Long a star in Australia, musician Delta Goodrem is on a 'mission' to entertain us all
Record-setting singer and pianist is touring North America with the Backstreet Boys
Delta Goodrem says she always promised fans a return to North America — it just took her a little longer than expected.
"I'm amazed when someone shares with me, you know, 'I've been a part of this journey [with you] from afar,'" the Australian singer-songwriter said in an interview, following her Canada Day-weekend gig opening for the Backstreet Boys in Toronto.
Despite previous album releases in Canada and the United States, Goodrem's music has largely flown under the radar in North America. But back home, she is a bona fide star.
Her 2003 debut, Innocent Eyes, which she recorded and largely co-wrote as a teenager, remains the highest-selling album of all time by an Australian female artist.
Since then, she's had four more No. 1 albums, made her mark on the small screen as a judge and mentor of The Voice Australia for eight seasons, and starred on the theatre stage.
She's performed with the likes of Andrea Bocelli and Olivia Newton-John, and written for Canadian songstress Céline Dion. In January, she was named a Member of the Order of Australia.
Now, in the wake of two "resets" — first, a paralysis that left her unable to sing, and second, a pandemic that both kept her away from the stage and helped her connect with international fans online — Goodrem, 37, said she feels ready to spread her wings beyond Oz.
"It was always the plan to take the show that we had just finished in Australia on the road," said Goodrem, referring to her recent headlining tour. "I feel like I couldn't imagine being anywhere else right now."
Social media offers 'new world' for music
When Goodrem began her career 20 years ago, the music industry looked quite different. Physical CD sales triumphed and legal music downloads were only beginning to gain popularity.
While she has performed on tours with other artists and made promotional visits in Canada and the U.S. in the years since, her headlining tours have been limited to Australia.
In a "new world," where musicians can perform live online for fans at the tap of a button, or release their music globally via music-streaming services, she says the way she connects with fans has changed.
"I kind of look at it like there's a new freedom of, if you want to have someone's music a part of your life, there's an easier way to do that. So I think that's very different to when I started," Goodrem said.
During the strict pandemic lockdowns in Australia, Goodrem produced dozens of weekly concerts on Instagram, known affectionately as the Bunkerdown Sessions, performing songs from her own catalogue and covers of songs by fellow artists. The videos garnered hundreds of thousands of views.
"I started to realize how connected we all were around the world," she said. "That was the start of realizing that there were so many people out there who were taking [in] my music again."
Those sessions found their way to Stella Schneckenburger, a student in Markham, Ont., who became a fan of Goodrem's in 2018 after stumbling across her music on YouTube. The Aussie artist's recent stop in Toronto was the first time Schneckenburger saw her live.
It was the Bunkerdown performances, however, that connected her with not only Goodrem, but a group of fans-turned-friends half-a-world away in Australia; she bonded with them during the live streams.
"My friends kept telling me, there will be no experience that will ever be the same as seeing her live and, like, it was just so true," said Schneckenburger.
Though some of Goodrem's earlier releases were available only in Australia and surrounding markets, she has consistently released albums internationally since 2016. And last year, she made her entire discography available on streaming platforms around the world.
'I just want to perform'
Goodrem's latest "era," as she calls it, has her seemingly taking more creative control of her career, producing television specials with her own company and, now, bringing her music to new audiences alongside the Backstreet Boys.
It's also soundtracked by her most recent No. 1 album, Bridge Over Troubled Dreams, and the piano, which has been at the centre of her career.
"I always have the same fingerprint, so to speak," said Goodrem. "I always would sit at my piano and genuinely try to match the dance on the piano, and match the theme of what I might be feeling on that exact moment, that exact day.
"It was very much about going back to the beginning, about where music starts for me, which is my heart and the piano, and I built from there."
The deeply personal album was inspired, in part, by that first reset. During surgery on a salivary gland in 2018, a damaged nerve left her unable to control her speech — or sing. One of the album's singles, Paralyzed, chronicles that experience.
"The record was built on that reset — stripping away everything and starting again," she said.
Coming out of the lockdowns that defined the pandemic, and with the return of concerts around the world, Goodrem says she wants to return to the stage and entertain fans — wherever they are.
Her tour with the Backstreet Boys continues in the United States until the end of July.
"It feels like the right time to enjoy this freedom to come over, and I just want to perform," she said.
"It's my mission to make sure that we are doing lots of live performances together and really having a new era of music and life."