THERE'S no slowing down for Petula Clark after more than seven decades in the spotlight.
The English singer, actress and composer is speaking to me from New York when she says how delighted she is to be able to fit in another Australian tour. She'd just been in Montreal working with several young French Canadian writers and will return there in October to record a French-speaking album.
"I've got a US tour after that in November and December and then a Canadian tour after that," she said.
"Of course it's a long way to go to Australia, but it's such a great experience once you get there.
"I love it so much. It's one of my fav places in the world. It doesn't feel like a chore for me by any means.
"I know a lot of performers don't enjoy touring but I love it."
Clark returns to our shores by popular demand. Since her last tour two years ago, she released her latest English language album From Now On.
Fans will be treated to the new original songs, as well as her iconic hits including Downtown, I Know A Place and Colour My World.
"My experience of Australian audiences has always been, right from the start, extremely warm and generous," she said. "They get the jokes, too. I will definitely be doing quite a few of the new songs in my concerts in Australia.
"I love these news songs almost as much as I love the old ones. The old ones, like Downtown, are like old friends and I wouldn't dream of going on stage and not singing them, but new friends are nice, too."
Dubbed the First Lady of The British Invasion, Petula has sung with everyone from Dean Martin and John Lennon to Michael Jackson and even starred opposite Fred Astaire in the 1968 film Finian's Rainbow.
Her career as a performer started at the tender age of nine, entertaining British troops during the Second World War on BBC Radio.
"I always loved music and I always had music going on in my head since I was five years old, but I think more than that I wanted to be an actress," she said.
"I wanted to be Ingrid Bergman, actually.
"My dad took me to see a stage play and it starred a great actress called Flora Robson. She was not a raving beauty but she was a great actress. I don't think I understood much about the play, but coming back on the bus, I was very quiet and my dad said, 'What are you thinking about?'.
"I said, 'That's what I want to do - what she does'.
"I didn't quite know what I meant by that, but she had this amazing charisma and cast this spell over the audience without seemingly trying. It's a great art, of course, and that's what I wanted."
Clark puts her longevity (she has sold more than 68 million records) down to her singular vision and mostly steering clear of the influence of popular music (aside from a foray into disco).
"There are some good things going on in pop music and some of it I really love," she said.
"Bruno Mars I adore, and Adele obviously.
"There's some great talent around, but I don't want to find myself slipping into other peoples' styles if you like.
"If you've got your own thing, your own sound, then first of all be grateful for it and treat it with respect and go on doing it.
"It's a different thing if you haven't found your style.
"A lot of young performers on The X Factor etc have great voices but they seem to be trying to sound like somebody else. They haven't quite found their way of doing it, and finding your way of doing it is half of what this is all about."
The other half, for Clark, is simply the joy of creating music. At 84, she's not too worried about how a new song or album charts.
"A lot of this business, it's no secret, is run by people who don't really care that much about music ... they're just selling plastic, really," she said.
"The artistic side of it is really all I care about. I think most of the performers I know feel the same.
"We're not naive. We know that we have to have this machine to get our music out there. I just go in and sing, and what happens to it after that is out of my hands."
Petula Clark's Australia Tour plays the QPAC Concert Hall on Friday May 26, the Brolga Theatre in Maryborough on Saturday May 27 and The Events Centre, Caloundra, on Sunday, May 28.
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