Kylie Minogue Talks Christmas Album, Festive Memories And Returning To Dance/Pop: Idolator Interview
After winding up the Kiss Me Once world tour and completing a second collaborative EP with dance maestro Fernando Garibay, Kylie Minogue found herself in an unusual position. She had a some free time on her hands. Instead of taking a well-deserved rest, the pop icon decided to record a Christmas album with a group of long-time collaborators that include producer Steve Anderson (“Confide In Me”) and songwriters Karen Poole (“Red Blooded Woman”) and Richard Stannard (“Love At First Sight”).
While the line-up is familiar, Kylie Christmas (due November 13) is anything but safe. There’s a festive cover of Yazoo’s “Only You” featuring the surprisingly angelic vocals of comedian/talk show host James Corden, an unexpected collaboration with Iggy Pop and a long-overdue second duet with pop star sister Dannii Minogue. I recently spoke to Kylie about her seasonal opus, Christmas memories and next album. (She is planning a return to dance/pop). Find out more below.
Kylie, what inspired you to release a Christmas album?
I always thought I would do a Christmas album, it was just a case of when. This year I finished touring, did a bunch of summer concerts in the UK, and by June I had completed all those things. I actually had a bit of time in front of me, which I’m not very good at. I mentioned it to a couple of people on my team and they were saying, “What do you want to do for the rest of the year? What do you want to do next?”
I said, “I’m thinking about a Christmas album, actually.” Some of that stems from last Christmas. I was in LA, at a friend’s place for Christmas dinner, and his girlfriend and a couple of other girls had said, “Have you done a Christmas album?” They just assumed I had done one, and when I said I hadn’t done an entire album they just started, “You’ve got to do it. It would be amazing. We just want to see your little outfits.”
I guess the seed was planted there. Then in June I mentioned it to my team and we just hustled and got it done. It felt really right. We didn’t have some of the stress and anxiety that comes with doing a regular album, so it was filled with joy.
How did you choose the songs? There are a couple of quirky ones.
Initially, I just asked some friends and colleagues, “Tell me your top ten favorite Christmas songs.” Just to get a general vibe from people, and there were certain common denominators amongst those, and then others that were good food for thought. Then I worked with my producer to kind of get… not a short list, it was quite a long list. We then culled the songs and did demos.
You can interpret a lot of those songs in different ways, so before we knew we had permission from Frank Sinatra’s estate to use his voice, we might have had another song that was really swing — and then because that song had to be swing, it might have made the previous song be interpreted in another way. I probably explained that really badly, but I was just trying to get the balance you hear on the album.
It turned out great. I love that you put a festive spin on a Yazoo song.
Thank you! I have to thank James Corden for that, that was his suggestion.
How did he get into the mix?
I went to one of the very, very early meetings with my label and we were just throwing around a bunch of wish-list names, or names that might not have been right, but might have led us to someone else. One of those names was James. I’ve known him for a while, we’ve worked together before. And like the rest of the world, I’m a big fan. He’s incredibly talented.
So, I reached out to him. When I spoke to him he said that he’s Christmas crazy. He loves Christmas. He said it would be a thrill to do it, so we were on. Again, similar process, sorting through different songs, and trying to find something that would work for both of us. He came up with that suggestion, which as you said, isn’t a Christmas song. But it’s got… a Christmas feeling.
He’s getting so much attention for it because he sounds gorgeous. It’s not what people expect. They thought it might have a comedic aspect to it, but I just think it’s so sincere, and absolutely charming.
You called on a lot of old friends for this album. Steve Anderson, Karen Poole, Ash Howes and Richard Stannard. Did you have Fever flashbacks?
After Kiss Me Once, where I worked with a thousand, million different people — I’m probably underestimating, maybe it was more — I just felt I wanted to work with people I know and love and trust. I just wanted to keep it family. We only had three writing sessions. We did the first session in two days. We wrote “Oh Santa” and “100 Degrees.”
It was a hundred degrees outside and went right to work on that, Steve and I. Actually, I think it was thirty-six degrees celsius outside. Then I had a couple of sessions with Karen and Matt Prime. I hadn’t worked with Matt before, so that was fun. Every session was fruitful. It felt very natural and easy. I really can’t say that about too many albums. I think it helps that you’ve got the boundaries of it being a Christmas album.
There are certain rules to follow or lanes that you have to stay in. With the split of old songs and new songs, it was pretty much agreed that you need to have more standards and more classics, and perennials, and then see how your new songs fit into that. I think all of the new songs, with the exception of “100 Degrees,” because that’s a different vibe, but they all sound strangely familiar because of the Christmas element.
