It's Delta Week on Noisey Australia! To celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of her seminal debut Innocent Eyes, we'll be running Delta Goodrem-related writing every day. Check out the rest of the series here.
If you grew up in 2000s Australia, you grew up listening to Delta Goodrem. The singer’s 2003 debut Innocent Eyes is the typical answer to the “What’s the first album you ever bought?” question for a generation of women. It spawned five hit singles and spent 29 glorious weeks atop the charts, garnering Goodrem a slew of awards at the ARIA Awards that year: Best Pop Release, Single of the Year (for “Born to Try”), and Highest Selling Album of 2003.
The moment “Born to Try” was released, Goodrem became a household name for life. Her national treasure status was cemented during a much-publicised cancer battle, and cast in gold with the success of Mistaken Identity, the album she wrote while recovering. Fifteen years on, it feels more remarkable than ever that an 17-year-old wrote one of Australia’s favourite albums.
Noisey: Let's talk about Innocent Eyes, because today is the 15th anniversary, which is crazy to say.
Delta Goodrem: I know! It's literally today. 15 years today.
It’s such an important, generation-defining album for Australian women my age. Did you anticipate the impact that it would have when it was released?
I could feel the smallest sense of something building. When I first wrote “Born to Try” and I was listening to it in my mum’s car –– because I wasn’t even driving age –– I remember when we were driving to the city and the demo was just the piano and vocal and I had this feeling in my heart that it was special and it turned out the feeling was true! But of course I could never have fully imagined its eventual impact and I don't think I'll ever really understand. I remember the ARIAs, when I was first kind of walking out and I could actually feel like feel the tactile feeling that people had it in their homes, you know? They owned the album. I was hearing it everywhere, I knew people were taking it home.
You were so young, too. What is it like looking back on the level of fame you achieved at 18?
I just didn’t know any different. I started very young, with a vision. I always knew that was just what I was going to do. I didn't think ‘That's what I want to do,’ it was just ‘This is what I am, this is what I do.’ I think when it started so young, I felt calm in that I knew I was worthy of it, but it was still scary. When I first started out and I was doing signings for fans for fifteen hours, I just kind of stayed on the path of giving it my everything, making sure every single person that was giving me so much love felt that back from me. I just wanted to give.
I'd write one song, and I'd put it on the album and it was very, very innocent in the way that I'd approach the album. I didn't understand any of the other aspects of this job, what I understood was that I’d written this song, that was it.
What’s good songwriting, to you?
At my core, I’ve always loved being a sentimental writer. As long as people can connect to a song, or someone can find something in the song that relates to them, it’ll get stuck in their head, and then they’ll crave listening to it. That's what a good song in any capacity is. They think ‘I want to hear that again, I'm feeling this song.’ I love pop music, but I love all music, I'm an absolute music lover.
You were writing love songs and heartbreak songs when you were still a teenager. Were you writing about real life?
I was, even when I was 12 years old. I did my first demo when I was 12. I was in the studio, and it was my first studio session, and people used to say to my mum, "But why? How could she be writing about this? What experience has she had?" And my mum used to say, "What are you talking about? She’s a 12 year old that is living and experiencing and taking everything in." You can’t underestimate that impressionable age, when you’re experiencing something. I just happen to have had an outlet, I was able to pursue the piano. I'd learn one chord and write a whole song on that chord. I think even at 18 you're experiencing so much, at 17 you're feeling all these different emotions, so I was kind of writing as advice for others that age.
What were your goals as an 18 year old as opposed to now?
So much has changed since I started. I've always loved music, I've loved the path, the craft. I’ve found that the more experience I had, the more enjoyable it became. It’s actually less pressure on yourself. There is always pressure, but pressure makes diamonds . The more experience I've had, the more I can go into a studio and know what I want to achieve in that day. But my goals from the day I started with would always just be to connect with people and reach out to people who were looking for something. I want to just drown people with music, create soundtracks to their life.
Innocent Eyes was so massive, one of biggest albums in Australian history. Do you ever feel like it set crazy unrealistic expectations for the rest of your career?
I can't compete with myself. I'm still young, and I feel like I’ve just started. But it’s relevant, the fact that I can't compete with that moment in time. It’s a part of history, it’s something that I am so proud of and honoured and humbled by. I don't try and compete with those albums. I can't compete with Innocent Eyes, it was a magical moment that I love, and am proud of. I have to love it from that space and appreciate it, but what I make now has to be a breakthrough, it has to be about what's going on right now. I love having a new song out that can be new and different. It doesn't compete with another record for me.
You’re a really quintessentially Australian singer, and you’ve had really incredible success here. How do you feel about people saying you didn’t crack the US market?
I’d like to say that my everyday life is so incredible and if you walked a day in my shoes, where the amazing public are walking with me, you would not even flinch. I am so lucky to have the lifestyle where fans will come up to me and share their stories. Like what you said, that you grew up with the record –– that’s what I choose to be surrounded with. Well, I don't actually choose it –– that simply is what I am surrounded by each day. When it comes to media, I can't be in a relationship with the media for sixteen to eighteen years and not expect that there is going to be differences, ups and downs with any moment. But generally speaking, across my career, I have been very very supported. I think people can choose what they think my life feels like, but I will say that I am very thankful for the great support from fantastic Australians out there.
Did you feel pressure though? To get a new audience, change your sound?
No. I think I have such wonderful success and I’ve been so thankful to all the parts of the world that have taken in my music. I’m never going to try and change my sound for anyone, I think that wouldn’t be truthful. It's got to be real. I just make music it because I want to.
Find the rest of of Noisey's Delta Week series here.
Kat Gillespie is an editor at VICE Australia. Follow her on Twitter.