Kylie Minogue Discusses Pharrell, Sia And New Album ‘Kiss Me Once’: Idolator Interview
Pop Kylie. Indie Kylie. Sex Kylie. Goddess Kylie. Over the decades, the musical force that is Kylie Minogue has offered us one variation or another of her on-stage image while still maintaining enough of a “girl next door” likeability that we truly wish she would just move in down the block already. Listening to her upcoming 12th album Kiss Me Once (out March 18), however, conjures up a new persona for the Australian pop queen: Comforting Kylie.
Making the album wasn’t an easy road for the singer, by her own admission. And once countless tracks were done after a year of working with a multitude of collaborators, there came the arduous task of whittling them all down to one cohesive, Kylie-worthy set. Knowledge of that melts away, though, when listening to the record, as what ultimately shines through on Kiss Me Once is the radiant positivity, particularly with the optimistic lyrics that fill songs like lead single “Into The Blue,” the uplifting Ariel Rechtshaid composition “If Only” and the album’s title track, on which Minogue worked with the LP’s executive producer Sia Furler.
Kylie spent time cluing us in to what the process of piecing together her first studio album in four years was like, from switching her management over to Roc Nation to working with talents ranging from hit maker Pharrell Williams to French actor Clément Sibony. Head below for the full Idolator interview with Kylie Minogue.
Hello, Kylie! I’ve given Kiss Me Once about five full listens ahead of our little chat. KYLIE MINOGUE: Alright. So things can’t be too bad?
Definitely not. The song that’s jumping out immediately is the title track. KM: Aw, that’s brilliant. Yeah, I think it’s got a lot to offer, that track. It’s probably the most old school Kylie, I would say.
Sia co-wrote “Kiss Me Once” and co-executive-produced the whole album along with you. How did this collaboration with her come about? KM: We worked together a couple of times — with her as a writer and me looking at some tracks she had already written, and also doing some writing together. I got on with her so well. Around about what turned out to be the halfway mark of making this album — I didn’t know how long it would take, so I didn’t realize that at the time — I asked her if she would executive-produce. I was hoping she would say yes. I didn’t know if it was something she had done or was interested in, or if maybe she just preferred writing and doing her own music. Anyway, she said yes immediately and I was thrilled, because I really admire her. On top of that, we really got on.
How was it different with Sia in this role as opposed to Stuart Price, who executive-produced your last album, Aphrodite? KM: Well, Stuart has more to do with the production side. Sia is involved with the production, but a lot of that is left to the producers. So, it was slightly different. I love Stuart, as well. I totally adore him and I think he did a fantastic job with Aphrodite. But, yeah, it just seemed a little different [this time]. So, I gave Sia everything I had recorded up until that [halfway] point, which was already a lot, and it was good to have someone help me make sense of what I had. Crazily enough, it was around that time, or shortly after, when she said, “There’s no sex! We need something hot!” Next thing, there’s three songs — sex, sex, sex — on my album, the most noticeable one being hers, which is “Sexercize.”
Kylie Minogue — Kiss Me Once album sampler
When all those “sex” titles were revealed, I thought, Well, now we know what kind of mood Kylie has been in. KM: [Laughs] Yeah, um…well. There are some hot moments. But I’d say they’re more like “pop” hot, if that makes any sense. Even “Sexercize” — obviously it’s a memorable title. But I have to confess, the first time Sia told me about it, I thought, “Sexercize”? Really? I’m not sure about that. But it’s Sia’s genius that she can make it cool and make it a great song. I probably put the flirtation into it. But it’s definitely got everyone talking.
At this particular moment, “Les Sex” is a personal favorite. KM: That was with MNDR, who I fawned over because I love “Bang Bang Bang,” her song with Mark Ronson. I also worked with her and Fernando Garibay, but the songs didn’t make it, although they were also really good! I worked with so many people, and I want everyone who was a part of this album — whether they were a part of the final tracklisting or not — I hope they know that even when we took a turn that wasn’t the right turn, it was an important one and [they] helped to make this album. But I’m glad you like “Les Sex.”
A lot of people were excited to hear you’d recorded with Ariel Rechtshaid. KM: I loved his work he did with Dev Hynes. Sky Ferreira, Haim — that was all fantastic.
How many tracks did you record with him? KM: We did two, but only one of those is on the album, which is “If Only.” I love it because it’s got that feel he brings to the track that kind of makes me feel like a school disco — just feeling like you’re desperately in love with someone and you’re probably alone.
Would you be open to talking about particular collaborations that didn’t make the cut of the album? KM: I don’t think that’s necessary. But you know — great, great people. Some people who were more just starting out. You just never know where you’re going to get a song from, and then it’s a case of putting them all together. I can’t tell you how many versions of this album have been put into a list. I mean, I’ve made more lists in the last year than I care to think of. And, really down to the very end, there were so many contenders. I felt like no matter which way the song list went, there was going to be some disappointment [over what was cut] on my side and on the side of other writers and producers. But once I realized, okay, there is no happy ending for everyone, in the back of mind was that there are always other releases. The songs will find the right home when it’s the right time.
Getting it just right sounds like a particularly grueling process, particularly with Kiss Me Once. KM: It is. You just think, Come on — they’re all great. Just put all of them together. There are some people I trust who’d make their own list, and some of them were completely different. And it’s like, really? That song from 11 months ago that we’d all almost forgotten about has suddenly come back into the running. It’s a strange little process…or big process. But right up until the wire we were making last minute decisions. We probably had eight tracks that everyone was absolutely certain about, and the others it was just, what would work best for the album? But I’m happy. I’m relieved that it’s done. I’m a little bit shocked that it’s done, like an out of body experience. My mindset has been working on it for such a long time. It’s really, really exciting that now I get to share what I’ve been working on.
