I’m sitting on a Zoom call with Jessica Mauboy as we discuss her latest single “GLOW” when she stops mid-sentence to belt out the lyrics: “Welcome to my future / reality’s a rumour / player one this is my game…”. Every word was on key and we danced in our seats. It was immediately apparent how excited the award-winning artist was to be making music again; after all it’s her first release since album HILDA was released in 2019.
Since that record – which she says was a chance to “go back to basics” – the 32-year-old signed with Warner Music Australia and has undergone a renaissance of sound. Naturally the singer is breaking out the bubbly.
“‘GLOW’ is like buying the most expensive champagne,” Mauboy tells GRAZIA. “That’s what it feels like and that’s my honest truth. It felt like I had spent the most time and effort with this song so I was just sitting with it.”
“It’s like sipping your favourite drink and you don’t want to scull it.”
While the single feels like the perfect party anthem to a newly reopened Australia (hello, international travel) Mauboy actually began crafting the track in early 2021. She says it was experimental, a slow work-in-progress but above all, a chance to embrace a “rollercoaster of emotions” through music. In the two years since her last release, the world has witnessed events of mass devastation amid the pandemic, and moments of accountability through the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movement.
“From a woman’s perspective, there is so much going on and I wanted that to really speak through the song,” Mauboy says. “Singing the way that I am isn’t like any other song I have experimented with. That to me was really exciting because I could hear the change and a point of view and a different angle that I’ve never journeyed into.”
I ask Mauboy what “GLOW” means to her, she confidently replies, “Control, taking back what you know you own and [taking] charge.
It is the first time Mauboy has worked with both George Maple and twin brothers Cosmo and Patrick Liney of Cosmos Midnight on a track. Maple who is also a performer served as co-writer on the song while the disco-esque sound production is courtesy of the electronic music duo. Mauboy had never met her co-collaborators in the past and only connected with them through her own Spotify playlists.
“I never imagined, it was dream to go out and work with different people though it felt really scary. I feared that I was so comfortable with who I was working with, I think that gave me a nudge to go beyond my realm and find the magic that I’m really capable of.”
Early fans of Mauboy would recall her 2006 Australian Idol audition where as teenager she belted out Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” to a panel of judges. She was promptly whisked away from her home in Darwin and catapulted to stardom on the national stage. It was artists like Houston, Diana Ross and Cher that have continued to inspire the artist.
“It was a pivotal moment [where] women could have strength and grit and could be sexy and not pretty and quiet.”
The 32-year-old gushed, “They really explored a time where they were forced to be silent, but they didn’t. They really broke through the barriers of what others told them to be and I think that comes through their music.
“I would tell my younger self that it’s so easy – but it’s also so powerful – to say “never give up”,” Mauboy says, reflecting on the advice she would tell her younger self at the time. “Because it can easily be done if you’re not mentally head strong.”
It is this kind of strength that has carried Mauboy through an impressive 15 years in the music industry. This new music (and a forthcoming record Mauboy teases as a more “deep” record than HILDA: “this is a whole other level”) arrives with buzz around a ‘new look Jessica Mauboy’. The artist interprets this simply as “bringing back fun and bringing back personality”.
“That speaks new levels and change,” she adds. “Life changes and everything changes everyday. It’s nice to be able to acknowledge it in real time and creatively.”
Mauboy’s “GLOW” is available to listen now. The artist will embark on The Boss Lady Tour in 2022 (where she expects to reveal new music). Buy tickets, here.