You mentioned “100 Degrees.” As Dannii’s official number one fan, I’m particularly excited about that. What was it like working with her again?
We realized we hadn’t been in the studio together for years. I don’t even know how long, but forever. We sang together on stage more recently, but to be in the studio and committing something to, not to vinyl anymore [laughs]… committing something to the album was really fun for us. We knew it was something different, and something that was very much her and I.
On the Deluxe album there are a few videos of the recording process, behind the scenes stuff. Basically we just look like normal sisters. It was just really fun.
You have very similar voices.
Yes. There’s a Minogue tone, that’s for sure. She has a deeper tone, and I would say that we tried to — not exaggerate that — but just we wanted people to know who was singing where. As a fan, you would probably be able to tell straight away. But when we were first singing, it was like, “Who? Who was that? Wait, wait.” I think things worked out really nicely.
Earlier you alluded to the Kiss Me Once sessions being a little… stressful. Was it a relief to dial it back a notch?
That was certainly more hectic! Yes, it was a relief. I think that’s part and parcel of what the vibe should be for Christmas. That’s why I didn’t want to be racing all around the place and experimenting and trying new things. I just wanted it to feel loving and familiar. Not boring by any means, but work with people who I felt could get the best out of me in a nice way.
Steve Anderson and I, we were just like, “Well, great. Here we are!” We were pleased as punch. He did such great work on this, and he’s already got some Christmas experience in with some other artists, so I knew that he basically knew every Christmas song there was. I did not. I had never heard of “Christmas Wrapping” before, for example. For me, there was a bunch that were obviously familiar and then a couple of ring ins that I had just never heard before.
I recently interviewed Fernando Garibay…
About your collaborative EP. That was such a great sound for you, have you already thought beyond the Christmas album?
I’m pretty much locked in festive mode, but… you’re thinking of something that makes sense to me. I could see myself going full pop after this. Getting back to my dance/pop roots. I don’t even know how they know, but fans post messages when it’s the birthday of this song or that song. I don’t keep track of it, but recently it was the twelfth anniversary of “Slow.”
I think back to songs like that and I go, “Yeah, I’d like to do that again.” Right now I’m just so excited about Christmas in general, but I imagine with the new year, I could see myself going in and just getting back in my usual dance/pop lane. It would be a lot of fun.
Do you have a wish list of producers you’d like to work with?
No, I don’t. I do think there’s a lot to be said for… I would definitely love to go in with Richard Stannard again. We actually tried to do it already but we didn’t have time. This time was for Christmas, but there are certain people that you just love working with. Karen Poole, we also work well together. So if that opportunity was to arise, which I guess I could just make happen, I’d be very pleased!
I know this is off topic, but I have to ask. Will you ever release a deluxe version of X with all the demos from that infamous 3-disc CDR? It’s my personal holy grail.
Oh my God! [Shrieks]. Well, maybe if I do get back in with Richard, maybe we can revisit some of them. There were some tracks that we were really fond of. We weren’t excited that they were released because they weren’t finished, but we’d love to finish them, so that’s interesting that you say that. If fans are still…
Trust me, we still want to hear them.
Interested, that would be fun. Half of the work is already done! I’d just have to fix it and finish it. Apply a buff of polish. [Laughs]. I’m taking notes.
Thank you! Are there any Christmas memories that linger in your mind?
The one that I keep going back to is being kids in suburban Melbourne. Out in suburbia. We were probably five, seven, and nine, or maybe four, six, and eight… something like that. Dannii would have been four, four and a half, my brother six, and I was eight. There’s a picture of the three of us so that’s kind of imprinted on my brain. I was given a collapsible doll’s pram.
The pram collapsed on my finger and I ended up screaming. That was a bit traumatic. My sister got a little bike with training wheels, possibly with streamers on the handle bars. I’d like to think it had streamers. The photo is kind of orange and ’70s and grainy. My sister and I have got matching dresses on. Just a normal family Christmas. We would have gone out after that and splashed about in the above ground swimming pool.
Are you doing the Aussie Christmas again this year?
I can’t because I’ve got work here, then I go back and do promo in Australia. Then I come back here to do my Christmas concert at the Royal Albert Hall, which is going to be amazing fun. I’m not rushing back to Australia again, so I’m having a cold Christmas.
Thanks for the chat. It’s been a thrill.
Thank you. It’s nice to hear an Aussie accent. I wasn’t expecting that.