Why Vanessa Amorosi really disappeared
It'll be 20 years in July since the release of Vanessa Amorosi's debut single - but her two decades in music have been marked just as much by her long, mysterious absences as by her successes.
The 35-year-old singer - once more on the comeback trail, her first single in eight years released today - admits she's weary of answering endless questions about her lengthy disappearances from public life.
"Yeah, I definitely am," she sighs. "But I just don't want to release crappy music. I hate going away, that's never the intention - I really enjoy what I do. But I just don't want to release crap. With both those(breaks) - and I'm hoping it doesn't happen again - I got to the end of having such great success, and I just didn't have anything else to offer anybody."
Amorosi's first surprise absence came after her initial burst of fame: The teen star was as ubiquitous as the Y2K bug in the latter half of 1999 thanks to hits Have A Look, Absolutely Everybody and Shine.
Her debut album, The Power, was a quadruple platinum smash, and she dazzled during a lung-busting performance at the Sydney Olympic Games closing ceremony.
But by 2002, the buzz had dissipated to the extent hit-free follow-up album Change never even came out here in Australia (inexplicably, it was a Germany-only release, reaching number 64 on their charts). How did it go so wrong, so quickly?
As she recounts it now, it was a case of an impressionable young artist letting outside forces steer her career.
"The truth is, once I did get massive momentum, it was: 'All right, now what everybody does is they go to other songwriters and they get given a song'. I had a single calledSpin. That song wasn't written by me, it had nothing to do with me."
Barely scraping into the top 40 in 2002, Spin wasn't a patch on her own self-penned material.
"That's what can happen when you're a kid and you do get massive success: Other people get in and say, 'You need a better vehicle - let me write the vehicle'. It's all a learning experience, but as a kid I didn't know what was going on. I was like, 'Sure I'll sing that song, that's not a problem'."
Frustrated because she wasn't allowed to "evolve as an artist", Amorosi stepped into the background, studying music production. In 2008, she mounted her first "comeback", a prolific burst in which she released massive radio anthems Perfect and This Is Who I Am ("My first number one single!") and two albums in just 18 months.
But then it all seemed to grind to a halt once more, with a planned fifth album V shelved in late 2011.
Once more, it was writer's block that forced the career lull.
"I finished touring around 2011, and I had that same feeling: Every song I was writing felt forced, it didn't feel good. The magic had gone. I didn't want to start releasing garbage … I'd rather take my time and come back when I've got something I think people will want to listen to," she says.
In the eight years since her last release, she's relocated to Los Angeles, striking up a musical friendship with Eurythmics founder Dave Stewart. The pair made a gospel/soul record together that'll be separate from her solo music when it does see the light of day - she describes it as "another one of my babies that I can't wait to actually put out".
In her time away, she also got married and started a family, news that will probably come as a surprise even to those fans who follow the intensely private star on social media.
Her husband Rod Busby is a mixed martial arts trainer who owns an LA gym, and the couple have a three-year-old son, Killian, his head a shock of bright red hair.
"I think it's all the years of me dying my hair red! The gods were like, 'She's desperate for a redhead'," Amorosi laughs.
"I am a part-owner in my husband's gym, and it's bought a really great element to my life. I've lived the total opposite world as a musician - late nights, bad eating, I don't work out unless I'm riding a horse. Now having him in my life, he's a very healthy influence. He's all about structure and routine and … blah, blah, blah! It keeps me on the right track. It's nice having that routine, because I've never had that."
The first taste of her new music is Heavy Lies The Head, a storming blues/gospel number (think Hozier's Take Me To Church, with those roaring Amorosi vocals centre stage),.
"We had a couple of singles sitting there - songs that weren't too aggressive to come back on to the scene with. Then at the last minute, I went to Heavy Lies the Head. It's a bit of a risky move, but I'm glad I did it now. It's exciting," she says.
She describes her new music as "super diverse".
"I tend to not write the same song twice," she says.
Amorosi's plan for now is to come "back and forth" from her LA home to Australia as she re-establishes herself with local audiences. Early signs suggest she hasn't been forgotten - witness an audience of hundreds singing every word of Absolutely Everybody back to her during her slot on the current Red Tour Summer tour:
Her own solo tour will kick off with dates across Sydney and Melbourne next month.
"Man, it's like my happy place," she says of performing.
"That's the stuff I think of when I'm going through those hiccups, or if things aren't aligning musically. That's what I really think about: The end goal, getting back up on stage."
Heavy Lies the Head is out now - watch an exclusive 60-second preview of the music video in the video player at the top of this page. Amorosi tours nationally throughout April and May - full tour schedule at her website.