Switching gears, after several years with your previous manager, you moved over to Roc Nation in 2013. Is it a totally different working experience for you, being with the company? KM: A lot of it is different. It’s American based, so they like to have me in America a lot, which is fine by me. I recorded most of my album in L.A., which was great. They are very dynamic, very proactive and also very aware of my history, and being sensitive to that. I think that’s really evident in the first single, “Into The Blue” — it’s a Kylie song; it’s just the 2014 version. I feel really energized being with them and so far it’s been pretty amazing.
Kylie Minogue — “On A Night Like This” (The Abbey Road Sessions)
Along the lines of your history, did you find that revisiting any of your past material for your recent 25th anniversary in the music business and recording The Abbey Road Sessions influenced the writing for and vibe of Kiss Me Once? KM: You know, it might have. It wasn’t really at the forefront of my mind, but with K25 I got to tick some things off my wish list. K25 seemed like the perfect vehicle or opportunity to do that. So The Abbey Road Sessions was the orchestral interpretations, or acoustic, of existing songs. And maybe more importantly was the Anti Tour. We demoed B-sides and rarities. It was only a show for super fans. You’re not going to hear “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.” I loved that, because I got to sing PWL songs I’ve never sung live, and they’re from 1988 or ’89 or ’90. So when I was doing rehearsals for that show I had to find my PWL voice, which is a different voice from what I have now. And I really appreciated a lot of those songs that have the strongest melodies and have really stood the test of time.
The “Into The Blue” video is very cinematic, and kind of has a classic feel, a la “Finer Feelings” and “What Do I Have To Do.” KM: Yeah, you’re right!
How did French actor Clément Sibony get to be the lucky gentleman who stars opposite you? KM: [Laughs] We needed to find the right guy, and I asked a friend of mine who’s worked with a lot of actresses in the French film industry and is one of my B, B, B, B, BGFs, and I said, “Can you suggest any guys?” Clément looked great, and just by chance I was in Paris maybe three or four days later. We met up to talk about the project, to see if he was interested and if we got on. I can’t imagine the video without him because he brought so much realness and so much more to the filming as an actor. I loved this opportunity, because it felt like I was doing a little bit more acting again.
Kylie Minogue — “Into The Blue”
It really does feel like a throwback to your early clips. I re-watched your video collection on DVD ahead of our chat. KM: Wow! You’ve had a Kylie fest.
I truly did. To come back to “Finer Feelings,” it’s such a great clip, and it feels like there’s a nice parallel, visually, with that one and “Into The Blue.” KM: I loved that. That was great, rolling around in front of the fireplace doing a little Lolita moment and running across a bridge in Paris. Well, [“Into The Blue”] is a bit like a French film. [Director] Dawn [Shadforth] and I were referencing the Jean-Luc Godard film À bout de souffle and other New Wave French films — just little reference points. And then we got a French actor. So, well spotted, you!
Kylie Minogue — “Finer Feelings”
What music have you been listening to for your own enjoyment? KM: To be honest, not much. I’ve been pretty preoccupied with my own stuff. I would say when I was recording, it was about Tegan And Sara, Haim. Now I’m into Disclosure. A bit of Frank Ocean, when that first came out. So pretty eclectic, my taste in music is. Pharrell, of course — you couldn’t step out of the house without hearing those amazing two tracks of his. Bruno Mars, I absolutely adore.
Speaking of Pharrell, he’s arguably the most popular man in music at the moment and he wrote and produced a song on Kiss Me Once. KM: I had a couple of days with Pharrell, so we did a couple of songs, one of which is on the album: “I Was Gonna Cancel.” If you’ve heard anything that I’ve been saying [recently], you might know a little bit about that song. I was having one of those days…just one of those days. The kind of day where, let’s say there’s someone at the shop or there’s a cab driver or whoever, someone with whom you can keep your game face on — but say your friend or your family or someone you like asks you how you are, and you might fall to pieces. Well, that’s pretty much what happened with Pharrell. I was on my way to the studio, just saying to myself in my mind, “Come on, you can do this. Just get through this next day. You can fall apart at the end of the day. Don’t fall apart now.” And the first person I saw when I walked into the studio was Pharrell. And there were a lot of people around, but Pharrell was the first person I saw, so go figure. He says, “Hey, how are you?” It was a simple question, but a complex answer. Anyway, I couldn’t hold it together. I had a teary moment, which he very graciously talked me through. Aside from that little story, he was great to work with. Very chilled, getting on with stuff, creating the track there in the moment. We didn’t spend too long on vocals. I thought I sounded terrible because I’d just been [crying], so I probably didn’t have the clearest voice. But I don’t even mind hearing that on the track because it was such a real and true moment.
It’s a fun modern disco track, and the bells are almost reminiscent of Chic’s “I Want Your Love.” KM: The bells are amazing!
You’re also now a coach on The Voice in both the UK and Australia. KM: Yes!
That’s quite a big commitment. KM: I know. Have I gone absolutely mad?
Not if we’re to go by ratings. It seems you’re being credited with drawing more viewers to the show this season in the UK. How’s it all going? KM: Well, good. I’m not due to work with The Voice UK until March, when we start the live shows. But all the pre-recorded stuff has started to go to air. The response has been amazing. On a personal level, I mostly enjoy the experience. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed every second of it. It’s no fun telling people that they’re not going to go further in the show, and having to make decisions and choose out of two people you put together for the battle — some of that isn’t fun, but as an overall experience, I’ve really enjoyed doing something different and learning a little bit about myself and how I react in those situations.
That’s it for this time. Thanks for the chat. KM: Thank you! Bye.
“Into The Blue” is available on iTunes now. Kylie’s 12th album Kiss Me Once will be released on March 18. Pre-order it here.