For­mat was stuck in idle

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story - SIOB­HAN DUCK

RICKI-LEE Coul­ter says she’s never tried to es­cape her Aus­tralian Idol con­nec­tion. Though some con­tes­tants have been ea­ger to dis­tance them­selves from the star­mak­ing re­al­ity se­ries for fear it may pre­vent them be­ing taken se­ri­ously by the mu­sic in­dus­try, Coul­ter says she’s proud that Idol launched her ca­reer.

The pop­u­lar gold record-win­ning singer and for­mer mem­ber of The Young Di­vas says she had no hes­i­ta­tion about re­turn­ing to the show this year to men­tor the cur­rent crop of as­pir­ing idols.

‘‘For four years peo­ple have asked me if I was keen to shake the Idol tag — why would I?’’ she asks. ‘‘There is no tag. I was a con­tes­tant on Aus­tralian Idol and I al­ways will be. The me­dia have cre­ated this idea of a tag or a stigma.

‘‘I have never been con­cerned about get­ting away from Idol be­cause I have never seen it as a stigma. It’s given me a chance to get into the mu­sic in­dus­try.’’

Coul­ter says her ex­pe­ri­ence as a con­tes­tant on the show has made this year’s singers feel more com­fort­able open­ing up to her than they would with co-hosts James Mathi­son and Andrew G.

‘‘I am proof that you don’t have to win Idol to have a ca­reer in the in­dus­try, and that you can be suc­cess­ful with an in­de­pen­dent record la­bel rather than one of the big­ger ones.

‘‘I un­der­stand what they are go­ing through be­cause I’ve been there my­self.’’

If this year’s re­vamped Big Brother was any­thing to go by, the new-look Idol is sure to at­tract its fair share of me­dia at­ten­tion and crit­i­cism.

Coul­ter is aware of the pres­sure she’s un­der com­ing into the re­vamped se­ries, par­tic­u­larly be­cause her new role takes her out of her com­fort zone.

‘‘I’ve been in­ter­viewed a mil­lion times be­fore but never done it my­self, so there’s def­i­nitely been pres­sure,’’ she says.

‘‘I think I have be­come more com­fort­able as we’ve gone along.’’

It’s fair to say that af­ter five se­ries, Idol was suf­fer­ing from ex­haus­tion in 2007 and needed a makeover.

She says this year’s Idol will be a re­turn to past form, with more fo­cus on the con­tes­tants rather than the judges, plus a few changes thrown in for good mea­sure.

‘‘The con­tes­tants had started to cot­ton on to how it all worked and use it to their ad­van­tage,’’ she says.

‘‘This year they have no idea what’s go­ing on. We’ve thrown some curve balls in there. It needed to be fresh­ened up.

‘‘The tal­ent this year is bet­ter than we’ve had, not just last year but any year.’’

Re­turn­ing:

Ricki-Lee Coul­ter.

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