"One-hit wonder? Not me" says Torn singer Natalie Imbruglia

Imbruglia is working on a new original album.
Imbruglia is working on a new original album. PHOTO: SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

Natalie Imbruglia returns with a new album after six years

Natalie Imbruglia is not all out of faith, unlike what she sings in her 1997 breakout hit Torn.

After a six-year hiatus from the music scene, she is back with a new album, has started writing songs again and does not think she is a one-hit wonder, although many people can recall only that one hit from her.

"That's not really my impression of myself, so I can't relate to that statement," she says of the one-hit wonder label.

"I love Torn and I still really enjoy singing it. It brought me so much happiness and good things into my life and I'm incredibly grateful to be part of that whole experience."

Despite having released four other albums in the last 18 years since she made her debut in 1997 with Left Of The Middle, the singer is probably best known for her cover of Torn, which was originally sung by now-disbanded American rock band Ednaswap. Her version still receives frequent radio airplay and has generated more than 30 million streams on digital music service Spotify.

She was talking to Life in a telephone interview from London, where she was promoting her new album, Male, a collection of 12 songs originally by her favourite male artists, including electro-pop Grammy winners Daft Punk, Cat Stevens, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Damien Rice and The Cure.

Given the album's stripped-down musical arrangements, the focus is on Imbruglia's delicate, crisp vocals as she hauntingly croons tunes such as Instant Crush and Only Love Can Break Your Heart with an aching rawness of plaintive longing. Other tracks such as The Cure's Friday I'm In Love are given a whimsical folk spin.

It was a "persistent" recording company executive whom Imbruglia met in a cafe who convinced her to return to music, says the 40-year-old British- Australian who started in show business as an actress in the early 1990s with the Australian soap opera Neighbours.

During the break from music, she spent two years studying acting in Los Angeles and made her stage debut last year in Alan Ayckbourn's Things We Do For Love in England. She was also a guest judge on reality television singing competition The X Factor Australia.

"When I went back into the studio and started singing again, I knew that I was doing the right thing because I realised how much I had missed music. It feels really fresh for me now that I took a break," she says.

A combination of her tight acting schedule and a five-year-long writer's block was what made her decide to return to her music career with a covers album rather than a full-fledged original one, she explains.

Not that recording covers is a walk in the park, she adds quickly.

"It's not as easy as you think it is to find a song that you connect with and can make your own. That's also why I still write my own songs because sometimes you struggle to find a song that fits you like a glove."

Male gave her an opportunity to express herself creatively after five years of music inactivity. Being able to interpret the songs from a female perspective is something she describes as "cathartic".

"I went into it fragile and came out stronger, so I don't know what that means. Nothing to do with any specific situations, but it was more of processing particular emotions, whether it was feelings of love lost or hope for love in the future."

From her reply, one cannot help but wonder if she was referring to her difficult divorce from singer Daniel Johns of Australian rock group Silverchair, after four years of marriage in 2008.

Nevertheless, the sabbatical seems to have paid off for Imbruglia, who believes her voice has grown stronger.

The singer, who is currently single, says: "There is a wisdom and maturity that comes in one's voice with age that I welcome. I listened to my voice when I was in my early 20s; it was very sweet but there was a depth missing to it. I think the voice gets more interesting as you get older."

Having warmed up her vocals with Male, Imbruglia is in the midst of working on a new original album. She has written eight songs so far for the album, which is set for release next year .

Producing another hit to eclipse Torn's massive success is not something she is dying to do, though, even if only to prove naysayers wrong.

She says: "It's not an ambition I have. I've had plenty of other successes and I don't spend my life trying to live up to something that I've already experienced once before. It's not important to me."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2015, with the headline 'Imbruglia's comeback'. Print Edition | Subscribe