Gabriella Cilmi Interview
CD Times jumps when offered time with the fresh young things. We’re good like that. So here I am talking to one of the freshest new talents to grace our shores, a girl who has successfully conquered Australia, becoming, according to ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) the youngest solo artist EVER to land at the number one spot in its charts. Now this young lass looks set on dominating another Commonwealth country – good old Blighty. “Hurrah!” I say, it’s about time our grey-clouded Kingdom got heated up by some Australian sunshine. It just so happens it comes in the form of a sizzling über-talented sixteen-year-old called Gabriella Cilmi.
Lets get one thing sorted first, her surname is pronounced ‘chill me,’ not ‘kill me’ or even worse, ‘seal me.’ And yes, I appreciate there’s no ‘h’ in it, but I’m afraid it’s one of those silent-letter jobbies. Now we’ve cleared that little thing up, let’s get straight to the nitty gritty, or as I like to call it, ‘the interview’…
Cilmi’s success, for a girl of her age, can only be summed up by a typically Australian expression - “Crikey!” In less than a year this sultry singer has picked up a platinum disc in Australia for her debut single ‘Sweet About Me’ and a UK gold disc for her sensational album, ‘Lessons to be Learned’. Her single remained on the top spot in the ARIA charts for five consecutive weeks, not only knocking the Queen of pop, Madonna, off the top spot, but also awarding Gabriella with the recognition that she was the first Aussie female solo artist to do so this century. That’s some achievement. To Gabi, it not only created a sense of enormous pride but also came as a relief : “I’d been recording my album for three years now, coming up and down from London and Melbourne, so seeing evidence [of the record] was pretty weird at first but now is so good.” Perhaps its success partly derives from the production mastermind of Brian Higgins, who co-wrote and produced the album. His catalogue of chart-topping records includes Girls Aloud’s major hits and two Sugababe albums, but we won’t mention V or Danii Minogue… It begs the question, then, why Cilmi, claiming to be influenced by the likes of Led Zepplin, the Doors and Kings of Leon would choose Higgins, who resides in pop and all things fluffy bunny. “I had to make a pop-sounding record to appeal to as many people as possible, and even though we came from two totally different backgrounds, when we worked together it just gelled.” Fate, some would say. There appeared to be no love lost musically between them either - “when it came to our differences I guess we both kind of compromised and came to a decision in the middle.” Democracy in action.
This collaboration of Cilmi and Higgins has resulted in a record that has more catchy hooks than a fishing championship. Each track on the album reveals different aspects of Gabriella’s outstanding vocals, ranging from the poptastic beats of ‘Save the Lies’ to the more mellow feeling of ‘Einstein’ - think Cilmi’s version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’ but without the persistent wailing. “I was listening to lots of different music when I wrote my album, like Sweet, [1970s glam rockers complete with blonde luscious locks and sparkly flares] T-Rex, Muse and Nina Simone.” It’s no wonder then why the tracks are so diverse. And as we all know, variety is the spice of life and goes down particularly well at festivals, which is a handy little link to mine and Cilmi’s chat on Glastonbury. For Gabi, performing at Glasto this year meant fulfilling an all-time dream. “It was absolutely mental, I’ve always read about it and watched it on TV back home, and so it’s nice to finally play it.” The fun doesn’t stop there though; this year Gabriella is ticking every box next to a festival, playing at the likes of V, T in the Park, iTunes, and even one over the English Channel. There is one thing and one thing only that Gabi needs to prepare herself for though in light of this – the ‘facilities.’ “They’re disgusting! Luckily at Glastonbury I used the BBC’s toilets, but I think I’m going to have to get used to knowing wherever I go they’re gonna be foul.” There’s nothing like perks of the job eh?
So, talking of all things British, how does our little adopted Sheila like living in London? “It’s great here, ‘cos there’s music going on all of the time. I’ve been here for a year now so I’m getting comfortable. I go to a little Blues Bar and I’ve seen the Cribs here and Rufus Wainwright.” It seems that Londillion is the perfect place for a budding chart-topper to roost, and judging from Cilmi’s recent reception at her sold out, yes, SOLD OUT mini UK tour, the country loves her too. “It was really good, I’ve always supported other people so it’s nice to know people have come to see you rather than another act, which is a boost.” And what’s next in line for the Aussie? “I’m gonna release my second single in August which I can’t wait to promote, and I have another tour and a European tour in August/September, then I’ll be back in Australia in October to tour again.” She’s certainly hard working, you’ve got to give her that. And after a singsong of MGMT’s ‘Electric Feel’ we both left the room, me with a greater sense of admiration for the young singer, and Gabi with probably mixed feelings about the inexperienced eager twenty-year-old she had just spent ten minutes with.
From having the pleasure of meeting the bonza bambino I stand firm when I say that Cilmi is going to do hotly this year (see what I did there). Her calm and diligent attitude is one that will take her to heights beyond Ayres Rock. She’s set to prove that she’s no one-hit-wonder - she’s here to stay.