Price of suc­cess

Fame has been a chal­lenge for Ricki-Lee Coul­ter and Ian Dick­son, write and

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page - Dar­ren Devlyn Colin Vick­ery

PRO­FES­SION­ALLY, Rick­iLee Coul­ter and Ian ‘‘Dicko’’ Dick­son have never felt more ful­filled.

They’ve thrown them­selves into a re­ju­ve­nated Aus­tralian Idol — Dick­son in his role as judge and Coul­ter in her first sea­son as a back­stage men­tor.

In ad­di­tion to Idol, Dick­son has rev­elled in his break­fast ra­dio gig at Vega FM, re­cently tak­ing out the best new­comer ti­tle at the Com­mer­cial Ra­dio Aus­tralia Awards.

For­mer Idol con­tes­tant Coul­ter, mean­while, has not only pro­duced an al­bum, The Sin­gles, she’s pre­par­ing to fly to Los An­ge­les for an­other stint in the record­ing stu­dio.

But for Coul­ter and Dick­son, suc­cess at work has come at a cost in their pri­vate lives.

For Dick­son, it’s the strain that’s emerged from be­ing a dis­tant hus­band and dad.

For Coul­ter, 23, it’s been the shock mar­riage split from Gold Coast builder James Bab­bing­ton.

Ear­lier in the year, Coul­ter re­vealed she bat­tled de­pres­sion soon af­ter her wed­ding. It was Bab­bing­ton who bore the brunt of her mood swings.

‘‘I didn’t want to do any­thing, I didn’t want to see any­one,’’ she said.

‘‘When I woke up in the morn­ing, Jamie didn’t know which Ricki-Lee he would get. The good Ricki-Lee? The evil Ricki-Lee?’’

Coul­ter and 31-year-old Bab­bing­ton last month con­firmed their mar­riage of just a year was over, cit­ing dis­tance and time apart as rea­sons for the split. Given Coul­ter’s com­mit­ments with Idol and life on the road pro­mot­ing her mu­sic ca­reer, it’s no sur­prise mar­ried life be­came dif­fi­cult.

As she pre­pares for Sun­day’s Aus­tralian Idol fi­nal, a dis­arm­ingly hon­est Coul­ter con­fesses: ‘‘I feel like I’m 45. I’ve never had a big break-up, so I didn’t know what heart­break felt like.

‘‘With ev­ery­thing that has been go­ing on (per­son­ally), it has been great to be busy and have other things to fo­cus on.’’

One of those things is a new al­bum. Coul­ter will fly to Los An­ge­les in early 2009 to be­gin writ­ing and record­ing.

‘‘I’ll get to ex­press all my emo­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences and ups and downs of the last 12 to 18 months (on the al­bum),’’ she says.

‘‘It might be a lit­tle edgier than what I’ve done be­fore. It (the mar- riage split) is some­thing that I can turn into a pos­i­tive through mu­sic.’’

Coul­ter’s re­cent per­sonal prob­lems are a re­minder to Idol con­tes­tants of the costs as­so­ci­ated with a suc­cess­ful mu­sic ca­reer.

Coul­ter has done it the hard way — an in­de­pen­dent artist who has achieved chart suc­cess through sheer grind.

‘‘It does have an ef­fect on your per­sonal and so­cial life,’’ she says. ‘‘You have to be driven and pas­sion­ate and fo­cused about what you do.

‘‘If you’re con­stantly tour­ing, you can’t be go­ing out and so­cial­is­ing with your friends.

‘‘I’ve helped them (2008 Idol con­tes­tants) out. I’ve had din­ners at my house with them. They’ve asked me mil­lions of ques­tions about man­age­ment, writ­ers, pro­duc­ers, record la­bels — ev­ery­thing.

‘‘You have to have un­der­stand­ing peo­ple in your life and sur­round your­self with peo­ple who can grow and ad­just with you,’’ she says.

Her Idol col­league Dick­son needs no re­mind­ing of the im­por­tance of sta­bil­ity in life away from work.

He and Mel, his part­ner of 23 years, have two daugh­ters, Esme, 17, and Edie, 15.

Dick­son spending so much time in Mel­bourne for his ra­dio job, how­ever, has robbed him of valu­able time with his Syd­ney-based fam­ily.

‘‘ Pro­fes­sion­ally, it’s ( year) worked out bril­liantly . . . but it’s been a bit hard on my fam­ily, if the truth be known,’’ Dick­son says.

‘‘My old­est (Esme) is do­ing HSC (ex­ams) and if I’d planned it, there’s no way on Earth I’d have been away from her for this pe­riod of her life. I’ve been a bit of an ab­sent fa­ther and hus­band, so it’s been dif­fi­cult. The cost hasn’t been to me, but to them.

‘‘I prob­a­bly drink more when I’m down here (Mel­bourne) than at home and I do it (drink) on my own.’’

Dick­son, how­ever, has loved his year on Idol.

‘‘It’s been Dick­son says.

‘‘We (judges) used to be over­bear­ing, and felt we needed to put on a pan­tomime ev­ery week. This year we made a com­mit­ment it was go­ing to be about the tal­ent and as a re­sult we’ve ended up with some f---ing great singers.’’

Has the struc­tural re­vamp (chang­ing the for­mat of the Idol Mon­day show and ditch­ing Mark Holden from the judg­ing panel) been an un­qual­i­fied suc­cess?

‘‘We worked hard to make the Mon­day shows watch­able and it hasn’t worked,’’ Dick­son laments.

‘‘The Mon­days have been pretty good, but the au­di­ence is just not go­ing there. It’s frus­trat­ing. It would be stupid not to look at the Mon­day shows and see how they fit into the sched­ule next year. Maybe they (pro­duc­ers) take it back to a halfhour show, maybe they can it all to­gether and bed it into the Sun­day night show. I don’t know.’’

f---ing awe­some,’’

I feel like I’m 45. I’ve never had a big break-up, so I didn’t know what heart­break felt like

Fam­ily trou­ble:

Aus­tralian Idol’s Ricki-Lee Coul­ter and Ian Dick­son have both seen the down­side of fame.

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