goes through iPhone.] “Some Nights” by Fun — I love that. I love “Gang Bang” by Madonna — such a good song! The new No Doubt song, “Settle Down,” is amazing. And Azealia Banks, have you heard her stuff? “212”? It’s so good and the video is so freaky.
Fear & Freedom is available from Aug. 17. You can pre-order it now.